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Harper hits walk-off grand slam

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PHILADELPHIA — Bryce Harper knows everyone in the dugout and ballpark expects him to get clutch hits in moments just like this.

Boy, he crushed it.

Harper blasted a grand slam with one out in the ninth inning, capping a six-run rally that sent the Philadelphia Phillies over the Chicago Cubs 7-5 Thursday night for a three-game sweep.

Harper delivered his biggest hit yet in his first season after signing a $330 million, 13-year contract with the Phillies, celebrating while running around the bases and then getting mobbed by teammates at the plate.

“Before I went to the plate, I touched my heart and I was thinking to myself: Why am I not jittery? Why am I not excited? But that’s just how I am,” Harper said. “I go up there and each at-bat is the same. I don’t think about bases loaded. I try to get a pitch I can drive and hopefully good things happen. I love those moments. I love those opportunities. I think it helped me a lot from a young age going through those emotions and having those opportunities at 8, 9, 10 years old in big-time games going to different states and cities playing for a lot of teams.”

“I just love it. It’s a lot of fun. These fans do expect that and I expect to do that for them on a nightly basis and if I don’t, they’ll let me know and I like that, too,” he said.

Cubs starter Yu Darvish struck out 10, silencing Philadelphia’s bats for seven innings a night after the Phillies scored 11 runs in former manager Charlie Manuel’s debut as hitting coach.

But the Phillies rallied against Chicago’s bullpen and moved within one game of the Cubs for the second wild-card spot in the NL.

Pinch-hitter Brad Miller chased Rowan Wick with an RBI single in the ninth that cut it to 5-2 and Roman Quinn greeted Pedro Strop with an RBI single to make it a two-run game. Strop (2-5) hit Rhys Hoskins to load the bases with one out.

Derek Holland entered to face Harper and got ahead 0-2 in the count. Harper fouled off a 2-2 pitch before launching his 25th homer way out to right.

“I think everyone who watches baseball expects him to do that every time he’s up,” Phillies starter Drew Smyly said. “He’s fun to watch.”

Harper has seven homers and 15 RBIs in the last 12 games.

Ranger Suarez (4-1) tossed two scoreless innings to earn the win.

Anthony Rizzo, batting leadoff after the original lineup had him in his usual cleanup spot, gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the third when he hit his 22nd homer.

Ian Happ led off the fourth with a triple and scored on David Bote’s double. Albert Almora Jr. hit an RBI single with two outs, went to second on the throw home and advanced to third on shortstop Jean Segura’s fielding error. Rizzo’s single made it 4-0.

Kyle Schwarber slammed his 100th career homer and team-high 28th this season into the bushes in centre field to put the Cubs ahead 5-0 in the fifth.

Corey Dickerson hit an RBI single with two outs in the eighth off Wick, but right fielder Nicholas Castellanos threw out Hoskins trying to score from second on the play to end the inning.

“Darvish was outstanding but he was done,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of lifting his starter.

SMYLY’S STRUGGLES

Smyly gave up five runs in five innings. He has an 8.04 ERA in his last three starts after allowing one run in 13 innings in his first two starts for the team.

ROSTER MOVE

The Phillies claimed righty Jared Hughes off waivers from the Reds. Hughes will join the bullpen this weekend. He was 3-4 with one save and a 4.10 ERA for Cincinnati.

TRAINER’S ROOM

CUBS: SS Javier Baez was scratched from the lineup because of an illness. … RHP Craig Kimbrel (right knee inflammation) felt fine after another bullpen session and is closer to returning. … RHP Brandon Kintzler (right pectoral inflammation) is expected to return on Friday. … OF Jason Heyward (left knee inflammation) wasn’t in the lineup for the second straight game but entered the game in the ninth as a defensive replacement.

PHILLIES: RHP Edubray Ramos (shoulder) was moved to the 60-day injury list to make room on the 40-man roster for Hughes.

UP NEXT

Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (8-9, 4.38 ERA) faces the Pirates in the start of a three game series that will conclude a 10-game road trip.

Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (4-7, 4.30 ERA) starts the opener of a three-game series against the San Diego Padres.

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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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