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Guerrero homers twice to power Blue Jays past Orioles

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The Toronto Blue Jays have a young, dynamic team that could make a playoff run in the next couple of years.

They provided a glimpse of that potential against the Baltimore Orioles.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit two of his team’s five home runs to back a solid pitching performance by fellow rookie Trent Thornton and the Blue Jays beat the Orioles 11-2 Thursday night.

“That guy’s pretty good. He’s driving in runs,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said about Guerrero. “They got a nice little core. They’re going to be fun players to watch here going forward, really athletic. They have a young core group of position players that are going to do damage.”

Randal Grichuk, Danny Jansen and Billy McKinney also had homered for the Blue Jays, who tied a season high with their fourth straight win. Guerrero’s homers included an impressive 450-foot shot off Dylan Tate in the eighth inning.

Toronto reinstated Thornton (4-7) from the 10-day injured list following a bout with elbow inflammation, and he allowed one run and five hits without a walk over six innings. His last two wins have come against the Orioles. Thornton threw six scoreless innings against them July 7.

“He wasn’t trying to strike people out tonight, just get people out, and he did a good job of it,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “He got a lot of ground balls.”

Trey Mancini hit his 25th home run, a solo shot in the eighth off Toronto reliever Jason Adam, who was promoted from Triple-A Buffalo earlier in the day.

Guerrero gave the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead with a two-run shot in the third off Asher Wojciechowski (2-4). Guerrero is batting .416 (20 of 48) with five homers over his last 12 games.

The Orioles loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom half on two singles and a bunt. Thornton escaped with a pop out and double play. Toronto took a 3-0 lead on a two-out, RBI single by Bo Bichette.

“I wanted to stay ahead of the hitters and attack the strike zone,” Thornton said. “I felt I was able to do that. Got out of a big jam in third inning and that was big momentum for me.”

Grichuk hit a solo homer in the fifth that ended the night for Wojciechowski, who was dealing with a hip injury. The Orioles pulled within 4-1 later that inning on a fielder’s choice by Jonathan Villar.

“I just didn’t feel that great today,” Wojciechowski said. “The hip was a little sore. I’ve dealt with it in the past.”

Jansen hit a three-run shot and Guerrero picked up his third RBI with a double off Jimmy Yacabonis in the sixth.

ORIOLES STAY PAT

The rebuilding Orioles were expected to be active at the trade deadline. Instead, executive vice-president and general manager Mike Elias decided the best course of action was to keep the current roster intact, especially with key players under contract for next season.

“Our goal is to raise the talent level up and down the organization and that includes players who are on the major league team, and the trades that were available to us, I didn’t feel like they were going to do that,” Elias said. “I thought they might actually lower the talent level because these are guys we have under control.”

MOVES

The Blue Jays added OF Derek Fisher to their major league roster. Fisher was acquired from the Houston Astros ahead of Wednesday’s trade deadline for right-handed starter Aaron Sanchez, right-handed reliever Joe Biagini and minor league outfielder Cal Stevenson.

Orioles: INF Jose Rondon was added to the 25-man roster after being claimed off waivers from the White Sox on Wednesday. He popped out as a pinch hitter in the seventh.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: Grichuk was hit by a foul ball in the sixth inning and went to a local hospital for x-rays.

Orioles: OF/DH Mark Trumbo is experiencing soreness in his surgically repaired right knee. He is hoping to return to the club in September when rosters expand.

UP NEXT

Blue Jays: Montoyo hasn’t decided on a starter for the second game of the series, but he will likely go with an opener.

Orioles: RHP Aaron Brooks (2-4, 5.46 ERA) allowed five runs and seven hits over five innings in his last start against the Angels. He has a 7.07 ERA in four appearances for Baltimore.

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Specialness of Raptors veterans will help replace Kawhi, Green

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The Toronto Raptors didn’t just lose the NBA’s best two-way player, Kawhi Leonard, in the off-season, though that’s all everyone seems to talk about. The defending champions also saw one of the premier two-way role players, Danny Green, head to Los Angeles

Green had a tremendous season for Toronto, shooting a scorching 45.5% on three-pointers (third in the NBA) while also garnering plenty of All-Defensive team votes.

Though he struggled in the playoffs, Green was still a huge contributor toward the success of the team, both on and off of the court.

“He’s very consistent with the things that he’s going to do on the floor,” Marc Gasol told the Toronto Sun.

“He’s very vocal. Very positive. He doesn’t take things personal. He’s a veteran guy who has been around but has come up also through hard times and has been coached hard in his previous years (by Gregg Popovich in San Antonio) and knows what it takes to play at the highest level. And he was very good for us,” Gasol said.

“The general public doesn’t really notice what the other guys (besides Leonard) do (and) Danny’s one of those guys,” said Fred VanVleet.

He’s not flashy, his game isn’t very sexy, but I don’t know what he shot, 45% from three? Something crazy like that, at a high clip, played 80 games, played every night, guarded the best players on the other teams and he’s just solid every night,” VanVleet said. “You know what you’re going to get … (and) just having that experience here – He didn’t do a lot of preaching and teaching, he just was here and (led) by example and we’ll miss that.”

But life must go on. Nobody is singing a woe is me tune in Toronto.

“We don’t have that luxury (to bring back the full championship roster) so we have to find a new approach and a new path to get back there,” VanVleet told a few reporters in the lead-up to opening night.

