TORONTO – The easiest way for the Toronto Blue Jays to avoid the late-leverage issues that sunk their recent nine-game road trip and have dogged them all season is, rather obviously, to score enough runs that close-and-late spots don’t even happen.
To a certain degree, they’re built to win in a bludgeon-the-opposition fashion, using offence to provide the margin-of-error needed to mask other shortcomings. But putting up six-or-more runs isn’t always going to happen, even when the matchup suggests that should be the case.
Take Friday’s infuriating 4-1 loss in 10 innings to the Detroit Tigers, for example.
In theory, stacking a lineup with nine righties against left-hander Tyler Alexander, who began the night with an .848 OPS allowed against them, should have resulted in a relatively low-stress night for manager Charlie Montoyo and Co.
Factor in Robbie Ray starting and delivering his latest gem in a season that deserves more appreciation for how pivotal it’s been to the club’s fortunes, and everything seemed to have lined up in their favour.
Instead, late leverage once again found the Blue Jays, as Alexander escaped jams in the second and third unscathed, surrendered Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s 36th homer of the season – and first since Aug. 8 – leading off the fourth and then held things down through the seventh.
As a result, the Blue Jays once again had to sweat through the final frames, and once again failed to close out a tight game in their grasp, as a Ray wild pitch Alejandro Kirk allowed to slip through the wickets tied the game 1-1 in the eighth. They then compounded matters by squandering two on and none out in both the eighth and ninth innings, gifting an out to a wild Gregory Soto on a failed sacrifice bunt attempt in the latter frame.
That proved costly in the 10th when pinch-hitter Harold Castro stayed back on a Trevor Richards changeup and dunked it into left field to bring in Willi Castro with the go-ahead run, and after a walk, Adam Cimber surrendered run-scoring singles to Jonathan Schoop and Jeimer Candelario.
The entire rally came with two outs, adding to a cruel variation to an all-too-familiar fate for the Blue Jays, who went quietly in the bottom half to lose for the sixth time in seven games and fall to 2-8 in extra innings before a crowd of 14,649.
“We didn’t execute,” lamented Montoyo. “That’s the deal.”
That applied well beyond the bullpen on this night, as the offence went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position while hitting into four double plays. Then, in the critical moments, there was Kirk not blocking the Ray pitch, Valera bunting to first instead of third, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. uncorking a wild throw toward the Tigers dugout when he had a chance to get Castro at the plate and keep the game tied.
“I thought the guy was going to be out by a mile and Gurriel is really accurate, one of the most accurate outfielders. And when things don’t go your way, it’s funny, he makes a throw that’s not even close,” said Montoyo, who added later: “When you’re trying to win, you try a little harder. That’s just not how it goes. It should be the other way around – calm down.
“And you can tell we’re trying hard because our guy on the mound was lights out, like he’s always been, did an outstanding job for eight innings, gave us a chance, and maybe we were trying too hard to score for him. We didn’t do it.”
A lack of recent bullpen execution is one reason Montoyo chose to ride Ray, even as his pitch count climbed all the way to 109, in a comment both on how dominant the lefty was, and the Blue Jays’ lack of faith in the options behind him.
Essentially they preferred having Ray at the end of his night face Robbie Grossman and Schoop a fourth time to any of their fresh set-up arms right after an off-day – a call validated by the 10th inning.
No matter, as everything the Blue Jays do in leverage outside of Jordan Romano of late seems to backfire, the way it did again this time. Zack Short opened the eighth with a single, was promptly sacrificed to second by Grayson Greiner and then cleverly stole third to force the infield in for Grossman.
His fly ball to right field wasn’t deep enough to score the run but with Schoop up, Ray bounced a slider through Kirk’s five-hole and poof went the lead. Schoop struck out two pitches later, capping a brilliant eight-inning, five-hit, 11-strikeout from Ray that wasn’t enough.
