Hard Hits talks big October Football Weekend

Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw will be facing Max Scherzer in a battle of aces in a great match up between the Dodgers and Nationals in the NLDS. That and plenty more was covered on Hard Hits from Derek, Colin and John. AP Photo by Jeff Chiu/Getty Images

Hard Hits is my internet show that can be heard on the airwaves of BlogTalkRadio. Originally started in February 2007, the Hard Hits Network has been around for nine years in some format or another. A sports themed show that also mixes in the current events and music from time to time, it’s our way to express ourselves.

On Sunday, we did two live broadcasts. Each was 30 minutes live with 15 minutes of overtime. Until we go back to Premium, it’ll be a shorter format. Once we do renew for Premium, longer shows shall return. Featuring John “JPG” Giagnorio, Colin Cannaday, Rob “Retirement” Davis, Brian David Sanborn, Justin “JNF” Felix and hosted by yours truly, Derek “Flex” Felix, it’s always entertaining back and forth banter. No matter what the topic, it is “hard hitting.”

In Part 1 of a two show special edition, the guest of honor JPG showed up to discuss his relocation to Las Vegas. Naturally, he stopped in Chicago for hometown before completing the trip with his Cubs primed for a big October run. Derek predictably figured out what John ordered for dinner. Plus more interesting discussion from the statmastah who joined Derek and Colin for both college football, NFL and baseball wildcard predictions.

Who will win? The Orioles or Blue Jays. The winner gets the Texas Rangers. The other AL Division series is set between two evenly matched teams with the Indians hosting the Red Sox in Big Papi’s final year. Can Cleveland overcome Boston’s lethal lineup?

Meanwhile, the Giants are back in in another even year. Can they make another improbable run? They’ll visit the Mets Wednesday with a great match-up between Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard. Find out who Colin and John like. Also why Derek went against his original prediction. The winner takes on JPG’s Cubs.

In the other NL Division match-up, it features two of the game’s best pitchers with the Nats’ Max Scherzer taking on the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw. It shapes up to be a great series. For more breakdown on this series, tune into Part 2 where Derek, Colin and John made their predictions.

Catch Part 1 of Hard Hits A JPG Tribute here:

Hard Hits Part I: A JPG Tribute

Among the topics covered were two unbelievable college football games including the hail mary which allowed Tennessee to stun Georgia. Plus a pro style classic with Clemson and Louisville going toe to toe with Heisman quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson putting on a show.

NFL Week 4 highlights are discussed with Colin pretty pumped about his Falcons led by record performances from Matt Ryan and Julio Jones in a dismantling of the suddenly struggling Panthers. Plus why Derek feels sorry for Phil Rivers following the Chargers’ latest collapse. The Bills pull off a shocker in New England. They’re back.

Derek also makes a prediction into the future on baseball.

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Bautista bomb sends Yankees to third straight shutout loss

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Despite getting shutout three straight and falling out of the wildcard race, the Yankees future is bright due to future stars such as catching sensation Gary Sanchez. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy Baseball Tonight on Twitter.

As John Sterling just said on the radio following the latest Yankee loss, “If you don’t score, you can’t win.”

Astonishingly, a great run at the playoffs has been replaced by not being able to score a run. Jose Bautista’s three-run bomb off losing pitcher Tyler Clippard in the eighth inning sent the punch less Yankees to a depressing 3-0 defeat. Their third straight shutout loss. It’s the first time since 1975 they have been shutout in three consecutive games.

That’s 27 innings without scoring a run. It’s definitely a sad way to go out. The four-game sweep at Boston was bad enough. I am not gonna bother reiterating my frustration. Despite it all, these new look Baby Bombers give us hope for the future. Gary Sanchez is chasing American League Rookie of The Year with a remarkable 19 home runs in his first 43 games. A modern day record. Even with being shutout, Sanchez remains at .330 with 19 blasts and 38 RBI’s.

The fact Sanchez could even win AL ROY despite coming up in August is remarkable. The top prospect has done more than anyone could’ve possibly envisioned. Hitting 19 homers in less than two months is insane. Even in the final two losses at Boston, Sanchez blasted two dingers to go on another streak. He ripped three more homers in consecutive wins over the Rays before the offense went ice cold. In fact, he drove in 13 over a five-game span where the Yanks lost three of five.

Unfortunately, the Red Sox’ offense is the best in baseball. When the off-season hits, Yankee pitchers will be seeing Hanley Ramirez in their nightmares. The sizzling first base slugger beat the Yanks with a three-run blast to dead center off a flat Dellin Betances which set the tone last Thursday. One of Joe Girardi’s screw ups. He’s a very good manager but the over managing can drive fans nuts. Like leaving C.C. Sabathia in for another inning after he served up a game-tying three-run bomb to Ramirez. He was over 100 pitches and facing the Red Sox. It turned into a disaster.

Maybe if they had split the big series, we’d be singing a different tune. They could have. But that doesn’t cut it. They still gave themselves a chance after taking the first two from Tampa. But then were shutout in the series finale. What’s followed is 18 more innings of frustration. No one has been able to drive in a single run. And so, they have the dubious distinction of not scoring a run in three straight games.

