DENVER – Major League Baseball decked out the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver for the all-star week’s fan festivities, plastering massive decals of its brightest talents on the building’s glass exterior. Staring down from one of the main entrances were four players – Fernando Tatis Jr., Tim Anderson, Jacob deGrom and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
That the Toronto Blue Jays superstar was featured so prominently in the league’s marketing at its central hub for fans, and on banners hanging from light posts all around Coors Field and the downtown core, is a clear demonstration of his growing importance to the sport.
Between his ruthless power, deliberate discipline and infectious joy on the field, Guerrero is everything the sport wants to highlight. Both commissioner Rob Manfred and union boss Tony Clark shouted out his emergence as a key development during their conversations with the BBWAA on Tuesday morning, and in an all-star game largely built around two-way wonder Shohei Ohtani, the 22-year-old demonstrated that he’s a transcendental talent, too.
Whether it was disarming the usually snarling Max Scherzer with a hug on the mound after his line drive nearly decapitated the Washington Nationals ace, launching a 468-foot home run off Corbin Burnes or professionally cashing in Teoscar Hernandez with a groundball to the right side, Guerrero’s imprints were all over the American League’s 5-2 win over the National League.
In doing so, he became the first Blue Jays player named all-star game MVP, the youngest to accomplish the feat, and once again proved to be a young man of his word.
“I can’t wait to get back to hear what Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and George Springer have to say about this,” Guerrero, speaking through interpreter Hector Lebron, said afterwards. “Before I left I made a promise to them that I was going to win the MVP and they said, ‘You better win the MVP. If not, don’t come back.’”
No worries there, even if Hernandez quipped about deserving half the prize for setting up Guerrero’s second RBI. Either way, it was a strong Blue Jays showing in the contest, as Marcus Semien’s infield single in the second brought home Aaron Judge with the game’s first run, while Hernandez doubled and scored in the fifth, Toronto hitters responsible for the game’s first three runs.
Bo Bichette, subbing in for Xander Bogaerts in the bottom of the fifth, made a nice play on a deflected Adam Frazier grounder to end that inning and then took his trademark big swings against Mark Melancon in the eighth in a three-pitch strikeout.
“That’s my first time coming off the bench I think in my whole life,” Bichette joked. “I didn’t really know what to do, just swing as hard as I can.”
Ohtani went 0-for-2 on a pair of groundouts at the plate but considering that he became the first player ever to start an all-star game on the mound and as a hitter, his night was still remarkable. Roughly 24 hours after an electric showing at the home run derby, when Juan Soto eliminated him after an extra round and a swing-off, the Los Angeles Angels superstar topped out at 100.2 m.p.h. and averaged 98.1 on seven fastballs during a clean 14-pitch first.
Just awe-inspiring stuff that impacts far more than his team.
“I appreciate what he’s done for our game and our fans,” said AL manager Kevin Cash. “There’s a lot of stuff that we are coming out of, obviously, with the pandemic, and for his talent to get baseball going again, he’s been a big part of it. So the appreciation goes to him and similar to Vlad Guerrero Jr. Those guys have so much on their plate and the way they handle it with such humility, class and go about their business, that’s probably the thing that stands out.”
Guerrero delivered an example of that right out of the gate when he ripped a fastball down and in right up the middle. Scherzer just barely whipped his head away from the 111.1 m.p.h. rocket that went for a loud groundout to second.
On his way back to the dugout, Guerrero turned wide toward the mound and warmly hugged the fiery righty, his amiability on display the moment the competitor shut down.
“At the home run derby, we had a conversation and he was just joking with me, he said, ‘Hey, take it easy with me tomorrow.’ That’s what he told me,” Guerrero recalled. “After the line drive, I just wanted to give him a hug.”
Scherzer described the line drive as “a pitcher’s worst nightmare,” and added that he’s “just grateful I still have a blue eye and a brown eye.”
“I’m alive and I didn’t get hit by a ball,” he added, “that’s the success story.”
The home run the next inning was majestic, unloading on a lazy 1-1 slider that hung middle-middle and launching it deep into the darkening Rockies sky at 110.2 m.p.h. As he skipped up the line he cracked a smile, revelling in his accomplishment before throwing down his bat, circling the bases and engaging in some interplay with Tatis.
“When he hit the fly ball to left (in the first inning), I told him, ‘Hey, you just missed that one,’” Guerrero explained. “And when I hit the homer, he told me that I should have stood at the plate a little longer.”
Waiting for him outside the dugout was Bichette for the pair’s traditional post-homer hug before his elaborate handshake with Hernandez.
“He’s so amazing that we almost kind of expect him to do that,” said Bichette. “It was definitely cool to see him do it on this stage. “His personality, being his teammate, that’s so infectious. He has fun every day and it’s tough not having fun with him.”
In the fifth, he made it 3-0 with his chopper to second allowed Hernandez to scoot home, delivering a productive out on a 98.8-m.p.h. fastball at the top of the zone from Trevor Rogers after swinging through a pair of heaters in similar spots the previous two pitches.
