Yankees hoping reliable Jordan Montgomery can lead sweep of Red Sox

In a season of wild twists and turns for the Yankees, Jordan Montgomery has quietly been one of the few constants.

The left-hander doesn’t come with much flash, but has provided plenty of substance, and will look to do more of the same on Sunday night when he starts the finale of a critical series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

“He’s just continued to establish himself as a really good pitcher in this league,” manager Aaron Boone said Saturday before the Yankees’ 5-3 comeback win. “He’s physically more mature, he’s mentally and emotionally more mature. He’s benefitted from the experience that he’s gained.”

Montgomery has allowed three runs or fewer in 23 of his 28 starts this season, carrying a 3.55 ERA into Sunday’s series finale. Aside from a two-week absence in August after testing positive for COVID-19, the 28-year-old has made his start every turn through the rotation while becoming a consistent presence on the mound.

Jordan Montgomery
Jordan Montgomery

For a rotation that faced plenty of questions behind Gerrit Cole entering the season, Montgomery has delivered a strong answer.

“I’m starting to get really comfortable just being out there,” Montgomery said after his last start, a 7-1 win over the Rangers on Sept. 21. “Starting to really feel some things in my mechanics that I can repeat. Just trying to stay right where I’m at.”

After having a rare clunker against the Mets on Sept. 10, when he gave up seven runs (five earned) over 3 ¹/₃ innings, Montgomery responded by giving up just two runs over 11 ¹/₃ innings with 18 strikeouts against the Orioles and Rangers.

Sunday will offer more of a challenge against a better offense than his past two opponents, but Montgomery has been steady against the Red Sox this season — posting a 3.63 ERA (nine runs in 22 ¹/₃ innings) across four starts.

Third on the Yankees with 3.7 Wins Above Replacement (per Baseball Reference) — trailing only Gerrit Cole (5.8) and Aaron Judge (5.2) — Montgomery has a shot at setting a career-high in innings Sunday. He threw 155 ¹/₃ innings as a rookie in 2017, but after pitching a combined 75 ¹/₃ innings over the next three seasons, has piled up 149 ²/₃ innings so far this season in another sign of his dependability.

“I think he understands himself and his repertoire,” Boone said. “I think he does a really good job of identifying what’s working really well for him on a given day because he does have weapons. He’s got a fastball, cutter, sinker and then a really good curveball [and] changeup. He does a really good job of navigating those first couple innings and determining what he has working for him that day. He’s had a really good year for us.”

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Lew Ford, the oldest hitter in baseball, loves every swing and is ready for his last

BOSTON — You can’t quite say that no one older than Lew Ford has taken an at-bat in professional baseball this year. As my young researcher friend Andrew Reicin discovered, 74-year-old Boots Day, a major leaguer from 1969 through 1974, went to bat on Sept. 15 for the Frontier League’s Evansville Otters as part of a tribute to his retirement as a longtime coach. Day bounced out.

At 45, Ford, the hitting coach and designated hitter for the Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks, is a spring chicken compared to Ole Boots. Yet this Duck actually holds his own offensively while teaching the craft to his juniors. In his seventh year in this dual role for the Ducks, he owned a .286/.319/.391 slash line with two homers and 25 RBIs in 144 plate appearances over 51 games.

“I wish I could play more,” Ford said in a recent interview after I attended a Ducks game to check out the Atlantic League’s experimental rules. “I guess it’s kind of a love of the game, love of the competition. But I’m enjoying coaching more so, I think, than playing now.”

In fact, Ford divulged, “I would say most likely I’ll probably be just coaching in the future. Who knows? One day, maybe I’ll come and take a few ABs. I’m kind of ready to pass it on, keep passing it on as a coach.”

