Tuesday, September 29, 2015

N.Y. Jets: Cockpit Troubles Ground Flight Three in East Rutherford

From the desk of:  WALT MICHAELS' REVENGE


Week Four
New York Jets
Miami Dolphins
Across the Pond

New York Jets: Ponderous loss against Philadelphia was more revealing than distressing.

If we learned anything over the first three weeks, it's the Jets will look good when they win, and look awful when they lose.

Fans got a refresher as to why Ryan Fitzpatrick no longer plays for the Bengals, Bills, Titans, or Texans.  The more you ask him to throw, the more sure (not likely, but sure) he is to get picked off.

No, Chris Ivory did not play, which otherwise altered the original plan.  But 58 pass attempts is just begging for trouble, and as expected Fitzpatrick delivered three 3 INTs.  One pick was inexcusable, while the other 2 came on tipped passes but were no less distressing.  He's now been intercepted 5 times this season, and has thrown at least one in each of the Jets first three games.

Yet, what transpired in the 1st half really had little to do with Ryan Fitzpatrick, per se..  The defense, special teams, and Brandon Marshall were busy finding ways to lose instead.

  • 1st QTR - The defense yielded an 11-play drive (field goal) on the Eagles' first possession of the game.
  • 2nd QTR - Special teams allowed a punt return touch down; the defense yielded another 8-play 75 yard drive for a touchdown; then came Brandon Marshall's ill advised attempted lateral and fumble, that eventually resulted in another 6-points the other way.

Total damage: the Jets went into their locker room trailing 24-7 at halftime.

With the Jets clearly in catch-up mode, all three interceptions came in the 2nd half.  Unlike Brandon Marshall's 2nd quarter gaffe, Ryan's turnovers didn't necessarily translate into Philadelphia points, but instead repeatedly killed the Jets chances at mounting a comeback.

Minus Chris Ivory, that seemingly became an untenable situation.  In fact, without Ivory the Jets punted on their first six possessions of the game, while Bilal Powell failed to provide a sufficient supportive effort throughout.  He only rushed 10 times for 31 yards, but again, perhaps much of that had to do with playing catch-up football.

Regardless, the point was well made.  The Jets offense lacked field management without Chris Ivory on the field.

The defense otherwise regrouped and held Philadelphia scoreless in the second half.  They perhaps induced most of Sam Bradford's overall inefficiency.  The Jets sacked him once, and got 6 other hits. Ryan Mathews, however, rushed the ball 25 times for 108-yards.

Comparatively though, the Jets held on to the ball longer and gained more net yardage.  And despite missing Ivory, turnovers arguably doomed Flight Three, with Brandon Marshall's fumble proving most costly.

This is a game the Jets literally gave away.  If generosity indeed got the better of them, better they helped a non-division, and non-conference team.

Flight #4 takes off this week for London, where the Jets will play against their jolly division rivals Miami Dolphins.

L.I. Ducks: Somerset Pitching Subdues Flock; Patriots Gain Trip to Finals

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Patriots Lock Out Ducks

Patriots win Liberty Division Playoff Series over Ducks 3-2
I - SOM 5; LID 3
II - LID 5; SOM 4
III - LID 9; SOM 4
IV - SOM 4; LID 0
V - SOM 4; LID 0

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: Flock yield the high ground; Offense falls silent as team gets whitewashed in consective games; Staff ace John Brownell ineffective in both series starts.

Somerset Patriots will face Southern Maryland Blue Crabs 
in Atlantic League championship series.

A scan over the regular season stats suggested Long Island entered the recently concluded Liberty Division playoff with a distinct offensive edge over the Patriots.  Meanwhile, Somerset's pitching rated first in the league, only slightly above that of Long Island's.

Based on that, one could argue games One through Three played out somewhat accordingly.

The Ducks and Patriots split the opening games at Bethpage Ballpark.  Long Island then gained the high ground with victory in Game Three at Somerset.

They outscored the Patriots by a 17-13 margin to that point, improved their overall season record at TD Bank Ballpark to 8-4, and afforded themselves two opportunities with which to win one game.   Moreover, their ace would be available to pitch on regular rest in the event of a decisive Game Five.
That said, the Ducks appeared supremely poised to eliminate their division rival and advance towards the finals.  Or, so it seemed...

Regrettably for Ducks fans, they fanned at the finish.  Like thieves in the night, Long Island's offense went missing, again.  Their demise was akin to the events of 2011, when after steamrolling the regular season competition with the league's most potent offense, the Ducks' offense suddenly and inexplicably short-circuited during the championship series against York.

But with regards to this now concluded series, baseball's time tested adage held true, in that good pitching stops good hitting.  In the end, Somerset's top rated pitching staff overcame Long Island's top rated offense.

For Patriots fans, their games Four and Five starters were particularly marvelous sights to behold.

In Game Four, starter Will Oliver silenced Ducks bats with a 3-hit complete game shutout.  He faced 30 batters, retired the side in order in 6 of 9 innings pitched, walked one and struck out a pair.  He threw 118 pitches with 80 (67%) going for strikes.

In the decisive Game Five, John Brownell faced off against Somerset's Roy Merritt in a rematch of the series opener.

Merritt was solid in Game One, allowing 2 runs (1 earned) over 6 innings pitched to earn the decision over John Brownell.  In Sunday's clincher, Merritt matched stable mate Will Oliver's effort with his own 4-hit complete game shutout.  He faced 29 batters, walked 1, fanned 3, totaled 111 pitches with 73 going for strikes, and above all, claimed yet another decision over Brownell.

That said, the Patriots had their way with Long Island's ace, again.

In Game One, Somerset scored 5 times off Brownell with 7 hits and 2 walks over 6 innings.  He faced 26 batters, struck out 2, and threw 102 pitches with 66 (64%) going for strikes.  On Sunday, Somerset scored another 4 earned runs on 9 hits and a walk off Brownell, this time in just 4.2 innings pitched.

Less forgiving Ducks fans might point at John Brownell's ineffectiveness as the main reason why their season ended in Somerset.  After all, their ace did not perform like one, and I believe there is something to that.  Teams need their best players to perform when the stakes are high.  In two starts, however, John Brownell rolled craps.

