Home Featured News This Week in Sports: MLB’s homestretch, NFL’s new contracts and more

This Week in Sports: MLB’s homestretch, NFL’s new contracts and more

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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws downfield against the Carolina Panthers in the second half on Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. The Panthers won, 31-24. (David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/TNS)

Welcome to another weekly roundup in the world of sports. This week, the Los Angeles Dodgers jumped back into first place in their division and the New York Yankees picked up a former MVP to help their chances with the playoffs looming. The West Michigan Whitecaps’ season will come down to the final day of the season. They try to keep their playoff hopes alive today against the Fort Wayne Tincaps. The NFL saw some of its biggest names get paid this week and another get traded to the Chicago Bears. College football is officially underway and this weekend featured some top 25 teams facing off against each other in the first week of the season.

Major League Baseball

Four weeks remain in the MLB’s regular season. As the playoff picture starts to take shape, teams on the bubble are fighting to make the playoffs while other teams are trying to secure the best record in their league.

The Atlanta Braves picked up another game in the standings of the National League East. While they haven’t exactly been lighting it up, the Philadelphia Phillies have continued to struggle having lost two straight games and six of their last 10 games. The Braves now have a four-game lead over the Phillies. The Braves are .500 in their last 10 but have won two straight games to pick up two games on the Phillies in the last two days. The Washington Nationals’ chances of a postseason berth are dying off. They currently sit one game below .500 and are eight and a half games behind the Braves and four and a half behind the Phillies.

The Chicago Cubs have started to pull away in the NL Central. The Cubs have won eight of their last 10 games and hold a five game lead on the Milwaukee Brewers and a five and a half game lead on the St. Louis Cardinals. All three teams have winning records in their last 10 games but the Cardinals have cooled off a bit since their 19 wins in 24 games. The Cardinals and Brewers are both in good position to make the playoffs and will be battling for home field advantage in the Wild Card game.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have regained a slim lead in the NL West. The Colorado Rockies are just a half game back while the Arizona Diamondbacks are one game back. With four weeks left in the season, these three teams will likely cycle in and out of first place. The Dodgers however have been hot, winning eight of their last 10 and three straight games while the Rockies are .500 in their last 10. The Diamondbacks were in first place last week but have fallen to third in the division after losing seven of their last 10 games including three straight losses.

(**GB=Games Back)

NL Division Leaders
East — Atlanta Braves (76-60)
Central — Chicago Cubs (81-55)
West — Los Angeles Dodgers (75-62)

NL Wild Card
Milwaukee Brewers (77-61) +0.5
St. Louis Cardinals (76-61) —
_______________________________
Colorado Rockies (74-62) 1.5 GB
Arizona Diamondbacks (74-63) 2 GB
Philadelphia Phillies (72-64) 3.5 GB

The Boston Red Sox have continued to play less than stellar baseball, at least for what fans have come to expect out of the Red Sox this season. They’re .500 in their last 10 games but still have a sizable lead over the New York Yankees in the American League East. The Yankees have won six of their last 10 games and picked up another game on Boston in the standings over the past week. The problem for the Yankees however, is they’re still seven and a half games behind Boston. They’ll need to string together multiple wins and hope Boston continues to play average to below average baseball to have a chance to catch them in the standings. The Yankees did make a move that could help them gain on the Red Sox. The Yankees picked up former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen from the San Francisco Giants to help in the outfield. McCutchen is hitting .252 this season which is a far cry from when he was winning the MVP with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013.

In the AL Central, the Cleveland Indians have lost six of their last 10. They’ll win their division easily this year as they hold a 14 game lead over the second place Minnesota Twins. But, if they want to make noise in the postseason, they’ll need to figure things out and start playing consistent baseball. They have had the luxury of playing in the worst division in baseball all year long but the American League is stacked this year. If they don’t step up their play, they’ll get knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.

The Houston Astros are still in first place in the AL West but things are tight atop this division. The Astros’ once large division lead has shrunk to just a few games. Last week, they had a game and a half lead over the Oakland A’s. This week, they’ve picked up another game in the standings but two and a half games can disappear fast and there’s still plenty of time for the A’s to overtake the Astros in the division. The Astros are 7-3 in their last 10 games while the A’s are 6-4 over their last 10. The Seattle Mariners are still hanging around but with less than a month to go in the season, they’ll need a miracle to climb back from their seven and a half game deficit.

