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Avalanche vs. Stars playoff preview –



The Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars will meet for the fifth time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they open the best-of-7 Western Conference Second Round at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the hub city for the West, on Saturday.

Dallas last played on Thursday, a 7-3 victory against the Calgary Flames; Colorado on Wednesday, a 7-1 victory against the Arizona Coyotes.

“I like starting as soon as possible, to be honest with you, Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “I think time generally seems to move pretty slowly here in the bubble, which we found out for the first couple weeks when we were playing every third day and had some time before our first game. And then once we kind of got into the series with Arizona, time seemed to go a little quicker. No travel. The convenience of getting to the rink. It’s just like game day is great.

“Obviously there’s a focus there on what you need to do, and then the days in between games, there’s plenty of time to get some rest and get prepared to play the next night. We’re liking the fact we don’t have too much time off in between games. I’m sure Dallas is kind of the same way. Just keep playing. It’s what we’re all here to do, is play hockey games and not necessarily practice and have days off.”

The Stars and Avalanche have split their previous four playoff series; Dallas won in the 1999 and 2000 Western Conference Final, each time in seven games. Colorado won the 2004 and 2006 Western Conference Quarterfinals, each in five games.

Defenseman Miro Heiskanen leads the Stars with 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in the postseason. Anton Khudobin, normally the backup to Ben Bishop, is 4-3-0 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. Bishop (1-1-0 with a 4.04 GAA and .862 save percentage) was unfit to play in the last four games of the series against Calgary.

Video: DAL@CGY, Gm6: Heiskanen one-times PPG past Talbot

Forward Nathan MacKinnon leads all NHL players with 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in the postseason. He is one of three Avalanche players to have reached double digits in points, joined by forwards Nazem Kadri (11 points; six goals, five assists), and Mikko Rantanen (10 points; three goals, seven assists). Philipp Grubauer (5-0-1,1.49 GAA, .937 save percentage) has started six of the eight postseason games. 

“I think we’re going to do like we did in the first round and focus on us and we’re going to have to use everybody on the ice to make sure that we’re ready for the second round,” Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard said. “We know that’s going to be harder and harder so we’re going to have to be ready for the second round and make sure we’re on the same page.”

The Stars won all four regular-season games against the Avalanche, but the Avalanche won 4-0 against the Stars on Aug. 5 in the round-robin portion Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

The Stars and Avalanche each advanced to the second round for the second straight season. The best-of-7 series will be played at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the Western Conference hub city.

Game breakers

Avalanche: MacKinnon, a finalist for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the player voted the NHL’s most valuable player, is on an eight-game point streak. It is tied for the second-longest streak to begin a playoff year in Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history with Peter Forsberg and Milan Hejduk (both 2000-01), Joe Sakic (1996-97) and Michel Goulet (1984-85). Sakic had a 10-game streak in 1995-96. MacKinnon had 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in five games against Arizona. He has 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists) in 33 NHL playoff games.

Stars: Center Joe Pavelski has delivered upon what the Stars hoped when they signed him to a three-year free agent contract on July 1, 2019. He has six goals in nine postseason games to share the NHL postseason lead in goals with four other players. Seven of Pavelski’s eight points (six goals, two assists) have come at even strength.

Video: ARI@COL, Gm5: Rantanen, MacKinnon connect twice


Avalanche: Philipp Grubauer established himself as the No. 1 option ahead of Pavel Francouz by winning each of his four starts against the Coyotes, recording a shutout, 1.00 GAA and .953 save percentage. Grubauer went 0-2-2 against Dallas in the regular season with a 2.45 GAA and .927 save percentage. He has played in 22 NHL postseason games, posting a 13-6-1 record. “[Grubauer] was phenomenal,” Bednar said. “He was right there for us all the way, almost perfect in the series. I liked everything he did for us in the series. We’ve come to expect it from him.”

Stars: Anton Khudobin has taken over after Bishop was ruled unfit to play after his one playoff start, a 5-4 win in Game 2 in which he made 22 saves. The 34-year-old is 4-3 in the postseason with a 2.49 GAA and a .919 save percentage. Khudobin has played 11 NHL seasons but his seven starts this season are the first of his postseason career. Before this season, he had two playoff appearances, one in 2018 for the Boston Bruins and one last season with the Stars, each as a midgame replacement.

