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Castillo, Mariners silence Blue Jays to win Game 1 of AL Wild Card series

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A rough opening inning proved costly for ace Alek Manoah and the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday.

The way Seattle starter Luis Castillo was pitching, there was no room for error.

The Mariners hushed a boisterous sellout crowd at Rogers Centre with a three-run first inning en route to a 4-0 victory in the opener of the best-of-three wild-card series.

Seattle refused to let Toronto get back in the game and now the Blue Jays are a loss away from post-season elimination.

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“They beat me on my mistakes,” said Manoah, who lasted 5 2/3 innings.

Cal Raleigh hit a two-run homer in the first inning after Eugenio Suarez drove in leadoff hitter Julio Rodriguez with an RBI double. Seattle added an insurance run in the fifth.

Castillo rolled through 7 1/3 frames, giving up six singles and striking out five without issuing a walk.

“We managed our hits and at-bats were decent and (we) couldn’t get the big hit when we got guys on base,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider. “His stuff was good. You have to give him credit.”

Seattle reliever Andres Munoz recorded the last five outs. Suarez had two hits for the Mariners and Rodriguez scored twice.

George Springer and Matt Chapman had two hits apiece for Toronto. The Blue Jays put two runners on base in the third inning and did it again in the fifth but couldn’t bring a run home.

“Those are big spots,” Schneider said. “When you’re facing a pitcher like that, when you get traffic on the bases, you want to come through with a big hit.

“It’s tough to do against a guy like that and really tough with two outs. So you just take that for what it is today and you move on.”

Manoah, who made his first career post-season start, matched a season high by allowing four earned runs.

Schneider later confirmed that Kevin Gausman would get the start in Game 2 on Saturday. The Mariners will counter with Robbie Ray.

“We’re used to playing must-win games,” Chapman said. “I think today a lot of people had their first playoff game and learned a lot from the game, got to experience it.”

If Game 3 is necessary, it will be played Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre.

“This is what we grind all year for — to have home-field advantage,” Manoah said. “It’s two out of three so we’ll be back tomorrow.”

An announced crowd of 47,402 was in full voice at the start of Toronto’s first home playoff game since 2016. Edwin Encarnacion, who hit a walk off homer in the play-in game that year, threw the ceremonial first pitch.

Manoah was dominant at times through the regular season but appeared to battle some jitters in the late-afternoon start. Castillo, meanwhile, cruised through the bottom half of the first inning by retiring the side on groundouts.

The Mariners have some pop at the top of their lineup with Rodriguez — a virtual lock for the American League rookie of the year award — a key offensive anchor. But Seattle’s main strength is on the mound with a solid rotation and a bullpen that led the AL in several pitching categories.

Manoah gave up four hits and a walk while striking out four. Tim Mayza, Yimi Garcia, Zach Pop, Trevor Richards and Adam Cimber all worked in relief.

Castillo was pulled in the eighth inning after hitting Springer with a pitch in the left wrist area. Springer stayed in the game and X-rays taken after the game were negative, Schneider said.

Chapman provided Toronto’s first extra-base hit with a two-out double in the ninth inning. Raimel Tapia grounded out to end it.

Blue Jays infielder Santiago Espinal, who missed the last two weeks with an oblique strain, was included on the team’s 26-man roster for the series. Backup catcher Gabriel Moreno and reliever Yusei Kikuchi also made the cut.

Outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr., (hamstring) ran the bases on Thursday but still needs more time. Backup outfielder Bradley Zimmer was also off the list.

Moreno gives Toronto three catchers and the flexibility to use Alejandro Kirk or Danny Jansen behind the plate or as a designated hitter if needed. Kirk started at catcher for Game 1 while Jansen batted eighth as the DH.

Kikuchi struggled as a starter this season but has improved of late in a bullpen role. He offers a power arm from the left side.

The Mariners have tabbed Logan Gilbert to start Game 3 if needed. The Blue Jays are expected to go with Ross Stripling but it is not official.

The series winner will advance to the AL Division Series starting Tuesday in Houston.

The Blue Jays missed the playoffs last year and were swept by the Tampa Bay Rays in a wild-card series in 2020. Toronto last reached the AL Championship Series in 2016 and last won the World Series in 1993.

It was the Mariners’ first playoff game since losing the ALCS in 2001. The franchise entered Major League Baseball with the expansion Blue Jays in 1977.