More forgiving fans might factor the amount of talent lost to other leagues and affiliated baseball, compromised season and an untimely exit from the post-season.

After missing the playoffs last season, I think GM Michael Pfaff did an exception job getting the Ducks back in title contention.   They posted the league's second best record, and surpassed 80 victories for only the second time in their history.  With the inordinate number of roster raids that took place this season, they just missed it this year, by "that" much.


Liberty Division Champion
Somerset Patriots
Freedom Division Champion
Southern Maryland
Blue Crabs

This will be the Somerset Patriots 10th championship series appearance in their 18 year history.   They've captured 5 league titles, with their last two coming in back-to-back fashion during the 2008-2009 seasons.

Southern Maryland lost their lone championship appearance back in 2009 to Somerset.  They're back in the playoffs after a one year absence.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

N.Y. Mets: N.L. East Champs Podcast

Here is last night's post-game podcast for

National League East

W/ guest Greg Prince of 

A whole lot of reminiscing, and extensive talk of the 2015 season;
a long discussion regarding players who've worn #18 in Mets history, 
brief mentions of the 1918 Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants;
Wilmer Flores, Matt Harvey, the Washington Nationals,
the 2011 Mets season, and much much more.

senior staff writer/Rising Apple

L.I. Ducks: Win or Go Home; Liberty Division Finale

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Liberty Division


Series tied 2-2
I - SOM 5; LID 3
II - LID 5; SOM 4
III - LID 9; SOM 4
IV - SOM 4; LID 0
V - Series Finale

Long Island Ducks
Somerset Patriots
Some Ballpark

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: Flock get feathers whitewashed by Patriots, setting up decisive Game Five showdown in Somerset.

Ducks versus Patriots is as fine a professional baseball rivalry as there is in baseball.

So when the league's top two teams square off against each other, it's only natural the Liberty Division playoff series would get pushed to its limit.

With the Patriots facing elimination, Somerset's starter Will Oliver hurled his mates into a decisive Game Five showdown against the Long Island Ducks.

Making only his 10th start as a member of the Patriots, Oliver tossed a complete game shutout over the Atlantic League's #1 offense.  Will allowed just 3 scattered hits, walked a batter, and fanned a pair for the victory.  He faced 30 batters, threw 113 pitches with 80 (71%) going for strikes, and averaged an efficient 12.5 pitches per frame.

Bruce Kern toed the rubber for Long Island, and traded zeroes with Oliver through the first 5 innings of play.  But, the regular season's top team finally broke through in the 6th.  Thomas Neal kicked things off with a 2-out double.  Then following an intentional walk to the red hot Michael Burgess, first baseman Matt Fields singled, and third baseman David Vidal doubled to help mount a 3-0 lead.

Kern did not reappear for the 7th inning after allowing 3 earned runs on 5 hits and 3 walks, and fanning 7 batters in a losing effort.

Reliever Mariel Checo hit the first batter (Ollie Linton) he faced, whom eventually scored giving the Patriots their 4-0 margin of victory.

With a win in Sunday's series finale, the Ducks would advance to their 5th ever championship series, and their 4th in the last 5 years.

A Patriots victory would give Somerset their 10th championship series appearance in their 18 year history.  They are 5-time Atlantic League champions, but not since 2009 when they capped off back-to-back titles.

In 2013, they were defeated by these very same Long Island Ducks, whom were making their third straight championship series appearance, and completing their own back-to-back title run.

Game Five is a rematch between starters John Brownell and Roy Merritt.

Brownell's 12 regular season victories tied for the league lead, while his 146 strikeouts led all pitchers.

Somerset, however, got the best of Long Island's ace in Game One, scoring 5 earned runs on 7 hits and 2 walks through Brownell's 6 innings of work.  Roy Merritt likewise pitched 6 innings, but limited the Ducks to an earned run on 6 hits for the victory.

The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs captured the Freedom Division championship 
by defeating the Lancaster Barnstormers three games to one.

N.Y. Mets: Amazins overwhelm Reds to clinch N.L. East title

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

New York
1969  M  1973  E  1986  T  1988  S  2006

National League East

NEW YORK METS: Amazins clinch 6th National League East title, and first in 9 seasons.

This year's division race is over!

On Saturday, Matt Harvey and the Amazins captured the club's 6th ever National League East flag with a decisive 10-2 victory over the Reds in Cincinnati.  The 2nd place Nationals, meanwhile, were home playing into extra, inconsequential innings against the Phillies.

Lucas Duda ignited an early dugout celebration with a grand slam home run in the first inning.  The Captain David Wright then stamped an exclamation point on Saturday's clincher with a 3-run home run in the 9th.

Jeurys Familia closed out the 9th, and the rest, as they say is history.


There's been no disguising Lucas Duda's struggles this season.  Through July 24th, he totaled a mere 12 home runs through 94 games played, with 7 of those coming in May.

On July 25th, with the trade deadline looming and the Mets still within striking distance of the Nationals, Duda embarked on a very timely 11 for 28 (.393) stretch with 9 home runs and 12 RBI that ran though August 2nd.  At a minimum, he (along with Curtis Granderson) helped legitimize the Mets end of July standing, and arguably forced the front office into making enhancements.

He then went on to hit just one home run over his next 26 games.

This weekend, Duda finally began punishing pitchers again.  The pain he's generating couldn't have come at a better time.  Moving forward, the hope is his stroke stays with him through October.
  • Thursday - 2 for 3, 2 doubles, 2 RBI.
  • Friday - 2 for 4, 2 home runs, 6 RBI.
  • Saturday -  1 for 3, grand slam, 4 RBI.
  • Stay tuned for Sunday.

The Dark Knight Took a Look in the Mirror and Dictated His Own Limitations.

The circumstances surrounding the Dark Knight were odd to say the least.  Saturday's start flew in the face of a hard 180 innings limit supposedly prescribed by Dr. Andrews.

Matt Harvey now stands at 183.1 innings for the season.  At this point, it's safe to finally assume Matt Harvey, Scott Boras, Dr. Andrews, and Sandy Alderson are operating under an agreed upon plan, right?