Numbers to know

Avalanche: Colorado scored seven goals in each of the final two games of the series against Arizona, its most in a playoff game since an 8-2 win against the San Jose Sharks in Game 2 of the Western Conference Second Round in 2002.

Stars: Dallas has been outscored 11-5 in first periods in the postseason, allowing the most opening-period goals in the postseason. The Stars have allowed the first goal seven times in nine games and are 3-4 in those games.


Avalanche: Kadri, the second-line center, has taken the scoring burden off MacKinnon. His 11 points are tied for fourth in playoff scoring. His five power-play goals lead the NHL. He had seven points (five goals, two assists) in five games in the first round. Kadri had 10 points (three goals, seven assists) and 58 penalty minutes in 19 playoff games with the Toronto Maple Leafs; he hasn’t been penalized this postseason. 

Stars: Forward Denis Gurianov had a breakout game with four goals and an assist in Game 6 against Calgary and had six goals and one assist in the series. This is the 23-year-old’s first time playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After making a major impact against Calgary, Gurianov’s his soft hands and quickness could be a big factor against the swift Avalanche.

Video: DAL@CGY, Gm6: Gurianov records four-goal game

They said it

“I most definitely think we’re ready to make that next step, no doubt. We’ve been a group for the most part that’s been together for the last three, four years. We’ve grown together and been through the bad and we still have work to do. But the group that we have in our locker room has a lot of character and obviously we’ve seen the product that we can put on the ice when we do our job and work together as a group and work for another. We can do some really good things. We have a lot of work to do, though.” — Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog

“There’s ups and downs. That’s playoffs. It’s a series. [Calgary was] a team that plays hard and were coming out of the play-in round where they played good hockey and it was going to be a big test for us. Just confidence in understanding our game works. It’s a big commitment to play a certain way, but it’s the playoffs right now and guys are battling for each other right now and came up with some huge plays along the way.” — Stars forward Joe Pavelski

Will win if …

Avalanche: MacKinnon and Kadri continue to lead a balanced attack that has gotten a goal from 14 players and a point from 17 players in eight postseason games.

Stars: If they get more from their top line. The Stars need help from Tyler Seguin (three assists in eight postseason games), Jamie Benn (two goals, two assists in nine games) and Alexander Radulov (two goals, one assist in nine games). The three players have combined for seven even-strength points in the postseason (Benn 3, Radulov 3, Seguin 1).

Avalanche projected lineup

Gabriel LandeskogNathan MacKinnonMikko Rantanen

Andre BurakovskyNazem Kadri — Joonas Donskoi

Tyson JostJ.T. CompherValeri Nichushkin

Matt NietoPierre-Edouard BellemareMatt Calvert

Ryan GravesCale Makar

Samuel GirardIan Cole

Nikita ZadorovErik Johnson

Philipp Grubauer

Pavel Francouz

Scratched: Mark Barberio, Shane Bowers, Bowen Byram, Kevin Connauton, Sheldon Dries, Michael Hutchinson, Tyson Jost, Anton Lindholm, Logan O’Connor, Conor Timmins, T.J. Tynan

Unfit to play: Vladislav Namestnikov, Colin Wilson

Stars projected lineup

Jamie BennTyler SeguinAlexander Radulov

Mattias JanmarkJoe PavelskiDenis Gurianov

Roope HintzJason DickinsonCorey Perry

Andrew CoglianoRadek FaksaBlake Comeau

Esa LindellJohn Klingberg

Jamie OleksiakMiro Heiskanen

Andrej SekeraTaylor Fedun

Anton Khudobin

Jake Oettinger

Scratched: Nick Caamano, Ty Dellandrea, Justin Dowling, Joel Kiviranta, Jason Robertson, Gavin Bayreuther, Joel Hanley, Thomas Harley, Landon Bow, Jake Oettinger

Unfit to play: Stephen Johns, Ben Bishop

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NBA Finals 2020: Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers become unprecedented NBA Finals opponents – NBA CA



7h ago

Playoffs 2020

The Miami Heat are headed back to the NBA Finals. Making their sixth appearance, and the first since 2014, Miami becomes the third-lowest seeded team to reach the NBA Finals since 1984.

