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Blue Jays outlast Yankees in extra innings to pick up opening day win – CBC.ca

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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.”

WATCH | The National: Jays begin another abnormal season in COVID era:

The Blue Jays have played their opening game in their second pandemic season. And though fans hope it’s longer than last year’s 60-game schedule, it’s still too early to tell if the Jays will play any games on Canadian soil. 1:50

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 Hernandez 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 in attendance

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 per cent 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 per cent 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,” Hernandez 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.”

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Jamie Strashin joins John Northcott to preview Jays’ season: 

Jamie Strashin of CBC Sports joins John Northcott on CBC News Network to discuss today’s Blue Jays season opener. 3:18

Cole, starting the second season of his $324 million US, 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 Sanchez’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.”

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Boston Bruins Add Offense With Solid Taylor Hall Trade – Boston Hockey Now

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The Boston Bruins clearly understood they had serious deficiencies on their NHL roster this season and credit them for going and doing something about it.

The B’s finished off their Sunday night fireworks ahead of the NHL trade deadline by sending a second round pick and Anders Bjork to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for top-6 winger Taylor Hall and bottom-6 forward Curtis Lazar. TSN’s Darren Dreger, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and ESPN’s John Buccigross were the first to report about the completed deal between the Bruins and Buffalo Sabres in the hours following the B’s getting stomped by the Washington Capitals, 8-1, at TD Garden.

The Buffalo Sabres retained half of the $8 million salary that Hall signed for prior to the start of the 2021 hockey season.

The 29-year-old Hall is having a terrible season in Buffalo with just two goals and 19 points in 37 games along with a minus-21 rating after he chose to sign a one-year deal with the Sabres during the offseason. But he brings legitimate offensive talent as a former No. 1 overall pick and Hart Trophy winner to a Boston Bruins team that’s ranked in the bottom third of the NHL offensively all season.

The Bruins were one of the suitors for Hall prior to him choosing the Sabres months ago, and now they get him for a deep discount while keeping their own first round picks after making their deadline deals.

Holding onto their own first round pick was a priority for Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney after spending first rounders at the deadline in two of the last three deadlines in trades for damaged goods Rick Nash and Ondrej Kase.

The 26-year-old Lazar has five goals and 11 points in 33 games as a bottom-6 forward for the Sabres this season and is signed for $800,000 for next season. It seemed clear that something was going on with the 24-year-old Anders Bjork over the last couple of weeks as he was a healthy scratch for five straight games, including Sunday night against Washington, and heads to Buffalo hoping to further develop a game built on speed and skill level that hasn’t translated into offense as of yet.

Hall should fit right into the top-6 with the Bruins as a skilled winger for playmaking center David Krejci, but it remains to be seen how he’s going to fit as another left winger on a team with Nick Ritchie and Jake DeBrusk.

Either Ritchie or DeBrusk is going to have to play the off wing with a Krejci/Hall combo, but that’s a problem that Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy will gladly figure out after being forced to piece together lineups all season due to injuries and offensive inconsistency. With the acquisition of Hall, Lazar and left-handed defenseman Mike Reilly on Sunday night, it would appear the Boston Bruins are largely done with deals ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

Interestingly enough, the Boston Bruins are set to play the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at TD Garden.

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Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca

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It was something Dominique Ducharme said after his Montreal Canadiens played an abysmal game against the Ottawa Senators last week, something that only truly resonated after they lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday — a game that emboldened the struggle Jonathan Drouin’s currently enduring.

“Ninety per cent of the mistakes we made were mental, and the rest of it was above our shoulders.” the coach said after the 6-3 loss to Ottawa last Saturday, somewhat channelling New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra with this bit of wit and wisdom.

It was hard not to think of those words watching Drouin play the way he did on Wednesday. For much of this season, the talented left winger has played a primary role in Montreal’s success. He’s led them with 19 assists, been tenacious on the forecheck, physically engaged all over the ice, cerebral as always in his execution and, as he’s said on several occasions, relatively unconcerned by whether or not his name has been featured on the scoresheet.

But it seemed clear, after watching Drouin dump a breakaway into Jack Campbell’s chest with one of 32 shots the Maple Leafs goaltender turned aside to set a franchise record with his 10th consecutive win, he had diverted from that. And that affected the way he played the rest of the game.

It was Drouin’s fifth in a row without a point, his 18th without a goal, and he’d have to be a robot not to be suffering the mental wear of not seeing the puck go in more than twice since the season started, the torment of seeing only three per cent of his shots hit the back of the net through 36 games after 10 per cent of them resulted in goals through the first 348 games of his career.

“It is weighing on me where, when I have a chance and miss the goal, I might be trying to score too much,” Drouin said. “It’s something I obviously think about — every player would — and I’ve just gotta put it past me and just keep shooting pucks.”

