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Astros look to even up World Series in Game 6 against hungry Braves team

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October is over, but the baseball season is not. For the Houston Astros, that’s a very good thing.

After climbing out of a four-run crater in Game 5 of the World Series, the Astros are back home to face the Atlanta Braves in Game 6 on Tuesday with first pitch scheduled for 8:09 p.m. ET on Sportsnet and SN Now. The Braves lead the series, 3-2, but whispers of another cursed Atlanta sports franchise are growing louder.

The last time we saw November baseball, in 2017, the Astros emerged as world champs. A similar fate is possible this year, but first, they’ll have to even things up against a hungry Braves team. Here’s what you need to know for Game 6.

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Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

Pondering the pitchers

After slogging through a pair of bullpen games, the Braves will send a properly-rested Max Fried to the mound. Fried was shelled for six runs on seven hits in a Game 2 loss, but he deserves some extension of grace: five of those hits came with exit velocities below 95 mph (i.e. the threshold at which Statcast deems a ball to be “hard-hit”).

That includes four softies in Houston’s four-run second inning against Fried. A little luck could go a long way for him in the rematch.

Luis Garcia will take the ball on three days’ rest for the Astros, and his outing is intended to be brief. After tossing 72 pitches in a strong Game 3 effort, he’ll likely turn the game over to the bullpen by the third or fourth frame.

Monday’s off-day should allow most if not all of the Astros’ relievers to be ready, but Cristian Javier (9 1/3 innings, 1.93 ERA this post-season) and Jake Odorizzi (6 2/3 innings, 5.68 ERA) are the most logical options for a long-relief spot.

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Can Bregman break out?

Word around Truist Park on Sunday was that the Braves’ organist had a little fun whenever Astros third baseman Alex Bregman came to the plate. Bregman, who is 2-for-18 with five strikeouts this series, was serenaded with a cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’.”

Ouch. If Bregman wants to borrow a different Petty narrative and not back down, now is the perfect time to do so. He dropped to the No. 7 spot of Houston’s order for Game 5, where he batted 1-for-4 with an RBI double and a walk. Perhaps that warrants a promotion within the lineup, which gets a little longer in the designated-hitter-friendly environment of an American League park.

The World Series stage has not showcased Bregman’s best work (.671 OPS in 19 career games), but he’s a cornerstone of the Astros’ experienced core that has driven this five-year run of excellence. Houston needs him to step up right now.

‘Night Shift’ needs to work overtime

Tyler Matzek was, justifiably, feeling himself following a shutout win in Game 3, which led to him coining the back-end of Atlanta’s bullpen as the “Night Shift” in front of a national audience.

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Compelling soundbites often circulate in wildfire-like fashion. Sure enough, an officially licensed t-shirt honouring Matzek’s moniker was available fewer than 30 hours later.

Maybe you believe in t-shirt jinxes, maybe you don’t. But if the Braves don’t pull this off, a number of fast-acting fans are going to have some awkward apparel on their hands.

To this point, the “Night Shift” crew of Matzek, Luke Jackson, A.J. Minter and Will Smith have put together a stout World Series showing. Even after Minter took the loss with one horrid inning in Game 5, the quartet has combined for a 3.07 ERA in 12 combined appearances.

Smith has been the best of the bunch throughout the playoff run, posting 10 scoreless outings in as many tries, including a 6-for-6 clip in save opportunities. If all goes according to plan for the Braves, he’ll be on the mound Tuesday for the season’s final out.

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We’re sayin’ there’s a chance

Following Game 4, the Astros became the 47th team to fall into a 3-1 deficit in the World Series. In those 46 previous cases, six teams (13 per cent) clawed back for a championship. That includes just one team in the past three-and-a-half decades: the 2016 Chicago Cubs (who beat the Cleveland Indians).

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So, there is some precedent here — just not a ton of it. And the Astros will get an opportunity to close out on home turf with the knowledge that home teams are 24-8 this post-season.

We also needn’t remind Braves fans that their 2020 season ended with a blown 3-1 lead in the NLCS against the Dodgers. But hey, here’s a reminder nonetheless.





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Josh Johnson Continues To Be A True Journeyman

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(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

 

Though making it to the NFL is challenging, staying in the league is even tougher.

With a new wave of talent coming into the league every year, some older players are in danger of losing their spots to the younger athletes.

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However, there are those who found a way to stick around like Ryan Fitzpatrick, who suited up for several teams before retiring.

But even Fitzpatrick’s count doesn’t match that of Josh Johnson.

The 36-year-old play-caller has suited up for nearly half the league’s teams.

It’s not his choice to switch teams practically every year.

Yet for some reason, he finds a way to sign with a new team so often.

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The league’s official Twitter account called Johnson the ultimate journeyman before saying, “Never stop grinding.”

After being selected in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft, he stayed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers until 2011.

Since then, his career took him to different stops around the league.

After playing in Tampa Bay, Johnson also played for the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, and Cincinnati Bengals.

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Johnson also suited up for the New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, and New York Giants.

From 2017 to 2018, he also played for the then-Washington Redskins, Houston Texans and the then-Oakland Raiders.

Johnson also played for the Detroit Lions in 2019.

 

Johnson’s Current Team

His NFL journey continues as the joins the Denver Broncos for the 2022 season.