They will be contesting the Los Angeles Lakers, making this the first Finals matchup between two teams who missed the playoffs the previous season. And they eliminated the Boston Celtics, who now join the Rockets in recent ignominy as the co-leaders for most playoff wins (29) without a Finals appearance over the last five seasons.

MORE: NBA Finals preview – Lakers vs. Heat

Also of note: The Heat or Warriors have played in the last 10 NBA Finals. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra becomes only the eighth coach to appear in a fifth Finals.

And 2014 NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala joins an ultra-exclusive (and Boston-heavy) list of players to appear in six consecutive championship rounds; LeBron James and James Jones are the only non-Celtics.

Lowest-seeded teams to reach NBA Finals*

Teams to reach The Finals year after missing playoffs*

• 1976-77 Blazers (Won)
• 2001-02 Nets
• 2007-08 Celtics (Won)
• 2014-15 Cavs
2019-20 Lakers
• 2019-20 Heat

*Since the NBA/ABA merger

Players to reach six consecutive NBA Finals

• Bill Russell; 10
• Sam Jones, Tom Heinsohn; 9
• Frank Ramsey, LeBron James; 8
• Bob Cousy, K.C. Jones, James Jones; 7
• Tom Sanders, Andre Iguodala; 6

Head coaches to appear in at least 5 NBA Finals

• Phil Jackson; 13
• Red Auerbach; 11
• Pat Riley; 9
• Johnny Kundla, Gregg Popovich; 6
• K.C. Jones, Steve Kerr, Erik Spoelstra; 5

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Previewing Jays-Rays and the rest of the MLB playoffs – TSN



As expected, the 60-game sprint flew by and despite a few virus-related hiccups and lessons learned along the way, Major League Baseball has made it to the postseason.

For the first time ever, 16 teams have been invited to the dance, and for the first time since 2016, the Toronto Blue Jays are a part of it.

With a truly unique setup that will see four three-game wild-card series take place in each league, the chance of an upset or three has never been higher, especially after reaching a wild final Sunday with compacted standings in both leagues leaving every single matchup up in the air until the last possible moment.

A three-game wild-card round in top-seed cities will then see baseball bubble in California (American League) and Texas (National League) for the division series and beyond, with the World Series slated for the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark in Arlington.

To get things teed up, former New York Mets general manager and TSN Baseball Insider Steve Phillips and I predict each series, end-of-season award winners, as well as outline some key names for the Jays as they head into their best-of-three showdown with the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.

(8) Toronto Blue Jays at (1) Tampa Bay Rays

PHILLIPS: The Rays beat the Jays six out of 10 games this year, but eight of the 10 games were decided by two runs and four were extra-inning games. These gap between these two teams is not as significant as the seeding indicates. The Rays have better pitching and defence than the Jays, plus they have experience on their side. The Jays are better offensively but will have to find ways to score against this power-armed staff.

VERDICT: Rays in 3 games.

MITCHELL: With the similarities in organizational approach at the root of it, this series is potentially the start of an intriguing rivalry over the next few years. It’s been called a rivalry before thanks to the amount of clashes within the AL East, but real rivalries are made in the postseason and Charlie Montoyo trying to knock off the organization he spent more than two decades with is a good narrative to build off of. The Jays scored more runs than the Rays this year and you can argue have more talent, man for man, in the lineup, but Kevin Cash’s club is the best team in the American League for a number of reasons, starting with pitching. It begins with the trio of starters the Rays will send to the mound in Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow and Charlie Morton, but that group is backed by one of the best bullpens in baseball. From the strong rotation to the flexible power bullpen to the mix-and-match ability in the lineup, this is what the Blue Jays always envisioned looking like in a year or two. They’re not there quite yet, but anything can happen in a three-game series.

VERDICT: Rays in 3 games.

Three Key Blue Jays


1. SP Hyun-Jin Ryu

Ryu was brought in to be the leader of this staff. The quality of his pitching is only a part of the value the Jays thought they were getting with the $80 million they gave him. His postseason experience (eight games started, 4.05 ERA) is more than anyone else on the roster. The Jays need him to not only win his start, but they also need him to go at least seven innings to protect the bullpen, considering that there are no off-days in the series. 

