For our new readers and members, the Top Six Minutes is a continuation of the discussion in the game thread. We try to keep it light and entertaining. Full recaps are up the morning after every game.
How about that eight game losing streak, eh? Good thing that debacle is over. I mean, it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing since getting out of that whole thing, but at least some wins have happened since, right?
In fact, as this game is about to get underway, it might interest you to know that the Flyers are beating the absolute shit out of the Sabres. Which means, and this is not a joke, the Montreal Canadiens can take sole possession of second place in the Atlantic with a win tonight.
- You won’t hear me say this often about jerseys that aren’t the Tricolore, but the Flames are wearing some nice sweaters tonight. If I had to wear another NHL jersey I’d have to go with one of those
- Gonna go vomit now, thanks Calgary.
- Mikael Backlund starting shit with Max Domi seems like a terrible idea for the Swede. You don’t want that smoke, Mikael.
- 1-0 Flames. The slightly more tolerable of the Tkachuk brothers, Matthew Tkachuk, is left completely alone in front.
- His name is Matt, so I’m always going to side with my bretheren over some dickhead named Brady.
- They can both catch a boat to fuckoffity land though. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
- Nick Cousins gets a scoring chance, and he elects for a weak backhand that a Peewee goaltender could stop. It was basically a weak pass on net.
- Cousins came to play though. Might score if he can take the damn puck to the forehand and actually shoot.
- I’ll forgive Cousins a lot more for his weak shot than Mikey Reilly wasting a beautiful shooting lane by shooting directly at the crest of David Rittich’s jersey.
- Also, Reilly, can you change your damn name to Mike, or Michael? You’re a grown ass man.
- 2-0 Flames. Elias Lindholm. On the power play. If the Habs could kill a penalty to save their lives, that would be great.
- If Brendan Gallagher could not get hit by a puck and limp his way to the bench for one damn game, I’d love that.
- Shots are 17-13 for the Habs, so it’s pretty sad that they can’t have one measly goal.
- Tkachuk just tried to go between his legs for a shot, when in reality he would have been better off with a backhander.
- That’s honestly just an insult to the Habs that he thought he could pull that off. Carey Price said fuck off.
- 2-1 AND IT GOES IN FROM A RIDICULOUS ANGLE!!!
- Brendan Gallagher, for his part, was also insulting to the Flames by thinking he could pull that off. Difference is, he actually did.
- Joel Armia just scored, but there’s a challenge and that was definitely offside.
- THE REFS SAY IT ISN’T!!! 2-2 AND WE HAVE A GAME, FOLKS!!!!!
- That was a ridiculous shot from Armia. Offside or not, that just hit different.
- I dump on the officials all the time, and honestly I have to dump on them some more. To me that was offside. I will accept the goal on behalf of Habs fans as karma for the no-goal call in Vancouver the other night.
- A power play goal would have been nice on two opportunities, just saying.
- Shots now 30-17 for the Habs. I’d like some more goals though, please.
- Well Cale Fleury just spun Milan Lucic around like a top. Probably a penalty, but the high-quality NHL officials missed it.
- Lucic is going to do something really dumb in retaliation for that.
- Nick Cousins just went down hard. The absolute lack of a quality replay prevents me from determining what caused it.
- I blame Lucic, because why not.
- Four-on-four alert!!
- Aaaaaaaaaaaaand Calgary has the lead back. 3-2 thanks to Oliver Kylington. First of the year for him. Of course against the Habs.
- I want to die.
- ET LE BUUUUUUT. NICK SUZUKI. 3-3.
- Big Nick Energy, man. He was very deserving of that. He probably deserves a hatty tonight, but alas the hockey gods don’t give a fuck about what you deserve.
- HOOOOOOOOOO my god, Carey Price just made a ridiculous blocker save.
- He’s still your mom’s favourite player.
- This game was boring for the better part of the first period. It came around nicely.
- YET. ANOTHER. CAREY. PRICE. ROBBERY.
- It is way too late for me to be this hype. Don’t fuck with me, Habs.
- Given the result of the four-on-four earlier, I don’t like the idea of three-on-three at all.
- Max Domi literally took the puck from Rittich and somehow was stopped on the ensuing attempt.
- Habs are basically playing keep away here without really shooting.
- Please do the shooting.
- MAX DOMI DOES THE SHOOTING AND THE MONTREAL CANADIENS ARE IN SECOND PLACE IN THE ATLANTIC DIVISION!!!
EOTP 3 Stars of the night
3) Shutouts are cool. Shame he didn’t get a shutout.
2) Dutch Gretzky is the GOAT of pissing off Milan Lucic. Shame he wasn’t out there.
1) BIG NICK ENERGY
Astros sweep series as Twins lose 18th straight in playoffs – Sportsnet.ca
MINNEAPOLIS — Shaken up by a scandal before the virus outbreak shrunk the season, the Houston Astros barely played well enough to reach the playoffs — with the rest of baseball actively rooting against them.
Well, they’re not ready to leave yet.
Carlos Correa hit a two-out, tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning for the Astros, who produced another stifling pitching performance and swept Minnesota over two games with a 3-1 victory Wednesday that sent the Twins to a record 18th straight post-season loss.
