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Blue Jays vs. Orioles preview: How playoff baseball can return to Toronto – Sportsnet.ca

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The Toronto Blue Jays will look to wrap up home field for the wild-card round when they face the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards in the final series of the regular season. 

Two Toronto wins in the three-game series will guarantee a return to Rogers Centre for the best-of-three first round against the Seattle Mariners or Tampa Bay Rays from Friday through Sunday. Anything less opens the door for the Mariners to host the Blue Jays in what would be a battle of 1977 expansion clubs. 

While the Orioles are out of playoff contention, they stayed in the race longer far longer than expected and don’t figure to be a total pushover here. 

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Here’s a look at the Blue Jays-Orioles series. 

Probable pitchers 

Monday, 7:05 p.m. ET / 4:05 p.m. PT: Toronto RHP Jose Berrios (11-7, 5.37 ERA) vs. Baltimore RHP Dean Kremer (8-6, 3.17 ERA) 

Tuesday, 7:05 p.m. ET / 4:05 p.m. PT: Toronto RHP Mitch White (1-6, 5.21 ERA) vs. Baltimore RHP Mike Baumann (1-3, 4.34 ERA) 

Wednesday, 4:05 p.m. ET / 1:05 p.m. PT: Pitchers TBA 

(All games on Sportsnet)

Latest on the Blue Jays 

The Blue Jays (90-69) swept the visiting Boston Red Sox over the weekend to maintain control of the wild-card race. 

By improving to 16-3 against the Red Sox, the Blue Jays ensured they will finish no worse than second in the wild-card race, meaning they will not be going to Cleveland to face the American League Central-winning Guardians in the first round. 

Teoscar Hernandez hit two home runs in Sunday’s 6-3 win, while the bullpen picked Kevin Gausman up as the right-hander left after three innings with a cut on his right middle finger. 

Gausman said he expects to be ready for the playoffs. 

Latest on the Orioles 

The Orioles (82-77) were eliminated from playoff contention on Friday after the Rays and Mariners both won games. 

A day earlier, the Orioles’ loss to the Red Sox officially put the Blue Jays in the playoffs on an off-day for Toronto. 

While the Orioles faded down the stretch (they were 13-15 in September), they were a major surprise this year and figure to be a threat in the years ahead in the AL East. 

The turning point for both these teams came in a four-game series that started with a doubleheader on Labour Day in Baltimore. 

The Blue Jays swept the twin bill and won three of four in the series to turn a 2.5-game lead into a 4.5-game advantage. The Orioles could never recover. 

Still, the Orioles aren’t going away quietly. They won two of three this weekend in New York against the AL East-winning Yankees and avoided giving up an AL record 62nd home run to Aaron Judge. 

Playoff watch 

The magic number for the Blue Jays to clinch home field is two – any combination of Toronto wins and Mariners losses. 

It could happen as soon as Monday night with a Blue Jays win and a Mariners loss to the lowly Detroit Tigers in the first game of a four-game series in Seattle – there’s a doubleheader on Tuesday. 

If the Blue Jays take one of three in Baltimore, Seattle must go 4-0 to grab home field for the first round. If the Orioles sweep the Blue Jays, the Mariners need to go 3-1. 

The Mariners are 1.5 games ahead of the Rays for the second wild-card spot with the third-place finisher going to Cleveland. Tampa Bay, however, owns the tiebreaker on Seattle. 

The Rays wrap up their season with three games in Boston. 

The Blue Jays haven’t played a playoff game in Toronto since 2016. 

Pitching plans 

The Blue Jays have said their preference is to have ace right-hander Alek Manoah on the mound for the playoff opener. 

So, the clear preference is to avoid using him in Wednesday’s finale – Yusei Kikuchi is a likely option for bulk innings or a start after he went three innings in relief of Manoah for a save last Friday. 

The Blue Jays used their three most effective starters this seaason – Manoah, Ross Stripling and Gausman – against Boston, so it’s a bit of a guessing game when it comes to what kind of performances they’ll get on the mound in Baltimore. 

Berrios has had well documented struggles on the road (6.75 ERA), White had a 7.88 ERA in September and Kikuchi lost his spot in the starting rotation in August. 

Season series 

Each team has won eight games, but the Blue Jays were 5-2 against the Orioles in September.

Up next 

The Blue Jays begin their ninth playoff appearance in franchise history in Toronto or Seattle on Friday. 

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Canucks keep surprising with ‘inexplicable’ comeback vs. Canadiens

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VANCOUVER – Two weeks into his Calder Trophy season four years ago, Elias Pettersson was thrown violently to the ice in Florida by defenceman Mike Matheson, who had been embarrassed by the rookie Vancouver Canuck earlier in the shift.

Pettersson suffered a concussion, Matheson a two-game suspension and the incident set off an inferno of debate about the culture of both the Canucks and the National Hockey League.

But even then, as a 19-year-old with the physique of a 2-iron, Pettersson was tougher than he seemed. Tougher mentally and physically. Four years later for Pettersson and two teams later for Matheson, the Canucks’ elite two-way centre victimized the Montreal Canadiens’ defenceman in overtime to give Vancouver an inexplicable 7-6 victory in front of fans who have rarely been so entertained.

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Pettersson may or may not have caused Matheson to blow a tire and lose the puck by touching the defenceman’s leg with his stick, but there was little doubt about the significance of the goal it caused – for the Canucks and Pettersson.

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Stronger in every sense than he was four years ago, Pettersson skated the puck to the net from a sharp angle as Matheson retreated and tucked a forehand deke through the pads of Montreal goalie Sam Montembeault.

