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Braves advance to World Series, defeat Dodgers in six games – Sportsnet.ca

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ATLANTA — Led by an unlikely hero, the Atlanta Braves are heading back to a place that used to be so familiar to them.

The World Series.

Eddie Rosario capped a remarkable NL Championship Series with a three-run homer, sending the Braves to the biggest stage of all with a 4-2 victory over the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night.

The Braves won the best-of-seven playoff four games to two, exorcising the demons of last year’s NLCS _ when Atlanta squandered 2-0 and 3-1 leads against the Dodgers _ and advancing to face the AL champion Astros.

Game 1 is Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

“It’s a great moment in my life,” Rosario said through an interpreter. “But I want more. I want to win the World Series.”

The Braves were Series regulars in the 1990s, winning it all in ’95 with a team that included Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Chipper Jones.

That remains their only title in Atlanta. The Braves lost the Series four other times during that decade, a run of postseason disappointment that marred a momentous streak that grew to 14 straight division titles.

After getting swept in the 1999 World Series by the Yankees, the Braves couldn’t even get that far in the postseason.

Twenty-two years of frustration, 12 playoff appearances that fell short of a pennant.

Finally, it’s over.

“We actually did it,” said longtime first baseman Freddie Freeman, sounding a bit bewildered.

Rosario was acquired in a flurry of deals just before the July 30 trade deadline that rebuilt the Braves’ depleted outfield, which lost Ronald Acuna Jr. to a season-ending knee injury and slugger Marcell Ozuna to a hand injury and legal troubles.

They weren’t missed at all in the NLCS.

“Anything that was thrown at us,” Freeman said, “we were able to overcome it.”

Rosario set an Atlanta record and became only the fifth player in baseball history to get 14 hits in a postseason series. He was an easy choice as MVP of the series.

Spurred on by chants of “Eddie! Eddie! Eddie” from the raucous sellout crowd of more than 43,000, Rosario finished 14 of 25 (.560) against the Dodgers, with three homers and nine RBIs.

“We just couldn’t figure him out,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said.

Will Smith worked a perfect ninth for his fourth save of the postseason after a brilliant relief stint by winner Tyler Matzek, who escaped a huge jam in the seventh by striking out the side.

Rosario’s final hit was certainly the biggest of the 30-year-old Puerto Rican’s career.

With the score tied at 1 in the bottom of the fourth, Rosario came up after pinch-hitter Ehire Adrianza extended the inning with a two-out double into the right-field corner. Slow-running catcher Travis d’Arnaud was held at third by coach Ron Washington, surely aware of who was up next.

Rosario got into an extended duel with Walker Buehler, who stepped up to start on three days’ rest after ace Max Scherzer wasn’t able to go because of a tired arm.

Rosario swung and missed the first two pitches. Then he fouled one off. Then he took a ball. Then he fouled off two more pitches.

Finally, he got one he liked from the Dodgers’ 16-game winner _ a cutter that Rosario turned into a 105 mph rocket down the right-field line, higher and higher, straight as an arrow until it landed well back into the seats below the Chop House restaurant.

“We got him 0-2 and just couldn’t put him away,” Roberts said.

Rosario knew it was gone, dancing down the line after delivering a 361-foot finishing shot to a highly paid team that won 106 games during the regular season _ 18 more than the NL East-winning Braves _ but came up short in its bid to become baseball’s first repeat champion since the 2000 New York Yankees won their third straight title.

“We had a tremendous season,” Roberts said. “We were two wins away from going to the World Series. I want the guys to be proud of that.”

KILL THE NARRATIVE

The Braves will be looking to bury their city’s reputation for postseason misery across a wide range of sports.

From four World Series losses in the 1990s to the NFL Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead in the 2017 Super Bowl, Atlanta again finds itself on the cusp of an extremely rare feat.

The `95 Braves remain the city’s lone team in the four major sports — baseball, football, basketball and hockey — to capture a title. Freeman said after a Game 5 loss that the city’s history would remain an issue “until we kill that narrative.”

They’re four wins from doing just that.

SNIT VS. SNIT

Braves manager Brian Snitker will see a familiar face in the opposite dugout during the World Series.