The missed opportunities in the eighth and ninth followed, with Valera put in to hit for Kirk and bunt Soto’s all over the place 100 m.p.h. He missed on his first two attempts and then with two strikes pushed one right to a charging Schoop at first, who fired across the diamond to get the lead runner. Randal Grichuk followed with his second double play of the night.
“We’re not scoring runs, that’s obvious,” said Montoyo. “We just wanted to put the pressure on the other pitcher. (Valera) has got to bunt to the third-base side because Schoop was right there. Now anything (in play) wins the game. We just didn’t execute.”
After Romano pitched a clean ninth, that led to Richards in the 10th and more frustration.
“Trevor makes his pitch there – changeup, a foot off the plate and a guy dumps it into left field,” said Ray. “It’s just a tough break. You make your pitch and sometimes that happens. It’s no fault of anybody’s in that situation. You tip your cap. It was definitely tough to watch but we’re going to come back tomorrow and get back at it.”
There’s no alternative for the Blue Jays, who amid a softer portion of their schedule aren’t pitching well when they hit, aren’t hitting well when they pitch, and not playing a tight enough game to make up the gaps.
Blue Jays' stadium capacity to rise to 30,000 as Ontario increases limits for sporting and event spaces – CBC.ca
The Toronto Blue Jays will get a home-field advantage boost when they return to Rogers Centre next week.
Seating capacity at the downtown stadium will be doubled to 30,000 starting with Tuesday night’s series opener against the New York Yankees.
The Blue Jays received approval from the Ontario government for the increase on Friday.
Ontario announced Friday it is easing capacity limits in certain sports and event venues that require proof of vaccination.
Starting Saturday, capacity limits at outdoor events where people stand will increase to up to 75 per cent capacity or 15,000 people, whichever is less.
For outdoor events where people are seated, capacity limits will be increased to up to 75 per cent capacity or 30,000 people. Proof of vaccination will now be required in outdoor settings where the normal capacity is 20,000 people or more.
The Rogers Centre will be treated as an outdoor venue even with the roof closed, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said, citing the building’s ventilation system.
Noting almost 80 per cent of eligible Ontarians are fully vaccinated, Moore said “we are able to recommend cautiously easing capacity limits in certain settings.”
The Blue Jays announced Thursday that they would make additional tickets available for their final home stand next week. They were hopeful that government regulations would be loosened for those six games and any post-season home games should the team qualify.
Forced to play south of the border last season and part of this season due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, the Blue Jays received clearance to return home in mid-July.
The team played its 2021 Rogers Centre opener on July 30 after receiving a national interest travel exemption from the federal government. The Blue Jays were approved to treat the stadium as an outdoor venue at just less than one-third of the stadium’s regular 49,000-seat capacity.
Other professional teams in the province, including NHL, MLS and CFL clubs, returned to play earlier this year with limited attendance due to government restrictions.
Attendance for Maple Leaf and Raptors games at Scotiabank Arena will be capped at 50 per cent capacity starting Saturday.
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, could certainly use the extra boost from a raucous home crowd as Canada’s lone Major League Baseball club makes a push for the post-season.
Toronto, currently wrapping up a road trip with a weekend series in Minnesota, will entertain the Yankees in a critical three-game set before closing out the regular season against the Baltimore Orioles next weekend.
The Blue Jays will open the stadium’s top deck — the 500 level — for the first time this season and additional seats were made available in the 100 and 200 levels. The team would have issued refunds to ticket purchasers if capacity was not expanded.
Team president Mark Shapiro has said the stadium’s retractable roof would be open as long as the weather allows, and additional measures had been taken to ensure proper ventilation.
The Blue Jays require proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for all fans aged 12 and older upon entering Rogers Centre. A negative COVID-19 test is no longer accepted except for individuals with a doctor’s note indicating they can’t receive the vaccine due to medical exemptions.
The Blue Jays played last year’s condensed schedule at the home field of their triple-A affiliate in Buffalo. The team started the 2021 campaign at its spring training home in Dunedin, Fla., before moving back to Buffalo and then finally to Toronto.
