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Habs’ Gallagher having CT scan; hearing set for Niskanen

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According to TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun, Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher will have a CT scan on Thursday afternoon for his jaw after he was cross-checked by Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Matt Niskanen in Game 5 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series on Wednesday night.

Late in the third period, Gallagher was cross-checked in the jaw by Niskanen and was bleeding from his mouth. No penalty was called on the play and Niskanen will have a hearing with NHL Player Safety regarding the incident. “We have confidence the video will show what it shows,” Canadiens interim head coach Kirk Muller told reporters in the team’s Zoom call on Thursday.

“Let’s see what happens this afternoon,” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters regarding the hearing. “But in my estimation, Gallagher got up and seemed fine, he was talking to the referees.

“The whole time he was on the bench, he was talking to our players…I don’t think it’s Nisky’s fault that he’s taller than a bunch of guys.”

Muller added that he was not counting out Gallagher for Game 6, but that was not based on any medical information and that Gallagher may have to leave the Toronto bubble to have further tests. “We’re still waiting for feedback medically,” he said.

Gallagher scored his first goal of the playoffs earlier in Game 5 as the Habs went on to win 5-3. The Flyers lead the series 3-2.

Source: – TSN

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MLB playoff push: Blue Jays can still catch Yankees after securing berth – Sportsnet.ca

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With their 4-1 victory over the New York Yankees on Thursday night, the Toronto Blue Jays officially booked their ticket to the playoffs.

It’s been four years since the Blue Jays last played post-season baseball, and the club that will embark on this post-season is completely different from the one that captured all of Canada’s attention en route to the 2016 American League Championship Series.

Currently sitting in the eight seed with that second wild-card spot in-hand, the young team can actually still rise in the post-season ranks before the seeding is fully locked in, thanks to their 3-1 series win over the Yankees this week. Toronto can catch New York in the standings and jump into that fifth seed with a strong showing against the Baltimore Orioles to close out the season, but only if the Yankees stumble and suffer a few losses, too.

So while a Rays-Jays first-round showdown is the most likely matchup, it’s not yet set in stone.

Here’s a closer look at where they stand in the MLB playoff picture…

If the playoffs began today

The top two teams in each division make the playoffs along with the top remaining two teams from each league for a total of 16 playoff teams. Those 16 teams will then face off in eight best-of-three series that precede the League Division Series.

If the post-season began today, these eight American League teams would qualify:

No. 1 Tampa Bay Rays vs. No. 8 Toronto Blue Jays
No. 2 Minnesota Twins vs. No. 7 Cleveland Indians
No. 3 Oakland Athletics vs. No. 6 Houston Astros
No. 4 Chicago White Sox vs. No. 5 New York Yankees

And these eight National League teams would qualify:

No. 1 Los Angeles Dodgers vs. No. 8 San Francisco Giants
No. 2 Atlanta Braves vs. No. 7 Cincinnati Reds
No. 3 Chicago Cubs vs. No. 6 Miami Marlins
No. 4 San Diego Padres vs. No. 5 St. Louis Cardinals

How seeding works in 2020: According to MLB, the top three seeds in each league go to the three division winners in order of record. The next three seeds go to the three teams that finish second in their division, in order of record. The final two seeds will go to the two teams with the next best records, regardless of division.

In striking distance

After being more or less locked up for the past few weeks, the American League’s playoff picture just has one last berth up for grabs — though, calling it “up for grabs” is being generous. The Houston Astros, currently sitting in the sixth seed, can lock up their place with just a single win in their final three games, dashing the hopes of the Los Angeles Angels — who, at 26-31, are the only remaining AL club that hasn’t officially been eliminated from contention yet.

Otherwise, the only change to come in the AL is in the form of playoff-bound teams jockeying for position within those top eight seeds. The Blue Jays will most likely be meeting the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round, but that could still change. As outlined above, the Jays can still catch the Yankees and jump into second in the AL East with wins over Baltimore and New York losing to the Marlins. The Rays clinched the division earlier this week, but aren’t locked into that No. 1 seed just yet as the 35-22 Twins can still catch them. If the Twins can jump into the top spot and the Jays stay put at No. 8, that sets us up for a Minnesota-Toronto first-round clash.

Meanwhile, in the National League, the field is still wide open. While the Dodgers and Braves have clinched their respective divisions and the Cubs and Padres are guaranteed post-season berths, there are still four spots for the taking.

The Philadelphia Phillies (28-29) and Milwaukee Brewers (27-29) are playing for their post-season lives this weekend, while none of the Cardinals, Marlins, Reds and Giants can afford to lose down the stretch.

Get ready for drama, particularly in the NL Central: the Cardinals and Brewers finish the season head-to-head, a series that feels like we’re already in the playoffs.

Playoff odds report

With the Blue Jays finally hitting 100 per cent with their post-season berth secured, we’ll shift this portion of the MLB playoff push to where the drama is by looking at the National League’s odds for all teams still on the hunt.