In the process, they wasted a great effort from Sabathia, who went seven scoreless reducing his ERA to 4.02. The veteran southpaw has given a good account of himself all year proving he still can be a serviceable back of the end starter who gives the Yanks innings. He’s made 29 starts and is up to 172-plus innings. With one start left, he could reach 180.

Sabathia has a vesting $25 million option for 2017 which hinges on not finishing the year on the disabled list with a left shoulder injury or spend 45 days or make six relief appearances due to a left shoulder injury. There also is a $5 million buyout. But it looks like the salary is guaranteed with Sabathia staying healthy. If so, he has earned it. That would mean one more year for the gritty lefty who has bounced back from how last season ended with him checking into rehab for alcoholism. If he can be bought out, I would still like to see him return.

It’s hard to get upset over the Yankees falling short. That they even made a run and played meaningful games this late in the season despite selling and reloading the farm system shows how well they played. They never gave up. A credit to Girardi and the coaching staff. For all of my issues with his by the book stuff, he’s done an admirable job. If he was ever let go, plenty of teams would be after Girardi.

As the season winds down with the Yanks now 79-75 and four behind the Orioles and Tigers, playoff extinction looms. But in a year where Alex Rodriguez went out with one final memorable night and Carlos Beltran proved he still has it, Brian Cashman finally was allowed to make game changing deals that could have a long term impact on the club’s future.

He turned Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller into Adam Warren, Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, Rashad Crawford, Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen. Torres and Frazier are top prospects while Sheffield could have a place in the Yankee rotation. Warren returned to form after struggling with the Cubs. He’s been part of a solid 1-2 punch with Clippard getting the ball to Betances. Funny enough, he was sent to Chicago over the winter for Starlin Castro. Who won that one. 😉

Cashman also got three minor leaguers (Nick Green, Erik Swanson and Dillon Tate) for Beltran after sending him to Texas. Here’s hoping he has an impact and maybe even reaches the World Series.

As far as what’s transpired, I can’t help but feel proud. Expectations weren’t high. Especially when they sold at the deadline. But seeing some of these kids and the continued improvement of Didi Gregorius has shed a new light. The future is bright.

The Blue Jays are AL East Champs

Blue Jays AL East Champs: For the first time since 1993 when they won it all, the Blue Jays are AL East champs. Here's a closer look at their special season and what life was like in '93. AP Photo by Patrick Semansky/Getty Images
Blue Jays AL East Champs: For the first time since 1993 when they won it all, the Blue Jays are AL East champs. Here’s a closer look at their special season and what life was like in ’93.
AP Photo by Patrick Semansky/Getty Images

It took the Blue Jays 22 years to once again become AL East champs. For the first time since ’93 when I was a junior in high school watching Joe Carter take Mitch Williams deep for a Game 6 walk off that sent Toronto to a second consecutive World Title, the Blue Jays are the best team in the AL East.

They did it by doing what they do best. Destroying the Orioles 15-2 to spray the champagne in the road locker room at Camden Yards. The Jays scored in five of nine innings slugging three home runs. Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista each hit two-run shots and Justin Smoak also went deep. All nine Jays starters each had a hit. Eight drove in runs. AL MVP front runner Josh Donaldson went 2-for-4 with his major league best 123rd RBI. He’s hit 41 dingers which puts him one up on Bautista. Encarnacion has 37 giving Toronto three sluggers with over 35 with 100-plus knocked in. A scary thought for the opposition this postseason.

Marcus Stroman won again improving to 4-0 by working eight strong allowing one earned on a Steve Pearce solo shot. Stroman fanned eight. He should slot in behind ace David Price for the Jays playoff rotation. Figure R.A. Dickey to be third leaving manager John Gibbons to choose between Marco Estrada and Mark Buehrle. Considerig that Estrada has pitched better, he might be the choice despite Buehrle’s experience.

The Jays improved to 92-65 with the win. Even though they dropped the second game of a double header, it didn’t matter. They rallied back from a .500 team that once trailed the first place Yankees by seven games. Once they added Troy Tulowitzki and Price, everything fell into place for Toronto. For two months, they have dominated and now could be the favorite to come out of the AL with the Royals losing Greg Holland for the year. He’ll also likely miss next season due to Tommy John surgery.

The Blue Jays with a powerful lineup that also features Russell Martin and speedster Ben Revere now have the pitching to go with the hitting. Price has been lethal since joining them going 9-1 in 11 starts with a 2.30 earned run average along with a dominant 87 K’s in 74 and a third innings. He is front and center for the AL Cy Young with Astros ace Dallas Keuchel. The difference between them is minimal with Keuchel having one more win (19) while Price has a lower ERA by a measly 0.02 (2.45).

Rookie Antonio Osuna has become a reliable closer saving 20 games. If there is a potential weak spot, the bullpen isn’t lock down with vet LaTroy Hawkins and youngster Aaron Sanchez plus lefty Brett Cecil setting up. If the Jays aren’t able to outslug teams in October when the games are usually closer, the pen could come into play.