2. 1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 

Guerrero Jr. went 12 for 27 (.444) over the last seven games of the regular season. He had three doubles a triple and two home runs with seven runs scored and eight RBI. He is finally locked in at the plate. He is waiting for a pitch he can drive and recognizing the first strike he sees may not be the best strike he sees. He has shown the ability to rise to the big moments as he did at the Home Run Derby last year. He can win a game by himself. 

3. RP Nate Pearson

The Jays’ bullpen is not necessarily a swing-and-miss unit. Pearson can be a real weapon for Montoyo as his stuff can lead to some big strikeouts in critical moments. It remains to be seen how quickly he can warm up and how he bounces back from one day to another, but he is a different look than anybody else in their pen. The Jays could go further than expected if he can handle the heart of the lineup or get a big strikeout with runners in scoring position.


1. SP Hyun-Jin Ryu

Ross Atkins went out and bought himself an ace for $80 million last December and Ryu delivered, authoring a 2.69 ERA across 12 starts and finishing with 1.9 fWAR, more than triple the next most valuable arm on the Blue Jays’ pitching staff. It’s a pretty simple equation for the Jays as they head into the postseason: It’s a must-win game every time Ryu takes the mound because the rotation depth behind the veteran lefty simply doesn’t match up with their American League counterparts.

2. RF Teoscar Hernandez

Leading the team in home runs with 16 might not surprise anyone who has watched Hernandez over the past couple of years. The power is evident. But what Hernandez did this summer was become a tougher out by chasing less and swinging at better pitches inside the zone, culminating in an important shortened-season breakout for the Jays. When combined with the exciting Cavan Biggio/Bo Bichette one-two punch at the top of the order and the Juniors, Vladdy and Lourdes, in the middle, Hernandez’s emergence really helped lengthen Montoyo’s lineup and turn it into a top-10 offence in terms of runs scored. Hernandez’s presence is as important as it gets.

3. RP Jordan Romano

Working his way back from a freak middle finger injury suffered at the end of August just as he was coming into his own as a high-leverage force, there’s no guarantee Romano will be able to make any sort of real impact in the postseason. But if the 27-year-old right-hander can make it back and look like anything close to the pitcher he was when he struck out 21 over his first 14.2 innings, the Blue Jays’ bullpen will add the type of power arm that has become so synonymous with playoff success over the past few years and give Montoyo another late-inning option alongside veterans Rafael Dolis and Anthony Bass.


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(7) Chicago White Sox at (2) Oakland A’s

PHILLIPS: Oakland has a young, inexperienced but very talented rotation. Their bullpen is the best in baseball. They excel in run prevention with their pitching and excellent defensive team. Offensively, they underachieved in 2020 and they lost one of their best all-around players in third baseman Matt Chapman to a season-ending hip injury. They may be challenged to score against good pitching. The White Sox are talented and exciting. They are a well-balanced team with a blend of youth and experience. Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel give them a one-two punch in the rotation. First baseman Jose Abreu and shortstop Tim Anderson lead a very deep lineup that has struggled a bit down the stretch. They only went 12-19 this year against teams with a .500 but they went 14-0 in games started by left-handed pitchers. Oakland will likely throw two lefty starters in the three games.

VERDICT: White Sox in 3 games.

MITCHELL: In this unique 60-game sprint we’ve seen teams be able to overcome a poor showing in one area of the roster with a great showing from another, something that’s much harder to do over the course of a gruelling 162 games. The A’s did exactly that. Bob Melvin’s rotation was the definition of mediocre, while the bullpen, led by Liam Hendriks, is arguably the best in baseball with a collective ERA well under 3.00. It’s the complete opposite on the south side of Chicago, where Lucas Giolito’s power arsenal and Dallas Keuchel’s postseason experience from the days with the Astros will give their loaded lineup a chance. Similar to the Blue Jays, this may end up being a valuable learning experience for a young White Sox team.

VERDICT: A’s in 3 games.

(6) Houston Astros at (3) Minnesota Twins

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PHILLIPS: The Twins have a high-powered offence that can beat you in so many ways. Surprisingly, they have given up the second fewest runs in baseball; in fact, only seven more runs than the highly respected Cleveland pitching staff. Although none of their starters are overpowering. They went 24-6 at Target Field this year, which can’t be ignored. Houston feels like just a shell of the team that had won 100-plus games in each of the past three seasons. The loss of Justin Verlander to Tommy John surgery has weakened their starting rotation and their bullpen is loaded with rookies. Offensively, they still have the star power of Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and George Springer, but all of them have underachieved. The Astros were awful on the road this season (9-22) and they will be on the road for the entire postseason.  But they have been down this road before and are still a scary match-up.