“I know a lot of people are mad. I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here,” Correa said. “But what are they going to say now?”
Nine months after Houston’s rules-breaking, sign-stealing system was revealed, the Astros advanced to the Division Series in Los Angeles. As the sixth seed, they’ll face the Oakland Athletics or Chicago White Sox in a best-of-five matchup starting Monday at Dodger Stadium.
“I don’t think they necessarily thought that they had anything to prove. They just had to play ball,” said manager Dusty Baker, who took his fifth different team to the playoffs and advanced for the first time in seven rounds since winning the 2003 NL Division Series with the Chicago Cubs.
The Twins are 0-18 in the playoffs since winning Game 1 of their Division Series at the New York Yankees on Oct. 5, 2004, a total of seven rounds lost. Since that date, the Astros are 43-35 in post-season play, winning 10 of 15 rounds with three trips to the World Series.
Kyle Tucker hit two RBI singles for the Astros and made a key throw from left field for the inning-ending out in the fifth.
Rookie Cristian Javier worked three hitless innings in relief for the victory in his post-season debut and Ryan Pressly pitched a perfect ninth against his former team, giving the Houston bullpen a total of 9 2/3 scoreless innings in this wild card series with three hits allowed.
“From the very beginning, we envisioned ourselves back in the playoffs and playing real well,” Tucker said. “So we never counted ourselves out at any point.”
Nobody on this Twins team has had a hand in more than six of the playoffs losses, but for the second straight year one of baseball’s most potent lineups limped through a brief post-season cameo. In a three-game division series sweep by the Yankees last year, the Twins totalled seven runs and 22 hits. Against the Astros, they mustered only two runs and seven hits.
“We put a lot of balls in play, it seemed like, but they were up in the air and, yeah, it seemed like we played into their trap,” said Max Kepler, one of four starters who went hitless in the series. “At the end of the day, we didn’t get the job done.”
Nelson Cruz gave the Twins an RBI double for a second straight game, this time in the fourth inning against starter Jose Urquidy. Luis Arraez aggressively tried to score from first base, but Correa took the throw from Tucker and fired home to beat Arraez to the plate to preserve the tie after third base coach Tony Diaz waved him in.
“I don’t know why he sent him,” Correa said.
Then in the seventh against losing pitcher Cody Stashak, Correa drove a 1-0 slider into the tarp-covered seats above right-centre field for his 12th home run in 52 playoff games.
After winning 101, 103 and 107 games in the last three regular seasons, winning the 2017 World Series and losing the championship in seven games to the Washington Nationals last year, the Astros stumbled through the 2020 season at 29-31 under Baker and new general manager James Click with a slew of injuries after the COVID-19 pandemic cut the schedule to 60 games.
They had the third-worst road record in the major leagues, too, but none of that mattered this week against the third-seeded Twins, who were out of sorts in their two biggest games this year.
Jose Berrios was one of the few who were locked in with five strong innings to start, with just two hits allowed. His two walks were costly, though, issued right before Tucker’s single in the fourth.
“I don’t think anyone was ready to leave, to end this way,” Cruz said. “That’s life.”
KIRILLOFF FOR BUXTON
Already missing third baseman Josh Donaldson, the Twins held another one of their most valuable players out: centre fielder Byron Buxton. Baldelli declined to confirm whether Buxton was experiencing a recurrence of concussion symptoms that kept him out of the last two regular season games. Buxton was picked off first base after pinch running for Cruz in the eighth.
Kepler moved to centre, and Alex Kirilloff — the 2016 first-round draft pick — played right field to become the first Twins player in history to make his major league debut in a post-season game. Kirilloff singled in the fourth. With the bases loaded in the first, he flied out to end the inning.
Both teams took issue with plate umpire Manny Gonzalez’s strike zone, with Astros slugger George Springer the first to visibly complain. After being called out on strikes in the fourth, Springer barked, “No way, man!” multiple times on his way back to the dugout.
Then in the sixth, the Twins lost left fielder Eddie Rosario to ejection after he argued a called strike two that would’ve given him a walk if it were called a ball. After swinging and missing at strike three, Rosario yelled again and was quickly tossed.
First base umpire Tim Timmons missed consecutive calls in the eighth inning on grounders by the Astros when he called the runners safe. Both were reversed to outs after replay review.
The Astros, who have reached the AL Championship Series in each of the last three years, will play Monday against either the A’s or the White Sox. RHP Lance McCullers Jr. is the only member of their regular season rotation who did not pitch in Minnesota.
The Twins enter the off-season with 10 players set to become free agents, including the 40-year-old Cruz who led the team in home runs and batting average (among players with a qualifying amount of at-bats) for a second straight season. Their 2021 opener is scheduled for April 1 at Milwaukee.
Report: Heat G Dragic tears plantar fascia – TSN
Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic reportedly suffered a torn plantar fascia in his left foot during Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN confirmed the injury and tweeted that Dragic has been able to put pressure on the foot and hasn’t ruled out returning to play in the series.
