TORONTO – Down to hours remaining before Monday’s 4 p.m. ET trade deadline arrives, an interesting question is how transformative do the Toronto Blue Jays want to get in bolstering their roster for a run at the post-season.
The obvious need, even after the acquisition of right-hander Taijuan Walker on Thursday, is for another starting pitcher, as there’s still one more hole in their rotation, set to be covered by a bullpen day Tuesday.
But how far should the Blue Jays front office go in augmenting a relentless club that won for the 11th time in 14 outings Sunday, rallying past the Baltimore Orioles 6-5 on Teoscar Hernandez’s two-out, two-run walk-off single? At this stage of a careful rebuild, what kind of win-now pieces are worth adding in responsible pursuit of the club’s first playoff berth since 2015-16?
“What our club has done is we lose people, key people and somebody steps us and does the job. Losing Bo Bichette is pretty big, I never said it (that way), but that’s a good player,” manager Charlie Montoyo said in careful comments designed to not tip the club’s hand. “That’s what makes winning teams and that’s what we’re doing right now.”
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Adding another starter won’t be easy, as shown by Atlanta’s acquisition of lefty Tommy Milone from the Orioles, who also sent reliever Mychal Givens to the Colorado Rockies before the game in a pair of subtraction trades that pulled the chute on their 2020.
Milone is pitching well right now, but under normal circumstances is more of a depth/insurance type of add for a playoff favourite seeking to bolster itself. But as Alex Anthopoulos, Atlanta’s president of baseball operations, pointed out on a conference call, “there aren’t a lot of sellers. With the expanded playoffs, even those teams on the outside looking in, they’re close. There’s not a lot of inventory out there.”
Hence, there’s “a big market” for Texas Rangers starter Lance Lynn, according to one industry source, and while the Blue Jays have checked in on the righty, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a fit.
The Rangers are said to like the Blue Jays’ young catchers, but subtracting from that duo wouldn’t make sense without another complement add, and Jason Castro, the best option out there, is reportedly headed from the Los Angeles Angels to the San Diego Padres.
A second source wondered if they might build a package around Lourdes Gurriel Jr., whose name was bandied about in trade talks over the winter, while a third source said the Blue Jays have shown interest in Angels outfielder Brian Goodwin, a left-handed bat who can play all three outfield spots.
Lynn along with Dylan Bundy of the Angels, another trade candidate, are starters who come with one additional year of contractual control, which obviously raises the acquisition cost. Up the food chain, there’s the super-car possibility of Mike Clevinger, under control through the 2022 season with the requisite price tag.
Multiple top prospects in the Jordan Groshans/Simeon Woods Richardson vein, maybe with a big-league piece, too, would be needed to pull that one off, and it’s a reasonable to debate if now’s the time to make such a trade when the Blue Jays can add starters via free agency this winter.
At the same time, a case can be made that getting better defensively might make more sense, as the expanded rosters make a month of bullpen games — with Shun Yamaguchi capable of serving as the bulk arm — more feasible. Injured starters Nate Pearson and Matt Shoemaker are both throwing and while there isn’t enough time to stretch them out in a meaningful way over the remaining 28 games, they’ll deepen the bullpen soon enough, too.
Shortstop Andrelton Simmons, another member of the stripping down Angels, was reported as a possibility Saturday, while Orioles shortstop Jose Iglesias would be an interesting fit covering for Bichette, who added grounders Sunday to his careful resumption of baseball activities.
Goodwin, who has rated as an above average defender in advanced metrics during previous seasons although his results have been more mixed this year, would help shore up the outfield defence. But for more impact in that regard, Jackie Bradley Jr., of the Boston Red Sox, who dealt Mitch Moreland to the aggressively pushing Padres, would be a game-changer.
The difference plus defenders can make was evident again Sunday, when Iglesias beat out a two-out soft chopper over Anthony Bass’s head in the ninth, allowing Rio Ruiz to score to take the lead. A defender like Simmons or Iglesias aren’t guaranteed to have gotten the out, but would have had a better chance at it than Joe Panik.
That run put the Blue Jays down 5-4 but Cole Sulser surrendered a walkoff hit for the second time in the series. After Panik’s leadoff walk, Reese McGuire’s sacrifice bunt and Cavan Biggio’s pop out, Randal Grichuk and Travis Shaw both walked before Hernandez ripped a groundball through the 5-6 hole to secure an 11th win in 14 outings.
With 12 homers, 22 RBIs and a 1.001 OPS, the right-fielder is one of the key reasons the Blue Jays have gone from sellers the past three deadlines to buyers during this one.
