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Banged-up Jeff McNeil has another big night for Mets

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Maybe this is the solution for Jeff McNeil: You don’t have to run very hard if you’re just circling the bases.

Nursing a fatigued left leg that forced him out of the lineup last Friday and Saturday, McNeil is clearly not 100 percent, but his bat looked pretty healthy again as he homered and doubled while extending his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games in the Mets’ 12-5 loss to the Braves at Citi Field on Tuesday night.

“He is hitting everywhere, from line to line right now,” manager Luis Rojas said after McNeil went 2-for-5 with a home run to right-center and a double down the left-field line. “His power — he’s trusting it to the big parts of the field or the gaps.”

McNeil, who pushed himself Monday in ensuring he reached second on an off-the-wall double, then had to be replaced by a pinch runner, had a nice game Tuesday. Even a great game, however, would not have mattered as the Braves blasted Jerad Eickhoff immediately, draining any drama from the result by the fourth inning. Still, in a Mets lineup that has dipped in production recently, McNeil is showing signs he is capable of carrying the club, as he has in spurts since he came up in 2018.

Jeff McNeil celebrates with Brandon Drury after hitting a two-run homer in the Mets' 12-5 loss to the Braves.
Jeff McNeil celebrates with Brandon Drury after hitting a two-run homer in the Mets’ 12-5 loss to the Braves.
AP

Since going 0-for-4 on July 1, McNeil has fattened his batting average from .226 to .271. During this 14-game tear, the 29-year-old is 17-for-47 (.362) with two homers, four doubles and one bad leg.

The Mets have been vague about the issues that are affecting the same leg he injured in May, when cramping became a hamstring strain that kept him out about five weeks. They have said his leg is fatigued, and he was removed after his double Monday, which drove in the only run of a 1-0 Mets victory. He also had pinch hit an RBI double in his return Sunday, too, underscoring how important the No. 2 hitter is to the lineup.

On Tuesday, the Mets were not close enough for his bat to matter, but it still represented a rare bright spot.

Facing Charlie Morton, whom the Mets had not been able to touch this season (a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings entering play), McNeil turned a fifth-inning, 96 mph fastball into a two-run shot into the Braves’ bullpen in right-center. That made a dent in what had been a 10-1 game and allowed McNeil to coast, rather than sprint, on the basepaths.

McNeil should have tacked on another hit, but second baseman Ozzie Albies made a trampoline-like leap to rob him in the seventh. In the ninth, McNeil perfectly placed one down the left-field line, bouncing it into the stands for a double. In doing so, he became the 56th player in franchise history to record at least 100 multi-hit games with the Mets — in just his 310th game.

With a bit more than two months left to the regular season, the Mets are cognizant of McNeil’s leg, which is still hampering him.

“We’re going to keep talking to him, and I’ll keep having my eyes on him,” Rojas said.

The Mets need him in an offense that has scored 17 runs in six games. It is a different lineup without Francisco Lindor and with a struggling Michael Conforto, who went 2-for-4 Tuesday in an encouraging sign.

Pete Alonso had carried the club coming out of the All-Star break, and McNeil is displaying he can carry some that slack, too — at least on days when the pitching allows the bats to matter.

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Mac Jones explains how his girlfriend, mom help him ‘break down’ football games

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Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones’ coaching staff is stacked.

Although Bill Belichick and his staff in New England are teaching Jones the NFL ropes, it’s his mother Holly Jones and girlfriend Sophie Scott who are lending advice behind-the-scenes.

“[Sophie] understands football and so does my mom, so I always get the breakdown from them after the game,” Jones said on WEEI’s “Merloni and Fauria” podcast.

Jones, in a separate interview a few days prior, mentioned that his college girlfriend helped him learn the Patriots playbook during preseason.

While on “Merloni and Fauria,” the host asked Jones if Scott “gets any days off” from discussing the playbook — to which he joked, “Yeah, we’ll see when I get home.”