VERDICT: Astros in 3 games.

MITCHELL: It feels weird to call the previously powerhouse Houston Astros an underdog, but this team isn’t the same trash-can banging squad we’ve seen over the last few years. Sign stealing aside, there’s no Justin Verlander, no Gerrit Cole, no Roberto Osuna and many of the key lineup pieces – most notably Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman – have suffered through down years. There’s enough punch in the lineup to get hot and make a run, but they’ll absolutely need Zack Greinke to look vintage and one of their young rotation arms — Lance McCullers Jr, Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy or Framber Valdez — will have to spin a gem for them to pull off the upset of a Twins team that can score runs in bunches. The best trade of the off-season might have been Minnesota’s acquisition of Kenta Maeda, who went 6-1 with a 2.70 ERA, from the Dodgers back in February.

VERDICT: Twins in 3 games.

(5) New York Yankees at (4) Cleveland

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PHILLIPS: Cleveland is all about their pitching. No team has as deep a rotation as they do in the American League, and they have a deep bullpen, too. They struggle to score but superstars Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez can put the offence on their shoulders. They have postseason experience, which will make a difference as this may be their last hurrah before trading Lindor. The Yankees battled injuries all year and their starting pitching has been compromised while their bullpen has underachieved. Offensively, they are as healthy as they have been all season and have the potential to dominate if everyone plays to their highest level. If sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton get hot, then look out. They are only 12-18 on the road this season and will be playing the entire postseason on the road.

VERDICT: Yankees in 3 games.

MITCHELL: Tabbed as being one of the best teams in baseball in the long pandemic-driven lead-up from February through July, the Yankees were all over the map this summer. One week they’d look like a World Series contender, and the next they’d be in jeopardy of slipping out of the playoffs altogether. Is that a product of the short season or are they truly an inconsistent and imperfect team? In order to prove it’s the former, they’ll have to go through a Cleveland team that’s once again led by strong starting pitching in the form of Cy Young favourite Shane Bieber and veteran Carlos Carrasco. While the Cleveland offence lacked punch and finished near the bottom of baseball in runs scored, third baseman Jose Ramirez is an MVP candidate and shortstop Francisco Lindor is capable of special things.

VERDICT: Yankees in 2 games.


(8) Milwaukee Brewers at (1) Los Angeles Dodgers

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PHILLIPS: The Dodgers are the most balanced team in baseball. They have scored the second most runs and given up the third fewest. They have the best overall record and did it despite subpar seasons from last year’s MVP Cody Bellinger and first baseman Max Muncy. The addition of outfielder and MVP candidate Mookie Betts has improved them in every way. Clayton Kershaw is surrounded by a bevy of young starters who can dominate a good lineup. The Brewers are a mix-and-match team. Manager Craig Counsel is the best at matching up his personnel to counterbalance the opposition. Christian Yelich has had an abysmal year, and is the reason why they barely made the playoffs. They rely upon their bullpen more than any other team as they have the two best relievers in the game in Devin Williams and Josh Hader. 

VERDICT: Dodgers in 2 games.

MITCHELL: World Series bridesmaids in 2017 and 2018, the Dodgers took a step back in 2019, disappointingly falling to the eventual-champion Washington Nationals in the NLDS last year. This year, they seem to catch a break with the Brew Crew — one of two teams in the postseason with a sub-.500 record — but nothing is assured in such a short series, even with a 14-win delta between the two teams. Any team with Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts is going to be formidable offensively, and the Dodgers were, but it’s a deep pitching staff that should be able to carry them back to where they were a couple of years ago. Clayton Kershaw looking vintage down the stretch will take some of the pressure of their four young rotation arms, Walker Buehler, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Julio Urias. Outside of Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee’s rotation simply doesn’t stack up and won’t be able to keep it close enough for lights-out relievers Josh Hader and Devin Williams to matter.

VERDICT: Dodgers in 2 games.