His son.

Troy Snitker is the hitting coach for the Astros.

“The Snitker family is going to have a World Series trophy in our house,” Brian Snitker said. “I don’t know who’s going to have it, but we’re going to have one.”

K PATROL

The Braves got a stellar performance from their bullpen _ including 10 strikeouts _ after starter Ian Anderson was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fourth.

A.J. Minter struck out four in two perfect innings. Matzek did the same in a much more tenuous situation, coming on in the seventh with runners at second and third and a run already in after Luke Jackson failed to get an out.

Matzek struck out the side that inning, including Mookie Betts on three straight pitches to strand both runners. The pitcher pumped his fist twice and let out a scream on his way off the mound.

The left-hander returned in the eighth for another perfect inning, including his fourth K, before Smith fanned two more hitters in a 1-2-3 ninth.

Matzek has 11 strikeouts with runners in scoring position in the seventh inning or later this postseason.

Not bad for a guy who didn’t play at all in 2017 and worked his way to the Braves with two stints in an independent league.

“I was out of baseball in 2017,” Matzek said. “Now I’m in the World Series.”

UP NEXT

Dodgers: After a steak of seven straight victories in elimination games was snapped, they won’t play another game that counts until the 2022 season opener against the Colorado Rockies. That comes on March 31 at Dodger Stadium.

Braves: Charlie Morton is set to go against his former team in the World Series opener. He memorably came out of the bullpen in Game 7 of the 2017 Series to pitch four innings of two-hit ball, closing out the lone title in Astros history with a 5-1 win over the Dodgers.

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Trudeau announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics – CBC News

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today that Canada will launch a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.

No federal government officials will attend the games. Canadian athletes will still be allowed to compete.

The U.S., U.K. and Australia already have announced they won’t send official delegations to the games — a collective attempt to send a message to China that its human rights abuses have not gone unnoticed.

Speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill, Trudeau said the government is “extremely concerned” by the “repeated human rights violations carried out by the Chinese government.” He said Canada will show its displeasure with the communist regime by withholding the delegates that normally would attend high-profile events like the opening and closing ceremonies.

Asked if he was anticipating any blowback from Beijing for snubbing China as it prepares to host the world, Trudeau said “this should not come as a surprise” to the regime.

“For months, we have been coordinating and discussing the issue with our allies,” he said.

WATCH: Trudeau announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympic Games

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympic Games

2 hours ago

Duration 0:55

Trudeau tells a press conference in Ottawa that Canada will join other countries in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Games in response to China’s human rights violations against the Uyghur community. 0:55

MPs, senators and civil society groups have been pushing the Trudeau government to hold China accountable for its crackdown on democratic rights in Hong Kong and the ongoing abuse of the Uyghur Muslim minority.

Earlier this year, the House of Commons passed a motion branding the violence directed at religious minorities in China’s Xinjiang province as “genocide.” That motion followed a Commons subcommittee report that found China persecutes its Muslim minority through mass detention in concentration camps, forced labour, state surveillance and population control measures — policies the report said are designed to “eradicate Uyghur culture and religion.”

In the motion, MPs also called on the federal government to use its influence to pressure the International Olympic Committee to move the games out of China “if the Chinese government continues this genocide.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said Wednesday his party’s push to relocate the games got “no traction with Mr. Trudeau” and a diplomatic boycott is the next best thing.

While he said he’s horrified by reports of violence in Xinjiang, O’Toole said a full boycott would be unfair to Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes who have trained so hard for the world’s premier sporting event.

WATCH: Conservative leader calls on prime minister to boycott Beijing Olympics

Conservative leader calls on prime minister to boycott Beijing Olympics

2 hours ago

Duration 1:14

Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to join other countries in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics in 2022. 1:14

Trudeau agreed that Olympic athletes shouldn’t pay a price for China’s abuses. “They need to have one thing in mind and that’s representing the country to the best of their ability and winning a gold medal for Canada,” he said.

In a media statement, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) said it “understands and respects” the government’s decision and applauds the effort to “draw an important distinction between the participation of athletes and the participation of government officials.”

