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WHEN THE TAILGATE DROPS, THE BULL SHIRT STOPS!

NEW YORK – There’s no better indicator of the different directions in which the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets are headed than the main topic of conversations following Saturday night’s game [url=http://authenticlosangeleschargers.com/cheap-uchenna-nwosu-jersey]Uchenna Nwosu Color Rush Jersey[/url] , when the Dodgers were excited by the return of their Hall of Fame-bound ace and the Mets were pondering if the pitcher with the second-worst ERA in team history would have to start in place of the pitcher with the worst ERA in team history.

The Dodgers will look to complete a sweep of the reeling Mets Sunday afternoon, when the two teams play the finale of a three-game series at Citi Field.

The Dodgers hit a game-breaking grand slam for the second straight game Saturday, when Matt Kemp’s pinch-hit blast off Robert Gsellman in the eighth inning provided insurance and then some in an 8-3 win. On Friday, Cody Bellinger snapped a scoreless tie with a sixth-inning grand slam off Zack Wheeler in a 5-2 victory.

The big news Saturday for the Dodgers (40-35), who have gone 24-9 since May 17, was the return of ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who missed the previous three-plus weeks due to a lower back strain. Kershaw allowed two runs in three innings in his first start since May 31.

Manager Dave Roberts said afterward he expected Kershaw to start again on Thursday or Friday.

“To not just have the mindset that I can keep going and know that at some point the plug is going to be pulled, that’s got to be tough for the psyche,” Roberts said of the famously competitive Kershaw. “But I think for me, for us [url=http://www.authenticsminnesotavikings.com/cheap-jalyn-holmes-jersey]Jalyn Holmes Color Rush Jersey[/url] , it’s just more of having him out there is such a plus and just a boost for all of our guys.”

If the Mets (31-43), who have lost five straight and are 20-41 since an 11-1 start, are going to get a badly needed boost Sunday, they’ll receive it from an unknown and unlikely source.

Manager Mickey Callaway said Saturday night that Jason Vargas, who was scheduled to start Sunday, will be placed on the disabled list with an injury he suffered while doing conditioning work earlier this week.

Callaway said the Mets have yet to decide who will start.

Right-hander Chris Flexen will be recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas to replace Vargas on the active roster and is a candidate to start.

Vargas is 2-6 with an 8.60 ERA in nine starts this season and has a 9.38 ERA in 11 career starts with the Mets, for whom he also pitched briefly in 2007. Vargas’ ERA is the highest for any Mets pitcher who has thrown at least 40 innings for the team.

The second-highest ERA in Mets history belongs to Flexen, who has an 11.57 ERA in two appearances this season and an 8.05 ERA in 16 games (nine starts) dating back to last season. Flexen last pitched Thursday, when he got the final out of the Mets’ 4-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies before being optioned to Las Vegas.

“We’re going to see when guys come in (and) play catch,” Callaway said. “Our bullpen’s obviously thrown some innings and we’re going to see how everybody’s feeling when they come in (Sunday) and make that decision then.”

Another possibility to draw the start or to pitch extended innings in relief is rookie Tim Peterson.

He last pitched Thursday [url=http://www.authenticsnewyorkgiants.com/cheap-nate-solder-jersey]Nate Solder Color Rush Jersey[/url] , when he tossed 1 1/3 perfect innings against the Rockies and has a 1.17 ERA in five games. The only other Mets reliever to not pitch Friday or Saturday is closer Jeurys Familia.

Whomever pitches for the Mets will oppose Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill (1-2, 4.99 ERA), who is scheduled to make his second start since coming off the disabled list last Tuesday, when he pitched against the Chicago Cubs.

Hill, who missed a month with a blister on his left middle finger, didn’t factor into the decision after allowing three hits over six scoreless innings in Los Angeles’ 2-1, 10-inning loss.

Hill is 1-2 with an 8.00 ERA in six career games (four starts) against the Mets. Neither Flexen nor Peterson has ever faced the Dodgers.

Organized tackle football would be banned for Illinois children younger than 12 years old under a bill unveiled Thursday.

The Dave Duerson Act to Prevent CTE is named for the Chicago Bears defensive back who was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy after he killed himself at the age of 50. Duerson shot himself in the chest so his brain could be studied for signs of the disease that has been linked to concussions or repeated head trauma.

”When my father tragically took his own life, he donated his brain to science in hopes of being part of the solution,” said Tregg Duerson, who like his father played football at Notre Dame.

”Thanks to increased attention and research on brain trauma [url=http://www.authenticsnewyorkgiants.com/cheap-kareem-martin-jersey]Kareem Martin Color Rush Jersey[/url] , we know that part of the solution is to guard young children’s developing brains from the risks of tackle football,” Tregg Duerson said in a statement, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press in advance of the announcement. ”This bill honors my family’s hopes and my father’s legacy to protect future athletes and the future of football.”

State Rep. Carol Sente, a Democrat from Vernon Hills, announced the proposal at a news conference Thursday along with Chris Nowinski, the head of the Concussion Legacy Foundation. Also in attendance were former Bears players Mike Adamle and Otis Wilson – a teammate of Dave Duerson’s on the 1985 championship team – and Liz Nicholson, the wife of former Cleveland Brown Gerry Sullivan, who has sued the NFL over its handling of concussions.

”We all want kids to have fun playing football and to learn to play the game the right way early on,” Sente said in a statement. ”But the overwhelming data and powerful stories of our supporters here today show the risks of playing tackle football before turning 12 just aren’t worth it.”

Wilson said he hasn’t had any CTE symptoms but he plans to donate his brain to research.

”I don’t need it where I’m going so might as well be able to help the process,” he said. ”There are a lot of individuals that have this issue and the more research that’s being done [url=http://www.authenticsnewyorkgiants.com/cheap-cody-latimer-jersey]Cody Latimer Color Rush Jersey[/url] , hopefully we can have something to combat it.”

CTE is a degenerative disease known to cause memory loss, violent moods and other cognitive difficulties in football players, members of the military and others who have endured repeated head trauma. It can only be diagnosed after death. Researchers believe the severity of the symptoms is increased for those who began playing football at a younger age.

After years of denials, the NFL has acknowledged a link between head blows and brain disease and agreed in 2015 to a $1 billion settlement with former players.

The Illinois bill is similar to a proposal in New York, and Nowinski said lawmakers in at least one other state are working to raise the age at which children begin playing tackle football. He said studies have shown that starting tackle football before the age of 12 can lead to great neurological impairment later in life.

”This isn’t about an act to ban tackle football,” Nowinski said. ”This is about an act to prevent children from being hit in the head hundreds of times through sports each season.”

Golen reported from Boston.

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