Guerrero came out of the game after the inning but hung around until the end, being among the first players to greet Jared Walsh after he made a sliding catch on a Kris Bryant liner to bail Matt Barnes out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth and preserve a 5-2 lead.
“A lot of people hadn’t seen it and now they have,” said Semien. “Everybody watches this game. If I’m not an all-star, I’m sitting there at home watching it with my kids. He did it against the best in the game. Hopefully he carries that into the second half and we win some ballgames.”
Major League Baseball can definitely sell that, and the fact there were 42 first-time all-stars in the game and so many compelling young talents – even in the absence of the recently injured Ronald Acuna Jr. – speaks to the opportunity the game has in the years ahead.
Leveraging that, of course, will require labour peace beyond the expiration of the current collective bargaining and more labour talks are upcoming. Both Manfred and Clark were especially tight-lipped about how much, if any, headway was being made but the lack of sniping after last year’s disconcerting back-and-forth is surely better than the alternative.
While there’s certainly lingering distrust, Manfred chafed at the notion of there being any spillover, saying “this whole relationship thing gets overplayed and misinterpreted.”
“If you’re in a collective bargaining relationship, you’re going to have points in time where you have disagreements and sometimes they get public,” he continued. “I don’t think that’s a good thing but it happens, OK? It just is the way of the world. Agreements get made or not made based on the substance of what’s out there. The fact that you have a period of time, which we admittedly had last spring, where we had serious disagreements that became public, I don’t think is really an indicator of whether you’re going to get an agreement.”
A labour stoppage just as the sport is re-emerging from the pandemic would seem asinine, but there are fundamental issues in both the game’s economic structure and the way it’s played that are up for debate.
Manfred essentially said seven-inning doubleheaders and runners on second to begin extra innings won’t be back once health and safety concerns ease, saying “they are much less likely to be part of our permanent landscape,” than non-radical rules that tweak play.
Among them could be regulating defensive shifts by stipulating that two infielders must begin on either side of second base, something he said “is not change, it’s restoration.”
No matter how it’s spun, implementing any adjustments is better done in conjunction with players, especially with the opportunity to reset the sport for rapidly changing times.
At the forefront of it all is a remarkable collection of generational talent taking control of the game, and on a night for baseball’s best to shine, Guerrero outshone them all.
Andreescu's 3-year title drought extended at Wimbledon tune-up in Germany – CBC Sports
Caroline Garcia won her first tour title in three years after coming back from a set and a break down to beat 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday in the final of the Bad Homburg Open in Germany.
Andreescu was looking for her first title since beating Serena Williams in the 2019 final at Flushing Meadows before injuries forced her to miss the entire 2020 season.
“I’m very happy. It’s been a couple of rough years but, you know, I’m putting in the work and on to the next. I’m excited for Wimbledon,” said Andreescu, who became visibly emotional while thanking her team. “You guys stuck with me through the toughest moments and that’s all anyone could ever ask for.”
She has drawn American qualifier Emina Bektas in the first round of Wimbledon next week. Garcia has Yuriko Miyazaki of Britain for her opener.
WATCH | Andreescu falls to Garcia in Bad Homburg final:
Garcia took a medical timeout for what seemed to be a shoulder problem early in the second set. She then went 4-2 down before winning 10 of the next 14 games to seal the match ahead of the start of Wimbledon on Monday.
“It was a fight [for] every point from the first to the last one,” Garcia said.
Garcia is 8-3 in career finals but her last title was almost exactly three years ago in Nottingham in the build-up to the 2019 Wimbledon tournament.
WATCH | Canadian tennis star Andreescu answers questions from kids:
Kvitova captures Eastbourne title
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova tuned up for the Grand Slam tournament by overpowering Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 6-2 to win the Eastbourne title on Saturday in England.
The 14th-seeded Kvitova earned her first grass-court title in four years — and 29th trophy of her singles career overall – after breaking Ostapenko, the defending champion, early in both sets and feasting on the Latvian’s second serve.
Kvitova saved five break points in the fourth game of the second set to stay in control of the match at 3-1.
“Playing on the grass is very special for me every time,” the 32-year-old Czech player said in her on-court interview. “It’s the best preparation for Wimbledon, as well.”
Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, plays Tuesday at the All England Club in a first-round match against Jasmine Paolini of Italy.
She is now 5-1 in grass-court finals in her career. Her most recent title on grass had been Birmingham in 2018.
Injured Keys, Coric out of Wimbledon
Madison Keys, the 2017 U.S. Open runner-up, and Borna Coric withdrew from Wimbledon on Saturday because of injuries.
The tournament begins Monday.
Keys, an American who was seeded 19th at the All England Club, pulled out because of a hurt abdominal muscle.
She was replaced in the field by Coco Vandeweghe, twice a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon and twice a semifinalist at other Grand Slam tournaments, who lost in qualifying this week. Vandeweghe’s first-round opponent will be No. 17 seed Elena Rybakina.
