NEW YORK — Julian Merryweather had to get used to fans in the stands, having debuted last summer in an empty ballpark. He was surprised the 10th inning started with a runner on second.
No matter. The Toronto Blue Jays turned Yankee Stadium as silent as it was during a 2020 season played without fans.
Randal Grichuk led off the 10th with an RBI double, Merryweather struck out the side on 11 pitches in the bottom half, and the Blue Jays took advantage of the second year of COVID-era rule starting starting extra innings with a runner on to beat New York 3-2 Thursday in the major league opener.
“It was definitely weird,” Merryweather said. “I asked a few people: What are all these people doing here? Who are these people? But it was great to have fans again.. … the moment itself, being in Yankee Stadium was pretty surreal. That’s like Little League dreams right there.”
Merryweather felt energy from the fans. But he didn’t realize the runner on second in extras rule returned until bullpen coach Matt Buschmann told him.
“I forgot,” Merryweather recalled. “Oh God, there’s going to be a runner on second.”
He fanned Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton on three pitches each, started Gleyber Torres with two strikes, then threw a ball and got a foul before getting him to swing past a 99 mph offering.
“I’m definitely calling my mom,” the 29-year-old right-hander said. “She’s probably called me five times freaking out.”
Merryweather was acquired in the 2018 trade that sent star third baseman Josh Donaldson to Cleveland. Now with Minnesota, Donaldson left the Twins’ season opener with hamstring tightness on Thursday.
Teoscar Hernández tied the score in the sixth inning with a 437-foot homer on a hanging slider from Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, whose parents were in the crowd to watch him in person in at Yankee Stadium for the first time with New York.
“I just want that slider back,” said Cole, who slapped his glove against the bench four times after he came out.
Fans had not been at Yankee Stadium for 532 days since the loss to Houston in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series on Oct. 18, 2019. They had to show proof of complete vaccination at least two weeks earlier or a recent negative COVID-19 test. Masks were required, and groups were separated by empty seats into pods.
“Obviously it didn’t end the way you want to where you’re shaking hands, but it definitely was special having a crowd back,’” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Even though we’re 20% capacity, you could feel their energy and feel them waiting to erupt.”
Attendance was announced as 10,850. Before its first homestand at its spring training ballpark in Dunedin, Florida — the Canadian government won’t allow the Blue Jays to play at home due to coronavirus restrictions — Toronto plays Monday in the home opener of Texas, the only big league ballpark allowed 100% capacity at the season’s start.
“That’s going to be exciting because we all are going to feel normal playing the game that we love,” Hernández said. “Getting fans back on the field as it was three, four years ago, it makes us really good because the game is going back to normal.”
Cole, starting the second season of his $324 million, nine-year deal, allowed two runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings with eight strikeouts and two starts. He fell behind on Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s RBI single in the second.
Toronto’s Hyun Jin Ryu gave up four hits in 5 1/3 innings, including Gary Sánchez’s two-run homer in the second.
David Phelps escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh by getting Aaron Judge to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Jordan Romano of Markham, Ont., (1-0) escaped trouble in the ninth with the help of third baseman Cavan Biggio. After pinch-runner Michael Tauchman stole two bases, he was thrown out at the plate by Biggio trying to score on a grounder by AL batting champion DJ LeMahieu. Romano struck out Judge to strand two runners.
Nick Nelson (0-1) relieved to begin the 10th and with pinch-runner Jonathan Davis on second, allowed Grichuk’s double.
On an afternoon with a game time temperature of 43 degrees, the Yankees played their first extra-innings opener since 1987.
A reduced group of Bleacher Creatures shouted the Roll Call from the right-field seats in the top of the first, and first baseman Jay Bruce raised his right arm in a spirited response. Cole turned to the bleachers to survey the scene when Biggio’s foul ball provided a momentary break.