“Yeah, so I listen to them and my dad, obviously the coaches most importantly,” Jones said. “But it’s good to take whatever they thought I could do better. I always ask them what I can improve on, and they’ll give me something. They’ve been pretty good about that.”

The Alabama product and Scott, also a University of Alabama alum, met at school. They went public with their romance on Instagram in Sept. 2019. 

Jones — the No. 15 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft — was the talk of preseason after he beat out Cam Newton for the starting quarterback job in New England.

Newton was released by the Patriots on August 31, and later said he would’ve been a distraction if he wasn’t the starting quarterback in New England.

Jones was able to spread the ball well in New England’s Week 1 loss (17-16) at home against the Dolphins. He completed passes to eight different players and racked up 281 passing yards and a touchdown.

The Patriots visit the 0-1 Jets on Sunday.

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Nicki Minaj claims she was invited to White House to discuss COVID after viral tweet

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Nicki Minaj said she was invited to the White House to discuss COVID-19 after claiming the vaccine can cause impotence – but an official has shot down her claim, saying the rapper was only offered a phone call with a doctor.

“The White House has invited me & I think it’s a step in the right direction. Yes, I’m going. I’ll be dressed in all pink like Legally Blonde so they know I mean business,” the 38-year-old rap superstar said in a tweet Wednesday.

“I’ll ask questions on behalf of the ppl who have been made fun of for simply being human,” Minaj added.

However, a White House official refuted her claim about being invited in person, saying the singer was simply offered a call.

“As we have with others, we offered a call with Nicki Minaj and one of our doctors to answer questions she has about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine,” the official told Fox News.

Nicki Minaj has claimed that the White House has invited her to Washington DC in order to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine. White House officials have refuted the statement.
Nicki Minaj has claimed that the White House has invited her to Washington DC in order to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine. White House officials have refuted the statement.
Robert Kamau/GC Images

But Minaj doubled down and insisted she was indeed invited to the White House, but that she suggested a “Live” online session instead because she doesn’t want to travel due to the pandemic.

“Do y’all think that I would go on the Internet and lie about being invited to the … White House?” she said on Instagram, according to Newsweek.

She wrote: “We’d like to offer Nicki an invitation to come to the White House to speak with two people… the two names… um, what is that man’s name… Dr. Fauci and with the surgeon general.”

White House officials stated that they offered to call Minaj and connect her to a doctor to explain the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.
White House officials stated that they offered to call Minaj and connect her to a doctor to explain the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Minaj continued: “And do you know what I said? I said, ‘Well, I would rather not have to travel, can we do something like a [Instagram] Live’ and they said that they’re open to me choosing a platform to do a Live but they never have taken that off the table for me to come to the White House.”

In response to the statement from the White House, she added: “And then just imagine someone saying, ‘Oh, no, we offered Nicki Minaj the same phone call we offer everybody else.’ What? You think they would offer that to Mookie in the projects. No. ‘Everybody else.’

“And I see why a lot of celebrities keep themselves bubbled up. You understand? We’re living in a place without free healthcare. So anybody in this country has the right to question anything about their health,” she said, according to Newsweek.

Minaj was reportedly blocked from Twitter after the now viral tweets regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.
Minaj was reportedly blocked from Twitter after the now viral tweets regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.
Instagram

The “Starships” singer made headlines this week when she skipped the Met Gala and tweeted her more than 22.6 million followers that it required attendees to be vaccinated. She said she wouldn’t get the jab until “I feel I’ve done enough research.”

Minaj later shared an unverified story about a cousin’s friend in Trinidad and claimed the unidentified person “became impotent” and “his testicles became swollen” after receiving the shot.

Dr. Anthony Fauci dismissed her claim as misinformation.

“There’s no evidence that it happens, nor is there any mechanistic reason to imagine that it would happen,” the nation’s top infectious diseases expert said Tuesday on CNN.

Meanwhile, Minaj also told her followers on Instagram that she had been placed in “Twitter jail” for her controversial remarks and vowed to never use the platform again, according to Fox Business.