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It’s not yet certain if he will stay beyond the upcoming campaign, especially because Russell Wilson is their starting quarterback.

But in terms of finding a way to stay in the league, Johnson defeats his contemporaries by a mile.

It also gives him an extensive collection of jerseys from almost half the league.

The post Josh Johnson Continues To Be A True Journeyman appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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PSG need Kylian Mbappe and Neymar on the same page to reach their full potential

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Paris Saint-Germain beat Montpellier HSC 5-2 at Parc des Princes on Saturday to open an early two-point lead at the Ligue 1 summit. Neymar scored twice while Kylian Mbappe opened his account for the season, despite missing a penalty. Yet, the post-match focus was on the hints of tension between the superstar pair.

The Brazilian currently tops both the Championnat goal scoring and assist providing charts with three apiece after an opening day 5-0 win away at Clermont Foot 63 was followed up by the Montpellier drubbing. The Frenchman has taken longer to get going after a domestic suspension from last campaign kept him out of the Trophee des Champions before injury ruled him out against Clermont.

Now that both are back on the pitch along with Lionel Messi, who has also returned to action this term looking focused and in good shape, we are getting our first competitive look at the new balance of power in the capital. The hope, obviously, is that year two will prove to be more harmonious than the big tree’s uneven first go-around. But, no sooner had Mbappe extended his stay with PSG, then reports surfaced suggesting that Neymar was on his way out as part of a major cleanup operation.

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Once Luis Campos was appointed sporting advisor after Leonardo’s departure as sporting director and Christophe Galtier replaced Mauricio Pochettino as head coach, the door was left open to Neymar to play his way back into favor. However, it was abundantly clear that Les Parisiens would field offers for the €225 million man — assuming any arrived.

Despite links with Manchester City, which Pep Guardiola shot down himself, it was always going to be difficult to find any suitors capable of paying a fee for Neymar and covering his PSG salary without this sort of uptick in form. Whether it is enough to convince a club to go all in for the South American this month is doubtful, but his form and conduct so far have been impeccable under Galtier.

“Since July 4, Neymar has been beyond reproach,” said the 55-year-old. “He behaves well, came back ready and prepared well. He is performing very well in all our games. He is happy during those matches and plays for his teammates. He is opportunist with his goals. He works well for the team and in this system that is a must. Regarding what happens between now and the end of the transfer window, I see what is being written. Everyone is satisfied with Neymar regarding his investment.”

Factor in his two-goal haul against FC Nantes in the Trophee des Champions in Tel Aviv before the Ligue 1 season got underway and Neymar has five goals and three assists already this campaign. Two of those strikes have been penalties, admittedly, but it is not just his stats which have impressed Galtier — it is his overall work rate and attitude matching the expectations set upon arrival.

“That he must work for the team,” said the Frenchman of the challenge he set the mercurial No. 10. “We know that he is talented and a world class player. He is one of the best and he performs very well when he is physically and mentally well. He works for the team and puts in good displays. This system needs balance, and he is responding to that. You must be demanding defensively when you lose the ball. Collectively, he knows how to play with his teammates.”

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The worry for PSG is that this is part of Neymar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup preparation phase, with his hot form just as likely to dry up post-Qatar and midway through the current term, instead of lasting for the duration of the season. The same could be said of Messi who has three goals and an assist from three competitive outings so far.

Ultimately, if nobody makes an offer for Neymar which PSG would be willing to accept, debate is futile as he will remain in Paris. Mbappe’s early tensions are understandable given his suspension and injury-hit opening, but there can be no doubting that the team are much better off having two of their three attacking stars firing this early in the campaign while he gets up to speed.

Besides, given Mbappe’s ability to carry this PSG side of the past 12-18 months, getting the best out of him will have been the least of Galtier’s worries. Finding the best way for Mbappe, Neymar and Messi to coexist will now be the key as Campos continues to rebuild the squad with further transfer activity expected this week as the atmosphere within the group receives fresh oxygen.



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The Angels Engineered An Epic Collapse Monday Night

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(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

 

While the New York Yankees have been sliding, they at least have the comfort of knowing that they’re 10 games ahead in the American League East.

For the Los Angeles Angels, not so much.

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They have been on an epic slide since the end of May and have completely lost their way after a hot start to the season.

At 51-65, there really is no hope at this point for the Halos.

And it keeps going from bad to worse.

The Angels lost another one last night to the Seattle Mariners, and one inning in the game stood out, which ultimately sums up the way their season has gone.

Defense was nowhere to be found, mistakes were being made, and the Mariners kept tacking on more runs.

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Halos Break Down At Crucial Moment

There’s “down bad” and then there’s what took place for the Angels in the top of the ninth last night.

Errors, letting a runner who was caught in a rundown slip by, and just all around back luck is what sunk the Angels in last night’s game.

Can it get any worse for the Halos?

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Obviously, it can.

It ultimately sums up the way the 2022 season has gone for the Angels.

Things began to go south at the end of May, and they haven’t found a way to get it going again.

Firing Joe Maddon didn’t help at all.

And last night, their defensive breakdown wasted another great outing by Shohei Ohtani, who held the Mariners to two runs over six innings and struck out eight.

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It was a collapse of epic proportions for the Halos.

Now, they find themselves 14 games below the .500 mark with no hope of breaking out of their funk.

The post The Angels Engineered An Epic Collapse Monday Night appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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