“When I got here we had (Jose) Bautista, (Josh) Donaldson, (Russ) Martin, (Troy) Tulowitzki, (Kevin) Pillar, (Justin) Smoak, all those big guys, I got excited because I was going to a team that competes every time,” Hernandez, the key piece back from the Houston Astros in a 2017 deadline deal for Francisco Liriano. “But as soon as I got here, everybody was going out, they were trading every guy and there have been tough times. But we’re here now, I’m the oldest one, there’s nobody else here from 2017 on this team, and every (new) guy that gets here is one of us, and it feels like as soon as they get here, we get together and we’re going to stick together until the end.”
The Blue Jays are 6-0 versus the Orioles this season, despite Tanner Roark surrendering a 3-1 lead during a three-run sixth capped by Ryan Mountcastle’s second homer of the game, a two-run job. Rowdy Tellez’s two-out RBI single in the eighth tied things up 4-4 before Gurriel stranded men on the corners, with victory secured the next frame.
“You put the right pieces together for a team to win, the right attitude, you go out there expecting to win every day, play as hard as you can each and every game, do the little things right like we did today, and it pays off,” said Roark. “It shows with us. There’s no quit in us. We’re two games past the halfway point, which is pretty crazy to think about, but each game matters and now it starts getting down to even more that each game matters. Winning is the only thing that matters, go out there, play hard and you know what this team can do.”
Resiliency has been a trademark for the Blue Jays, who two weeks ago fell four games under .500 by blowing a pair of games to the Tampa Bay Rays while losing Bichette to a knee injury. There were seven late-game losses during that span, something coach Dante Bichette, Bo’s dad, says “usually take the heart out of a team, especially a young team if there’s two or three in a row.”
“We did have those early, tight games where we lost them late. This team just amazingly showed up every day after those tough losses,” Bichette continued. “And that’s been the key to me. When you walk around in that clubhouse, it’s like we’re panicking way more than they are. They really believe in themselves and you’re like, wow, they really believe in themselves every day. So all those tight losses early never fazed them and that’s why we’re in a position we’re in.”
Adding rather than subtracting, pushing for the present, rather than regrouping for better days down the road.
Kansas State rallies to stun No. 3 Oklahoma – TSN
NORMAN, Okla. — Skylar Thompson passed for 334 yards and ran for three touchdowns, and Kansas State rallied from 21 points down to beat No. 3 Oklahoma 38-35 on Saturday.
Freshman Deuce Vaughn caught four passes for 129 yards and ran for a touchdown for the Wildcats, who were coming off a season-opening loss to Arkansas State. It was Kansas State’s first-ever road win against a top-three team in the AP poll.
Oklahoma freshman Spencer Rattler passed for 387 yards and four touchdowns, but he threw three interceptions.
Kansas State upset Oklahoma 48-41 in Manhattan, Kansas, last year.
Kansas State said earlier in the week it was struggling to have enough players available at all position groups to play the game because of COVID-19.
In the opening moments of the second quarter, Rattler threw into traffic and found Drake Stoops for a 32-yard touchdown. It was the first career touchdown for the son of former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, and it gave the Sooners a 14-0 lead.
Thompson’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Chabastin Taylor in the second quarter cut Oklahoma’s lead to 14-7, but the Sooners answered with Marvin Mims’ 9-yard touchdown reception in the final minute of the first half.
Rattler’s 53-yard pass to Stoops led to Seth McGowan’s 5-yard touchdown run and a 35-14 late in the third quarter.
Two short rushing touchdowns by Thompson got the Wildcats back in the game. Kansas State’s Nick Allen blocked Reeves Mundschau’s punt, and the Wildcats took over at the Oklahoma 38. Vaughn’s 38-yard touchdown run on the Wildcats’ second offensive play and the extra point tied it at 35 with 8:17 to play.
Kansas State’s Blake Lynch hit a 50-yard field goal with 4:32 remaining. Kansas State’s Jahron McPherson intercepted Rattler in the final minute to help close out the win.
Kansas State: The Wildcats didn’t fold when they fell behind and the defense improved in the second half against Rattler.
Oklahoma: The defense fell apart much like it has many times in recent years.
Kansas State: Hosts Texas Tech on Saturday.
Oklahoma: Travels to Iowa State on Saturday. The Cyclones beat the Sooners three years ago and nearly upset them last year before falling 42-41.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP
NBA Finals 2020: LeBron James' 10th trip to the Finals is a reminder of his all-time greatness – NBA CA
Yes, I’m aware that LeBron actually finished with a ridiculous 38 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists on 15-for-25 shooting – this isn’t a box score thing.
Allow me to clarify.
In his 17th NBA season, LeBron James is now set to make his 10th appearance in the NBA Finals.