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Giants vs. Falcons: Preview, predictions, what to watch for

An inside look at Sunday’s Giants-Falcons Week 3 matchup at MetLife Stadium:

Marquee matchup

Falcons WR Calvin Ridley vs. Giants CB James Bradberry

It is unlikely the Giants will have Bradberry travel all game with Ridley, so Adoree’ Jackson will get his shots as well, but Bradberry-Ridley will be a frequent battle. Last season, Bradberry won the vast majority of his battles. Through two games in 2021, not so much. He has allowed 12 completions and two touchdowns on 15 targets. Bradberry did come up with a sensational interception late in the fourth quarter in Washington that should have been a game-winner. Ridley is a stud in a mediocre wide receiver group. He had 90 catches for 1,374 yards in 2020 and has 27 touchdowns in 46 NFL games. He has 12 receptions for 114 yards this season. He will see plenty of Bradberry.

“I hope they target James,’’ defensive coordinator Pat Graham said. “Feel free.’’

Calvin Ridley and James Bradberry
Calvin Ridley and James Bradberry
Getty Images; USA TODAY Sports

4 Downs

Tips appreciated

There were two tipped Matt Ryan passes, including one in the backfield, in the fourth quarter last week that resulted in two pick-six touchdown returns for the Buccaneers. There were also eight pass deflections, as Ryan was sacked only one time, but pressured often by Tampa Bay defenders able to get in the face of the 36-year-old quarterback.

“You’ve got to give them credit,’’ Ryan said. “They did a good job the entire night of continuing to pressure, getting their hands up. It’s tough to go against, but you’ve got to learn from it. You better.’’

The Giants’ best player last season at tipping passes at the line, Dalvin Tomlinson, now plays for the Vikings.

Young gun

Logan Ryan is in his ninth NFL season, and he does not go gaga when offensive talent enters the league. So, his comment was tinged with just a bit of sarcasm when he was asked about Kyle Pitts, the Falcons’ rookie tight end.

“We all know, he was like the most highly touted draft pick I ever heard of coming out in a long time,’’ Ryan said.

The Giants are not taking this guy lightly, though. It is highly unusual for a tight end to be selected as high as No. 4 overall in a draft, but Pitts, at 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds, is more of a total weapon in the passing game than a player confined to one position. He had four catches for 31 yards in his NFL debut against the Eagles and five receptions for 73 yards last week versus the Buccaneers.

Marathon man

The Giants are not in “Just give it to Daniel’’ mode, the way the Ravens at times entrust their young quarterback, Lamar Jackson, with the ball in his hands, and they probably never will be. Jackson is a freakish physical talent, but Daniel Jones is showing that he is in the upper echelon, as far as athleticism at his position. Simply put, he is really fast, though the Giants do not want him leading the team in rushing (Jones has 122 yards, Saquon Barkley is next with 83 yards).

“I think you want that to be a part of what you do,’’ offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said of Jones’ running ability. “I don’t think we’re going to turn into a triple-option team. I don’t think that’s it.’’

Who’s at center? What’s at guard?

The Falcons sacked Tom Brady three times last week — quite an accomplishment, considering how quickly Brady gets rid of the ball. This could pose problems for the Giants, as their offensive line is in a chaotic state. They have lost two starters (center Nick Gates and left guard Shane Lemieux) to season-ending injuries and surgeries. The replacements, Billy Price at center and Ben Bredeson at left guard, were acquired in trades late in the summer. The tackles, Andrew Thomas and Nate Solder, and right guard Will Hernandez are hardly dominant. Expect Matt Skura, off the practice squad, to get snaps at left guard and Matt Peart to get some at right tackle. A great deal has to come together very quickly.

Paul’s pick

Let’s face it, this is a good spot for the Giants. If they do not win this one and fall to 0-3, there probably will be no coming back. Maybe the Eli Manning jersey retirement will add some juice to the building. A deal is a deal, though. We stated here last week there would be no picking the Giants until they won a game. So, we have to stick to that.