(7) Cincinnati Reds at (2) Atlanta Braves

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PHILLIPS: The Braves have baseball’s best offence. It is a patient, powerful and deep lineup. Their starting pitching has been decimated by injuries, but they have one of the deepest and most effective bullpens in the game. The Cincinnati Reds are a scary matchup because of the impact in their starting rotation. Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray give the Reds the best 1-2-3 in any rotation in the National League. The Reds have a paltry offence. They only had a .212 team batting average and a .312 on-base percentage. They do have power, but have a tough time linking multiple hits together. They just have to score enough with their pitching.

VERDICT: Reds in 3 games.

MITCHELL: Despite their starting rotation being decimated by injury — it would’ve been lovely to see Mike Soroka in this postseason mix — the Braves were carried by the most potent offence in all of baseball, led by the ridiculously hot trio of Ronald Acuna Jr., NL MVP favourite Freddie Freeman and key free-agent signing Marcell Ozuna. This series is a matchup of strength versus strength because the Reds rotation of Trevor Bauer, Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo can match up with any team in baseball and they’ll be asked to pitch deep into each game, as they have all season. The Cincinnati rotation struck out more batters than any group in baseball, setting up a great showdown with the Atlanta bats.

VERDICT: Braves in 3 games.

(6) Miami Marlins at (3) Chicago Cubs

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PHILLIPS: The Cubs have quality starting pitching with Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester, but their bullpen has been unstable all year. Their offence is very inconsistent as they have had poor seasons from third baseman Kris Bryant, shortstop Javier Baez and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. They are often all or nothing offensively. With their talent and experience they can make it to the World Series, but with their inconsistency they could be knocked out in the wild-card round. The Miami Marlins are the game’s most surprising playoff team. They were picked to come in last place in the NL East. They were impacted by the COVID-19 virus more than any club, yet they remarkably overcame adversity. They were 12th in ERA and ninth in runs scored, yet beat out the defending champion Washington Nationals, and large-market Phillies and Mets. Don’t tell them they don’t have a chance because they don’t care what you think. 

VERDICT: Cubs in 2 games.

MITCHELL: If you need evidence of the weirdness provided by just 60 games, look no further than the Miami Marlins. Not only were they expected to be closer to contention for the No. 1 overall pick than a postseason spot when the season began, they were also ravaged by COVID-19 early in the season and spent an extended stint on the sidelines as a team trying to get healthy. While Miami is a completely nondescript group of cobbled together veterans and emerging youth, the Cubs return to the postseason with most of the key lineup pieces in place from their 2016 World Series run. Unfortunately, each and every one of Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras has struggled, likely leaving a lot of pressure on the plate of Cy Young contender Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks to spin gems. One interesting aspect of this series is the Marlins’ success outside of Florida this year. At home, they were just 11-15, but they made up for that by going 20-14 on the road, where they’ll play all three games.

VERDICT: Cubs in 3 games.

(5) St. Louis Cardinals at (4) San Diego Padres

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PHILLIPS: The San Diego Padres are the second-best team in the National League. They are a well-balanced team with no major deficiency. They have star power. They have grinders. They have a blend of youth and experience. They are holding their breath on injuries to their top two starters as Mike Clevinger (elbow) and Dinelson Lamet (bicep) both came out of their last starts due to pain in their arms. The St Louis Cardinals had their season shutdown for 17 days due to the coronavirus. They have played 11 doubleheaders to make up the lost games in their schedule, which has been a grind. They have pitched well enough to overcome an anemic offence. They hit the fewest home runs in baseball and were outscored by all but two teams. 

VERDICT: Padres in 2 games

MITCHELL: Welcome to the Fernando Tatis Jr. coming-out party. Similar to the White Sox, the Padres have been slowly building to this point for the past couple of years, using the shortened season as a springboard to what should be a very interesting contention window with a group of star position players and an improving rotation led by Lamet and trade deadline acquisition Clevinger. Thanks to both of those right-handers heading into the series with questionable health statuses, the Padres offence will have to lead the way, something it’s fully capable of doing after scoring 325 runs, third most in baseball behind the Dodgers (349) and Braves (348). The Cards are a mediocre team from top to bottom, but it’s a veteran-laden group that has been there before and they’ll be better prepared for this stage than the Padres. That won’t matter.

VERDICT: Padres in 3 games.