That's precisely what we thought back in April, through the dog days of summer, and right up until the moment Scott Boras intervened in a manner similar to which he polluted the 2009 WS with extraneous news regarding his client Alex Rodriguez

Most expected a short start Saturday.  I thought he'd go 4 innings, or 5 at the very most.  After allowing a double and striking out 2 batters in the 6th, Harvey insisted Coach Collins let him start the 7th inning.

With 2-outs and 2 runners on, Terry Collins finally gave him the hook.  Harvey threw 97 pitches with an impressive 73 (75%) going for strikes.  He allowed 2 earned runs on 9 hits, issued no walks, and fanned 6 batters before yielding to reliever Addison Reed.  Matt improved his season record to 13-7 while his 2.80 ERA remained unchanged.

Harvey, however, saved his best pitch for the post-game interviews.  He expressed concern, and maybe even remorse in the aftermath of his agent's intervention, and perhaps through Saturday's start, felt it necessary to re-establish his standing within the eyes of his team mates and fans.

Moving forward, he might get one tune up appearance before season's end, then pitch one game verses the Mets first round opponent, and one game per round thereafter.

His season previously consisted of 8 games played in early April.

The Captain David Wright Appropriately Strikes Final Blow.

David Wright returned to action on August 24th after extensive rest, recovery, and rehabilitation designed to help manage spinal stenosis.

In 25 games back, he's gone 32 for 105 (.305) with 7 doubles, 4 home runs and 10 RBI.  As the longest tenured Mets player, it was only appropriate he cap off Saturday's clincher with a mammoth 3-run home run in the 9th inning.

After the game, he said everything has gone exactly the way Sandy Alderson and ownership promised him they would.

It took Wright 9 long years to return at this point.

Welcome back Captain.  This is when your experience will be needed most.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

L.I. Ducks: Flock Poised to Clinch Ticket to Finals

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE


Ducks at the Gates!

Ducks lead series 2-1
I - SOM 5; LID 3
II - LID 5; SOM 4
III - LID 9; SOM 4

Long Island Ducks
Somerset Patriots
Some Ballpark

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: Flock within a victory of advancing to their 5th ever Atlantic League championship series.

After a two game split at Bethpage Ballpark, the Liberty Division series shifted to Somerset Friday evening for Game Three.

Bobby Blevins climbed the hill for Long Island and was opposed by Patriots southpaw Matt Zielinski.

With Somerset clinging to a 1-run lead through 4 innings, the league's top offense finally erupted in the 5th.  With two on and 2-outs, Sean Burroughs, Dan Lyons, and Cody Puckett all hit consecutively giving the Ducks a 4-1 lead.

With Somerset's Matt Zielinski out of the game, an E-6 in the top of the 6th wound up giving the Ducks a 5-1 lead.

Then came the Patriots.

Aharon Eggleston led off the bottom of the 6th with a single.  With 1-out, right fielder Michael Burgess took Blevins deep making it a 5-3 Somerset deficit.

Long Island got a run back on Mike Blanke's 7th inning RBI double.

Bobby Blevins then opened the bottom of the 7th by surrendering a single and walk, inspiring Coach Baez to call on his bullpen.  Pinch hitter David Vidal promptly greeted reliever Patrick Crider with an RBI single up the middle.

That, however, ended Somerset's output for the evening.  The Ducks, meanwhile, struck for another 3 runs in the 8th.  Randy Ruiz' double drove in a pair, and Sean Burroughs' sac-fly gave Long Island their eventual 9-4 margin of victory.

  • Bobby Blevins earned the victory.  He faced 26 batters over 6 innings pitched, and threw 88 pitches with 60 (68%) going for strikes.  He allowed 4 earned runs on 4 hits and 3 walks, and fanned 7 batters before exiting on the winning side of (then) a 5-3 game.
  • Closer Ryan Kussmaul pitched 2 innings in a non-save situation, and faced the minimum with 2 strikeouts.
  • Sean Burroughs remained white hot.  He went 2 for 4, with 2 more RBI in Game Three, and is now 8 for 12 with 4 RBI in the series.
  • Randy Ruiz has DH'd in the clean-up slot this series.  He went 1 for 4 Friday, and is now 4 for 11 in the series.

The Ducks now have two chances to win one game.  Easier said than done...

Long Island's Bruce Kern will toe the rubber in Game Four.  Kern made 40 appearances this season, but this will only be his 14th start.  He went 9-6 during the regular season with a 3.51 ERA.  In 107.2 innings he posted a 1.21 WHiP, boasted .242 average against, and fanned 102 batters.

The Ducks will have their work cut out for them against Patriots starter Will Oliver, whom was a late season acquisition from the Frontier League.  He started 9 games for Somerset.  In 54 innings pitched, Will posted a fine 6-2 record with a 3.15 ERA, a 1.07 WHiP, and a .204 average against.

  • Patriots right fielder and clean-up hitter Michael Burgess is tearing up Ducks pitching.  He is 5 for 12 (.417) with 2 home runs and 6 RBI in 3 games.
  • Table setter Aharon Eggleston is 5 for 8, with 2 walks, a double, home run, and 5 runs scored.

Southern Maryland Blue Crabs 
lead series over Lancaster Barnstormers, 2-1
I - SMB 2; LAN 0
II - LAN 6; SMB 5
III - SMB 6; LAN 1

Blue Crabs
Waldorf, Maryland

N.L. East Flag: It Aint Over Till It's Over

Here's my latest for 

senior staff writer/Rising Apple

PIGSKIN 2015: Week Three


Week Three


Week Two Record:  6-9
Overall Record:  17-11
Schmear of the Week:  2-0
Bagels in the Basket:  +12

1st and 10:
  • Last week Philip Rivers threw his 255th career TD pass to become San Diego's all time leader. He passed Dan Fouts, in my opinion one of the greatest QBs ever (...to not win a Super Bowl). In his day, the Chargers offense was dubbed Air Coryell after their head coach.  Theirs was one of the most potent offenses I've ever seen, still.
  • Last week, Adrian Peterson played his first game in Minnesota since November 2013.

2nd and Long:
  • Two weeks/two major injuries - what can possibly go wrong for the Dallas Cowboys this week?
  • Would someone please tell me what the St. Louis Rams are up to?

