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Monday, May 20, 2019

Stories by Grey Papke:

Damian Lillard does not think injured ribs are impacting his play

Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard has not had the impact on the Western Conference Finals that he would have wanted to have, but he refuses to blame his injured rib for that.

Lillard is dealing with separated ribs sustained during Game 2. In Game 3, he shot just 28 percent from the field while being held to 19 points, and the Blazers were outscored by 23 when he was on the floor. The guard admitted that he feels the injury, but he doesn’t think it’s impacting his play.

Lillard has not played well. However, he was also held to 19 points in Game 1, before any injury happened. A large part of this is simply Golden State hounding him defensively and wearing him down.

Report: Jim Riggleman is favorite if Mets make managerial change

New York Mets

The New York Mets are in freefall, and though manager Mickey Callaway is still employed, his position is so tenuous that potential replacements are already being mentioned.

In the wake of a weekend sweep at the hands of the lowly Miami Marlins, the Mets are now 20-25, six games adrift of the first-place Philadelphia Phillies. In light of that, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that it is only a matter of time before Callaway is fired, with Jim Riggleman the early favorite to replace him.

Riggleman went 64-80 as the Cincinnati Reds’ interim manager in 2018.

The expectation was that Callaway would survive the team’s road trip. He did, but that’s over now as the team returns home to face the Washington Nationals on the back of a five-game losing streak. His days could be numbered.

Brandon Kintzler takes shot at Nationals a year after bizarre trade

Brandon Kintzler

The Washington Nationals made some bold moves to try to correct a perceived culture problem last season, and it’s safe to say that not every one has ultimately made the team better.

One of those moves was dealing relief pitcher Brandon Kintzler to the Chicago Cubs. It came in spite of the fact that the Nationals weren’t actively selling and Kintzler had been a fairly solid reliever for them. The deal stunned Kintzler, and the Nationals effectively blamed him for leaking negative information to the media, which he denied.

Just under a year later, Kintzler has found success with the Cubs, and it’s safe to say he doesn’t have many warm feelings for his former employers.

“I know they got the worst bullpen in baseball,” Kintzler said, via Patrick Mooney of The Athletic. “So I’ll just leave it at that.”

By ERA, Kintzler is correct, with the Nationals harboring an awful 6.77 bullpen ERA. They also booted their pitching coach scarcely a month into the season, and only five teams have worse overall records. It’s safe to say Kintzler has had the last laugh here and finds himself in a much better position now.

Andre Iguodala MRI comes back negative

Andre Iguodala face

The Golden State Warriors got good news on the status of Andre Iguodala on Sunday.

According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Iguodala underwent an MRI on his leg, which caused him problems in Game 3 against the Portland Trail Blazers. That MRI came back negative, and the team officially listed him as questionable for Game 4 with what has been described as an Achilles injury.

As good as the Warriors are, they can only absorb so many injuries. With Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins already sidelined, they can’t really afford to lose Iguodala, who has stepped in ably with some big plays during the Western Conference Finals. The good news is, with a 3-0 series lead, Golden State does not desperately have to rush him back.

Report: Cubs never filed protest over Sean Doolittle’s delivery

Joe Maddon

The Chicago Cubs made a lot of noise Saturday night about filing a protest over a perceived illegal toe-tap in Sean Doolittle’s delivery, but they reportedly never actually did it.

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Cubs never formally filed a protest after the loss, and they may not do so at all with the league believing that Doolittle’s delivery is legal.

In other news, the situation was a whole lot of nothing. Doolittle may well have had a point when he seemed to suggest that Cubs manager Joe Maddon was just trying to get in his head by protesting, as the lack of follow-up indicates that they either backed away from the idea quickly or were never serious about it to begin with.

Bill James throws shade at Shohei Ohtani

Bill James

Statistician Bill James isn’t a big fan of hype, it seems, and that means he’s a bit of a skeptic when it comes to Shohei Ohtani.

James, regarded as the godfather of analytics in baseball, took a swipe at Ohtani — or perhaps more specifically the hype around him — on Saturday.

Ohtani has 24 home runs in 368 career at-bats. No, he’s not Babe Ruth, but that’s still impressive and a pretty significant total. Just to drive the point home, Ohtani homered later on in the game Saturday.

James has a curmudgeonly side and he’s made some other comments that rightly didn’t go over well in the past. It’s not clear what his big issue with Ohtani is, but it’s a little bit over the top.

Watch: Bryce Harper’s mammoth home run clears the batter’s eye

Bryce Harper Phillies

Bryce Harper hasn’t had the start to his Philadelphia Phillies career that he would’ve hoped for, but sometimes he offers up a reminder of the massive power he possesses.

That was certainly true on Saturday, when he hit the second-longest home run he has ever hit since Statcast tracking began in 2015, according to Paul Casella of MLB.com. The first inning shot off Colorado Rockies starter Antonio Senzatela went a projected 466 feet, clearing the center field batter’s eye and landing on Ashburn Alley. The exit velocity was a cool 114.1 MPH.

Harper has definitely turned in some signature moments since joining the Phillies, and this will go down as one of them. Philadelphia fans will simply want to see him do things like this a bit more consistently, as he came into the day hitting just .222 with a league-worst 60 strikeouts.

Nick Nurse doesn’t care about Raptors’ 0-2 deficit

Nick Nurse

The Toronto Raptors are in a very tough spot, but coach Nick Nurse knows better than to dwell on it.

Nurse made it quite clear that he didn’t care about the Raptors’ 2-0 deficit against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Final, nor is he concerned about the statistics that surround him. When told that 94 percent of teams with 2-0 leads go on to win the series, Nurse more or less brushed it off.

“That can’t be right,” Nurse joked, via Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “That can’t be right. Check the figures.

“I don’t know. How do I find the solace [in that]? I find the solace when OKC got beat by 34 and 24 and went down 2-0 and then won four straight against a great, great, great, great San Antonio team. I don’t know.

“I don’t really give a crap about that. I just want our team to come play their ass off [Sunday night] and get one game and it changes the series.”

Nurse is using the Oklahoma City Thunder’s comeback from 2-0 down against the San Antonio Spurs in 2012, and he might as well. Toronto is in a tough spot, but the good news is they’re going home for two games. They have to get past what’s happened already — especially Game 1 — and simply go out and win Game 3 to stay in the series.