(**GB=Games Back)

AL Division Leaders
East — Boston Red Sox (94-44)
Central — Cleveland Indians (77-59)
West — Houston Astros (84-53)

AL Wild Card
New York Yankees (86-51) +4.5
Oakland A’s (82-56) —
____________________________
Seattle Mariners (76-61) 5.5 GB

ESPN’s top five power rankings

1. Boston Red Sox (94-44)
2. Houston Astros (84-53)
3. New York Yankees (86-51)
4. Chicago Cubs (81-55)
5. Cleveland Indians (77-59)

The Collegiate’s top five power rankings

1. Boston Red Sox (94-44)
2. New York Yankees (86-51)
3. Houston Astros (84-53)
4. Oakland A’s (82-56)
5. Chicago Cubs (81-55)

West Michigan Whitecaps

The West Michigan Whitecaps will have a do-or-die game played today against the Fort Wayne Tincaps.

West Michigan lost their first game of the week last Monday, Aug. 27 against the Great Lakes Loons by a score of 6-2. The loss was their fourth straight giving the Loons a four-game sweep over the Whitecaps.

After an off day on Tuesday, the Whitecaps went on the road to take on the Dayton Dragons for a three-game set. The Whitecaps picked up wins on Wednesday and Thursday but lost an important game on Friday. If they had won on Friday, they would’ve gone into their weekend series with the Loons holding a one-game advantage in the standings. Because they lost, the Whitecaps went into the series deadlocked with the Loons.

There is only one playoff spot remaining and the Whitecaps and Loons are fighting for it. On Saturday, the Loons looked like the more desperate team as they blew out the Whitecaps 10-3. If the Whitecaps had any chance of making the playoffs they had to win on Sunday.

With their season on the line yesterday, the Whitecaps came through in a low scoring affair. Fort Wayne got the first run of the game in the top of the third inning when Jack Suwinski of the Tincaps grounded into a fielder’s choice that allowed Kelvin Melean to score. The Whitecaps came right back in the bottom half of the inning with a John Valente RBI single that knocked in Eric De La Rosa. In the Bottom of the fifth inning, Brady Policelli singled to shortstop scoring Reynaldo Rivera for the game winning run. The Whitecaps pitching staff was stout the rest of the way and the Whitecaps held on to win 2-1.

Today is the day for both of these teams. Win and you’re in, lose and your season is over. This is the last game of the regular season. The game starts at 2 p.m. at Fifth Third Ballpark. To find tickets to this game and cheer the hometown team into the playoffs, click here.

National Football League

NFL regular season football is just three days away from kicking off. This past week, NFL teams played their last preseason games and made their cuts to get down to the 53-man roster. While most NFL general managers were focussed on this process, a few were throwing out large sums of money to players.

On Tuesday, Aug. 28, the New York Giants made Odell Beckham Jr. the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL. The deal is five years in length and worth $95 million with $65 million guaranteed. Beckham is currently 25-years-old and has had a few on and off the field issues, but the Giants recognized his talent and didn’t want him to get away. Since arriving in New York, Beckham has over achieved but with this new deal in place, the target on his back just got a whole lot bigger.

Beckham wasn’t the only player getting paid this week. On Thursday, Aaron Rodgers became the highest paid player in NFL history. Rodgers signed a four-year contract extension with the Green Bay Packers worth $134 million. The deal has $100 million in guaranteed money for Rodgers, and will make him a member of the Packers until the age of 40.

The biggest move of the NFL off-season happened on Saturday less than a week before the start of the regular season. Khalil Mack and the Oakland Raiders have been trying to agree all off-season long on a new deal but have been unable to. Mack missed all four preseason games and never reported to camp. It was reported earlier in the off-season that Mack and Raiders’ new head coach Jon Gruden hadn’t spoken and that Mack didn’t appreciate Gruden not reaching out to him. All the drama came to a head Saturday when the Raiders traded Mack to the Chicago Bears.

The Raiders received two first-round draft picks, one in 2019 and one in 2020 as well a 2019 sixth-round draft pick and 2020 third-round pick. In addition to getting Mack, the Bears received a 2020 second-round pick and a 2020 conditional fifth-round pick from the Raiders. Upon arriving in Chicago, Mack and the Bears reached an agreement on a six-year contract extension worth $141 million with $90 million guaranteed. The deal makes Mack the highest paid defensive player in the league slightly edging out Aaron Donald’s $87 million guaranteed deal with the Los Angeles Rams.

NCAA Football

College football got underway this past weekend and there were already some matchups of top 25 teams.