No Gain:
  • C'mon, who really thought the Seattle Seahawks would open the season with an 0-2 record?
  • As part of pre-season final roster cuts, Giants GM Jerry Reese chose wide receiver Preston Parker over James Jones.  Parker was cut after Week Two's pitiful performance against the Falcons.  Meanwhile, Jones has 3 TD catches so far playing for Green Bay.
  • The Detroit Lions have seemingly lost their Pride.

  • The Tennessee Titans allowed 7 sacks during last week's loss to the Cleveland Browns.  How shameful!  Can quarterbacks sue (Roger Goodell) for such gross lack of protection?  Someone get Tom Brady on the line.  Oh wait!  He smashed his phone...  never mind.
  • The mystical magical Super Dome no longer offers the New Orleans Saints safe haven.  When was the last time they won a home game?
  • At some point, some analyst will slip up and include Jay Cutler and the word malingerer in the same sentence.

Friday Line ~ NYDN

D.C. Hogs +3 1/2 (GIANTS) *Thursday Night
Loss; 32-21 Giants

JETS -2 (Eagles)
As was the case with the Giants, an 0-2 record makes the Eagles a dangerous team.  However, I really like the Jets defense against the Eagles offense, a lot!  Offensively, the Jets are a little banged up, but should manage just enough to defeat Philly.  I won't lie, this spread was very inviting.
Loss; 24-17 Eagles

Steelers -1 (RAMS)
Who the hell knows which Rams team is bound to show up - the Week One version or Week Two's? Last week, I told you Big Ben was going to have a big day.  This week, Le'Veon Bell is back!  Look for the Steelers to maintain their momentum against a confused opponent.
WIN; 12-6 Steelers

Chargers +2 1/2 (VIKINGS)
Because when it comes to the Vikes, I do not learn my lesson.  I'm taking the points and jumping on Philip Rivers' back.  The Chargers entered the Jungle last week and nearly pulled off an upset.  If the Chargers slow down the Vikings running game, they'll leave Minnesota with a victory.
Loss; 34-14 Vikings

TEXANS -6 1/2 (Bucs)
I just can't envision Tampa winning two straight road games.  Otherwise, both quarterbacks need to beware Sunday, because I smell sacks.  They should treat their respective left tackles to dinner before hand.
WIN; 19-9 Texans

PANTHERS -3 (Saints)
Oh how the Saints problems come marching in...  Carolina will only add to them.  Last week, the sAints suffered a demoralizing loss to the Bucs at home!  This week Drew Brees is nursing a bad shoulder.
WIN; 27-22 Panthers

PATRIOTS -14 (Jaguars)
Lay these points like a porn star!  This is nothing new for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.  Driving up the score at home is what they do.  How many times over recent years have they been double-digit favorites, and covered?  The answer is, numerous.  The Jaguars are making methodical progress though.  They've elevated from terrible, to just very bad.
WIN; 51-17 Patriots

Bengals +2 1/2 (RAVENS)
In Week One, the Ravens lost by six in Denver.  Last week, they entered the Black Hole minus the services of Terrell Suggs and lost again.  The Ravens are finally home, but it's already getting late awfully early in Baltimore.  If you're the Bengals, timing is everything.
WIN; 28-24 Bengals

BROWNS -3 1/2 (Raiders)
I don't know what to tell you other than stay away.  This game has flies all over it.
Loss; 27-20 Raiders

Colts -3 (TITANS)
Andrew Luck has been flat out terrible.  But at this point, picking the Colts is akin to doubling down at blackjack or sticking with red at the roulette table.  Eventually it's gonna pay, right?  A little Luck never hurts though.
Loss; 35-33 Colts

Falcons -1 1/2 (COWBOYS)
The Falcons (2-0) can only play the teams on their schedule.  They nearly coughed up a 20-3 halftime lead against the Eagles, then benefited from a major NYG brain cramp in Week Two.  This week, they get the Cowboys minus Dez Bryant and Tony Romo.  This is the kind of stuff division titles are made of.
WIN; 39-28 Falcons

CARDINALS -6 1/2 (49ers)
The Cardinals thus far demolished the Saints and Bears - pedestrian competition.  Nonetheless, that's what good teams do.  I declared Arizona my pre-season division favorite, and made them my Schmear last week.  I'm still soooo high!
WIN; 47-7 Cardinals

SEAHAWKS -15 (Bears)
Seattle is angry, and the Bears are incompetent.  I really hate saying that about a John Fox team.  His QB on the other hand is another story.  Perhaps Jay Cutler circled this game and committed to miraculously getting better Monday morning?  Just kidding, right?  Anyway, the NFL might want to flex-time this game till after midnight.  This is gonna get ugly.
WIN; 26-0 Seahawks

Bills +3 (DOLPHINS)
...because this is life under D-Generation Rex, a constant diet of uppers, downers, highs and lows.   This is happy week again.  That said, Miami head coach Joe Philbin better have a pencil and paper ready for taking notes, because Rex is going to teach him a lesson in defense.  At some point, Rex and Ndamukong Suh will make sleepy eye contact and wander into a pipe dream of one day wreaking havoc upon the NFL together.  When they snap out of it, the final score will be 13-0 Bills, or something to that effect.
WIN; 41-14 Bills

Broncos -3 (LIONS)
Speaking of Ndamukong Suh, he took Detroit's backbone with him to South Beach.  The Lions are tied for 5th most points allowed?  Chicken parm you taste so good....
WIN; 24-12 Broncos

Colts -3

Guten Appetit:
I - Fruits/nuts; chips/dips; cheese/sopresatta/crackers; spinach quiche; prosciutto bread; salads.

II - Chili dogs on potato rolls (..is key), and burgers on French bread with my first batch of pickled green tomatoes (damn they're good!), dangerously loaded french fries, homemade onion rings and my breaded zucchini bites.

What's on your football menu?

Good luck, and have a great Football Sunday everyone!

Week Three Record:  10-4
Overall Record:  27-15
Schmear of the Week:  2-1
Bagels in the Basket:  +15

Friday, September 25, 2015

L.I. Ducks: Flock manage split at the Pond; Migrate onward to Somerset

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE




Series tied 1-1
I - SOM 5; LID 3
II - LID 5; SOM 4

Game Three
Long Island Ducks
Somerset Patriots
Some Ballpark

GAME TWO: Darin Downs Pitches Gem, But Costly Ducks Errors Require Late Rally For 5-4 Comeback Victory.