“Having that buzz, having the energy back in the Stadium was something special,” Judge said. “I was talking with a couple guys, talking with the umpires, everybody missed it. Those fans, that energy, that makes the game.”
A fan tried to grab the ball from Judge’s glove when he caught Rowdy Tellez’s foul fly for the final out of the ninth.
“It’s their first game back at the Stadium, in a long time,” Judge said. “So I’ll give them that one.”
Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo got his 100th win as a manager league manager.
MOVING ACROSS THE DIAMOND
Marcus Semien, making his Blue Jays’ debut, made a diving stop in his first game at second base since Sept. 26, 2014, and threw out LeMahieu for the final out of the fifth with two on.
Yankees 1B Luke Voit used a cane during the introductions following knee surgery Monday.
RHP Corey Kluber, a two-time AL Cy Young Award winner limited to one inning during the last two seasons due to injuries, makes his Yankees debut Saturday. RHP Ross Stripling starts for the Blue Jays.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Oilers Rookie Notebook: Dylan Holloway’s wrist injury a tough blow – Sportsnet.ca
EDMONTON — The first blow came even before Edmonton Oilers rookie camp had opened, with prized prospect Dylan Holloway going under the knife Tuesday to repair a broken scaphoid bone in his left wrist.
What made it even more disappointing was, after busting the bone in the NCAA playoffs with the University of Wisconsin, Holloway had surgery after Wisconsin’s season ended in late March in Chicago that was designed to have him ready to play hockey this fall. But that surgery failed.
Holloway, Edmonton’s first-round pick in 2020 (14th overall) lunched with Holland during a Calgary world junior camp in August, and the Oilers GM didn’t like what he heard.
“He was telling me that he couldn’t shoot, couldn’t take draws. He was getting frustrated,” Holland said. “We were five to six months down the road … and there was very little healing going on. Probably about 30 per cent. The decision was made: nothing was really happening, and we’d need to start the process all over again.”
Holloway is only 19, but can play in the American Hockey League. He was likely destined for Bakersfield this year, which is definitely where he will be assigned when he heals up sometime around the new year.
No Room At The Inn
The Oilers roster is pretty much set with veterans, with precious few (if any) spots for a youngster to worm his way into the NHL.
But two left shot defencemen who may have the best shot — along with left winger Tyler Benson — are both in town and ready to begin their North American transition in earnest. Dmitri Samorukov and Philip Broberg are at the Rookie Camp prep’ing for main camp, where it isn’t a total reach that one might be able to stick around.
“They’re both going to be in North America,” said Holland, who had good news when doctors cleared Samorukov for full contact after a January shoulder injury suffered in Moscow. “He was playing very well in the KHL, but hasn’t played hockey since January. Two years of pro — one in Bakersfield, one in (the KHL) — and I’m also excited to see where Broberg is at, like everybody else.
“Do they force their way onto the Edmonton Oilers roster? Or do they have to go down to the American League and continue their development into NHL defencemen? That’s what we’re trying to find out, but they are both here (in North America) to stay.”
Samorukov, 22, played a season in Bakersfield then went home to CSKA Moscow last year, the club where he was raised as a player. Broberg, 20, spent two developmental seasons in Sweden’s top league with Skelleftea, while limping through the 2021 World Junior here in Edmonton.
“I had a knee injury and a shoulder injury at the World Juniors. It was difficult,” said the defenceman, who played through the pain. “It is an honour to play for your country, especially at the World Juniors.”
Broberg said he was about “80 percent” when he returned to Skelleftea, and by season’s end, his minutes were down. Samorukov injured his shoulder in a January battle drill during practice and lost the back half of his KHL season, but says the last two seasons have him ready to challenge for a spot on an NHL blue line.
“When I first came to the AHL two years ago, it was really good for me. Learning how to be a pro player,” he said. “Then, the season in the KHL, I established myself as a pro player. Now, we’re trying to knock in the door. To do our best.”
