GLENDALE, Ariz. — Cody Bellinger thinks Houston’s Jose Altuve stole the 2017 AL MVP award from the Yankees’ Aaron Judge and the Astros swiped that year’s World Series title from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“These guys were cheating for three years,” Bellinger said Friday at the Dodgers spring training camp. “I think what people don’t realize is Altuve stole an MVP from Judge in ’17. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.”
The reigning NL MVP, Bellinger criticized Astros owner Jim Crane’s attempt at an apology Thursday and called MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s punishment “weak.” Manager AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were suspended for one season each, and the team was fined $5 million and stripped of its first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and ’21. The Astros then fired Hinch and Luhnow.
MLB found the Astros guilty of using video to steal catchers’ signs in 2017 and 2018. Bellinger thinks the conduct continued throughout last season.
“One-hundred per cent,” Bellinger said. “I don’t know why they would stop.”
Bellinger wasn’t the only angry Dodgers player as formal spring training workouts started.
“It’s like ripping open a scab,” veteran infielder Justin Turner said. “Rip off the scab and you try to re-heal, I guess. But there’s no way to hit the re-set button. What’s done is done. Lucky for us, we don’t play them this season. Let everybody else deal with them.”
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw said he has come to terms with the scandal, yet he also understands why his teammates are angry.
“You start talking about how it really affected people,” Kershaw said. “You’ve got guys who maybe got kicked out of the league because they got beaten by Houston in 2017. You got guys who maybe should have won MVP or whatever. Stats that are changed. It’s just a bad feeling, because you’re kind of helpless. I think guys don’t really know how to feel, because it’s never happened before.”
Alex Wood, who re-signed with the Dodgers after spending last season with Cincinnati, said fans don’t understand the impact of the Astros’ behaviour, citing pitchers whose ERAs were inflated by Houston batters. He said some may have loss $300,000 to $400,000 in salary.
“I’d rather face a guy on steroids than a guy who knows what’s coming,” Wood said. “This is your life. The trickle-down effect is huge.”
There has been speculation Astros batters might face on-field retaliation from opposing pitchers.
“My wife and I were just talking about that,” Wood said. “You’d be hard-pressed to say no. I mean, they messed with a lot of guys’ lives. I don’t condone that type of behaviour. We don’t play them.
“But it wouldn’t surprise me if something like that happened, just to be honest. It’s funny, because I’m pretty sure it probably will happen. Somebody will take it into their own hands, and they’ll get suspended more than any of those guys got for the biggest cheating scandal in 100 years. It’ll be pretty ironic when that happens, because I’m sure that’s how it will end up playing out.”
Halep opens with Sorribes Tormo, Serena set for rematch – WTA Tennis
PARIS, France – 2018 champion Simona Halep will begin her quest for her second Coupe Suzanne Lenglen against Sara Sorribes Tormo, while Serena Williams faces a familiar foe in the first round of the French Open.
The draw for the last Grand Slam of 2020 was released today, featuring several mouth-watering first-round clashes and plenty of potential landmines for seeded players.
Top seed Halep will seek to build on her momentum after winning two clay titles in the buildup to Paris, lifting the Prague trophy and achieving her career first triumph in Rome last week. Halep is in the same quarter of the draw as No.5 seed Kiki Bertens, who opens against Ukraine’s Katarina Zavatska. The Romanian could face No.25 Amanda Anisimova in the third round, though an unseeded Jil Teichmann could derail those plans.
Elsewhere in Halep and Bertens’ top quarter, last year’s finalist Marketa Vondrousova, the No.15 seed, will take on 19-year-old Iga Swiatek, while No.9 seed Johanna Konta faces off against teen phenom Coco Gauff in the first round.
Karolina Pliskova, the No.2 seed, anchors the bottom quarter of the draw, and begins her Roland Garros campaign against a qualifier. A potential clash with former champion Jelena Ostapenko could be looming in the second round, should both players advance. The winner could get a third round match against former finalist Sloane Stephens, the No.29 seed who starts against Vitalia Diatchenko.
No.7 seed Petra Kvitova landed in the same quarter as fellow Czech player Pliskova, and will take on home hope Oceane Dodin in her first match. No.31 seed Magda Linette is a potential third round opponent, though the Polish player will have to get through the rising Canadian Leylah Fernandez in the first round.
No.18 seed Angelique Kerber was also drawn into this quarter, as she resumes her quest to complete the career Slam with a victory at Roland Garros. She is on a possible third-round collision course with former US Open finalist Madison Keys, the No.12 seed.
Elina Svitolina leads a stacked quarter highlighted by US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka and 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams. The No.3 seed herself will open against Varvara Gracheva, a rising Russian player who impressed with a run to the US Open third round in her Grand Slam debut. Svitolina could meet No.27 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova in the third round.