Asked after the game if he realized in the moment whom he had just pilfered and embarrassed, Pettersson looked a long time at the questioner before deadpanning: “I’m going to say, ‘No comment.’” He knew.

This was Pettersson’s revenge.

At least that’s the storyline we’re going with in a game that could have spawned an alternate universe. For the first time since 1973, the Canucks rallied from a four-goal deficit to win. After the Canadiens scored four times in the first period, the Canucks eventually blew a 5-4 lead late in the third, trailed 6-5, then tied it on Andrei Kuzmenko’s power-play goal with Vancouver relief netminder Collin Delia on the bench for an extra attacker.

And then Pettersson won it 13 seconds into overtime.

“If they had called a penalty there, I would have been upset,” he said. “I didn’t touch his skates. I saw that I had an open lane (to the net). And I saw their goalie had one knee down at the post and it looked like if I made a long move, I might be able to get it through.”

Later, in his press scrum, Pettersson told reporters: “I don’t know if it was relief to score a goal or whatever, but just, overall, the emotion all game, to be down four and come back, be down one again and then tie it at the end, it was a game that had a lot of emotions and I’m glad we came up on top tonight.”

Canucks’ Pettersson hoping team can build off come from behind win over Canadiens

A game with 13 goals deserves that many clauses in one sentence.

“Man, we got the two points; that’s all I can say,” Canuck captain Bo Horvat said. “At the end of the day, I don’t care how we did it, we got it done. Obviously, it was not pretty. We made it pretty hard on ourselves but we showed a lot of resilience tonight. And Dells stepping in (for starting goalie Spencer Martin) and playing as well as he did … it was a fun one. It was a Monday Night Football game.”

Maybe the Canucks would be good at football. They appear to have some flaws as a hockey team.

Unable to figure how to defend leads and win, now they don’t even know how to lose properly. Canuck teams don’t come back from 4-0 late in the second period. They don’t score seven goals in the final 23½ minutes.

They don’t finish a four-game homestand at 2-2 when they led for less than seven minutes in more than four hours of hockey.

“That’s just the rollercoaster of emotions — kind of how you do not want to play the game, really,” Canuck veteran J.T. Miller said. “You want to play even-keel. But when you give up four that quickly, it was kind of a shell shock because … we had been absolutely dominant. Shots were 9-0 (at the start). A couple breakdowns and we’ve just got to get out of that habit of giving them up bang, bang, bang, bang. You’re not going to come back from 4-0 every day. But we talked about getting two in the second (period). But we had so many guys step up. Petey’s line was awesome; Petey was dominant.”

After Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win against Arizona, when the Canucks chased the mighty Coyotes all game, Pettersson’s line was reconfigured by desperate coach Bruce Boudreau. Brock Boeser, who went from being a healthy scratch to outed on the trade block to goal-scoring hero in one eventful Saturday, was deployed Monday alongside Pettersson and winger Ilya Mikheyev.

Mikheyev scored twice on perfect passes from Pettersson, who finished with three points, giving him 32 in 26 games this season.

Canucks’ Pettersson slips game winner five-hole to cap OT thriller vs. Canadiens

Horvat, Conor Garland and Jack Studnicka, with the Canucks’ first go-ahead goal at 8:49 of the third period, also scored for Vancouver.

It was impossible to foresee when the score was 4-0 that Studnicka and Delia would become key figures in a Canuck victory. But most of their season has been a surprise. The Canucks are Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates.

“It’s funny, I feel like every game, it’s so live or die,” Miller said. “It’s 82 games. We’ve won a lot of games in the last 15 or 20 (but), it’s a process. It’s not going to be pretty every night. I’m just proud of the group. We had a lot of different guys step up tonight, which is awesome.”

The Canucks have lost seven games this season after leading by two or three goals. But now they’ve won one when they trailed by four.

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Darnell Nurse sounds off on Edmonton Oilers slow starts after Stuart Skinner faces 50 shots

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Another slow start for the Edmonton Oilers wasn’t their undoing against the Washington Capitals in Monday’s 3-2 loss, but it certainly didn’t help either.

The Oilers were outshot 22-12 in the opening frame, with Stuart Skinner turning aside all 22 in his eventual 47-save performance in the loss.

“We come in here and we talk about it every day,” Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse said of his team’s starts. “We sit here after the game, talk about it over and over and over. … We want to have good starts each and every night but, you know, we’re sitting here and it’s a part of our game. We’re almost a quarter of the way through the season.

“The more we just talk away and pester at it, we need to just show up and play. Relax, pin our ears back and come out on the on the attack.”

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The Oilers were outshot 50-30 on Monday, including 19-7 in the second period, when Skinner allowed two goals.

“We weren’t as quick and physical as we wanted to be in the defensive zone,” Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft said. “Our goalie stood tall. We’re 2-2 going into the third period. We made a critical error, and it ended up in the back of our net.”

Skinner Unfazed as Oilers Allow 50 Shots

Skinner, who has moved into the starting role ahead of Jack Campbell over the past month, saw his record drop to 7-6 on the season, with a .916 save percentage and a 2.93 goals-against average.

The 50 shots faced against the Capitals were a season high for Skinner, who said the early barrage helped put him the zone.

“I think if you get a few [early] chances on you and make all the saves, it’s a little bit of a confidence booster,” Skinner said. “They got on the power play and I got a few shots on the power play, so after that I was ready to go.”

The loss dropped the Oilers to 14-12-0 on the season as the team currently sits in the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

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Bedard, Fantilli headline Canada’s selection camp roster for 2023 World Juniors – Sportsnet.ca

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