BUFFALO, United States — 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.
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.
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.
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.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2020.
Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.
Murray leads as Cardinals cruise past Cowboys – TSN
ARLINGTON, Texas — Maybe Kyler Murray will lose a game on the home field of the Dallas Cowboys one of these days.
It wasn’t going to be on a night when the Arizona quarterback watched the star running back of his hometown team have another night of fumble-itis.
Murray accounted for three touchdowns in his first game back home as a pro, Ezekiel Elliott set up the visiting team’s first two TDs with fumbles and the Cardinals beat the Dallas Cowboys 38-10 on Monday night.
The speedy quarterback who won three high school championships and a Big 12 title at the home of the Cowboys improved to 7-0 as a starter at AT&T Stadium, throwing for two scores despite a rough start through the air and rushing for 74 yards and a TD.
“That’s not easy when that’s what everyone has been talking about all week,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “He’s probably had this one circled on his calendar since it came out. But I thought he handled himself well.”
It was the “Monday Night Football” debut for Murray, a star in high school football-obsessed Texas while playing in the Dallas suburbs, and Kingsbury, who also had a happy first trip to his native Texas as an NFL coach.
“It was fun, brought back a lot of memories,” Murray said. “Felt like I’ve been playing there every Sunday honestly. It’s comfortable, felt good.”
Fired after six seasons at Texas Tech in 2018 without any winning records in Big 12 games, Kingsbury was hired by Arizona soon after and has the Cardinals (4-2) tied for second place in the tough NFC West. Arizona is above .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2015, its most recent playoff year.
Andy Dalton had the rest of Dallas’ four turnovers with two interceptions in his first start for the Cowboys in place of injured star Dak Prescott, just down the road from where he had a standout career at TCU.
The nine-year starter in Cincinnati led a come-from-behind victory over the New York Giants in Week 5 after the gruesome-looking compound fracture of Prescott’s right ankle. There wasn’t anything resembling a rally this time.
While the Dallas offence didn’t look anything close to the NFL-leading unit it was with Prescott — and lost the fourth of its five projected starting offensive linemen in four-time All-Pro Zack Martin (first-quarter concussion) — Elliott’s miscues led to the fifth straight game in which the Cowboys have trailed by at least two touchdowns.
The Cowboys (2-4) overcame two of those deficits, which is why they were guaranteed to stay in first place in the woeful NFC East no matter what happened in the last of three straight home games — and a third straight road game for Arizona.
“The record, it is what it is right now, the division is what it is right now, but it’s still early,” Dalton said. “There’s a lot of football left to be played, and for us, we’ve got to improve as a football team.”
Elliott was benched briefly after the two-time rushing champion lost a second fumble in the same game for the first time in his career. He has five fumbles (four lost) already this season — one shy of his career high for an entire season as the NFL’s worst turnover margin dropped to minus-12 with four giveaways and no takeaways.
Murray was playing in the $1.2 billion stadium with the retractable roof and giant video board for the first time since leading Oklahoma over rival Texas there in the Big 12 championship game.
While the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner misfired on eight of his first 11 passes and finished 9 of 24 for 188 yards, Murray hit Christian Kirk in stride on an 80-yard touchdown for a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.
“It wasn’t as good as it should have been,” said Murray, who tied Jim Hart’s 1968 franchise season record for QBs with his sixth rushing TD. “Wasn’t as accurate as I should have been. Wasn’t up to par for my standards, so I’ve got to be better.”
Kirk opened the scoring on a 6-yard jet sweep that counted as a pass after the first fumble from Elliott. Kenyan Drake scored from the 1 after the second Elliott miscue, while Murray added a 1-yard TD run.
With the game out of hand in the final two minutes, Drake broke free for a 69-yard touchdown run, giving him 164 yards.
A former Texas A&M standout, Kirk came in with two 100-yard games and five touchdowns in three wins over Arkansas at the home of the Cowboys. Both of his catches in this game were for scores.
“When the bright lights come on, the cream of the crop rises,” Kirk said. “It’s something about big moments, the level of play always elevates. It’s just rising to the occasion.”
Martin was briefly injured and returned, then went out for good after taking a knee to the helmet. Second-year player Connor McGovern took his spot, leaving left guard Connor Williams as the only preseason starter still in the lineup.
The Cowboys have had fans at all four home games, with the biggest so far (barely) at 25,174 against the Cardinals. While it was the most coronavirus-friendly setting so far with the retractable roof open for the first time, TV shots showed plenty of fans without masks over their noses. Dallas is filling about 31% of the 80,000-seat stadium. The state allows up to 50%.
Cardinals: Seattle at home Sunday to start a stretch of three straight home games that is also scheduled to include the bye, meaning Arizona won’t be on the road for a month barring COVID-19 changes.
Cowboys: Washington on Sunday in the first of two consecutive road games against NFC East opponents.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
U.S., Britain call out Russian hacking spree, cyberattacks against Olympics – CNBC
Britain and the United States on Monday condemned what they said were a litany of malicious cyberattacks orchestrated by Russian military intelligence, including attempts to disrupt next year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
British and U.S. officials said the attacks were conducted by Unit 74455 of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, also known as the Main Centre for Special Technologies.