(5) Yankees vs. (1) Rays

PHILLIPS: The Rays won eight of 10 games against the Yankees during the regular season when the Yankees were dealing with injuries to their lineup. Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka are playoff-tested more than Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow. The Rays need to string hits together to score, while the Yankees can score with one swing of the bat with their power.

VERDICT: Yankees in 5 games.

(7) White Sox vs. (6) Astros

The Astros get their mojo back with an upset win over the Minnesota Twins. Their offence starts to hit on all cylinders creating a margin for error for their young bullpen. Dallas Keuchel has been great all season for the Sox, but facing his former team will be a challenge and the difference in the series. 

VERDICT: Astros in 5 games.


(5) Yankees vs. (1) Rays

Gerrit Cole gives the Yankees a chance in any series, but the Rays are too deep on the pitching side to lose to New York in a five-game scenario as long as they continue to get key hits at key times, which they always seem to do.

VERDICT: Rays in 5 games.

(3) Twins vs. (2) Athletics

Even though an elite bullpen has carried the A’s all summer long, the Twins have more than enough offence to squeeze by in a close series, as the Matt Chapman injury really starts to show here.

VERDICT: Twins in 4 games.



(4) Padres vs. (1) Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw has dominated the San Diego in his career. The Dodgers offence explodes as Bellinger and Muncy return to form. The Padres inexperience shows, and they make too many mistakes. 

VERDICT: Dodgers in 3 games.

(7) Reds vs. (3) Cubs

The Reds pitching is deeper than the Cubs, particularly in the bullpen. Both teams are offensively challenged, but the Cubs big bats of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo come to life against this familiar opponent. 

VERDICT: Cubs in 4 games.


(4) Padres vs. (1) Dodgers

There’s going to be so much exciting talent on the field in this series, it’s a shame one of them has to lose. The Padres are going to be a problem for the Dodgers this decade, but not just yet.

VERDICT: Dodgers in 3 games.

(3) Cubs vs. (2) Braves

Four years ago many thought the Cubs would have multiple rings by now, but despite an exciting core of position players, things have gone awry in one way or another, showing just how hard it is to have sustained success in this sport. This year, they make a surprise run.

VERDICT: Cubs in 5 games.



(6) Astros vs. Yankees (5)

This is a rematch of the 2017 ALCS when the Astros were banging on garbage cans and 2019 ALCS where the Astros were allegedly whistling to signal pitches. The Yankees are motivated by revenge and play this series with a chip on their shoulder. The Yankees bang on the baseball and it whistles out of the park. Gerrit Cole dominates his former team.

VERDICT: Yankees in 5 games.


(3) Twins vs. (1) Rays

This series between two very balanced teams will go the distance, but the trio of Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow and Charlie Morton only gets better as the postseason goes on and that makes all the difference here.

VERDICT: Rays in 7 games.



(3) Cubs vs. (1) Dodgers

The Dodgers depth and balance can overwhelm opponents. They seem to come up with what they need when they need it. The Cubs bullpen is no match for the Dodgers’ relentless offence. 

VERDICT: Dodgers in 5 games.


(3) Cubs vs. (1) Dodgers

A rematch of the 2016 NLCS, this time the Dodgers get the upper hand as they continue their march towards their first World Series title since 1988.

VERDICT: Dodgers in 5 games.



(5) Yankees vs. (1) Dodgers

This is battle of behemoths. The offences are better than the pitching staffs and this turns into a slugfest. This series will swing back and forth. Each team will have multiple stars during the series who could be MVP if their team wins. It will go down as one of the best World Series ever. 

VERDICT: Dodgers in 7 games.



(1) Rays vs. (1) Dodgers

It may be boring to pick this much chalk, but the Rays and Dodgers have been arguably the best two teams in baseball since the jump, so it’s only fitting they eventually collide in Arlington starting Oct. 20. Tampa will put up a fight, but the Dodgers deserve to get over the hump and $365-million man Mookie Betts is the catalyst.

VERDICT: Dodgers in 6 games.