Ideally, the 26-year-old wouldn’t be thinking about any of this. These are thoughts that weigh a player down and right now the Canadiens are in tough without Brendan Gallagher for the rest of the season and Drouin needs to be light and free to help account for that loss. And in order for him to do that, he needs to focus on what he does best.

Because the reality is that even though Drouin can score more, scoring isn’t what he needs to do in order to be at his best and really help this team.

“When his feet are moving and he’s making plays, Drou’s a pass-first guy,” explained Jake Allen, who made 29 saves in Carey Price’s absence. “When his feet are moving, his head’s always in it. When his feet are moving, he’s controlling the play, controlling the puck. He’s a guy who really can control the play for a whole line. You want the puck on that guy’s stick and let the other guys do the dirty work and he’ll find them.”

But when Drouin’s feet aren’t moving, there just isn’t enough of that other stuff happening.

When Drouin’s feet weren’t moving, he lost a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and allowed the NHL’s leading goal scorer to start the rush that resulted in the winning play of Wednesday’s game.

Auston Matthews to Mitch Marner, back to Matthews, off Allen and slammed into Montreal’s net by Zach Hyman with 9:39 remaining in the third period, with Drouin watching from just inside his own blue line.

“You give a 3-on-2 to the Matthews line and it’s the kind of play they’re going to make you pay on,” said Ducharme.

Was Drouin still thinking about that shot he didn’t bury in the second period?

It’s understandable if he was, but those are the kind of thoughts he needs to shake right now.

“He wants to do well, and I’m sure it’s getting a little bit in his head,” said Ducharme. “I think the best remedy for him is to be scoring that goal or making that big play, and I think he’s going to be energized by that and less thinking, more acting.

“It is a fine line. Those kind of thoughts is not something that you want to happen. But when you receive that puck and you see the opening and stuff, (the slump) comes back to (your mind). That’s why the mental part of the game is something that’s very tricky. It’s not his will to be thinking that way. Every player who’s going through a time like that will have that thought and scoring that goal will take him to a different level. At those kind of times you need to make it even simpler and being even more inside going at the net and finding a garbage (goal) right there and you put it in and sometimes you go on a little run. It might be that kind of goal that he needs to get that monkey off his back.”

It’s the kind of goal Corey Perry scored twice to give the Canadiens a chance in this game.

But Drouin isn’t Perry, who rightly pointed out after the game he’s made a career of scoring goals that way. And even if Drouin can borrow from what Perry does next time he has a chance like the one Brett Kulak set him up with for that breakaway, there are other ways he can positively impact the game.

You can appreciate that Drouin said he’s putting pressure on himself to score more and help make up for the goals the team will be missing with Gallagher sidelined, but that might not get him to where he needs to be mentally to contribute as much as he already has this season.

What would, though, is a sharp turn towards the mentality he described just days ago. The one that’s enabled him to be a much more consistent player this season than he has in seasons past.

“When I was younger, I’d stay on one game or stay on one play for too long and wouldn’t be able to let it go for a bit or a couple of days,” Drouin said. “But I think for me now it’s can I look at myself in the mirror after a game and did I give my good effort? Was I a part of this game? Was I doing something right in a lot of areas?

“That’s what I do now. I think points are there, goals are there, assists are there, but it’s just about playing that real game and playing to help your team win.”

Drouin’s done a lot of that this season and has a chance to get right back to it when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre Thursday.

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Scioscia to lead U.S. baseball bid for spot at Tokyo Olympics

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(Reuters) – Mike Scioscia, who won World Series both as a player and manager, was named manager of the U.S. men’s national baseball team on Tuesday, as they seek a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

After 19 seasons as manager of the Anaheim Angels, guiding them to their only World Series win in 2002, Scioscia will make his international coaching debut in June when the United States hosts the Baseball Americas Qualifier in Florida.

For the tournament the U.S. will be grouped with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua in Pool A while Canada, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela will make up Pool B.

The top two teams from each pool will advance to the Super Round, where the country with the best overall record will earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympic tournament.

Second and third-place finishers will advance to a final qualifier, joining Australia, China, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.

“Mike’s tenure with the Angels’ franchise was nothing short of spectacular, creating and celebrating a culture of success with six division titles, an American League pennant, and its first-ever World Series title,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler in a statement. “More impactfully, his leadership, integrity, and character are unparalleled in our game, making him the perfect fit for the USA Baseball family.”

The Olympic tournament will take place from July 28-Aug. 7 in Fukushima City and Yokohama.

Hosts Japan, Israel, South Korea, and Mexico have already secured a berth in the six-team field.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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