Unsung hero lifts Team USA in final tune-up game; Morikawa wins British Open; and another all-time MLB gaffe

The Monday afternoon edition of "Seven things to know before 7 AM" is live

Yet another day filled with sports news, as we edge closer and closer to several big-time events: NBA Finals Game 6 (Tuesday); the Seattle Kraken NHL expansion draft (Wednesday); and the Opening Ceremony of the Summer Olympics (Friday).

But before I get too far ahead of myself, we have to cover what has happened over the past 24 hours, including Collin Morikawa winning his second major; Coco Gauff not representing Team USA at the Olympics; a no-name NBA player (just promoted days ago) leading the team in the last exhibition game prior to the Olympics, and another MLB folly involving the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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1) Collin Morikawa wins the 2021 British Open

The American Collin Morikawa wins the final golf major of 2021 in this past weekend’s British Open. Congrats to Collin, as this marks only his second ever major win (the other was last year’s PGA Championship title). Morikawa was in the top 10 for all four rounds of this tournament, with his worst round a two under par on Saturday. He barely beat-out fellow American Jordan Spieth, who held his own, standing toe-to-toe with Morikawa all weekend, exchanging leads throughout.

As for the group of six players I predicted would fare well in this tournament? Here is where they finally stood after all four rounds:

You can see that Spieth and Spaniard Jon Rahm had solid rounds three of the four days of this tournament, while the likes of American Rickie Fowler and Englishman Lee Westwood were never in the realm of contention due to several poor rounds. Both Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry were good and kept their consistency (for the most part), but were also too far for leaderboard contention.

As for Louis Oosthuizen, the South African that last won this same tournament 11 years ago and was the leader for most of the rounds? He finished tied with Rahm after his terrible one over par round yesterday. Had he delivered like Spieth and Rahm did yesterday (three under par or better), you would be looking at Louis winning his second British Open title.

2) Team USA men’s basketball’s recently promoted player Keldon Johnson steers team to last exhibition win

I have already informed you all about the struggles regarding Team USA, due to the lack of healthy bodies on the current roster as they get ready for Olympic play next week… Well, the men’s basketball team put that beside them in the last tune-up game, against the Spanish national team, last night in Las Vegas. They defeated their European opponents, 83-76.

The team was actually trailing for most of the first half, as they once again had trouble containing the opposition’s top point guard (in this case, Minnesota Timberwolves’ point guard Ricky Rubio), as much like Australia’s Patty Mills the other day. Rubio scored most of his 23 points in the first half, as he slithered his way past Team USA defenders. And, the other drawback in the first half for Team USA… their anemic three point shooting. When the team catches fire from deep, they are unstoppable (as I saw late in the first half and all throughout the second half. But until then, the team was 1-12 from three up until the last 3-4 minutes of the first half. Several Damian Lillard and Kevin Durant threes later, and Team USA went from trailing by near-double digits to taking a 38-36 lead at the half.

Then, the second half started, and that was when young San Antonio Spurs player Keldon Johnson had his best night in the red, white and blue. He scored 10 of his career-best 15 points in that quarter, turning that two point lead into a ten point difference as the third quarter wound down. Team USA did not trail in that final frame, cruising to this 83-76 win.

Now, the team will get much-needed rest as they make their trip to Tokyo. Hopefully, Team USA will get the likes of Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, who collectively are in a hard-fought six-game NBA Finals series of their own, currently. No guarantees that even just one of the three join Team USA in Japan.

3) Coco Gauff tests positive for Covid, will not make trip to Tokyo Olympics

Speaking of the Tokyo Olympics and Team USA, the women’s tennis team lost another star player - in this case, young, budding star Coco Gauff, who tested positive for Covid the other day and has been ruled out of Olympic play. The American women were already playing without Serena Williams, Madison Keys and Sofia Kenin, who all opted out of Olympic play.

As for which women are representing Team USA in tennis? That would be just Jennifer Brady, Jessica Pegula and Alison Riske for singles’ play.

4) David Fletcher’s career-best 26-game hitting streak comes to an end

The longest hitting streak in the majors, and the second-longest in Angels’ history, ended when second baseman David Fletcher went 0-5 at the plate, including receiving a ‘golden sombrero’ (striking out three times in a game). Unfortunate, but like the proverb says - all good things must come to an end.

5) Both Ohtani and Vlad Jr. go yard again!

Speaking of the Los Angeles Angels… Shohei Ohtani does it again! He hit his 34th home run of the season, albeit in a 7-4 loss to the Seattle Mariners.

And… the other American League MVP candidate in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. also mashed a home run of his own - his 31st - in the second game of a doubleheader sweep of the Texas Rangers - two games in which his Toronto Blue Jays won 5-0 and 10-0.

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6) Fan who hit Verdugo banned from all MLB ballparks

So, remember the story I posted in yesterday’s Snippets, how a New York Yankees’ fan threw a baseball at Boston Red Sox leftfielder Alex Verdugo’s back during Saturday night’s game? Well, the fan has now been banned from all Major League ballparks across the nation, as of yesterday.

A great decision, as such acts are uncalled for and unwarranted.

7) A baseball snafu for the ages… now, the Pirates take advantage of the Mets’ gaffe

Remember how back in late May, we had the Pittsburgh Pirates commit one of the worst blunders in recent memory? Well, the shoe was on the proverbial other foot, as we saw a similar gaffe in yesterday afternoon’s Pirates-Mets game. tl;dw (too long; did not watch): Three runs score on a bases loaded dribbler that barely makes it halfway to third base.

The bases were loaded, with one out in the bottom of the first inning for the Pirates, who already scored three runs to this point (3-0). Shortstop Kevin Newman hit a slow ground ball down the third baseline, barely making it a quarter of the way to third base. The Mets’ pitcher, Taijuan Walker, thinking the ball was rolling foul, pushed the ball to his dugout, using his glove. The home plate umpire thought otherwise, as he ruled it a fair ball. All three Pirates’ baserunners scored as every Mets’ fielder, including Walker just stood there frozen for the next 15 seconds, dumbfounded, all collectively thinking the ball was foul.

There was no challenge, and upon many, many replays, it is very hard to decipher whether the ball was truly fair or foul at the point Walker pushed the ball out-of-play.

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We are done with another edition of my Snippets on this July Monday afternoon. So, until next time, signing off.