Either way, a tip of the cap to the Jays for finally giving Canada something else to cheer about aside from hockey. Ironically, the last time Canada had a Stanley Cup champion was also ’93 when the Canadiens won it all behind an all world goalie by the name of Patrick Roy. If the Jays win it all, does that bode well for the Cup returning to Canada?

The last time the Blue Jays won, Bill Clinton was in his first term as President. MTV actually was still en vogue with actual music videos and Yo! MTV Raps and Rock The Vote with Clinton going on MTV as part of his ’92 campaign to defeat George Bush. MTV still had cool veejays like Adam Curry, Daisy Fuentes and Idalis along with lifer Kurt Loder. Cindy Crawford was at her peak in House of Style. Life was good.

Yeah. It was a different era. There was no social media. No Facebook or Twitter. No TMZ to destroy celebrities and athletes. No steroid scandals. And the only internet was dial up. Prodigy was my first service before AOL. Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo dominated. Guns N’ Roses still was intact. 2Pac and Biggie were alive. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg teamed up for The Chronic with gangsta rap taking over.

Bird’s The Word In Yankees 6-4 win over Jays in 10 innings

Bird's The Word: Greg Bird high fives Slade Heathcott after his clutch three-run home run in the 10th made the Yankees 6-4 winners over the Blue Jays. AP Photo by Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press
Bird’s The Word: Greg Bird high fives Slade Heathcott after his clutch three-run home run in the 10th made the Yankees 6-4 winners over the Blue Jays.
AP Photo by Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

The Yankees needed a win in the worst way possible to have any realistic chance of catching the Blue Jays. After losing the opener of a three-game series 4-2 to David Price, what they got was another clutch performance from 22-year old first baseman Greg Bird. Bird was indeed the word in a big 6-4 Yankee 10 inning win over the Jays at a loud Rogers Centre. His three-run home run off Toronto reliever Mark Lowe made a winner of closer Andrew Miller after he blew just his second save.

With the game knotted at two, Carlos Beltran stayed red hot going yard off Liam Hendricks to put the Yankees in front in the eighth inning. But the Jays wouldn’t go quietly. They loaded the bases against set up man Dellin Betances before he got Edwin Encarnacion to chase a low breaking ball out of the strike zone. Betances recovered from a bout of wildness walking two straight Jays to load the bases. It’s been a bit tougher for him this month with his command not as sharp. But he battled through relying on two 98 MPH heaters to set up the big strikeout of Encarnacion.

In the ninth, the Yanks had a great opportunity to pad their lead. After Chris Young walked, a Didi Gregorius ground rule double put runners in at second and third with nobody out. But a medium fly out by Jacoby Ellsbury wasn’t enough to score Young, who was nailed at the plate thanks to a great throw by Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista for a 9-9-2 double play. Following a Brett Gardner walk to put runners on the corners, Alex Rodriguez flied out to end the threat. That would nearly prove fatal.

One thing about these Jays. They go down swinging. With virtually an entire lineup possessing enough power to go deep, you can’t blind for a second. After Miller got Justin Smoak swinging, he served up a meatball to Dioner Navarro, who belted his fifth dinger into the left field seats. The Jays nearly ended it loading the bases. That included a puzzling move by Yankee skipper Joe Girardi who elected to intentionally walk Matt Hague. Thinking Miller would face lefty hitting Ben Revere, Girardi didn’t anticipate that Jays manager John Gibbons would send up Russell Martin to pinch hit. Miller pitched him carefully missing high and away which allowed AL MVP front runner Josh Donaldson to come up with the bases packed and two outs. With the crowd going nuts, Miller bounced back getting Donaldson chasing sending the game to extra innings.

In the 10th, Brian McCann bunted against the shift reaching base on an errant throw. Amazingly, it was scored a hit. In a better move Girardi sent in Rico Noel to pinch run for McCann. He can fly. With the threat of a steal, the Yankees hit and run with Slade Heathcott, whose swing was interrupted by Navarro’s glove resulting in catchers interference. That put two runners on with no out setting the stage for Bird. After working the count back to 2-2, he drove Lowe’s low fastball out to right for a game-winning three-run home run. It was his 10th of the season. He’s hit homers in three straight and has five in the last seven with 11 RBI’s.

With no one else to go to, Girardi sent Miller back out to get the final three outs. It wasn’t without a loud thud with Encarnacion clocking his 35th long ball slicing the deficit to 6-4 with one away. But Miller got the next two batters to finally give the Yanks a well earned victory which pulled them within two and a half games. The rubber match is tomorrow with Ivan Nova facing Marcus Stroman. We’ll see if Nova can get himself righted subbing for Masahiro Tanaka.

Aside from Bird continuing to impress, Luis Severino gave the Yanks six solid frames of two-run ball with three walks and three K’s. A better outing than last time when the Jays lit him up for six earned and two homers in two-plus. He did allow a solo shot to Kevin Pillar and a game-tying Smoak RBI single. But the results were positive for the 21-year old righty.

One question for Girardi is whether Miller will be available. He threw 42 pitches and 26 for strikes. Maybe if it’s a save situation, Betances gets the chance instead. He threw 20 pitches (10 strikes), That’s assuming Nova can actually match Stroman and the Yankee offense can score enough runs. We’ll see.