“This isn’t what I was hoping to say a few days before @Wimbledon, but unfortunately I have to withdraw due to an abdominal injury,” world number 24 Keys tweeted.
“I’m so disappointed, but my health comes first and my body needs time to get back to 100%. Lots of love London fans. See you next year.”
Former world No. 7 Keys won her first title since 2019 at the Adelaide WTA tournament in January before reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open.
She was defeated in the French Open fourth round by Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova.
Coric is a Croatian who got into the field thanks to a protected ranking because he has been injured. He cited a shoulder problem for his withdrawal.
He was drawn to face No. 12 seed Diego Schwartzman and that spot will be filled by an as-yet-unannounced player who lost in qualifying.
Jaeger: Sexually harassed ‘at least 30 times’
Former teenage tennis phenom Andrea Jaeger said she was sexually harassed “at least 30 times” by a female Women’s Tennis Association staff member during the 1980s.
Jaeger, now 57, also told The Independent she also was unknowingly served alcohol when she was 16 by a different staff member, who drove her home and tried to kiss her.
The two-time Grand Slam finalist was on the tour from ages 14 to 19 and was ranked as high as No. 2 in the world in 1981. Despite her success, she said she made it a habit to avoid WTA officials at tournaments during her five years on tour. Jaeger said much of the harassment occurred in locker rooms.
“I’d change in portable toilets or a bathroom stall because I didn’t want to deal with the comments, the interest or actions of people,” Jaeger said, according to The Independent. “I had at least 30 incidents with one specific non-playing staff member, physical attempts all in the locker room very, very early in my career. That particular non-playing staff employee had a major issue keeping her hands to herself.
“I avoided being in training rooms alone because an approach was made on me there as well.”
Jaeger said she was served multiple alcoholic drinks following the 1982 WTA Championships and began to get fuzzy. An official drove her home.
“When we got to my condo, she walked me to the door and tried something on with me,” Jaeger said. “She was trying to kiss me. I was so sickened that I was crawling up the stairs inside trying not to throw up so my dad wouldn’t see me.”
Jaeger said she complained to WTA officials after the incident and was threatened with reprisals.
She won 10 career titles before retiring at age 19 due to a shoulder injury.
Lightning’s Brayden Point remains out of lineup for Game 6 – Sportsnet.ca
Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper is not anticipating any lineup changes Sunday night for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final as forward Brayden Point continues to deal with an undisclosed “severe injury.”
Point sustained a leg injury during Game 7 of the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He returned for the start of the Stanley Cup Final and recorded one assist in two games before leaving the lineup again.
“It’s tricky too because players are used to playing at, I guess, a certain way or how they feel they can play,” Cooper told reporters. “If they don’t feel confident in playing at the calibre they’re used to, it almost works against them.
“It’s unfortunate because it was a severe injury and at this time of the year, everybody’s trying to get back into the lineup and there are just some things you can’t do. When you can’t do what you’re used to doing, it’s tough on the player.”
The 26-year-old Point, who has 78 points in 76 career postseason games, skated with the Lightning during Sunday morning’s practice, and Cooper did not completely rule him out for a potential Game 7.
“He’s still plugging along here and rehabbing and trying to get better. Who knows? If the series goes one more game, you never know,” Cooper said. “It’s tough on these guys because they’re such competitors.”
The Colorado Avalanche hold a 3-2 series lead looking to secure their first Stanley Cup since 2001 while the double defending champion Lightning are aiming to keep their hopes of a three-peat alive. Watch Game 6 live on Sportsnet or Sportsnet NOW starting at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT.
In Gee Chun perseveres, holds off Lexi Thompson to win Women's PGA – Golf Channel
BETHESDA, Md. — In Gee Chun rallied after losing her once-sizeable lead, overcoming a bogey-filled front nine to win the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship on Sunday when Lexi Thompson faltered with the putter.
Chun shot a 3-over 75 for the second consecutive day at Congressional, but that was enough to win her third major title by a stroke over Thompson and Minjee Lee. Chun, after leading by six at the tournament’s midway point, lost a three-shot advantage in the first three holes of the final round. Thompson was two strokes ahead of her after the front nine, but her putting problems were just beginning.
The 27-year-old Floridian botched a par putt from a couple feet on No. 14, but a birdie on 15 restored her lead to two. Then she bogeyed the par-5 16th while Chun made birdie, leaving the two players tied with two holes remaining.
Thompson three-putted for bogey on 17, and after an impressive approach from the rough on 18, her birdie putt wasn’t hit firmly enough.
Chun’s approach on the par-4 18th bounced past the hole and just off the back of the green, but she putted to within 5 feet and sank her par attempt to win the tournament.
Chun, a 27-year-old from South Korea, led by seven strokes after finishing her first round in wet conditions Thursday. The lead was down to five at the end of that day — still equaling the largest 18-hole advantage in the history of women’s majors.
She was six strokes ahead at the halfway point and had a three-stroke advantage coming into Sunday. She finished at 5-under 283.
Chun won her first major at the U.S. Women’s Open in 2015 and added the Evian Championship in France the following year.
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