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A year after fateful final day, Blue Jays clinch home field for wild-card series – Sportsnet.ca

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BALTIMORE — On the morning of Oct. 3, 2021, Major League Baseball sent out a plan to bring order amid potential chaos. The possibility of a four-way tie, along with different combinations of three-way and two-way ties for the American League wild-card spots were in play ahead of Game 162, leaving a dizzying array of scenarios for the Toronto Blue Jays that fateful Sunday. A missive from the league laid it all out for everyone involved.

“There was a lot going on, we were trying to just take care of the game against Baltimore,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider recalled of that 12-4 win over the Orioles a year ago that put them in position to advance before victories by the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees ultimately left them one measly game short. “You were trying to check things off the box as they went, inning by inning in our game, and then inning by inning after our game was over. So you went from being really excited to the exact opposite in about 40 minutes. A lot of moving parts for sure.”

Precisely one year later, the situation was much more straight-forward for the Blue Jays as they once again met the Orioles, this time at Camden Yards on a miserably cold and rainy Monday night. Their wild-card berth already clinched this time, a 5-1, rain-shortened win over Baltimore combined with a Seattle Mariners loss three hours later locked in hosting rights for the playoff series.

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Game 1 of the best-of-three against either the Mariners (87-72) or the Tampa Bay Rays (86-74) is Friday at Rogers Centre. Games 2 and, if necessary, 3 are also at the dome.

“We want to go home, we want to play the wild-card series in Toronto,” Whit Merrifield said after the Blue Jays grinded through the elements and awaited the final in Seattle. “Clinching the playoff spot was huge. Obviously, it’s what you strive to do from the get-go. But we knew what was at hand still and we knew we controlled that.”

Merrifield continued to deliver impact big and small, ripping a two-run single in the second and then dropping a bunt single in the fifth that forced a throwing error that put him on second, advancing to third on a groundout and scoring on a wild pitch. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., clubbed a monster 422-foot homer in the third and Matt Chapman tacked on an RBI single in the eighth, when play was halted with the bases loaded and two out, to support Jose Berrios, who allowed one run on three hits and three walks in six solid innings.

It made for a good win under tough circumstances, beginning from an uncertain start time onwards.

“We were in our sweats playing cards at about 6:25 when their GM decided that it was (starting) on time – that was a challenge,” said Merrifield. “And then after that, we just joked around, calling it a blue-collar game. It’s not pretty. It’s not comfortable. It’s not fun a lot of times. It’s not easy. But … we know what we’re playing for – Baltimore had a great year, but at this point they’re not playing for much – it’s a game that we needed to win. To focus for seven innings like we did and do enough to win the game was big for us.”

The Blue Jays, at 91-69, matched their win total from a year ago and moved 3.5 games clear of the Mariners, who fell 4-3 to the Detroit Tigers. Seattle’s magic number to clinch the second wild card over Tampa Bay is two.

Now that home field is secured, the priority for the Blue Jays is figuring out whether Lourdes Gurriel Jr. — who did fielding work, plans to run the bases Tuesday and is aiming to “be ready to pinch hit and then we’ll take it from there” on Friday — and Santiago Espinal — who hit off the velo machine again — will be healthy enough for the post-season roster.

Kevin Gausman, meanwhile, is feeling better after leaving Sunday’s start with a cut on his right middle finger and there are “no real concerns with him at this point,” said Schneider, peeling another item from the to-do list. Berrios’s performance while fighting for stability on the mound and for grip on the baseball, also bodes well after a season of highs and lows.

“The way I threw the ball,” said Berrios, “I had that good feeling, that confidence to keep up for the next one.”

Hence, the focus on home-field and the math was a whole lot more manageable compared to the spreadsheets needed to sort through the permutations last fall, which began with the Blue Jays needing a win and one of the Yankees or Red Sox to lose.

“I remember knowing the scenarios, for sure, and feeling pretty good going into the day. It’s baseball, somebody’s going to lose, right? Like, it can happen,” said Ross Stripling. “We didn’t like the matchups. I guess if you were to pick one, you’d probably would’ve guessed the Rays to beat the Yankees. But the Rays weren’t playing for anything because they already had the division. And the Nationals were the Nationals, but they were playing at home. So it was like, man, someone’s going to get one for us, right? To come all this way and come up a game, short? That’s not going to happen. Then obviously it did.”

The Blue Jays jumped out to an early lead against the Orioles that day, which made scoreboard watching “much easier to do,” said George Springer. “I remember turning back to look quite a bit that day and that’s not something that I would normally do.”

The Yankees beat the Rays 1-0 first, leaving the Nationals as the Blue Jays’ only hope. Once they wrapped up their win over the Orioles, the Red Sox game was put on the videoboard at Rogers Centre just in time for Rafael Devers’ go-ahead, two-run homer in the ninth, turning elation to dejection in an instant.

“It was just like, wow, we did everything that we could possibly do to put ourselves in the position and it just didn’t happen. It was deflating. It sucked,” said Springer. “You look back at everything that you’ve been through. This was our third city, finally getting a chance to be home. The ups, the downs, not really being projected to be where we were and ended up being in a really good spot at the end of the year. And just knowing that you fell one game short in the standings, you can look back on any game that you lost and say, well, if I had done this or if this had happened, you might not be in this position.

“But you learn from it and here we are now.”