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Canada coach John Herdman disputes Croatian counterpart's account of skipped post-match handshake – The Globe and Mail

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Canada head coach John Herdman during a World Cup match against Croatia, at the Khalifa International Stadium, in Doha, Qatar, on Nov. 27.The Associated Press

Canada coach John Herdman is disputing his Croatian counterpart’s account of why there was no handshake after their World Cup game.

Herdman had antagonized the Croatian camp with a heated postgame message to his players after Canada’s opening 1-0 loss to Belgium at the soccer showcase. Asked in a pitch-side interview what he had said in a postgame huddle to his players, Herdman replied: “I told them they belong here and we’re going to go and eff – Croatia. That’s as simple as it gets.”

That prompted a stern lecture from Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic on the need for respect. And after Croatia beat the Canadians 4-1 Sunday, Dalic was asked if he had a chance to shake hands with Herdman following the final whistle.

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“I did not see the other head coach after the match,” he said through an interpreter. “When I lose I always congratulate the winner. He was not there and that’s his way of doing things. He’s obviously mad. He is a good coach. He is a high-quality professional. But it will take some time for him to learn some things.”

Herdman, whose postgame news conference preceded Dalic’s on Sunday, disputed that account Wednesday when asked about it.

“Look, we shook hands before the game. So that happened,” he said. “At the end of the game, the usual process – no different than [with Belgium coach] Roberto Martinez. You shake hands with the coach, then you go shake hands with the referee.

“When I turned round, [Dalic] was already off down the touchline, which is his right to do. He’s celebrating. He’s just beaten Canada. It was a big celebration for him. He was off and I couldn’t get to shake his hand. I went into the field, shook the ref’s hand, shook players’ hands. And didn’t get to see him.

“That moment’s gone. We’re into process now – team huddle, see your fans, flash interviews, calm yourself down so you don’t say anything and move on.”

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Argentina coast past Poland 2-0 to top World Cup Group C – Al Jazeera English

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Second-half goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez cap a return to form for the South American giants.

Argentina coasted past Poland in a 2-0 victory on Wednesday night to top Group C and confirm their place in the last 16 of the World Cup, signalling a return to form for the South American giants after a poor start to this year’s tournament.

Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez’s second-half goals capped a dominant display by coach Lionel Scaloni’s charges at Stadium 974 – which was packed to the rafters with tens of thousands of raucous Argentinian supporters – to set up a clash with Australia on Saturday.

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After a goalless first 45 minutes, Mac Allister got on the end of Nahuel Molina’s cross just one minute into the second period and, despite making weak contact, he saw his shot creep over the line with Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny beaten.

The second goal was the result of patient buildup play which saw Argentina shift the ball around before Enzo Fernandez made a defence-splitting pass for Julian Alvarez, who found space in the box and smashed it into the top corner to effectively kill the game in the 67th minute.

Poland were lifeless throughout but managed to also squeeze through to the knockout phase on goal difference at the expense of Mexico, who beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in Group C’s other match.

They will meet defending champions France in the last 16 on Sunday.

Argentina's Alexis Mac Allister scores their first goal
Mac Allister opened the scoring for Argentina immediately after half-time [Issei Kato/Reuters]

Messi misses from the penalty spot

The first half’s defining moment came in the 39th minute when Argentina captain and talisman Lionel Messi failed to convert from the penalty spot on his record-breaking 22nd World Cup match, one more than the late Diego Maradona managed for La Albiceleste.

Poland were up in arms when Argentina were awarded the penalty after a VAR check for a foul on Messi when Szczesny’s glove brushed his face as the Paris St Germain forward rose up for a header at the far post.

But Szczesny was up to the task and despite the Argentina fans raising the decibel levels inside the arena, he kept his composure and guessed correctly, diving to his left and using one hand to swat aside Messi’s effort.

Not to be deterred, Messi never stopped surging forward and he was a menace to Poland all throughout the game with his dribbling ability and vision.

His glittering performance stood in stark contrast to that of Poland’s star striker Robert Lewandowski, who was deprived of service and virtually anonymous for the duration of the match.

Messi, 35, has admitted this will likely be his last World Cup outing while Lewandoski, 34, has said he is unsure if he will make it to the 2026 edition in North America but would like to do so.

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Maple Leafs extend win streak to five games as Marner enters record book – Sportsnet.ca

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