“Just from a mental approach, there’s no chance for a championship hangover. If we don’t get it done it won’t be because we relaxed … We still have a lot to prove and we want to do it again,” he said.

With Leonard and Green gone there will be opportunities for everyone else to expand their games and their roles. From Pascal Siakam, to Gasol, VanVleet, Norman Powell and OG Anunoby, to Kyle Lowry likely looking more like the guy who averaged over 21 points a game from 2015-17 than the one who dropped to 14.2 a year ago, things are going to change.

“I always say it’s addition by subtraction and it’s great because those guys are going to bring something different than what (was lost),” Gasol said, not meaning it to be insulting in any way to Leonard or Green.

“I think the biggest thing is seeing how we key in offensively without those two guys,” VanVleet said. “Defensively I feel very comfortable … but offensively it can be a little tricky,” he said.

“It’ll take some time to figure it out, but I think having those two guys out is going to be a little bit more opportunity and also a chance to spread it around a little bit.”

Head coach Nick Nurse seems extremely confident with the group that he’s got for a number of reasons.

“I think there’s a specialness to some of these guys. And maybe it’s because they won or whatever, or maybe it’s just who they are,” Nurse said.

“To me, Marc Gasol is a really special player. Like, really special. Kyle Lowry, really special. Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam. I mean, there’s a lot of guys. There’s IQ, toughness, competitiveness, skill, fight, that are at levels that, well as a coach you kind of dream about having guys like that,” he said.

“And it shows when the group of them goes out together you see a level of smart basketball. A level of competitiveness and a toughness and those are important things.”

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Bianca Andreescu makes Canadian history by reaching No. 4 in rankings

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Bianca Andreescu has become the highest-ranked Canadian tennis player in WTA Tour history.

The 19-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., jumped one spot to No. 4 in the rankings on Monday following a week off.

That pushes her one spot ahead of her career-best No. 5 ranking, which tied a Canadian record set by Eugenie Bouchard in 2014.

Ranked outside the top 150 entering the season, Andreescu rocketed up the rankings with tournament wins at Indian Wells, Calif., and Toronto followed by her first Grand Slam win at the U.S. Open in New York last month.

Andreescu had a 17-match win streak snapped when she lost a quarterfinal match to Naomi Osaka at the China Open earlier this month.

The Canadian is scheduled to return to action at the WTA Finals, which begin on Sunday in Shenzhen, China.

Milos Raonic reached No. 3 in the men’s rankings in 2016, the best ranking achieved by a Canadian man.

On the men’s side, Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., jumped seven spots to No. 27 after capturing the Stockholm Open on Sunday for his first career ATP Tour title.

Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime is the top Canadian at No. 18.

Raonic has dropped to No. 32.

Shapovalov, Auger-Aliassime and Raonic all are entered in the Erste Bank Open this week in Vienna, Austria.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2019.

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Mike Babcock out coached the Bruins

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At the beginning of the Maple Leafs 4-3 OT win over the Boston Bruins, I thought it was odd that Mike Babcock had switched Mitch Marner and William Nylander. I worried about how the Leafs were going to keep up with Boston’s depth and not lose out because of it. If only one line was able to produce, and it went up against the Bergeron line, the team wasn’t going to succeed.

Babcock’s solution was much more complicated than rolling four lines and it was brilliant.

Babcock and his coaching staff get an A+ for their effort and creativity last night because they were able to have their best matchup line (Matthews and Marner), while also maximizing Nylander’s time with the top line. Alex Kerfoot was a man on a mission and showed us that he’s much better at driving play than we thought he was. That goal he scored was fully deserved.

Jason Spezza wasn’t used much, but Frederik Gauthier and his mates killed it last night, they were super impressive. They beat the Bergeron line when they needed to, gave the Leafs positive and energetic minutes against the depth, and allowed Babcock to be super creative with his top-eight forwards.

That careful management and line matching honestly gave the Leafs the win. Without John Tavares — and for half the game Andreas Johnsson — they would not have beaten the Bruins in a normal game.

I’m less worried about the playoffs on Sunday than I was on Saturday.

Oh, and Mike Babcock (and all of you yelling at me) were right about Dmytro Timashov. I was wrong. He’s a fun little bugger.

The Branches

Here is the recap from the game I just talked about. It’s from Seldo so proceed with caution.

During the intermission, Nic Petan was brought up by Elliotte Friedman. The Leafs might be looking for a trade partner here. Gosh, I hope no one has any opinions about this in the comments.

From our friend-enemies at MLHS, the difference between reasonable and ridiculous takes and why you’re at fault for it.

For those who like to “hate watch” things, have fun with O-Dog’s ridiculous takes on… John Tavares?

Update on Andreas Johnsson: nothing broken, but he won’t practice tomorrow. Leafs play the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Bruins again on Monday and Tuesday this week.

From the Marlies, Kasimir Kaskisuo recorded his first shutout of the season in a 2-0 win over the Cleveland Monsters. Darren Archibald got his first as a Marlie and Egor Korshkov scored his fifth goal in five games. The Marlies are 5-0-0 to start the season and remain *perfect* on the penalty kill to start the season.

Captain Morgan?

Just kidding. Freddy Gauthier for Captain.

Branches Around the League

The Tampa Bay Lightning got trampled by three minutes of the Colorado Avalanche, in case you still want to say the Leafs are doomed.

Billie-Jean King is a QUEEN!

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