Entering play Friday, Toronto was one game behind New York in the race for the second American League wild-card spot. The Yankees were two games behind the Boston Red Sox, who held the first spot.
The AL wild-card game is scheduled for Oct. 5. The winner advances to a best-of-five AL Division Series starting Oct. 7.
The Blue Jays reached the playoffs last season but were swept by the Tampa Bay Rays in a best-of-three wild-card series. It was Toronto’s first post-season appearance since 2016.
Toronto’s last World Series title came in 1993.
Rory McIlroy is sitting a Ryder Cup session for the first time in his career – Golf Channel
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – For the first time in a storied Ryder Cup career, Rory McIlroy will play the role of cheerleader on Saturday at Whistling Straits.
McIlroy was not in European captain Padraig Harrington’s foursomes lineup after going 0-2, including a 5-and-3 loss to Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele in the morning foursomes session, on Day 1 at Whistling Straits. Paired with Shane Lowry in the afternoon fourball session McIlroy lost, 4 and 3.
“He’s already a leader. You saw him out there after a tough day, he was out following those matches and supporting his team,” Harrington said. “He is very much a leader amongst his peers and I couldn’t have asked more from him during the year, I couldn’t have asked more from him today.”
McIlroy had played 26 consecutive matches (including his singles starts) before Saturday. Because of weather delays in Wales in 2010 that forced officials to combine the second and third sessions he only played four times.
McIlroy’s overall record in the Ryder Cup is now 11-11-4.
Wiggins denied COVID-19 vaccination exemption by NBA – CTV News
GREENBURGH, N.Y. —
The NBA has denied Andrew Wiggins’ request for a vaccination exemption, leaving the Golden State Warriors swingman ineligible to play home games until he meets San Francisco’s vaccination requirement.
The ruling was announced Friday hours after the New York Knicks said their entire roster is vaccinated, making all their players eligible to play in their home games.
Because of local coronavirus regulations in New York and San Francisco, the Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Warriors are required to be vaccinated to play in their home arenas unless exemptions for medical or religious reasons apply.
Wiggins sought an exemption from the league for religious reasons.
“The NBA has reviewed and denied Andrew Wiggins’ request for religious exemption from the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s order requiring COVID-19 vaccination for all participants age 12 and older at large indoor events,” the league said in a statement. “Wiggins will not be able to play in Warriors home games until he fulfills the city’s vaccination requirements.”
Unvaccinated players are allowed to play this season, though the NBA has said that they will have to be tested daily on practice and travel days and at least once — possibly more — on game days, while fully vaccinated players will not be subject to daily testing.
However, the Knicks, Nets and Warriors face stricter rules because of their local regulations, which the NBA has told teams do not apply to clubs visiting them.
The Knicks are the first of those teams to say they have met the mandate.
“I’m proud to say that our organization — players, coaches and staff — are 100 percent vaccinated,” general manager Scott Perry said Friday. “And I think it’s a credit to our players, too, in particular that they took this thing very seriously and took the responsibility to get that done.”
Nets general manager Sean Marks said earlier this week that a couple players wouldn’t yet be eligible, but he was confident everyone would be able to participate by the time the regular season began on Oct. 19.
Wiggins still has time, as San Francisco’s mandate doesn’t take effect until the middle of next month. Training camps open Tuesday.
The NBA has struck agreements this offseason to have virtually all parties involved in games — referees, coaches, stat-crew workers and anyone else who will be in close proximity to players on or off the court in NBA arenas — vaccinated in order to participate.
The one exception: The players themselves, with the National Basketball Players Association rebuking all efforts from the NBA to mandate that they be vaccinated. About 85% of players were vaccinated at the end of last season. The leaguewide figure is believed to have increased since.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau credited the Knicks’ medical staff for keeping the organization educated and aware about virus protocols. Perry praised the players for acting on the information they were given, saying their decision to get vaccinated was unrelated to any rules.
“As an organization we’re obviously following laws and mandates for the league and state government, but a lot of this was internal, internally driven,” Perry said.
AP basketball writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.
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