If you take away the three years in which James-led teams failed to qualify for the postseason, you’re looking at him appearing in the Finals 10 out of a possible 14 times (71.4%). And after tonight, teams that feature James have only lost once in the conference finals, his lone loss coming against the Orlando Magic in 2009.
Yes, LeBron now holds a 10-1 record in the conference finals.
James has become just the fourth player in NBA history to make 10 or more Finals appearances, tying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Boston Celtics legends Sam Jones (11) and Bill Russell (12) are the only two players that have played on the NBA Finals stage more.
Say what you want about Finals records but to be quite honest, you can only lose in the Finals if you make it to the Finals. Jerry West, the Logo, took seven losses in the Finals before capturing that elusive title on his eighth try, only to lose for an eighth time while in pursuit of a repeat. Winning titles is hard, and getting to the Finals – win or lose – is not the type of accomplishment to scoff at.
The standard to which James is often held speaks to his greatness. That he’s expected to lead teams to the Finals – in his 17th year, no less – is not normal.
Like, we-may-never-see-this-again abnormal.
We also know LeBron’s star has shined its brightest in the Finals. The last time he was there, he opened with a 51-point, eight-rebound, eight-assist performance in what I consider to be one of the greatest individual performances I have ever seen – regular season or postseason.
Now, after a one-year hiatus from the postseason, James is four wins away from title No. 4 with team No. 3.
It’s worth mentioning that Robert Horry and John Salley are the only players in league history that have won titles with three separate franchises. While Horry and Salley executed their respective roles to a T, LeBron is the first player to lead three separate teams to the finals, posting averages of 26.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists through the first three rounds, and also has a chance to become the first player to ever win a championship and Finals MVP with three different franchises.
With that being said, James and the 2020 Lakers still have four wins to earn before attaining basketball immortality. And in this league, nothing is guaranteed.
For now, appreciate the greatness of the accomplishment at hand. Unlike the fairly common sight of a player shooting 10-for-17 from the field, we may never see a player lead a team to the Finals in 10 of his 17 seasons ever again.
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Israel Adesanya dominates Paulo Costa, finishes with devastating second-round knockout in UFC 253 main event – MMA Fighting
“The Last Stylebender” predicted that precision would beat power and that’s exactly how the fight played out as he avoided just about everything Costa threw at him while chopping down the Brazilian contender with leg kicks throughout the opening round. Adesanya then finished the fight with a blistering counter left hand that put Costa down and out for the final time.
The end came at 3:59 in round 2.
There was a lot of bad blood between the middleweights in the days and weeks leading to the event but Adesanya ultimately needed less than two rounds to dispatch Costa and hand him the first loss of his professional career.
“I’ve been telling you guys. Like Roy Jones said, ya’ll must have forgot. Ya’ll must have forgot,” Adesanya said in reference to his previous win over Yoel Romero before making short work of Costa on Saturday night.
“I see you media people with your little clickbait headlines. I had to make ya’ll remember.”
Wary of the power coming from Costa early, Adesanya concentrated on leg kicks in the opening exchanges while looking to chip away at his opponent’s foundation. Rather than rushing ahead to close the distance, Costa countered with a couple of stiff kicks of his own to the body while inviting Adesanya to come after him.
As the fight continued, Adesanya was methodical while dishing out a steady diet of those same leg kicks with Costa willing to stand directly in front of him. While Costa was constantly taunting Adesanya, it was the former kickboxer turned UFC champion who was inflicting far more damage.
Midway through the second round, Adesanya’s leg kicks paid off when he was able to go up to the head where he connected and opened a cut over Costa’s eye.
With a dazed look in his eyes, Costa never really recovered as Adesanya saw the hurt painted all over his opponent and he knew the end was near.
At that moment, Adesanya welcomed an exchange on the feet where he showcased his dazzling defense and then tossed the counter left hand that ultimately led to the finish. As soon as the punch connected, Costa crumbled to the mat and Adesanya only had to threw a few more shots before the referee rushed into stop the contest.
The win moved Adesanya to 20-0 in his career, 9-0 in the UFC and he’s now a two-time defending middleweight champion. Never one to sit back and wait for the next challenge, Adesanya already had a name in mind as he looked ahead to UFC 254 in a few weeks when a former champion squares off with a top ranked contender at 185 pounds.
“He’s the one I want to fight next. He deserves it. If he beats Robert Whittaker handily and dominates him, he’s next.”
Kansas State rallies to stun No. 3 Oklahoma – TSN
NBA Finals 2020: LeBron James' 10th trip to the Finals is a reminder of his all-time greatness – NBA CA
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