Falcons 24, Giants 23

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Fashionable Contempt

Commentary Twenty-five years ago, I heard for the first time of a fact that in the last few years has become a central feature in American life. A few months before, I had left academia to work as a low-level political appointment at the National Endowment for the Arts in the Bush administration. I hadn’t been away from academia for any of my adult life, never working anywhere off-campus except for short-term, part-time jobs during graduate school to grab enough money to cover the rent. Now, I was in DC, a whole other atmosphere, where being a scholar or an intellectual or researcher had a different meaning. In academia, in my area of the humanities, what mattered was how smart you are, how up-to-date on the latest theories, plus a wary respect for political correctness. Show that you are au courant and bien pensant, and do so with a little …

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Aaron Judge robs Bobby Dalbec of homer in Yankees’ win

Aaron Judge’s bat has helped win the Yankees plenty of games this season, but his defense did the job on Saturday night.

The Yankees right fielder robbed Bobby Dalbec of a home run to save a run before the Yankees came back to beat the Red Sox, 5-3, at Fenway Park.

Dalbec smoked a fly ball to right-center field (104.6 mph off the bat, per Statcast) in the fifth inning off Nestor Cortes Jr., and it looked to be headed for the Red Sox bullpen. But Judge raced back and reached up to snag it while running into the wall to keep the Red Sox’s lead to 1-0 at the time.

“Huge. Game-changer right there,” Cortes said. “The ball goes over the fence, God knows what happens. Obviously, Judge is a great defender out there, and I’m glad he’s playing right field for me.”

Aaron Judge, who robbed Bobby Dalbec of a homer earlier in the game, celebrates with Anthony Rizzo after the Yankees' 5-3 comeback win over the Red Sox.
Aaron Judge, who robbed Bobby Dalbec of a homer earlier in the game, celebrates with Anthony Rizzo after the Yankees’ 5-3 comeback win over the Red Sox.
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Judge nearly made it even more of a highlight-reel play, gathering himself and throwing back to first base to almost double off Kyle Schwarber. But the Red Sox slugger slid back in just in time to beat Judge’s throw.

Still, the defensive gem proved critical. The Red Sox went on to load the bases with one out and scratched across one run on Michael King’s wild pitch, but the Yankees got out of the inning trailing just 2-0 instead of letting the game get away from them.

“What a play,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Obviously, hit very well off the bat. I had a good sight line with Judgey, so I saw that he got off to a good break. He knew he had to get on his horse and put his nose down to get after it to cover the ground and he was able to do that.

“It was a really special play.”

Judge went 0-for-3 at the plate but drew a big walk in the eighth inning. With Brett Gardner on second and two outs, he got into a 2-2 count and then laid off two sweeping sliders from Red Sox reliever Tanner Houck to take first base.

Two batters later, Giancarlo Stanton crushed a go-ahead grand slam to lift the Yankees to a critical win.

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Israeli troops kill four Hamas members in West Bank raids: military

RAMALLAH, West Bank/TEL AVIV – Israeli troops killed at least four Hamas militants in gun battles during raids on Sunday against one of the group’s cells in the occupied West Bank, an Israeli military spokesman said.

Israeli officials have long voiced concern that Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, intends to gain strength in the West Bank and challenge its rival there, the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA), heightening security risks for Israel.

The incidents in the early hours of Sunday marked the most serious confrontations between Israel and Hamas in the West Bank in months and threatened to raise tensions in the territory and along the Israeli border with Gaza.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah party lost control of Gaza to Hamas in internal fighting in 2007, accused Israel in a statement of “field executions against our people.”

Hamas called on Palestinians in the West Bank “to escalate resistance against the occupier in all areas” in the wake of the raids. A Hamas spokesman said all the men were members of the group, which Israel and the West regard as a terrorist organization.

An Israeli military spokesperson said troops carried out five raids in the West Bank “in order to stop a Hamas terrorist organization cell from operating” and launching attacks.

“Three Hamas terrorists were killed in crossfire in the village of Biddu, southeast of Ramallah” in the central West Bank, the spokesperson said. “During the attempted arrest of a wanted suspect in the village of Burqin, a shootout evolved. One terrorist was killed.”