The Lakers won the opener 116-98 behind 34 points from Anthony Davis and 25 from LeBron James.
Dragic played 14:50 in Game 1 and contributed six points, three assists and two steals before leaving the game.
Game 2 of the series is Friday night in the Orlando bubble.
Blue Jays' latest implosion shows big changes are needed – The Globe and Mail
The book on the 2020 Toronto Blue Jays went like this – mercurial, prone to gaffes, will surprise you.
They managed all three on Wednesday, especially the last one. Because even the greatest Jays cynic (raises hand) could not have seen this collapse coming.
Toronto is one of those teams that puts a great deal of faith in the big-numbers theory of baseball. Make this little move or that little change and you increase your odds incrementally over time, which may result in 0.15 more wins.
We saw this approach in Tuesday’s Game 1 when cruising starter Matt Shoemaker was pulled early because a computer somewhere said so.
That loss set up for a more mundane approach in Game 2 – roll out your best pitcher, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and pray.
When the Jays spent US$80-million last summer on Ryu, it was a statement of intent. After several years of giving up, they were going to start trying again.
For the most part, Ryu performed as advertised. You could say of him the best thing you can say about any superstar free agent – he earned his money.
But on Wednesday, when it actually mattered, Ryu wasn’t bad. He was much, much worse than that.
Throwing a fastball that drifted toward the plate like a spiked beachball, Ryu could not consistently get north of 90 miles an hour. Without that effective deterrent, Tampa ran wild on all his offerings.
Ryu’s resultant boxscore read like a pitching coroner’s report – seven runs on eight hits in less than two innings, including two home runs.
That was that. All that remained was for the rest of us to spend two hours listening to the homers on the Sportsnet broadcast trying to convince themselves that a seven-run disadvantage against the best team in the American League isn’t that bad. It ended 8-2.
“That’s what happens in the playoffs,” Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said afterward. “Not always the good players hit.”
Amazingly, Ryu was not the worst Blue Jay in this game. Because while he was ineffective (which will occur), Bo Bichette was careless (which shouldn’t).
Bichette made two terrible errors in the early going. The second of them killed the Jays – extending an inning that should have been over and setting up a Tampa grand slam.
“It happens,” Montoyo said.
Bichette is the future of the Blue Jays, but on the evidence of Wednesday afternoon, he isn’t the present. That’s a tidy way of summing up where the Jays are right now.
Is this team good? Yes.
Is it good enough? Not even close.
The risk now is letting one weird season obscure that reality.
The main thing the Jays did this year was changing their fundamental question.
For most of the Mark Shapiro/Ross Atkins era, the question was, ‘When will this team be good?’
Management devoted most of their effort to obscuring the answer. They loved talking about their processes and talent-acquisition stratagems and performance maximization. Anything to avoid giving a deadline.
This year, the question became, “How good can we be?”
During their run at the Yankees in early September, they looked very good indeed. But baseball isn’t about the streaks. What matters is aggregate performance over the longest season in sports.
At what point this year did the Jays seem like a team that could regularly dominate the opposition? That point never arrived.
The team is young, and it plays that way. The players don’t know what they don’t know. They win games they shouldn’t and lose others they should.
In the midst of all this to’ing and fro’ing, Montoyo carries himself like a guy who still can’t believe he’s got the top job. Perhaps because it often feels as though he hasn’t. You think it was Montoyo’s idea to pull Shoemaker in Game 1? Because no fully empowered manager does that.
Do you work well when you feel micromanaged? People who are pressed on too hard are erratic. They may perform in spurts, but they have a tendency to crack when it matters.
How else would you describe what happened on Wednesday? The Jays didn’t lose. They imploded.
“Sky’s the limit,” Montoyo said, sounding far too happy for a manager who’d just lost the way he’d lost. “We’re just kids.”
“Days like today happen,” Bichette said.
There’s no point in self-flagellation, but a few light lashes might’ve suited the result better. It’s great they have all this perspective, but they did just get wiped out.
In the long run, it can be a good thing. That learning experience so-so teams always talk about when they’ve been run over by a much better team. But some things have to change.
For one, this club needs room to breathe. A good first move in that regard would be letting Montoyo do his job without a bunch of baseball-ops wonks sitting in his lap as he does it.
Second, investment. The expansion of the playoffs has widened the contention window for every team in baseball. But it does not follow that every team will do well in this new free-for-all.
The Jays have an opportunity this off-season to marry some experience to their surfeit of innocence. A few steadying hands on the roster might eliminate all the late-game collapses and post-season detonations.
Third and most important, the Jays oughtn’t kid themselves into feeling satisfied. If coming in third in the AL East is cause for celebration, the club should give former managers such as Jim Fregosi, Carlos Tosca and Tim Johnson a call. Someone in Toronto owes them a Champagne shower.
The only way this Jays season can be considered a success if it’s the beginning of actual success in the seasons to come. Not theoretical seasons years from now. Next season.
The short-term goal should be turning that institutional question into a statement: “We’re good.”
How will we know when that’s happened? When this team stops talking as though there’s nothing wrong with losing as long as you’ve won a little bit more than everyone expected.
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