Ducks starter Darin Downs pitched a gem.  Long Island's southpaw maintained a no-hitter until Aharon Eggleston's single with 2-outs in the 6th.

Downs otherwise completed 7 scoreless innings, faced 25 batters, and threw 104 pitches with 66 going for strikes.  He allowed a mere 2 hits, walked 2, and fanned 7 batters before exiting on the winning side of a 3-0 game.

Cody Puckett drove in Long Island's first run with a sac-fly in the 2nd inning.  The Flock increased their lead to three in the 4th with an RBI from Dan Lyons, followed by Cody Puckett's second of the game.

Patriots starter Mickey Storey yielded all three runs.  He likewise lasted 7 innings, allowed 6 hits, walked 2, and fanned 5 batters before his removal on the losing side.

Both starting pitchers' efforts, however, would shortly be reduced to no-decision status.

With relievers Ricardo Gomez and J.C. Romero pitching the 8th, Long Island's defense went awry. Errors by catcher Mike Blanke (interference), and a back-breaker by first baseman Sean Burroughs helped pave the way for 2 unearned runs and 4 runs in all giving Somerset a sudden, and astonishing 4-3 lead.

Somerset then took their turn at coughing up Game Two.

Fehlandt Lentini drew a walk leading off the bottom of the 8th.  Two wild pitches by two different pitchers later, Lentini scored the tying run.  With 2-outs, Sean Burroughs enjoyed the ultimate redemption by connecting on the game winning RBI.

J.C. Romero secured Long Island's 5-4 victory with a 1-2-3 9th inning.

The Ducks only managed 7 hits, and Sean Burroughs accounted for 3 of them.  He is now 6 for 8 in the series with 2 RBI.

New Jersey for Game Three 
(..through Five, if necessary).

  • The Patriots went 3-3 during the regular season against the Ducks at Bethpage Park.  A split seemed natural then.  The Ducks, however, posted a 7-4 record at Somerset this season.  We'll see how that translates in the post-season.

GAME ONE RECAP: They Say It's Not A Series 
Until The Home Team Loses. 

Somerset Patriots Go Yard En Route to 5-3 Opening Victory 
Over John Brownell, Ducks.

The Ducks and Somerset Patriots opened their much anticipated Liberty Division playoff series Wednesday evening at Long Island's Bethpage Ballpark.

Staff ace John Brownell climbed the hill in Game One, and was opposed by Somerset's Ray Merritt.

The Patriots wasted no time getting on the board.  Left fielder Aharon Eggleston singled and scored on right fielder Michael Burgess' 2-out triple in the opening frame.

The Ducks quickly tied the game in the 2nd inning.  Dan Lyons led-off with a double to right, then scored on second baseman Greg Hopkins' error.  An inning later, Sean Burroughs singled home Lew Ford putting the Ducks ahead.

That, however, marked Long Island's high point of the night.

Patriots first baseman Matt Fields knotted the game at two when he took John Brownell deep in the 4th.  Somerset then pulled away in the 5th.  After Thomas Neal's RBI single put Somerset ahead, Michael Burgess struck again, this time for a 2-run home run giving the visitors all the insurance they'd need.

The Patriots totaled 5 earned runs on 7 hits off loser John Brownell, whom issued 2 walks and fanned a pair.  John faced 26 batters and labored through 102 pitches with 66 (64%) going for strikes.

Ray Merritt likewise tossed 6 innings for the victory.  He limited Long Island to a pair of runs (one earned) on 6 hits and 3 walks.  He faced 27 batters and struck out three.  Closer Jon Hunton pitched a scoreless 9th inning for the save.

The Ducks scored on a wild pitch in the 7th giving Game One its 5-3 final score.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

N.Y. Giants: Attack Washington's Defense With Power, Please!

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE

The running game is presently the only aspect of Giants Football functioning properly.
Why not feature it Thursday Night against Washington?

D.C. Hogs
New York Giants
Snoopy Stadium

NEW YORK GIANTS: The choreography of well executed passing is a sight to behold; true art in motion.  But, when throwing the pigskin short circuits, one must revert to more traditional methods.  It is time, then, to get this season turned around by utilizing brute force and ignorance.  After all, football is still football!  In fact, yet another 0-2 start demands a return to basics, if not a change in tactics.  Attack Washington's defense head on with power.  Please!

What happens when your corners aren't covering, your safeties make you feel unsafe, your linebackers aren't backing, and your pass rushers aren't pass rushing (mainly because the best one destroyed his hand prior to camp)?

For starters, you spend 68:45 on the field, yield 836 total yards, surrender 51 points over your first two games of the season, and play particularly poorly in 4th quarters.

Or, you could have just asked the Giants.

As fans, we fret over what can potentially come next.  Not RGIII or his replacement QB Kirk Cousins; here come D.C. running backs Alfred Morris and Matt Jones.  Stop those two, and perhaps the Giants can avoid a ponderous 0-3 start.

Washington only managed 34 points over their first two games.  Last week they put up 24 points against the Rams (whom surprisingly upset the Seahawks in Week One).  They otherwise lost 17-10 to the Fish in the season's opener.  The Dolphins have an inferior coach, but they're a tough team to play.  The Rams thing is tougher to explain.

In any event, tonight's game has less to do with the D.C. Hogs than it does the Giants.

Big Blue has no one to blame for their 0-2 start but themselves.  They led each of their first two games in the 4th quarter, and were poised to increase their lead each time.  Instead, they sabotaged potential victories with gross mental lapses in the closing minutes.

So, what does one do when one's wide receivers aren't receiving, and the quarterback is regressing?

For starters, you release sub-standard performers such as Preston Parker.  In the absence of Victor Cruz, the Giants needed someone to help take pressure (i.e. double coverage) off OBJ.  Parker couldn't catch the ball, much less lend a hand.  After last week's pitiful display Jerry Reese cut him, post-haste.

Rueben Randle is next.  I know he's had some sort of lingering ailment, but one can plainly see he is not contributing much either.  Randle has been given every opportunity here, and has yet to take a second step forward.  According to NYC codes, that's called loitering.  In football speak, he's...