Four others were arrested, the spokesperson said.

The Palestinian health ministry said four Palestinians had been killed in two shootouts in the central and northern West Bank.

En route to New York, where he addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the operation was aimed against Hamas men “about to carry out terrorist attacks.”

He said the Israeli forces had “engaged the enemy, and we back them completely.”

Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza in a 1967 war. It withdrew troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

The PA, which seeks a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, exercises limited self-rule in the territory under interim peace deals with Israel

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Jets vs. Broncos: Preview, predictions, what to watch for

An inside look at Sunday’s Jets-Broncos Week 3 matchup in Denver:

Marquee matchup

Jets QB Zach Wilson vs. Broncos head coach Vic Fangio

Wilson comes off a game against one of the best defensive minds in football — Bill Belichick — and faces another in Fangio.

Fangio and the Broncos made Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1-overall pick by the Jaguars, look bad last week. Now they will try to do it to Wilson, who the Jets took one pick after Lawrence. Fangio’s zone-heavy defense is completely different than Belichick’s man-to-man scheme, so Wilson’s education will continue Sunday.

“What’s good about it for Zach is that he’s seeing how the league is,” Saleh said. “Even though it’s, everyone says it’s a copycat league, people still have their own personality and how they play defense and how teams play offense. Just with regards to Zach, is how can he evolve his game week-to-week, to play quarterback and to take care of the football, but still be aggressive while being smart. It’s an art form and not an art form that’s easy to master, but we’ve got all the faith in the world that Zach’s going to figure that out.”

Zach Wilson and Vic Fangio
Zach Wilson and Vic Fangio
Getty Images; AP

4 Downs

Teddy is a bear

The Broncos traded for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater this offseason, and he has been great in his first two games for them. Bridgewater is the fourth player in NFL history to open a season with two touchdown passes, no interceptions and a 75 percent completion rate in each of his first two games. The others are Drew Brees (2018), Aaron Rodgers (2015) and Jeff George (1994). Bridgewater is pushing the ball downfield more often than he had in the past, too. He had three completions last week against the Jaguars of more than 30 yards.

“It’s interesting because I’ve been around Teddy Bridgewater for a long time now, being in the NFC South and just in general, and he’s a guy that’s historically been known as a high percentage guy,” Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said. “Short, intermediate passes, and for the first time, he’s pushing the ball. I feel like for the real first time there’s a concerted effort to throw deeper. It’s going to test us.”

On the run

The Jets did a much better job running the ball in Week 2 than in Week 1. They ran for 152 yards against the Patriots after gaining just 45 the week before against Carolina. Running the ball effectively will be huge in this one, to take pressure off Zach Wilson.

“I think having success early is always key in the run game because you get to keep doing it,” offensive line coach John Benton said. “The more you do it, you tend to get better and better at it. I thought we were much more sure of ourselves, much more confident and communicated better and it showed up right from the start.”

Mile High madness

The Broncos will have a significant home-field advantage in this game. This will be Denver’s first home game of the season, and the fans should be going nuts with the team at 2-0. The Jets have been piping in crowd noise all week in practice. They also have to deal with the thin air of Mile High.

“I’m sure fans are just champing at the bit,” head coach Robert Saleh said. “They haven’t been in the stadium in forever with regards to referencing COVID. I’m sure it’s going to be loud, but at the same time, we’ve already went to Carolina, we’ve already gotten that experience with loud stadiums. It was pretty loud over there, too. So again, trust in your preparation, trust the cadence system and just go execute.”

Corner market

The Jets’ young cornerbacks were the biggest concern on the team entering the season, but they have held up through the first two games. This will be a tougher test. Carolina and New England were happy to take short throws and be patient moving the ball. The Broncos will take more deep shots with receivers Courtland Sutton and K.J. Hamler.

“This week will absolutely challenge them,” Ulbrich said. “They’re going to push it down the field and they got some receivers that can go. So, it’ll be a great test.”

