The short, sweet, unpredictable and unprecedented 2020 MLB season is over. The Los Angeles Dodgers, unequivocally baseball’s best bunch this year, are champions.
In the cold months ahead, there will be plenty of time to bemoan the absence of baseball. Let’s not do that just yet.
Instead, let’s look at the most memorable moments from a riveting World Series between the Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays. Here are five that stand out:
When Rays manager Kevin Cash emerged from his dugout in the sixth inning on Tuesday, Blake Snell dropped an F-bomb. In a game Snell was leading (and largely controlling), Cash had come to remove his ace — a move that was immediately questioned around the baseball world and surely will be for some time.
Game 6, and ultimately the series, turned in the moments that followed.
Nick Anderson entered in relief, promptly allowing a double to Mookie Betts to put the go-ahead run in scoring position. In the next at-bat, Anderson spiked a curveball that allowed Austin Barnes to score and Betts to advance to third. One pitch later, Corey Seager brought Betts home on a fielder’s choice to secure the lead.
Cash’s call to yank Snell was largely based on the fact that the top of the order (Betts, Seager and Justin Turner) was coming up for a third time. The third trip through an order typically spells bad news for pitchers, but in its first two go-rounds, the Dodgers’ top trio was 0-for-6 with six strikeouts.
Further complicating matters is the fact that Cash removed Snell (a lefty) for Nick Anderson (a righty) to face Betts, who slugged .218 versus lefties this year (fifth-lowest among qualified hitters) and .677 versus righties (second-highest). Anderson had also allowed at least one earned run in each of his six previous outings.
Cash called it a “gut-wrenching decision” after the game, and that almost seems like an understatement.
Seager’s MVP moment
Admittedly, Corey Seager’s World Series MVP resume was built over the entire series. But let’s not overlook the fact he brought in the championship-clinching run, too.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 28, 2020
In the aforementioned meltdown of a sixth inning for the Rays, Seager managed to pull a curveball on the outer-third of the plate to first base, which allowed the speedy Betts to run on contact and score the eventual winning run.
Seager has had flashier swings this series, no doubt, but sometimes a good ol’ fashioned ball in play is enough to get the job done.
MVP! MVP! MVP!
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 28, 2020
As a whole, Seager was truly the MVP of the Dodgers’ post-season run. Not only did he earn NLCS MVP honours, but the 26-year-old shortstop led the team throughout with a blistering 1.171 OPS in 18 games, bashing eight home runs and notching 20 RBIs along the way.
Not to get ahead of ourselves, but Seager is on track to be part of a loaded free-agent class next winter. What he accomplished this October is sure to pay dividends.
Kershaw stops steal attempt
Clayton Kershaw was in a groove and taking his time when something chaotic happened. But he didn’t panic.
In the fourth inning of Game 5, holding a 3-2 lead with two outs and runners on the corners, Kershaw started his motion from the stretch by slowly raising his arms skyward. Behind him, Manuel Margot took off down the third-base line on a rare attempt to steal home.
Kershaw took his left foot off the rubber and fired home in time to nab Margot, ending the threat and the inning. It was also the last whiff of drama for Kershaw, who retired the final five batters of his start.
As the victor of Game 5, Kershaw pushed his 2020 playoff stats to a 4-1 record, 2.93 ERA and .211 opponent batting average. Not bad for a guy whose post-season woes have been well-documented through the years.
Game 4’s insane ending
Words can’t really do this one justice, so let’s just make sure everyone’s memory is jogged on this first:
Trailing 7-6 with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth in Game 4, the Rays sent Brett Phillips to the plate for just his third at-bat of the post-season. He singled and the Rays won, but it’s a bit more complex than that.
Phillips’ single to centre was booted by Chris Taylor, which enticed Randy Arozarena to try to score from first base. Taylor’s throw home was cut off by Max Muncy — which catcher Will Smith did not anticipate — and Muncy’s relay throw got by Smith as he tried to catch the ball and perform a swipe tag in one smooth motion.
Arozarena, meanwhile, had come barreling around third so hard he somersaulted on the base path. He was momentarily frozen on the chalk, before scoring easily as the ball rolled to the backstop.
The image of an awestruck Arozarena smiling and smacking home plate is pure art.