In an indictment unsealed on Monday, the U.S. Justice Department said six members of the unit had played key roles in attacks on targets ranging from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to the 2017 French elections. The charges covered four years of malicious cyber activity, from 2015 to 2019.
British officials said the GRU hackers had also conducted “cyber reconnaissance” operations against organisers of the 2020 Tokyo Games, which were originally scheduled to be held this year but postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The officials declined to give specific details about the attacks or whether they were successful, but said they had targeted Games organisers, logistics suppliers and sponsors.
Justice Department Assistant Attorney General John Demers declined to discuss the more recent attacks against the 2020 Games.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The GRU’s actions against the Olympic and Paralympic Games are cynical and reckless. We condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”
FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said: “The FBI has repeatedly warned that Russia is a highly capable cyber adversary, and the information revealed in this indictment illustrates how pervasive and destructive Russia’s cyber activities truly are.”
Russia was banned from the world’s top sporting events for four years in December over widespread doping offences, including the Tokyo Games which were originally scheduled for this year but postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The attacks on the 2020 Games are the latest in a string of hacking attempts against international sporting organisations that Western officials and cybersecurity experts say have been orchestrated by Russia since its doping scandal erupted five years ago. Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Britain and the United States said on Monday the hackers were involved in other attacks, such as the hack of the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in South Korea, which compromised hundreds of computers, took down Internet access and disrupted broadcast feeds.
The attack in South Korea had previously been linked to Russia by cybersecurity researchers but was made to look like the work of Chinese or North Korean hackers, Britain’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
“The attacks on the 2020 Summer Games are the latest in a campaign of Russian malicious activity against the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” it said.
“The UK is confirming for the first time today the extent of GRU targeting of the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea.”
Other offensive cyber operations allegedly conducted by the GRU officers since 2015, according to the Justice Department, included the global cyberattack known as NotPetya.
In 2017, destructive NotPetya malware spread globally out of Ukraine, infecting and locking up thousands of computers belonging to major corporations. Experts say NotPetya caused upwards of $1 billion in losses. At the time, companies publicly affected by NotPetya included FedEx Corporation and pharmaceutical giant Merck.
Coach K Told A Kobe Bryant Story About 2008 Olympics That Proves The Mamba’s Competitive Level Was Unmatched – BroBible
There are two athletes in the past 30+ years who proved to be next level in their preparation and obsession to compete: Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. With 11 NBA championships between them, “The Black Mamba” and “His Airness” were unmatched in their relentless drive, going above and beyond in order to win at all costs. It’s why they’re two of the best ballers to ever lace ’em up — and why people truly believe in the “Mamba Mentality” implemented by Kobe.
While we got a behind-the-scenes look at Jordan’s mentality during this year’s amazing documentary, The Last Dance, following the tragic death of Bryant in January, we’ve been getting a bunch of stories about what made him so unique and what drove him. Similar to MJ, Kobe was different, man, and had a desire that just couldn’t be duplicated.
In the latest example of that, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who also guided Team USA to the gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, sat down with The Old Man and the Three with JJ Redick and Tommy Alter to talk shop. Naturally, Kobe Bryant came up, with Coach K telling an awesome story about the Lakers superstar taking on the challenge of shutting down the best scorer on every opposing team America played during the tournament.
One of the league’s perennial scorers just wanted to play D.
Mamba Mentality 🐍
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 19, 2020
Considering Bryant averaged 28.3 points a game during the 2007-08 season prior to the Olympics, it’s wild to hear Coach K talk about the guy’s willingness to try and stop another player from scoring instead of scoring himself. But, hey, that’s part of what made Kobe Bryant so incredible: His desire and mindset.
Here’s a snippet from the interview Coach K did during his time on The Old Man and the Three with JJ Redick and Tommy Alter podcast a few days ago.
“‘I need to ask you a favor. I want to guard the best perimeter defender on every team that we play.’
“Now, he’s the NBA scoring champ. He’s the best player in the league at that time. He had seven 50-point games that year. And he knew that he’d have to change a little bit to be a leader.”
“He pauses and, you know, his eyes, he and Jordan had the same eyes; they killed you with their eyes. And he leans forward and says, ‘Coach, I promise you I’ll destroy them.’ So I thought, ‘holy shit,’ this is good.
“So we go and have a team meeting, and, in the first practice, he doesn’t take a shot. He does not take one shot.”
“I call him over afterwards and he said, ‘Coach, I promised you, I’ll destroy them.’ And I said, look, you’ll destroy teams offensively… will you shoot the friggin’ ball? And he said from then on that I was the only coach, ever, to ask him to shoot.
“You know what he was doing, JJ? He knew that, for us to win the gold medal, we would have to beat Argentina, whether it be the semis or the Gold Medal Game, and that he wanted to guard Ginobili. Believe me, he already had that figured out. And he was going to prepare to guard Ginobili.”
You can watch the entire interview with Coach K below, which dives into a lot about the legendary Duke coach’s career, as well as some of his experiences around the great Kobe Bryant.
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