The last time Canada pursued a full boycott of the Olympics was in 1980, when Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau blocked athletes from participating in the summer games in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union’s military presence in Afghanistan.

Citing that 1980 move, the COC said “history has shown that athlete boycotts only hurt athletes without creating meaningful change.” The COC said the games will “create an important platform to draw attention” to ongoing issues in China.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said the decision to pull diplomats and keep Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge and others at home was motivated by reports of abuse coming out of Xinjiang, an oil-rich territory in the country’s northwest.

“Clearly it is important for us to send a strong signal to China because we’re extremely concerned about allegations about the Uyghurs,” Joly said.

Joly said she has raised the possibility of a boycott with allies in nearly every meeting she’s had since being named foreign minister in October. She said she will travel to a G7 meeting in the U.K. this weekend to press other holdouts, such as France and Germany, to join the boycott.

“Canada has been playing a leadership role on this — this is in line with our foreign policy. Canada always stands up on questions of human rights,” she said.

A visitor rests near logos promoting the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics at the China Beijing International High-Tech Expo in Beijing on Sept. 25, 2021. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo)

Canada-Chinese relations soured after China detained two Canadians — Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig — in an apparent act of retribution for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s 2018 arrest on U.S. fraud charges. In September, the two men were freed by China’s communist regime after the legal dispute involving Meng was partly resolved by U.S. prosecutors.

The western world’s relationship with China has deteriorated over the past two years. China has been accused of covering up early COVID-19 outbreaks and of pushing World Health Organization (WHO) officials to praise its pandemic response rather than scrutinize its actions.

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Olympic diplomatic boycott: PM says decision coming today – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says there will be an announcement later today on the government’s decision about whether to proceed with a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games.

Speaking to reporters on his way into a caucus meeting on Wednesday, Trudeau said it’s important to align with allies – many of whom have chosen not to send government officials to the Games, but allow athletes to continue to compete.

“For the past many, many months we’ve been talking about our approach with allies around the world. We know that on issues like this it’s important to make sure that we are working with our allies…we will have an announcement to make later today,” he said.

The U.S. announced a diplomatic boycott on Monday as a means of protesting against human rights abuses in China towards the Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the U.S. has a “fundamental commitment to promoting human rights” and that it “will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games.”

Since then, Australia and the U.K. have followed suit.

China has denied those allegations and says the boycott violates “the principle of political neutrality of sports established by the Olympic Charter and runs counter to the Olympic motto `more united,”‘ Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters.

Many former diplomats and international security analysts suggest Canada should go further and enforce a full boycott, withdrawing all Canadian presence, including athletes.

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly also commented on the issue on Wednesday, noting that Canada is acting in a “diligent” manner.

“The most important thing for Canada right now is to make sure that we can have a strong voice on the question of human rights in Xinjiang in China,” she said.

With a file from The Associated Press.

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Nick Ritchie finally scores his first as the Leafs get the jump on the Blue Jackets – Toronto Star

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In the understated words of Nick Ritchie: “It had been a while.”

On a night of highlight plays from Michael Bunting and Jack Campbell, and a scoring streak continuing for Auston Matthews, it finally happened for Ritchie.

It took 27 games and 40 shots but the $2.5-million-a-year free-agent signing finally got his first goal with the Maple Leafs in Toronto’s 5-4 win Tuesday night over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“It felt good, helping the team, scoring a goal at home, and a win after a couple of losses,” Ritchie said. “It had been a while. Two months. A lot of games. As long of a (drought) as I’ve had in hockey. Feels good to get one. Hopefully I can build some confidence.”

The crowd was particularly supportive when public address announcer Mike Ross announced it was Ritchie’s “first goal as a Maple Leaf” and his teammates seemed happier than Ritchie.

“That’s almost better than scoring, seeing how much your team cares,” he said. “We have a tight team and everyone gets excited for little things.”

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Ritchie had proven himself as a goal scorer, with 15 last year in a shortened season in Boston. He wondered sometimes why he was having trouble scoring in Toronto.

“It’s not an easy league to score in,” he said. “You have to get lucky, too. I had a couple of good chances the last little while. I just had to stay with it. I knew eventually it would finally go in for me.”