Remember, Samorukov first came over as a 17-year-old to play three junior seasons for the Guelph Storm. He had 45 points in 59 games in his 19-year-old season and then nicely quarterbacked the Russian powerplay at the World Juniors in Vancouver-Victoria. But the 197-pounmder has settled on a less offensive game as a pro.
“Of course when you come from junior you have a lot of points. You think you might be something special,” he smiled. “Then you realize you have some guys who can really get points. (You learn) what kind of game you have to play. I know who I am right now.”
Samorukov was part of the ask by Arizona when they were peddling goalie Darcy Kuemper, a package considered too rich by Holland. Now, we’ll begin to get a closer look at the 2017 third-rounder, who moves a nice puck and stands six-foot-three.
“This rookie camp offers him a good chance to get up and running,” said Bakersfield head coach Jay Woodcroft, “so he’s feeling confident heading into main camp next week.”
Is this finally the year that Tyler Benson cracks the Oilers roster? It had better be — he is waiver eligible now, at age 23 years of age with four pro seasons under his belt.
With left wingers Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Warren Foegele in town, it’s pretty clear that Benson will have to make the club as a fourth-line left-winger and try to move up from there. He’s in against Devin Shore and Brendan Perlini for that 4-LW spot, as a former candidate for exceptional status as a junior now finds himself in a utility role if he wants to get his NHL career off the ground.
“We came up with a plan to develop different areas of his game (in Bakersfield last season),” Woodcroft said. “For example, his board work. Introducing him to the penalty kill. Something he had minimal experience on, but something we felt provided a line of sight or a pathway to … make our parent club.
“Tyler was a point-per-game player last year and played on what I felt was the most dominant line in the Pacific Division of the AHL. He made plays,” his coach said. “The opportunity before him is obvious. He feels like he’s in top shape, mentally ready to go, and he’s excited about that opportunity.”
Edmonton’s recent first-round pick (22nd overall) Xavier Bourgault hit the gym hard this summer, putting on 10 lbs. He comes to camp at six feet tall and 172 pounds, so he has a ways to go.
Blue Jays optimistic Jose Berrios won’t miss next start after abdominal scare – Sportsnet.ca
After the Blue Jays’ 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the team reported that Berrios left the game due to abdominal tightness on his left side and received post-game treatment.
Berrios threw seven innings of one run ball Tuesday, striking out six and allowing only four hits.
“He’s doing fine,” Montoyo said. “He’s doing a lot better than we thought, which is great news. Actually, you might get to see him playing catch in a little bit to see how he’s doing. He did all the tests. Everything looks good.”
The right-handed pitcher who the Blue Jays acquired at the trade deadline is 11-8 on the season, with a 3.43 ERA in 173.1 innings pitched.
The Blue Jays wrap up their series with the Rays on Wednesday at 3:07 p.m. ET/ 12:07 p.m. PT on Sportsnet and SN Now.
France to open Billie Jean King Cup defence against Canada
Reigning champions France will kick off this year’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Prague against Canada on Nov. 1, with the final scheduled for Nov. 6, the International Tennis Federation said on Wednesday.
Formerly called the Fed Cup, the women’s team competition featuring 12 nations was originally scheduled to be held in Budapest in April last year before being postponed twice due to the pandemic.
France triumphed in the 2019 edition when a team featuring Kristina Mladenovic, Caroline Garcia and Pauline Parmentier defeated Australia.
This year, Belgium, the 2001 winners, will face 2017 runners-up Belarus on the opening day, while eleven-times winners Czech Republic will play on Nov. 1 and Nov. 4.
The competing nations will each play two group-stage ties to determine the winners of the four three-team groups, who will then progress to the semi-finals. Each tie will consist of two singles matches and a doubles match.
Germany, Spain, Slovakia, Australia, the U.S., Russia and Switzerland will be the other nations competing.
(Reporting by Anuron Kumar Mitra in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)
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