For the second tournament in a row, No.6 seed Serena will face Kristie Ahn in the first round as she kicks off her quest for an all-time record tying 24th Grand Slam crown. Should she advance, Serena could get another US Open rematch with Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round.
But the deja vu wouldn’t be over yet, as Serena could see familiar foe Azarenka as early as the round of 16, in a rematch of the pair’s electrifying US Open semifinal. Azarenka herself will start her French Open campaign against Danka Kovinic, and could face an unseeded Venus Williams in the second round.
To make things even more interesting, No.17 seed Anett Kontaveit, No.16 Elise Mertens and No.23 Yulia Putintseva have also landed in Svitolina, Serena and Azarenka’s quarter, ready to spring a potential upset.
No.4 seed Sofia Kenin tops a quarter of on-the-rise stars as she seeks to lift her second Grand Slam title. The Australian Open champion will face Liudmila Samsonova in the first round, with a potential third-round clash against No.26 Donna Vekic awaiting should both players advance.
No.8 seed Aryna Sabalenka and No.11 Garbine Muguruza have also been drawn into Kenin’s quarter and are on a Round of 16 collision course. They’ll have to get through their opening matches, with former champion Muguruza taking on Tamara Zidansek in the first round and Sabalenka starting against Jessica Pegula.
Two of the most in-form players of the year also make an appearance in this section, as No.30 seed Ons Jabeur and No.21 Jennifer Brady look to make their mark at Roland Garros. Jabeur, who became the first Arab woman to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam at the Australian Open, will take on Zarina Diyas in the first round, and could advance to face Muguruza in the third. Lexington champion Brady will start against a qualifier, and could meet Sabalenka in the third round herself.
To view the full draw, visit rolandgarros.com.
Jays win and clinch a playoff spot – Bluebird Banter
That was a nice game. A fun one for those of us who miss the idea of a pitcher going late into a game.
Hyun Jin Ryu went 7 innings, allowed 5 hits, 2 walks (1 short of his season high) with 4 strikeouts. He only really had trouble once, in the sixth inning, he allowed back-to-back singles to Luke Voit and Aaron Hicks, to start the inning, then he got Giancarlo Stanton to strikeout, Gleyber Torres to fly out and Gio Urshela to ground out.
Ryu gave up just one extra base hit, a Urshela double. And there were few hard hit outs.
Anthony Bass came in for the eighth and had all sorts of trouble, giving up a hit and 3 walks while getting just 2 outs. And one of the outs was on a very nice play by Vladimir Guerrero, going a long way towards second to get the ball and then making a nice throw get the fielder’s choice at second base. They came close to a double play, Bass (unusual for a Jays’ pitcher this season) got to first base in plenty of time, but Bo Bichette’s throw was just a bit late.
Rafael Dolis came in with the bases loaded and pinch-hitter Gary Sanchez up. Sanchez took a pitch high, but the ump called it a strike, then chased a pitch that bounce, then barely avoided a pitch inside off the plate. He should have let it hit him. Then Sanchez hit one to the wall in center field that Randal Grichuk got to and made a nice catch. Five feet further and the Yankees would have been in front.
Dolis, who hasn’t pitched in a few days, didn’t look all that sharp, but he got Aaron Judge to strikeout (on a full count) to start the ninth.
On offense, it was the big boy’s night. Vladimir Guerrero was 3 for 4, with a home run in the second inning and Alejandro Kirk had a 2-run double in the sixth.
In between we had back-to-back doubles from Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette to get our other run, in the third inning.
With 10 hits, maybe we should have scored more. Vlad had the 3 hits and Grichuk had 2. Everyone else had a hit excepting Teoscar Hernandez (0 for 3, walk, 2 strikeouts) and Danny Jansen (0 for 3, 2 strikeouts, after the two home run day yesterday). Then DJ LeMahieu struck out. But Voit tapped one up the third base line for an infield single. Thankfully Aaron Hicks chased strike three and the party was on.
Jays of the Day: Ryu (.386 WPA), Dolis (.125), Vlad (.133) and I’m giving one to Kirk (.067) just because it is near the end of the season and I don’t want to have a lot of these sitting around gathering dust all winter.
Suckage: No one had the number, but I’m giving one to Bass (-.077) for making me sweat.
We had 600 comments into the game thread. EMK19 led us to the playoff clinching win!
Murray blows minds, but Lakers’ defence shines late in Game 4 vs. Nuggets – Sportsnet.ca
The Denver Nuggets must really like being down 3–1.
On Thursday night, they became the first NBA team — and will likely remain the only team for at least a very, very long time — to go down 3–1 three separate times in the same playoff run.