Where they are now is set to host their first home playoff game since a 3-0 loss to Cleveland in Game 5 of the 2016 ALCS.

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Pesce’s first goal of the season lifts Hurricanes past Flames – Sportsnet.ca

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Croatian coach feels disrespected by Canadian coach's comment at FIFA World Cup – Toronto Sun

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Reviews and recommendations are unbiased and products are independently selected. Postmedia may earn an affiliate commission from purchases made through links on this page.

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DOHA, Qatar — Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic said he felt disrespected by Canada head coach John Herdman for his comment in a group huddle following a loss to Belgium on Wednesday.

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After the emotional 1-0 loss at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Herdman gathered his troops on the field and gave an impassioned speech.

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When asked following the game what he told his team, Herdman admitted he told his group to ‘F’ Croatia, in reference to Canada’s second game at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

On the eve of the game Sunday (11 a.m. ET) at the Khalifa International Stadium, Croatian coach Zlatko Zlatko Dalic was again asked about the comment at the pre-match press conference here on Saturday.

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“Canadians must have respect for us and this way of putting words together is not a sign of respect,” Dalic said through an interpreter. “We are the runners up (2018 World Cup), it wasn’t Brazil or Spain or any other country. We are the runners up, we were second in the world, we are worth of respect the way we played, the way we behave, the way we respect all others, is the reason we are worthy or respect.

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“I shall not focus or comment on other people’s comment. We will be prepared, be fit and we will demonstrate respect from Canada and from everyone else. We expect respect just as we exercise this view.”

Croatia was a surprising World Cup finalist four years ago in Russia, beating England in the semifinal before losing to France. Along the way, Croatia also beat Argentina in the group stage.

Croatia was held to a scoreless draw in its opening match by Morocco on Wednesday. Croatia concluded the group stage against Belgium on Thursday.

“The Croatia team deserves respect from everyone; we have proven that by the way we’ve played with our conduct at the World Cup; since the very beginning we’ve deserved respect and dignity,” Dalic said. “We have two (World Cup) medals in the last 30 years and we’re up there with Germany and France and countries like that have such an achievement. We respect everyone equally so we expect our opposing teams to respect us. We are worth of their respect.”

Croatia striker Ivan Perisic was also asked for his thoughts on Herdman’s comments.

“I second the head coach,” he said. “And I cannot wait for the match to begin.”

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

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Canada coach Herdman jokes about Croatian tabloid – CTV News

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DOHA, Qatar –

Canada had just lost its first World Cup match in 36 years, outplaying Belgium for much of a 1-0 defeat, and an emotional John Herdman revealed in the on-field interview what he had just told his players during a postgame huddle.

“I told them they belong here. And we’re going to go and F Croatia,” the coach said with a smile, using a single letter to avoid a televised profanity. “That’s as simple as it gets.”

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His words reveberated all the way to Zagreb as Sunday’s Croatia-Canada game approached.

Croatia’s 24 Sata (24 Hours) tabloid ran a fullpage photo of a naked Herdman with Maple Leaf flags over his mouth and private parts and a headline that translated to: “You have the mouth, but do you have the (guts) as well?”

Commenting Saturday on Herdman’s words, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic used the word “respect” 13 times in a 90-second span.

“This way of putting words together is not a sign of respect,” he said through a translator. “The way we play, the way we behave and the way we respect all others are the reasons we are worthy of respect.”

Sitting next to Dalic, winger Ivan Perisic said simply: “I second the head coach and I cannot wait for the match to begin.”

Speaking before Dalic, Herdman used humour in an attempt to defuse tensions.

“When you get a text from your wife telling me you need to start working out before you get home, yeah, you think you know something’s going on,” Herdman said, noting the newspaper image was of a trimmer midsection than his own.

“My wife’s coming after you guys,” he told a reporter from that Croatian paper, laughing. “She wishes she got that guy. I’ve got a bit more of a belly than that. I’ve been eating too much.”

On Thursday, Herdman had explained what his intent was.

“You say those things in an impassioned moment trying to inspire your team in a huddle, and when you’re asked the question what you said in that huddle, yeah, it was what I said,” he said.

“It’s not massively respectful to Croatian people and the Croatian national team. I understand very well where they’re at on the world stage. But in that moment, you’ve taken your men to that next place,” he added.

Playing Croatia for the first time, Canada could be eliminated with another defeat.

Croatia, which lost the 2018 final to France, is the world’s 12th-ranked team and opened with a 0-0 draw against Morocco. Star Luka Modric, playing what is likely his last World Cup at age 37, put a first-half shot over the crossbar.

Canada has played just four World Cup games in its history and still is searching for its first goal. The Canadians outshot the Belgians 21-9 but gave up a 44th-minute goal to Michy Batshuayi from a long pass. Alphonso Davies had a chance to put Canada ahead in the 11th minute but his penalty kick was saved by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

“We know exactly what our slingshot is and we’ve got to be ready to attack that across different games now because, as I say, the cover’s off from Canada,” Herdman said. “I think people come into this game, the next games respecting us a little bit more.”

Captain Atiba Hutchinson, at 39 the only member of the current roster alive when Canada went 0-3 at the 1986 World Cup, can make his 100th international appearance Sunday — Julian de Guzman is second with 89.

Midfielder Jonathan Osorio is looking forward to facing the last World Cup’s runner-up.

“We like to play the best,” he said after the Belgium match. “We’re excited for the challenge.”

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