I digress.

I recently went through Tom Coughlin's non-committal relationship with the run.  With yet another 0-2 start, he is now bordering on Einstein's definition of insanity.

After two games this season, the rush is the only aspect of the entire New York Giants team performing well.  Overall, however, the offense has possessed the ball a mere 52:45 out of a possible 120 minutes thus far.

An intensive night of running just might help keep the defense off the field for a change, lest we forget Dominique Rogers Cromartie will be a non-participant, while Jon Beason is entering real game action for the first time this season.

Easier said than done - I know.  Washington enters Met Life Stadium featuring a top rated defense coached by Joe Barry, whom is making a big difference.

That said, one must try for the sake of getting the Giants pointed in the right direction again. There's nothing to lose but another game, the division, the season, a head coach, and a general manager....

Now you get the idea - be adaptable.  It may be the only way out of this mess.

There's a Big Blue difference between being a sleeping Giant, and just being sleepy Giants. For now, they just need to wake up and rejoin a pathetically weak NFC East division race. The sleepy part falls on Jerry Reese.

Otherwise, those who want to run the ball, do.


Football Sunday
Week Three

Thursday Line ~ NYDN

Redskins +3 1/2 (GIANTS)
In truth, I think the line should be NYG -2 (Hogs).
I looked at that 1/2 point and was immediately intimidated.
I'm leaning towards a Giants win, but D.C. covers.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Long Island Ducks Playoff Preview: Showdown Versus Somerset

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Atlantic League Playoffs: The Final Four

Back on September 15th, Long Island toppled the Revolution in York, while the Patriots overran the Bluefish at Harbor Yard.  The combination earned the Ducks their 10th playoff berth in the last 12 years.

The Somerset Patriots, meanwhile, posted an Atlantic League best 89-50 overall record this season, bulldozing their way to both first and second half Liberty Division flags.

The Patriots and Ducks were the only teams to post 80-wins or better this season, as Long Island went 80-59 to qualify for this year's Wild Card.

The Pond will host the first two games of this long simmering Liberty Division feud, after which the series will come to a head in Somerset for Games Three through Five, if necessary.

Lancaster Barnstormers Poised to Defend Title

After a poor first half, the Lancaster Barnstormers rolled to a second half title, thus earning the right to defend their crown.  They closed out the season with a 7-game winning streak and won 8 of their last 10 games.

They'll host the first half champ Southern Maryland Blue Crabs for Games One and Two of the Freedom Division semi-final series.  The Blue Crabs will then host Games Three through Five, if necessary.

Long Island Ducks Playoff Preview


Somerset Patriots
Long Island Ducks


The entrance gates at Bethpage Ballpark were locked early last year - certainly earlier than Long Island fans had grown to expect.  Autumn instead ushered in a sense of loss, as the Flock failed to qualify for post-season play in 2014, and thus surrendered the right to defend their Atlantic League crown.

Previous to that, the Ducks appeared in three straight championship series, while winning back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013, marking their second and third Atlantic League championships in the organization's history.

  • After failing to make the playoffs during their first four years of existence, the Flock lifted their first trophy back in 2004.

General manager Michael Pfaff now has The Flock back in position to win a fourth. He joined old reliable veterans and crowd favorites with fresh new faces whom together produced the league's second best record.  It required mining new talent the old fashioned way, however, panning and sifting for bits of gold in places where the competition was not.

So make no mistake, getting the Ducks in this position was no easy task.  Division realignment forcing the Patriots to join the Liberty Division two years ago made sure of that, while roster picking exemplified by Lew Ford's brief departure to Mexico only compounded Long Island's troubles.  On that note, Coach Baez deserves credit for keeping his team together in the face of losing their top producers.

Those factors, however, only held some sway with regards to Long Island's own general missteps along the way.  As the first half wound down, a poor showing during an extended series in Sugar Land rendered Long Island's end of half series finale against the first place Patriots an inconsequential matter.

The Ducks then followed up with a sub-par 34-35 second half record, finishing 5 games back of Somerset.

Moreover, they went on to lose their last 5 games of the regular season since clinching a spot in this year's tournament, which includes getting swept by the defending champion Lancaster Barnstormers in the season series finale.

The Patriots didn't exactly end their season on a great note either.  They dropped their final two games, and went 6-4 in their last 10 games.

OFFENSE COMPARISON/Atlantic League Rank:
  • Hits - Ducks #1 vs. Patriots #6
  • Runs Scored - Ducks #1 vs. Patriots #2
  • Team Average - Ducks #1 vs. Patriots #7
  • Doubles - Patriots #1 vs. Ducks #2
  • Home Runs - Ducks #4 vs. Patriots #5
  • Total Bases - Ducks #1 vs. Patriots #5
  • OPS - Ducks #1 vs. Patriots #5

With Lew Ford having spent time in Mexico, and Jon Griffin on the disabled list since August 19, veteran shortstop Dan Lyons wound up leading the team with 11 home runs and 73 RBI.  Lew Ford ended with 63 RBI, despite being a triple crown threat upon his departure.

Sean Burroughs played 37 games for the Ducks and batted a robust .366 in 145 at-bats since being acquired from Bridgeport. His combined .340 batting average led the league.  Lew Ford otherwise led the team with an non-qualifying .364 average.

Somerset's lefty swinging Michael Burgess leads either team with 15 regular season home runs, and  drove in 59 runs. Team mate David Vidal led the team with 63 RBI and clubbed 12 home runs.  And Thomas Neal led the team with a .290 average.

  • ERA - Patriots #1 vs. Ducks #3
  • Average Against - Patriots #1 vs. Ducks #2
  • WHiP - Patriots #1 vs. Ducks #2
  • Least Hits Allowed - Patriots #1 vs. Ducks #2
  • Strikeouts - Ducks #1 vs. Patriots #7
  • Least Walks - Patriots #2 vs. Ducks #7
  • Saves - Ducks #1 vs. Patriots #2

Starter John Brownell tied for league lead with 12 victories, and led the circuit with 146 strikeouts in 175.2 innings pitched.  Ian Marshall's season waned, finishing 7-7 with a 4.38 ERA over 143.2 innings pitched, with 92 strikeouts.  August acquisition Billy Buckner went 8-3 with an even 4.00 ERA over 69.2 innings pitched, with 73 strikeouts.