Costello’s call

The Jets would have been in last week’s game if not for Zach Wilson’s four interceptions. I think Wilson will play better in this one, and the Jets’ defense will rise to the occasion to pull off a stunning upset.

Jets 23, Broncos 17

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Key issues facing the Knicks as season set to get underway

Here’s a rundown of the issues facing the Knicks as training camp nears:

Biggest battle

On the surface, Kemba Walker was brought in by management to be the starting point guard, even if Derrick Rose signed a heftier contract. Walker has never come off the bench, while Rose has thrived in that role in his reincarnation, including last season’s studly campaign.

But it’s coach Tom Thibodeau’s show. Rose has always been his guy and Walker didn’t play back-to-backs. It’s up to Walker if he wants that path, Thibodeau says.

The battle for minutes will be an intriguing part of training camp as Walker tries to keep his knees sound.

Derrick Rose and Kemba Walker
Derrick Rose and Kemba Walker
Getty Images (2)

Most intriguing rookie

West Virginia combo guard Miles McBride somehow fell to the second round and the Knicks were happy to snare him at 35. At summer league, he showed his defensive tenacity and 3-point shooting potential (18-for-36, 50 percent). He’s buried behind a host of guards, but he is the type of player Thibodeau likes, and may find a way to crack the rotation code.

Story to watch develop

Aside from Walker’s balky knee: What will be the next step for RJ Barrett as he begins his third season?

Expectations are larger for a No. 3 pick. Barrett’s 3-point and free-throw shooting showed solid advancement in his second season. He increased his 3-point rate from 32 percent to 41.2 percent and charity-stripe numbers from 61.4 percent to 74.6 percent. The now 21-year-old, however, was a playoff no-show versus Atlanta. There still are concerns about Barrett as a shot creator, distributor and finisher around the rim, which could prevent him from having an All-Star career. As a player who likes to attack the basket with vigor, Barrett will find his way to the line. Hence, his continued improvement as a free-throw shooter is key to elevating to All-Star status, as he should strive to become an 80-percenter.

Coach’s toughest challenge

After a 41-31 record during the pandemic season following seven seasons out of the playoffs, fan expectations have climbed through the Garden ceiling. Thibodeau, after winning Coach of The Year, must manage soaring expectations. He knows the 2020-21 season was distorted. The Knicks adapted well to all the COVID-19 anomalies — the empty arenas, the constant testing, no live media and trapped in road hotels and at home with no outlets. Limiting distractions this season, especially in New York City, will be a challenge.

Most intriguing newcomer

It’s not even close. Walker has come home to New York to try to resuscitate his All-Star career at age 31 after two not-so-great, unhealthy seasons in Boston. If any place can be Walker’s Fountain of Youth, it is at the Garden — mere miles from where he starred at Rice High in Harlem.

Most notable absence

The Knicks’ decision to retain swingman Alec Burks over starting shooting guard Reggie Bullock was a surprise on several levels. The Knicks will miss Bullock, who was the heart and soul of their trench-war defense while remaining a very capable 3-point shooter.

Biggest comeback

Mitchell Robinson, who will be a free agent in 2022 if he doesn’t land a contract extension, will be treated with extra caution in training camp and won’t be scrimmaging at first. He played in just 31 games last season after breaking his hand, then breaking his foot. Robinson was pictured in a walking boot in late July — four months after his March 30 foot surgery — and his preseason is expected to be limited. The 21-year-old has the two-way upside of Atlanta’s standout center Clint Capela, but he’s no sure thing. Robinson needs to show Thibodeau he can stay healthy and be a fast learner as he battles Nerlens Noel for the starting center job.

Don’t be surprised if …

After finishing tied for fourth place and having homecourt advantage in the first round last season, the club drops down to the dreaded play-in tournament (seventh-to-10th seed). The improvements of Miami, Boston and Chicago are legitimate. The Knicks also must prove they can be stalwart at the Garden as it returns to full capacity. A packed Garden historically stirred up the road team during the Knicks’ seven-season playoff drought. The Knicks were 25-11 at either an empty or mostly empty Garden during the 2020-21 pandemic regular season and 1-2 during the playoffs, when they hosted 16,000.