“I’m in Twitter jail y’all,” she proclaimed Wednesday. “They didn’t like what I was saying over there on that block, I guess my poll was gonna be asking questions is OK I like being fkng dumb then boom. Can’t tweet.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci (right) has publicly dismissed Minaj's claims saying there is no proof of impotency.
Dr. Anthony Fauci (right) has publicly dismissed Minaj’s claims saying there is no proof of impotency.
CNN

Minaj later added: “Look at what they just did. I will never use Twitter again. First of all, I didn’t give any facts about any vaccine… I didn’t give any facts about anything,” according to Newsweek.

But a Twitter rep later told BuzzFeed that the platform “did not take any enforcement action in the account.”

In another development, a government minister in Trinidad and Tobago said officials in the country “wasted so much time” trying to confirm Minaj’s bizarre claims about the shot’s reproductive side effects.

“As we stand now, there is absolutely no reported side effect or adverse event of testicular swelling in Trinidad… and none that we know of anywhere in the world,” Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh told reporters, the BBC reported.

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Fencing installed around the Capitol ahead of anticipated Sept. 18 protest

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Fencing around the US Capitol building has been reinstalled ahead of a planned rally Saturday in support of the Jan. 6 rioters.

Late Wednesday night, workers wearing construction vests put together the fencing around the government building as local law enforcement braces for the “Justice for J6” demonstration.

The rally is being held to protest the detainment of those arrested in connection to the Jan 6. insurrection. 

The riot saw hundreds of former President Trump supporters violently breach the Capitol, leading to five deaths. 

More than 600 people are facing federal charges linked to the insurrection, and over 60 have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanor charges of demonstrating in the Capitol.

Meanwhile, Washington DC has seen several other security threats in recent weeks, prompting law enforcement to be on high alert ahead of the protest — including a man claiming to have a bomb outside the Library of Congress and another who was arrested outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters after being found in possession of several knives and a machete.

Workers install security fencing around the U.S. Capitol in preparation for this weekend's Justice for J6 Rally.
Workers install security fencing around the U.S. Capitol in preparation for this weekend’s Justice for J6 Rally.
Getty Images

The fencing around the building is the first major security measure being taken in preparation. It was last seen surrounding the Capitol in July, when it was originally removed

It is unclear how many people will attend Saturday’s rally, however, one of the organizers, Matt Braynard with Look Ahead America, told Fox5 that he is estimating around 700 people. 

“We’ve cooperated with the Capitol Police, Park Police, Metropolitan Police. We’ve got additional security–a diplomatic security team–to help make the event be smooth,” Braynard, a former Trump campaign staffer, said.

Capitol building
US Capitol Police, Washington Metropolitan Police and the FBI Washington Field Office will be monitoring the event.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

“We’ve got volunteers who are going to be there to help keep everybody safe. We’re encouraging everybody to leave in groups together so they can’t be targeted.”

He has also told attendees in a message on the rally’s website not to wear or bring any “political, candidate, or another organization’s paraphernalia” including “clothing or banners supportive of President Trump or President Biden.”

Rather, rallygoers are being told to “[b]e respectful to our security team and law enforcement” and “wear your red, white, and blue and bring your American flag and signs to show your support of the J6 prisoners.”

US Capitol Police, Washington Metropolitan Police and the FBI Washington Field Office will be monitoring the event.

Capitol riots
More than 600 people are facing federal charges linked to the insurrection, and over 60 have pleaded guilty,.
JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

This week, Capitol Police requested assistance from the Pentagon ahead of the rally. 

Defense Department press secretary John Kirby confirmed the request to reporters on Wednesday but declined to elaborate on its nature except to say that Pentagon officials are “analyzing” it and “if it can be validated and supported, we’ll do that.”

“My understanding is that it is not an exorbitant ask,” he added. “It’s not of a particularly large size or major capability. I think it’s really more in the form of some manpower support.”

In addition to the Capitol protest, Look Ahead America has planned smaller rallies in 17 states, including outside the state capitol buildings in New York and New Jersey.

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