Despite top pitcher Sean Bierman getting picked off the roster back in July, Somerset is still well armed.  Matt Zielinski went 8-4 with a 2.86 ERA.  Mickey Storey tied John Brownell with 12 victories, and posted a 2.53 ERA over 106.2 innings pitched, and lefty starter Ray Merritt, a late August acquisition from the Sugar Land Skeeters, boasts a 2.88 ERA.

Long Island Ryan Kussmaul finished the season third in the league with 28 saves and a 3.42 ERA.   Amalio Diaz kicked in with 14 saves and a 2.77 ERA.  Patriots closer and former Duck, Jon Hunton finished second in the circuit with 32 saves, and posted a 3.09 ERA.

Let the games begin!

Go Ducks.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

N.Y. Giants: Bad Eli Routine is No Laughing Matter

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE

No need to adjust your televisions.  
That's a narrowing view of the division lead on your screen.

Falcons  24
Giants    20

NEW YORK GIANTS: Wanna see a picture of my mother-in-law?  Neither do I...!

After just two weeks and zero wins between them, the Giants and Eagles have firmly anchored themselves to the division floor, but not before each exacted a heavy toll upon the Dallas Cowboys.

The team seemingly in the best shape after Week Two is now easily in the worst shape.  After losing Dez Bryant in the season opener against the Giants, the NFC East's lone undefeated team lost Tony Romo for at least the next 8 weeks after he re-fractured his collar bone against the Eagles.

Even the D.C. Hogs, of all teams, are now viable contenders in this wretched NFC East division.

And wouldn't you know, the Giants are on a short schedule this week, as they host Washington Thursday evening.

Eli Manning's frame of mind, meanwhile, fits right in with the rest of NFC East being in such a mad, mad state of folly.

On the Pisarcik Scale (which measures WTF! values for Giants QB's) Eli is only registering a Dave Brown at present.  He'll snap out of this, I'm sure.  However, there's still no escaping the Mann has completely lost his acute bearing.

Week One:
  • Telling Rashad Jennings not to score, twice.
  • Throwing an incomplete pass on 3rd and goal late in the 4th quarter, thus stopping the clock and providing Dallas sufficient time for mounting a winning drive.

Week Two:
  • Ahead 20-10 late in the 3rd quarter, the Giants were deep in Atlanta's end and poised to score again, until Eli fumbled under pressure.
  • In the 4th quarter, he took a delay of game penalty on a 3rd and 7 play fresh off a time out.

I derive no pleasure from criticizing Eli Manning.  In fact, I avoid it.


One head coach, two offensive coordinators, and numerous quarterback coaches later, the Giants still suffer delay of game penalties at the line of scrimmage.  So, yes, you can point a JPP finger directly at Eli Manning on that one.

Or, maybe Eli has been spending too much time making commercials, hmmm?

Hey, how about less Football on Your Phone, and more solid play on the field.

This Bad Comedian Eli routine isn't funny anymore.  In today's NFL, fans don't get to throw eggs, rotten tomatoes, and heads of cabbage at amateurish performances.  We get pissed off and boo, or complain to sports radio, or write angry blogs.

If anything, Week Two proved it won't take much in order to win the NFC Least.

So, can we please execute just a bit more late game competency Thursday night, before this team really, really finds itself in a Big Blue bind?

N.Y. Mets: Jon Niese Helps Amazins Roll a Lucky Seven

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

NYM  85-65   --
WAS  78-71 6.5

NEW YORK METS: Amazins reduce Magic Number to 7 with 4-0 whitewash over Atlanta Braves.

The Mets entered Monday's series opener against the Atlanta Braves with a six game lead over the Nationals, and a Magic Number of 8 with 13 games left to play.

Mother Nature helped to somewhat slow the Nats' momentum.  Winners of three in a row, the D.C. Nine were rained out in Baltimore.  Meanwhile, the Amazins 4-0 whitewashing of the Braves helped snap a 2-game skid and improved their September record to 12-7; same as the Nationals.

The Mets now own a 6.5 game lead over Washington with a dozen left to play, while their magic number has been reduced to Lucky #7.

Monday's defeat makes the Atlanta Braves 60-91 for the season, which is a numerical way of saying they're really, really bad. Despite employing sluggers such as Freddie Freeman still capable of ruining any pitcher's day, collectively, the Braves stink.

Hey, that's what their record says, not me.

Eight Years Later, Jon Niese Earns His Stripes:

Rookies in 2008, Jon Niese and Daniel Murphy are the Mets longest tenured players after David Wright.  On Monday, Jon turned in perhaps his finest performance as a Met.  I'm sure Niese enjoyed better days at some point during his 8-year career with the Mets, but I dare say never one in this big a moment.

Despite a wildly inconsistent season, Jon Niese took the mound at Citi Field during a late September pennant race and effectively seized the day with 6 scoreless innings.  He threw 88 pitches with 59 (64%) going for strikes, allowed just 3 hits, walked 2, and fanned 2 batters.  Jon improved his season record to 9-10, and lowered his ERA from 4.31 to a 4.16 mark.

His wasn't an overly dominant performance by any stretch, but it was Jon Niese's first victory in a month, and couldn't have come at a more perfect time for him and the team.

For Jon personally, the 8-year veteran and season long beleaguered southpaw delivered a quality start Monday night worthy of appreciation and cheer, particularly after the team's lost weekend against the Bronx Bombers.  And in doing so, he also gave the Mets pitching a much needed shot in the arm, as the team ERA was ranking 9th in the N.L. during September.

His was indeed an optimal way of addressing a downward trend.

My related piece written for Rising Apple: Mets: The Final Push.

La Potencia ha regresado:

Yoenis Cespedes looks to be heating up again.

On Sept. 13 he began a stretch which yielded a mere 2 for his next 25, exacerbated by an 0 for 16 slump lasting through Game Two against the Yankees.

He was 1 for 3 with a double in the Subway Series finale, and went a robust 3 for 4 with another pair of doubles against the Braves Monday.