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Aroldis Chapman ‘fine physically’ after shaky save

Aroldis Chapman hadn’t allowed a run in his previous six appearances before he came on to finish the Yankees’ 5-3 win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Saturday.

That changed when Bobby Dalbec homered off the lefty closer with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Chapman then hit Kevin Plawecki with a pitch to put the potential tying run on base, before rebounding by getting Jose Iglesias and Kiké Hernandez for the save.

Chapman’s four-seam fastball averaged 96.8 mph — lower than his season average of 98.3 mph, according to Baseballsavant.com.

Manager Aaron Boone said afterward that Chapman was “fine physically” and not dealing with any of the fingernail issues that have plagued him at times this season.

“We’ve seen, as he’s come back and started to throw the ball better this year, sometimes it takes a few [pitches] to spike up his velocity,’’ Boone said. “It’s all about getting locked in mechanically. That affects his velo and affects his command.”

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Giants could have shots to hit deep ball vs. Falcons’ secondary

The Falcons have allowed an NFL-high 80 points in two games, though that bloated statistic is a bit misleading, as 14 of those points came off two pick-six interception returns. Still, there will be opportunities to make plays down the field for the Giants in Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium — especially with starting cornerback A.J. Terrell in the concussion protocol and out for the Falcons.

There must be more of what the Giants got on their prettiest scoring play in two games — Daniel Jones’ 33-yard pinpoint deep ball into the waiting arms of Darius Slayton in Washington, after Slayton beat cornerback William Jackson off the line.

“It was a good opportunity, a coverage we felt like we had a chance to get after,’’ Slayton told The Post. “Obviously I tried to win my route and DJ threw a great ball and laid it in right over my shoulder, and I was able to make a catch and get two feet in.’’

A key to the play connecting at all was Slayton getting a step on Jackson and winning quickly off the line of scrimmage.

Daniel Jones
Daniel Jones

“You don’t want the quarterback to look out there and see you getting jammed up, and he won’t throw you the ball,’’ Slayton said.

Despite this immediate advantage, Jackson recovered and his coverage was tight. Just not tight enough, as the ball was placed perfectly. It was a rare case when the Giants did everything correctly and were rewarded with a touchdown.

“That’s just pro football, the margin is always this much,’’ Slayton said, holding two fingers one inch apart. “It’s always a close margin. He’s a fast guy, I’m a fast guy, so obviously he was able to close a little bit. Better ball, better offense on that play.’’

The Falcons will be without starters on both sides of the ball, as Terrell and WR Russell Gage (ankle) are out for this game.

The Giants were the first team in the NFL to drop to 0-2 because they lost in Week 2 on a Thursday night. They are the only winless team in the NFC East. Just six teams since 1980 made the playoffs after starting out 0-3.

“How bad is it being one game out of the division lead?’’ safety Logan Ryan said. “Our whole division is 1-1, right? So, everyone loses, and we win, guess what? We’re division leaders next week. I don’t know how damaging it is with the playoffs, we’re one game behind in the division.When we get to November, December football, then this stuff will start adding up, but right now, we’ve got to make improvements, and we’ve got to find a way to close out these games so we can stick with the division leaders.’’

The Giants added two players off their practice squad in advance of Sunday’s game. They signed WR C.J. Board and activated C Jonotthan Harrison and put LB Cam Brown (hamstring) on injured reserve.Board was elevated to the roster before each of the first two games and served as the kickoff returner

Saquon Barkley, coming off reconstructive knee surgery, played 29 and 58 offensive snaps the first two games, good for 48 percent and 84 percent, respectively. Do not expect him to take another big step forward, as far as time on the field, but his workload (13 rushing attempts in Washington) figures to increase.

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