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said he predicted Ritchie would score Tuesday, but admitted he’s been predicting it would be Ritchie’s night for a while.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Keefe said. “I started calling it, then I stopped. It was his birthday the other day. But in the coach’s room before the game, I called it. I thought it would be on the power play.

“I can’t take a lot of credit for it, because I’ve been calling it and calling it. I did feel strongly that today was going to be the day. He’s been very quietly putting up points in the past five games. You could see it coming. He’s had good chances. I’m thrilled for him.”

About the game: Ritchie’s goal, the team’s offence and the play of Alex Steeves and Kristians Rubins. both of whom got into their first NHL games. was about all Keefe liked about the game. But it was a fun one to watch.

Matthews ended the night with two goals and an assist, Morgan Rielly had four assists, William Nylander had a goal and an assist and John Tavares also scored in a game in which the outcome never felt in doubt despite a late-game push by the Blue Jackets.

Olivier Bjorkstrand scored twice for Columbus. Sean Kuraly and Max Domi scored late for Columbus — Domi with one second left — to make the result look more flattering for the Jackets than the game really was.

“I didn’t like much about the game in any period,” Keefe said. “We found ways to strike offensively, whether it was on the power play (Nylander, Tavares) or off the rush (Matthews, twice) but, in terms of how we like to play, I don’t think there was a lot to like about the game.

“I’m happy the third period caught up to us, because it should have. Not a good game for us, but a good result. Needed to get back on the right side of it.”

Getting rest: Keefe thought the team was simply tired. They’d been out west for three games, came home for one, and then went back west for two, so it felt like a long trip. Plus the roster was in flux.

Mitch Marner missed his third game with a shoulder injury, suffered in practice Friday. Rasmus Sandin was out with the effects of knee-on-knee injury suffered Sunday in Winnipeg. Travis Dermott, too, was sidelined with a shoulder issue. And Jason Spezza missed the first-game of a six-game suspension for his knee to the head of Winnipeg’s Neal Pionk, whose knee injured Sandin.

“We’re a tired group that needs time,” said Keefe, who gave his team Wednesday off. “We’re a team that needs to regroup itself.”

Quick start: Nylander, Matthews and Ritchie got the Maple Leafs off to a 3-0 lead in a first period they dominated. The led the shot-clock 18-9 after 20 minutes.

Nylander scored on the power play, and Matthews made it 2-0 on a nice feed from Michael Bunting who, with a defenceman draped all over him, pulled off a between-the-legs pass to Matthews, who had an easy tap-in to extend his goals streak to seven straight games. Tavares and Matthews scored seven seconds apart in the final two minutes of the middle frame.

Matthews is on a tear, with 10 goals in his last seven games and 17 on the season. He has rejoined the conversation for the Rocket Richard Trophy, putting himself within striking distance of NHL goal leaders Leon Draisaitl and Alex Ovechkin, who had 21 and 20 as the games began Tuesday.

The new guys: Steeves and Rubins are feel-good stories.

Rubins, who is on Latvia’s short list of potential Olympians, is 23 and worked his way up the Leafs system. Undrafted out of the Medicine Hat Tigers, he started with the Newfoundland Growlers in 2018. He’s six-foot-five and cuts an imposing figure on the blue line.

“Dream come true, just a special night for me,” he said, after being paired with Timothy Liljegren and going minus-1 in 13 minutes and 40 seconds.

Steeves was a standout at Notre Dame last year who kept up his scoring ways with the Marlies, despite missing camp with an injury. Steeves had seven goals in 12 games with the Marlies.

“It was super special, really happy we got the win,” said Steeves, who was minus-1 while playing 8:28. “It was a tangible goal of mine to play for the Leafs this year. I didn’t really have a set date. To get the call this early was special. It wasn’t something I was really thinking about, but I just knew I wanted to get here.”

Roster notes: Veteran defenceman Alex Biega was also among the call-ups, as insurance, due to the litany of injuries. He was scratched for Tuesday’s game … Forward Joey Anderson was returned to the Marlies … Jake Muzzin left the game briefly in the first period after taking a shot off his foot.

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