Not that it was an academic win for the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, however. The game was tight throughout before the Lakers came up with a huge three-and-a-half minute defensive stand at the end of the fourth quarter to seal it 114–108.
Here are a few takeaways from the game:
All eyes on Murray
After Jamal Murray‘s performance in Game 3 — 28 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in 48 minutes — Nuggets head coach Mike Malone and Nikola Jokic both called him a “superstar,” and a bunch of national media seemed to agree. That’s as big a “reading his own press clippings” trap as there ever was. But it didn’t seem to affect Murray at all.
He started 3-for-3 for six points in the game’s first four minutes en route to 32 in the game.
Anything you can do…
Yes, Murray is a superstar. But the Lakers have two of those, too, and one of them came out of the gate even hotter than the guard from Kitchener, Ont. Anthony Davis scored the Lakers’ first 10 points, and started the game hitting his first seven shots.
Throughout the night, the Nuggets threw several defenders at him — from Jokic to Mason Plumlee to Paul Millsap — but none of them had much success. And when the Nuggets doubled, Davis found a couple of open shooters, leading to one clean early LeBron James look that resulted in three points.
He also had a hand in keeping Jokic’s contributions low, putting him in foul trouble and getting to the line a ton. Davis finished with 34 points on only 15 shots from the field — which is pretty damn good.
This is just a really nice pass
Did we mention Murray had a nice game? With the Lakers absolutely terrified of him putting the ball in the air in the first quarter, he drew the defence to him and did this:
— IV Sighters (@IVSighters) September 25, 2020
I don’t want to say it, but here it is: the playoffs are about adjustments. The Lakers got killed on the glass in Game 3, getting outrebounded by the Nuggets 44–25. In that game, starting centre Javale McGee and backup Dwight Howard combined for two boards.
So ahead of Game 4, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel moved Howard into the starting lineup, and was rewarded handsomely. Howard set the tone early in the first quarter with four straight points off putbacks. And he was just getting started. In the first half, he totalled 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting with 10 rebounds.
And Howard wasn’t the only one getting in on the offensive glass. The Lakers outscored the Nuggets 18–2 on second-chance points in the first half alone — essentially nullifying Denver’s super-hot shooting performance — and went into the break up by five.
By the end of the game, the Lakers had bested their previous game’s rebound total by 16 and outboarded their opponents 41–33.
Yes, but back to Murray
JAMAL MURRAY, ARE YOU KIDDING?!
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) September 25, 2020
After Murray hit that layup with 2:30 left in the second quarter, Reggie Miller said on the TNT broadcast that he’s going to get some Michael Jordan comparisons, and Chris Webber started laughing. He was going to say the same thing but thought he’d get killed for it. Guess not. So we’re officially in the “legitimate comparisons to MJ” stage of Murray’s insane playoff run.
The surge in appreciation for Murray isn’t just due to the consistency, efficiency and fourth-quarter bankability — it’s those things coupled with the degree of difficulty on a surprisingly large number of his shots. Spinning layups into shot-blockers? Faux-Euro-step straight-on bankers? Abrupt, no-lift floaters from in-between distances? He’s got all that and more, and he’s one of the most exciting players in the NBA because of it.
Danny Green has taken some heat from Lakers fans and general NBA watchers for his poor shooting in these playoffs, but what if I told you he hasn’t even been the worst-shooting starting shooting guard in this series?
After averaging 10.7 points on 50 per cent shooting (41.7 percent from deep) with nearly two steals per game in the Clippers series, Nuggets guard Gary Harris is putting up 4.5 points on sub-25 per cent shooting against the Lakers. He put up just three points Thursday in a playoff-low 19 minutes.
Suddenly Green’s 7.8 points on 28.6 per cent shooting in the first three games don’t look that bad. (Sort of.)
Despite the fact that Jokic had a rare quiet performance, the Nuggets kept this game within reach thanks to Murray — seriously, did we mention him? — and solid contributions from Jerami Grant, Michael Porter Jr. and Monte Morris, who finished with 17, 13 and 12 points, respectively.
But in the waning minutes of the game, James took over primary defence on Murray, and forced him into two missed running bank shots, which, given his performance to that point, was kind of jarring. (Full disclosure: Slow-mo replay of one of the shots made a James block look like a foul, but it wasn’t called.)
After the game, Vogel told reporters James asked for the assignment.
“LeBron asked for the assignment and obviously I granted it. He did a great job down the stretch,” Vogel said. “Nothing was really working to slow him down until LeBron took that assignment, so game ball to him.”
The Nuggets managed to shrink the Laker lead to three points on Morris’s and-one at the 3:28 mark, but missed all five of their shots afterwards. Game, Lakers, and now the Nuggets are left trying to come back from 3–1 — for a third time.
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