Monday, September 21, 2015

N.Y. Mets begin their final charge toward the N.L. East flag

Here's my latest for 

Magic Number

The Mets started Monday owning a 6 game lead over the Nationals, 
with 13 left to play.
Both have 10 games to play before their season ending 
Final Showdown at Citi Field.

N.Y. Jets: Are you ready for some Monday Night Fitzpatrick?

From the desk of:  WALT MICHAELS' REVENGE


New York Jets
Indianapolis Colts
The House that Peyton Manning Built

New York Jets: Defeating the Browns is no hook to hang a jersey on.  This evening's road game against the Colts will be far more indicative of where Gang Green stands.

Welcome to prime time..., right?

No Bermuda shorts required - minus the healthy services of Antonio Cromartie, who participated in limited practice this week, Andrew Luck will have little reason for visiting Revis Island this evening.

Even though Indianapolis's T.Y Hilton is questionable, the Jets can't alter their defensive plan too much, as Frank Gore and the Colts' big offensive line offer no quarter.

I'm sure Coach Bowles and his staff viewed Week One's Colts/Bills game film over, and over again.   Rex Ryan's defense limited the Colts to 14 points, and induced a pair of INT's.  I'm not sure the Jets can afford surrendering many more points than that.

Getting Ryan Fitzpatrick involved in a shoot-out with Andrew Luck is perhaps the last thing Coach Bowles wants.  Last week, Fitzpatrick went for an inaccurate 15/24 for 179 yards largely because the running game carried the offensive load.  Ryan otherwise was put in good positions to make a pair of TD passes.  He also threw a pick, but then again Andrew Luck threw 2 against Buffalo as well.

The Jets, however, can potentially catch Indy on a bad night.  After Vontae Davis, the Colts secondary is pretty banged up.  Brandon Marshal will get his reps, but Eric Decker and Chris Owusu should expect more action than last week.

Running the ball as the Jets did last week against Cleveland would still be an optimal way of keeping the pigskin out of Luck's hands.  Chris Ivory rushed 20 times for 91 yards, while Bilal Powell added 62 yards on 12 rushes.  However, Ivory is nursing a barking groin, and is at the least compromised heading into the game.

Such as life in the NFL.

Defeating the Cleveland Browns is no hook to hang a jersey on, and so this evening's road game against the Colts will be far more indicative of where the Jets stand.  They'll either end the night tied with New England at 2-0, or join the rest of the division with a 1-1 record, which wouldn't be the worst place to be - yet.

One way or another, much of what the world thinks about the Jets will get decided tonight.

So, buckle up.

The real New York Jets season takes off....., now.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

N.Y. Giants: Big Blue Homecoming - Week Two

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE

Atlanta Falcons
New York Giants

NEW YORK GIANTS: Correct Last Week's Mistake Before Too Late Comes Too Soon.

  • I - Dancing Around the NFC East Fire

The Atlanta Falcons remind me how badly the Giants screwed up Week One.

In what's seemingly becoming a season opening ritual, the Giants did themselves a major injustice by losing an early division game to the Cowboys.  What made the loss particularly distressing was their acute loss of offensive acumen late in the 4th quarter.

The Falcons, however, did the Giants a huge favor last week by defeating the Eagles.

Between the Giants mental lapses in Dallas, the Cowboys own loss of Dez Bryant, and considering Philly's head coach spent the off-season getting branded a racist stemming from several unpopular roster alterations, then went on to lose his season opener, it's easy to see why the NFC East is already chock-full-o-drama after just one week of play.

The Giants will get to revisit their big misstep in big Texas once the Cowboys visit New York.  But, the immediate impact of last Sunday's loss, however, makes today's clash against Atlanta an unnecessarily vital game.

The last time the Giants started the season 0-2 with Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator, they went on to win the Super Bowl.  While that's a comforting thought, the Giants can ill afford to put themselves in that position this season.  These G-Men are nowhere nearly as deep, nor talented as those guys.

  • II - Air Coughlin Flight Two is Now Boarding

Look for the Giants to open things up with more down field attempts.  Coach said it, not me.

While it may only have been a pre-season game, they say the third one counts most.  That said, I watched an overly patient approach put forth a rather yawn inspiring effort against the Jets.  Sunday against Dallas, Eli went 20/36, and similarly only averaged 5.4 yards per completion.

If you subtract Shane Vereen's 4/46 performance (because I consider that an extension of the running game) Odell Beckham Jr. was targeted 8 times, and led Giant receivers with 5 catches for 44-yards.   Rueben Randall and Preston Parker however, were targeted 11 times but only completed 5 receptions.

This all might have been a result of Dallas forcing them to work underneath the majority of the game, but it's a big reason why Victor Cruz' return remains imperative.  For now improving connections with the latter two receivers is the only way to somewhat free up OBJ.

Tight end Larry Donnell was targeted 4 times and made 3 receptions for 21 yards.  More of that can only help.

One thing is glaringly clear, it took exactly one week for Coach Coughlin tiring of dink and dunk football.  His style has always been to go deep.  I went through that very issue - HERE.

They'll need to set up play-action first.  That means establishing the run.  The Giants rushed 23 times for 91 yards, averaging almost 4 yards per carry against a stout Dallas front.  Or did they?

In truth, the offensive line did a piss poor job of run blocking during a great majority of the game. Rashad Jennings gained 38 of the Giants overall 91 yards during that last fateful drive.  Otherwise, the Giants rushed 16 times for a mere 53-yards.

One would think the Giants can improve upon last week's effort against Atlanta, right?

  • III - Somehow, the Corners and Devon Kennard Must Enable a Pass Rush

Jon Beason feels betrayed by the schedule makers, as he's likely to miss Thursday night's game against D.C. as well.  But in truth, he needs to come to grips that his own body is failing him.

In the mean time, it will be fun watching Devon Kennard evolve into a premium linebacker.

After a rather decent performance last week, Prince Amukamara and DRC will be tasked with shutting down Julio Jones (questionable) and Roddy White.  Their play will largely dictate the Giants ability to mount pressure on Matt Ryan, whom enjoyed as much unmolested time in the pocket against the Eagles, as Tony Romo did against the Giants.

The front four did well stopping the run, but got nowhere near touching Tony Romo.  Look for Devon Kennard to become that guy.  He's perhaps the one player Coach Spags will let loose from time to time.