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Sports Week in Review (8/10/15 - 8/16/15)

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1) Around the Diamond: Iwakuma Tosses a No-Hitter; Cubbies Streaking.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma joined the history books—in one of the best ways. He no-hit the Baltimore Orioles, striking out seven batters and walking three on 116 pitches.

Iwakuma’s no-hitter was the fourth of the 2015 season, joining Chris Heston, Max Scherzer, and Cole Hamels. He became the second Japanese player to pitch a no-no (the other being Hideo Nomo, who tossed two of them) in MLB history.

Iwakuma’s historic performance was a bright spot for the M’s in an otherwise disappointing season. Coming into Sunday, they remain on the peripheries of the wild card picture, sitting six-and-a-half games back in the highly competitive American League race.

If the Mariners want to contend, they’re going to need to get some internal help. Robinson Cano, Mark Trumbo, and Austin Jackson—guys who are usually superb at the plate—have had sub-par seasons at best. Cano, the $240 million man, is defining the word mediocrity with a stat line of .267 BA (forty points less than his career average), 12 HR, and 51 RBI.

Even King Felix has demonstrated his mortality, allowing a career-high ten (yes, ten!) earned runs against the struggling Red Sox.

Only Nelson Cruz has shown any type of firepower for the M’s with his impressive .325 BA, league-leading 35 HR, and 73 RBI’s.

Iwakuma’s no-hitter was impressive, and it will stand as the Mariners’ most memorable highlight of the 2015 season.

Last week, it was the Blue Jays. This week it’s the Cubbies. The Chicago Cubs have won nine out of their last ten games—in a stretch that included a nine game winning streak—and are currently in position to be the second wild card team in the National League.

Joe Madden has done a fantastic job in his first year as manager (any surprises there?), as his team is only six wins away from matching its total from last season. They have forty-seven games to go.

On the field, the Cubs are led by all-star Anthony Rizzo who just keeps getting better and better (.298 BA, 23 HR, 68 RBI this season), as well as four rookie hitters that are about as young and hungry as anyone in the MLB. The play of recently called-up shortstop Addison Russell, right-fielder Jorge Soler, the dangerous Kyle Schwarber, and rookie stud Kris Bryant have propelled the Cubbies to an offensive resurgence.

Despite their recent tear and 67-48 record (which would represent first place in four other divisions), the Cubs are still in third place in the ridiculously talented National League Central. That being said, they’ve slashed the Pirates Wild Card lead to one-and-a-half games. The St. Louis Cardinals, who hold the best record in baseball (75-41), have likely locked up the NL Central, so you can bet the Cubs and Pirates will be pushing hard for that important Wild Card home game.

The Cubbies have put themselves in a fantastic position to be playing baseball in October. Their offense and pitching are clicking, and they’re currently the hottest team in baseball. While I do believe the Cubs will make the playoffs, I think they still need some more time to mature as a ball club. I’m sure the Chicago faithful is sick and tired of waiting for that ever elusive World Series title (they haven’t won one since before World War I), but if they can be patient until 2016, they may very well see a championship.

For now, Cubs fans (and baseball fans alike) should sit back and enjoy the youthful, energetic Cubbies.

2) Football is Back, and America is Excited about It.

The pre-season kicked off last weekend with the annual Hall of Fame game. The Minnesota Vikings, minus Adrian Peterson, took on the Pittsburgh Steelers in a contest that received higher overnight ratings (6.9) than Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals (Warriors vs. Rockets, Curry vs. Harden—5.4), and Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals (the deciding game between the Blackhawks and lightening—5.6).

We’re talking about the pre-season. Not the regular season, not the regular season. We’re talking about the pre-season. I mean, how silly is that?

Okay, so I couldn’t help but channel Allen Iverson there for a moment, but it’s still a remarkable idea: an NFL game that doesn’t count receives more viewership than crucial NBA and NHL playoff games. Not only that, the projected starters and/or best players are likely out on the field for only a series or two! So that means people are watching with the knowledge that they’ll get a quarter at most of Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers. It’s pretty amazing more fans choose to tune into a pre-season game than playoff games where everything is on the line.

And really, it’s not a knock on basketball or hockey. Football is just clearly our nation’s favorite sport, amidst all of the league’s controversy (i.e. Deflategate, abuse charges, a certain Jets QB getting punched in the face, etc.).

On Thursday, September 10th, the NFL regular season begins with the Steelers taking on the New England Patriots. Will Tom Brady’s suspension be repealed by then? Will he get to take the field? If the pre-season Hall of Fame game received a 6.9 overnight rating, I only imagine what the NFL’s first regular season game (which comes with the biggest controversy in sports today) manages to draw.

3) Milwaukee Brewers Prospect Denson Comes Out as Gay.

David Denson, a first baseman for Milwaukee Brewers minor league affiliate team the Helena Brewers, came out this weekend.

Only a handful of male athletes have ever revealed themselves to be gay, and even less active male athletes have done so (Jason Collins and Michael Sam are among the few). In fact, Denson became the first active player in MLB history to come out.

Denson demonstrated tremendous courage by coming out, and his teammates and organization welcomed him with open arms. His decision will hopefully encourage athletes of all ages to feel comfortable doing the same.

4) The 2015 PGA Championship

After several days of exciting golf, Jason Day emerged as the PGA Championship winner with a score of twenty under par.

The tournament saw Rory McIlroy make a strong comeback from his ankle injury, but he ultimately come up short of the trophy.

Jordan Spieth, who started the day at number in second place, lost after a serious comeback on Saturday and a strong performance on Sunday.

Jason Day finally won a major, after coming up short in both the US Open and The British Open. Day’s win shows that golf has a bright future, with plenty of young stars vying to be considered the best in the world. All while, a certain Mr. Woods failed to make the cut in this tournament, just as he did in the past two major championships.

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5) Jets Lose Their QB

Was anyone else reminded of the candy “Jawbreakers” this past week?

Unusual news came out of Jets training camp this week, with quarterback Geno Smith being at the center of it. The QB was involved in a fight, resulting in a broken jaw. Yes, fights happen all the time in camp, however, in this case, IK Enemkpali actually punched Smith in the locker-room. There was supposedly a dispute over $600, which Geno had not paid to Enemkpali.

The Jets immediately released Enemkpali after the altercation. And if the team needed another sucker-punch, former Jets coach (and now division rival, Buffalo Bills coach) Rex Ryan was there right on cue, picking up Enemkpali the very next day. Smith underwent surgery for his battered face, and is expected to miss anywhere from six to ten weeks.

Needless to say, the luck of the Jets is jay-droppingly bad.

Other Tidbits of News:

Giants' legend and NFL sportscaster Frank Gifford died last Sunday. He was 84.

Summerslam, the WWE's second biggest pay-per-view of the year, will take place next Sunday.

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