Randy rewrites the record books
Goofy Game 4 ending aside, let us not forget about what Randy Arozarena did this month.
On Tuesday, the 25-year-old rookie smacked his 10th home run of the post-season, building upon a single-season record he already owned. He also set a record for most hits in a post-season (29), as part of his 1.273 OPS compiled over 20 games.
Arozarena’s thunderous arrival into baseball stardom is understandably overshadowed, given that the Rays came up short. But his playoff performance was one that transcends 2020, title or not.
And it’s fun to think about what he and others can do to make next year’s post-season even more memorable.
Sinclair to lead Canadian women’s team in her fourth Olympics
Christine Sinclair, the all-time international goal-scoring record holder, was named to her fourth Olympic squad on Wednesday and will headline a Canadian roster at the Tokyo Games that features a mix of veterans and youth.
Led by Sinclair, whose 186 goals for her country are the most by a female or male soccer player worldwide, Canada won medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and was the only nation to make the podium in both competitions.
“I am looking forward to doing whatever I can to help take this team back to the podium and make history again,” said Canadian captain Sinclair. “Our team is in a good spot, we are excited, we are hungry and we are ready to go.”
The 18-player roster features 12 members of the squad that competed at the 2016 Rio Games while a quintet including Vanessa Gilles, Jayde Riviere, Julia Grosso, Adriana Leon, and Evelyne Viens will be making their Olympic debuts.
Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan travelled to Rio in 2016 as an alternate.
Canada will kick off their Tokyo 2020 journey when they face Japan on July 21 and continue Group E play against Chile on July 24 and Britain on July 27.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)
Which of the Canadians Picked in the 2021 NFL Draft Will Thrive This Season?
It was a good NFL Draft for Canadian players in 2021.
Some four stars from north of the border were selected by NFL franchises in the free agency pick ‘em, and that is tied as the highest number of Canadians drafted in the 85-year history of the event.
Welcome to Miami, Jevon Holland— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 30, 2021
Of course, the hope is that these young talents are more than just filler and roster depth, but can any of the quartet make the breakthrough into the big time?
Here’s a look at which of the NFL’s newest Canadian additions can shine in 2021/22.
The defensive back was the number 36 pick in the Draft by the Miami Dolphins, who beat off a number of rivals in the hunt for the Coquitlam native.
A versatile defender, Holland is a former Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist thanks to his exploits in the NCAA back in 2019 with the University of Oregon.
He sat out the 2020 campaign, but representatives from dozens of NFL teams were in town to watch Holland go through his paces at the Oregon Pro Day.
The 21-year-old is following in the footsteps of his father Robert, who turned out for the Detroit Lions, and he is expected to force his way into the starting line-up at the Dolphins. And, who knows, maybe Holland could go all the way in his first season, with Miami priced at +2500 in the Super Bowl 2022 American football odds.
When you’re six foot three, 205 pounds and still able to run 40 yards in 4.51 seconds, it goes without saying that you have the physical credentials to succeed in the NFL.
Benjamin St-Juste is the man that can, and he will bolster the roster at a Washington Football Team that will be looking to improve upon their playoff showing in 2020.
The 23-year-old may only have been a third-round pick, but he comes with a burgeoning reputation thanks to a successful time at the University of Minnesota. An All-Big Ten special mention in 2019, more than 50 NFL recruitment personnel attended the college’s pro day – largely to catch a glimpse of St-Juste going through his paces.
Both Brian Gutekunst and Jon Robinson made the trip but, in the end, it was Washington who snapped up the powerhouse from the Draft.
The third Canadian to be drafted in 2021 was Chuba Hubbard, who became the first Canadian running back to be selected from the Draft in 25 years.
It’s the Carolina Panthers who have taken a chance on the 22-year-old and with his credentials, you can see why. Hubbard finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 after a stellar campaign – he served up 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, an NCAA best. He was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
While running backs are not the hottest of properties in the Draft, Hubbard provably has the talent to cross into the end zone with regularity – the Panthers might just have got their hands on an unheralded gem here.
With these three Canadians taking the step up to the NFL, the future of the sport north of the border looks in safe hands.
Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s
The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.
Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.
Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.
Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.
He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.
Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.
“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.
“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”
Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.
(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)
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