The sixth ranked Washington Huskies took on the ninth ranked Auburn Tigers in Atlanta on Saturday. Auburn jumped out to a 15-6 lead in the second quarter before the Huskies made it a game right before half. Quinten Pounds caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Jake Browning with 43 seconds left in the half to make it 15-13. The third quarter was a defensive struggle with neither team scoring. In the fourth quarter, a Peyton Henry field goal for the Huskies gave Washington its first lead of the game. Now down 16-15, the Tigers answered with a touchdown late in the fourth quarter that ended up being the dagger. JaTarvious Whitlow ran the ball in from 10 yards out to give Auburn a 21-16 lead. That score would stand as the final score giving the Tigers their first victory of the season.

Two traditional power houses met in South Bend, Indiana on Saturday night as the number 12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish hosted the number 14 Michigan Wolverines. Notre Dame dominated the majority of the game and at one point, held a 21-3 lead over Michigan. With under four minutes to go in the first half, Michigan’s Ambry Thomas returned a kickoff 99 yards to get the Wolverines back in the game before the half making the score 21-10.

In the second half, Michigan’s defense came to life and only allowed a Notre Dame field goal the entire second half. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, their starting quarterback was suffering from severe cramping. Shea Patterson, who finished with 227 yards on 20-30 passing, kept having to go to sidelines to treat his leg cramps. Michigan’s backup quarterback Dylan McCaffrey came on in relief and threw for 22 yards on 4-6 passing.

With Michigan down by 14, the Wolverines marched down the field to score a late touchdown to bring the score to 24-17 with 2:18 left in the game. Michigan’s defense did their job after that, forcing the Fighting Irish to go three and out and got the ball back with just over 100 seconds to go and no timeouts. With Patterson back under center, Michigan tried to march down the field one last time to tie up the game. The comeback would fall short though as Patterson scrambled in the pocket and fumbled the ball. Notre Dame recovered and held on for the 24-17 win.

On Sunday night, the 25th ranked Louisiana State Tigers dominated the eighth ranked Miami Hurricanes. LSU held a 33-3 lead over Miami going into the fourth quarter. Miami managed to score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter while holding LSU scoreless, but it was way too little too late. LSU picked up the win 33-17. This game is an example of how preseason rankings in college football aren’t always as accurate as they should be. This game might be classified as an upset but only time will tell as this seems like two teams headed in different directions.

The 11th ranked Michigan State Spartans started their season by hosting the Utah State Aggies in what was supposed to be an easy warm up game for the Spartans. The Aggies had other things in mind however and gave Michigan State and their fans a scare on Saturday. The game was tightly contested throughout and late in the fourth quarter, Utah State’s Darwin Thompson ran in a one-yard touchdown to give the Aggies a 31-30 lead. The Spartans refused to lie down though and with two minutes left, Connor Heyward had a 13-yard touchdown run for the Spartans. They added a two-point conversion and held on for the win narrowly escaping a potential early season upset. The final score was 38-31 giving Michigan State a close week one win.

With Michigan State escaping the Aggies, the only true upset from week one was The Maryland Terrapins defeating the number 23 ranked Texas Longhorns. Maryland jumped out to a big lead, and halfway through the second quarter, led the Longhorns 24-7. Texas stormed back though and scored two touchdowns while also adding a safety bringing the score to 24-22 at halftime.

Texas seemed to figure things out and scored a touchdown in the third quarter to take the lead 29-24. But the unranked Maryland squad didn’t back down and scored the last 10 points of the game giving them the upset win over the Longhorns 34-29.

One other notable game from Saturday was the 10th ranked Penn State Nittany Lions barely beating the Sun Belt Conference’s Appalachian State Mountaineers. Michigan fans might remember the Mountaineers from when they upset the Wolverines in a week one matchup 11 years ago. Penn State allowed the Mountaineers to comeback from a 31-17 fourth quarter deficit. The Mountaineers scored a touchdown with 7:40 left in the game and then just a 1:37 later scored another to tie the game up at 31.

Appalachian State kept the pressure on and with 1:47 left in the game, scored the go ahead touchdown. Penn State quarterback Trace McSorely was cool under pressure though and led the Nittany Lions on a scoring drive that was capped off with a 15-yard touchdown pass to KJ Hamler. The touchdown tied the game at 38 with 42 seconds left in regulation.

In overtime, Penn State scored a touchdown on their first possession and held on for the 45-38 win. Even with the win, going to overtime with Appalachian State will more than likely hurt Penn State in the rankings. They’ll have to win their big games and beat the teams their heavily favored over convincingly if they want to keep their hopes alive to make the College Football Playoffs.

Tonight, the first weekend of college football closes out with another top 25 matchup. The 20th ranked Virginia Tech Hokies will take on the 19th ranked Florida State Seminoles at 8 p.m. For a list of all the college football scores and the top 25 rankings, click here.