Justin Verlander adds to his Hall of Fame resume, plus previewing a crucial Thursday Night Football game

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Good morning to everyone but especially to…

JUSTIN VERLANDER…

World Series? Check. Cy Young? Check. Plenty left in the tank, wherever he may land? Check. Justin Verlander capped an incredible comeback season for the Astros with his third career Cy Young Award, receiving all 30 first-place votes.

Verlander, 39, is the fourth-oldest pitcher to win a Cy Young. Roger Clemens holds the record, as he was 42 when he won the hardware in 2004.Verlander is the 11th pitcher to win three Cy Young Awards. He also won in 2011 with the Tigers and 2019 with the Astros.Verlander led MLB with a 1.75 ERA and finished second (and first in the AL) with 18 wins, all in his first season back from Tommy John surgery.

It’s yet another accomplishment in one of the best Hall of Fame resumes in recent memory, writes MLB expert Matt Snyder.

Snyder: “Verlander has led his league in wins four times, ERA twice, complete games once, innings pitched four times, strikeouts five times, ERA+ three times, WHIP five times and WAR four times. … This is as complete a Hall of Fame case as you can find these days.”

The next question regarding Verlander is where he’ll land in 2023. The Astros are still the favorites, but there are plenty of other strong suitors, writes MLB expert R.J. Anderson.

… AND ALSO A GOOD MORNING TO SANDY ALCANTARA

The Marlins‘ newest ace might just be their best yet, and he now has the hardware to prove it. Sandy Alcantara won the NL Cy Young Award unanimously, becoming the first player in franchise history to win the award. He’s the first unanimous NL winner since Clayton Kershaw in 2014, and it’s just the second time both Cy Young winners won unanimously, along with Denny McLain and Bob Gibson in 1968.

Alcantara led MLB with 228 2/3, innings pitched and six complete games.His 2.28 ERA was second in the NL behind Julio Urías, who finished third in Cy Young voting behind Alcantara and Max Fried.

Honorable mentions

Stephen Curry poured in 50 points, but… check out the not so honorable mentions below.No. 11 Texas crushed No. 2 Gonzaga, 93-74, behind a career-high 26 points from Tyrese Hunter. It’s the Zags’ largest loss since 2014. The Longhorns are really good.ACC teams will honor UVA shooting victims this weekend. The Cavaliers canceled their game against Coastal Carolina.Teoscar Hernández is headed to the Mariners.Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hit a game-winner against the Wizards. He’s been dominant to start the season.

Not so honorable mentions

Kyrie Irving nearing return for Nets; concern about Ben Simmons rising 🏀

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The Brooklyn Nets have found themselves in the news pretty much every day this season. On Wednesday, they produced three headlines — one for each of their biggest names.

Kyrie Irving is nearing a return from his team-mandated suspension. He could be back Sunday against the Grizzlies. Irving has missed the last seven games after posting an antisemitic video on social media and refusing to apologize for it in subsequent media sessions. He was given six requirements to fulfill in order to return. Among them was apologizing for the video (which he did shortly after the suspension was announced) and meeting with the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish leaders.Ben Simmons has missed five of the team’s 15 games this season due to knee issues. Frustration with him is building, according to reports. This comes after him not playing at all last season following a midseason trade from the 76ers. According to the report, Simmons’ passion for the game has been in question, though he responded to that criticism. Simmons is scoring 5.8 points per game while shooting 48 percent from the floor and 47 percent from the free throw line — all on pace for career lows.

Then there’s Kevin Durant, who opened up about his offseason trade request and added the following:

Durant: “Look at our starting lineup. Edmond Sumner, Royce O’Neale, Joe Harris, [Nic] Claxton and me. It’s not disrespect, but what are you expecting from that group? You expect us to win because I’m out there. So if you’re watching from that lens, you’re expecting us to play well because No. 7 is out there.”

He’s certainly not wrong, and the Nets’ 6-9 record proves it.

USC lands top 2023 recruit in both men’s and women’s basketball 🏀

It’s a good day to be a USC Trojan. The men’s basketball team landed Isaiah Collier, the No. 1 overall player in the 2023 men’s basketball class, on Wednesday, just one day after the women’s team secured a commitment from JuJu Watkins, the No. 1 overall player in the 2023 women’s class.

Collier chose USC over Michigan and Cincinnati, among others. His rise to the top of the rankings has been astounding. He was the No. 22 player in the class this time last year.Collier’s commitment moves the Trojans’ 2023 class from 33rd to 10th in the latest rankings, with four-star prospects Arrinten Page and Silas Demary Jr. already in tow.

247Sports director of scouting Adam Finkelstein has high praise for the point guard, saying “His combination of positional size, strength, instincts, and overall feel for the game is unmatched.”

While Collier is moving from Georgia to California, Watkins is staying home. She grew up 10 miles from USC’s campus and currently plays at Sierra Canyon, the same school as Bronny James.

Watkins chose USC over the defending national champion South Carolina and the 2021 national champion Stanford — the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation, respectively.
Despite still being in high school, Watkins has already signed an NIL deal with Nike.

TNF preview: Packers, Titans both looking to string together consecutive wins 🏈

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Both the Titans and Packers were No. 1 seeds in last year’s playoffs and lost their first postseason game. Both traded away their star wide receiver during the offseason. It’s safe to say one has adapted better than the other.

Tennessee (6-3) visits Green Bay (4-6) Thursday night in a fascinating matchup, and Derrick Henry is in line for a big game, writes NFL expert Jared Dubin.

Dubin: “Green Bay often invites opponents to run the ball with its alignment up front, and it is extremely unsuccessful in stopping those runs. The Packers rank 30th in run defense DVOA and 32nd in opponent’s Adjusted Line Yards at Football Outsiders, as well as 27th in yards before contact per carry and 25th in opponent’s explosive run rate, according to Tru Media. You can run on them pretty much anywhere.”

It’s always tough to stop Henry, but trying to do so on a short week is especially difficult: In five career Thursday games, Henry has 477 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. But will it be enough to win? Here’s Jared’s preview and Tyler Sullivan’s betting preview.

Dominant Devils: Why New Jersey has won 10 straight 🏒

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Remember Halloween? That seems like a while ago, right? Now go back a week before that. That’s the last time the Devils lost a game.

They’re on a 10-game winning streak, they’re first in our hockey expert Austin Nivison’s Power Rankings and their formula for winning starts with their youngsters stepping up, Austin notes.

Jack Hughes has six goals and 15 points in his last 10 games.Jesper Bratt is tied for [11th] in the NHL in points with 21.Nico Hischier has been a big-time play driver for the Devils, and he looks more like a No. 1 overall pick.After a down year in 2021-22, Dougie Hamilton (who is a few years older than the names above) is back to looking like a true No. 1 defenseman.

Add in terrific goalkeeping, and Austin says the Devils actually may have a shot at topping the all-time record of 17 straight by the 1992-93 Penguins:

Nivision: “Last season, the Devils had a team save percentage of 88.1%, which was 31st in the NHL. In this 10-game winning streak, the New Jersey goaltenders have combined for a save percentage of 92.8%, which is sixth in the league. The Devils have dealt with injuries in net, but if that overall performance can continue over the next few weeks, they can absolutely set a new record for consecutive games won.”

What we’re watching Thursday 📺

🏈 SMU at No. 21 Tulane, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏈 Titans at Packers, 8 p.m. on Prime Video

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