AL MVP: 1B Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox

NL MVP: 1B Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves

AL Cy Young: Shane Bieber, Cleveland

NL Cy Young: Trevor Bauer, Cincinnati Reds

AL Rookie of the Year: OF Kyle Lewis, Seattle Mariners

NL Rookie of the Year: 3B Alec Bohm, Philadelphia Phillies

AL Manager of the Year: Charlie Montoyo, Toronto Blue Jays

NL Manager of the Year: Don Mattingly, Miami Marlins


AL MVP: 3B Jose Ramirez, Cleveland

NL MVP: 1B Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves

AL Cy Young: Shane Bieber, Cleveland

NL Cy Young: Trevor Bauer, Cincinnati Reds

AL Rookie of the Year: OF Kyle Lewis, Seattle Mariners

NL Rookie of the Year: RP Devin Williams, Milwaukee Brewers

AL Manager of the Year: BBWAA voter. No choice.

NL Manager of the Year: Jayce Tingler, San Diego Padres​

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Blue Jays blow chance at higher seed with loss to Orioles in regular season finale –



Feeling healthy, confident and ready for the next challenge, the Toronto Blue Jays capped their regular season Sunday by tuning up for their first playoff appearance in four years.

A series against the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays was locked in when the Blue Jays dropped a 7-5 decision to the Baltimore Orioles in a game that meant little for either team.

The Blue Jays and Rays will play Game 1 on Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET, and Game 2 on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET. Should the series go to a Game 3, it will be played on Thursday.

Toronto gave slugger Teoscar Hernandez the day off and rested most of its relievers so they’d be fully charged for Game 1 on Tuesday at Tropicana Field. The Rays have been the class of the American League but did have some trouble with the Blue Jays at times, making this best-of-three wild-card series all the more intriguing.

“They’re looking forward to the challenge and I love that about our kids,” said Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo. “They really want it.”

By losing to Baltimore, the Blue Jays — who sealed a post-season berth last Thursday — secured the eighth and final seed.

At the start of the day, Toronto had a chance to rise to the No. 5 seed. Potential outcomes existed that could have seen first-round matchups against the Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians or the Chicago White Sox.

‘It’s going to come down to whoever makes the least mistakes’

Toronto was 4-6 against Tampa Bay this season. Four of the Blue Jays’ losses were by one run.

“They’re a good baseball team, they do everything well collectively,” said Toronto starter Tanner Roark, who gave up two earned runs to the Orioles over four innings.

“I think it’s going to come down to whoever makes the least mistakes in that series (will) win it. We’ve played them tough all year. We’ve lost a lot of one-run games and we’ve won a lot of one-run games.”

Toronto looked like it was on its way to closing the 60-game season on a five-game win streak after homers by Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., in the third inning. But the Orioles scored three runs in the fourth and tacked on three more in the fifth.

Shun Yamaguchi (2-4) shouldered the loss after working two frames. Gurriel had four hits and scored three runs.

Toronto right-fielder Jonathan Davis made an all-world play in the second inning to take a home run away from Cedric Mullins. Davis extended his left arm over the top of the wall near the foul pole and managed to squeeze the ball as he crashed to the warning track.

Davis drove in the game’s first run in the bottom half of the frame as his sacrifice fly scored Gurriel, who led off with a double. An inning later, Guerrero hit a solo shot for his ninth homer and Gurriel hit a no-doubt two-run blast for his 11th homer of the season.

Mullins helped the Orioles (25-35) cut into the lead with a two-run triple in the fourth inning and Austin Hays drove him in with a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Yamaguchi gave up three straight hits at the start of the fifth and the Orioles pulled ahead to stay.

‘Our confidence right now is great’

Travis Lakins Sr., (3-2) worked two innings for the victory. Cesar Valdez pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save.

The Blue Jays finished the pandemic-shortened 60-game campaign with a 32-28 record. Toronto was 17-9 at Sahlen Field, normally home of the team’s triple-A affiliate Buffalo Bisons.

“Our confidence right now is great,” Gurriel said via translator Hector Lebron. “We have pretty much everybody healthy. From one through nine, the lineup is good and everybody is feeling great right now which is what you want going into the playoffs.”

Under Major League Baseball’s expanded playoff structure, 16 teams will play in the post-season. Division winners are seeded Nos. 1-3 in each league, second-place teams are seeded fourth through sixth and two wild-card teams get the seventh and eighth spots.

The Blue Jays last reached the post-season in 2016 as a wild-card entry. Toronto went on to reach the American League Championship Series for the second straight year.

Toronto’s last World Series victory came in 1993. A long playoff drought followed until the Blue Jays returned to the post-season in 2015.

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