Objectively speaking, here’s where the Cardinals, Marlins, Reds, Giants, Phillies and Brewers stand in relation to their closest adversaries, according to FanGraphs and FiveThirtyEight:

Cardinals’ FanGraphs odds: 87.4% | Cardinals’ FiveThirtyEight odds: 90%

Marlins’ FanGraphs odds: 90.7% | Marlins’ FiveThirtyEight odds: 93%

Reds’ FanGraphs odds: 88.1% | Reds’ FiveThirtyEight odds: 91%

Giants’ FanGraphs odds: 47.1% | Giants’ FiveThirtyEight odds: 44%

Phillies’ FanGraphs odds: 50.5% | Phillies’ FiveThirtyEight odds: 54%

Brewers’ FanGraphs odds: 33.9% | Brewers’ FiveThirtyEight odds: 26%

Next up

The Blue Jays will send Taijuan Walker to the mound Friday while the Orioles will counter with Jorge Lopez in their bid to play spoiler in Toronto’s mission to move up in the seeding.

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Blue Jays have key decisions to make in coming days as post-season nears – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO — Just one year after losing 95 games, the Blue Jays are back in the playoffs despite never playing a game in their home ballpark. Sure, they got some assistance when MLB expanded the post-season, but every team had that opportunity and not all of them made the most of it.

It’s an accomplishment to savour — and also an opportunity to seize. The playoffs are notoriously unpredictable, after all, and that’ll be especially true in a year that begins with a best-of-three series. It’s a good time to be an underdog.

Now that the Blue Jays have clinched, they have four days to prepare for their next test, but the last three regular season games are significant in themselves. In theory, the Blue Jays could pass the Yankees and overtake the No. 5 seed in the American League. And if nothing else, these last few games will inform roster moves and playing time decisions for the wild-card round that begins Tuesday.

Here’s a look at what’s at stake for the Blue Jays between now and Sunday afternoon’s regular season finale…

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What can Pearson offer in the playoffs?

In theory, Nate Pearson has the pitches to become an important high-leverage arm for the Blue Jays, but translating that potential to results with limited time to spare is another matter. That adds significance to his late-season appearances as the Blue Jays consider how to use him in the playoffs.

“I wouldn’t mind using him in high-leverage, but he could also open for us if we need him,” manager Charlie Montoyo said after officially activating Pearson Thursday.

Either way, it stands to reason Pearson will be on the Blue Jays’ playoff roster as long as he makes it through his upcoming tune-up session healthy.

Can anyone else return from the injured list?

Along with Pearson, Jordan Romano (finger), Julian Merryweather (elbow) and Rowdy Tellez (knee) are each working their way back from injuries as well. All would be big additions, and the coming weekend offers a perfect chance to get some reps in at game speed, yet it’d be a surprise if any of those three see game action against the Orioles.

Romano, who will throw a bullpen session Friday, may be furthest along of those three. And while the Blue Jays were set on seeing Pearson in a regular season game, Romano doesn’t have a new role to get used to, so he doesn’t necessarily have to pitch in a game over the weekend to be a candidate for a playoff roster spot.

As Montoyo said, “They’re different cases.”

How does Shoemaker look?

In his first start back after missing a month with a lat strain, Matt Shoemaker pitched well against the Yankees, holding them to one run over three innings of work. He did walk two in the second inning, but was otherwise effective on a night his fastball topped out at 96 m.p.h.

On Saturday, he’ll have the chance to build off that start and strengthen his bid to start Game 3 of the playoffs should there be one. After throwing 54 pitches in his first start back, it’s reasonable to assume Shoemaker could be stretched to 70 against the Orioles this weekend. If all goes well, he could earn himself a playoff rotation spot.

“If we can stretch him out enough, he’ll be in the conversation for sure,” Montoyo said. “You can count on that.”

The alternative to Shoemaker would likely be Robbie Ray, but the Blue Jays might also like the idea of having Ray available in relief earlier in the series, especially if they play Tampa Bay. Against a lineup including left-handed hitters like Brandon Lowe, Yoshi Tsutsugo, Kevin Kiermaier, Joey Wendle and Nate Lowe, Ray has the potential to be a difference maker.

How much can they expect from Kirk?

The Blue Jays promoted Alejandro Kirk because they wanted offence, and he has delivered so far, making consistently hard contact while putting together quality at-bats against big-league pitching. At this rate, Kirk is likely to get at-bats in the wild-card round, but he could cement his case for regular playing time with a strong final weekend.

Of course, Danny Jansen reminded the Blue Jays of his own offensive ability with a four-hit game including two home runs Wednesday, but Kirk could also factor in at designated hitter. For example, if left-hander Blake Snell starts Game 1 for the Rays, the Blue Jays might prefer to have Travis Shaw, a left-handed hitter, on the bench. That would mean Vladimir Guerrero Jr. starts at first and leaves the DH spot open, potentially for Kirk, who has shown the ability to hit high-velocity pitchers like Snell and Tyler Glasnow.

When it comes to determining playing time for their catchers, all kinds of variables are in play — who do pitchers prefer throwing to? Does the schedule include a day game after a night game? Is Tellez an option at DH? — but the better Kirk hits down the stretch, the more options he gives the Blue Jays.

Either way, rostering a third catcher such as Caleb Joseph or Reese McGuire would allow Montoyo to use Kirk as a pinch hitter without having to worry. Otherwise, the Blue Jays would be an injury away from losing their DH.

“That’s never easy because if someone gets hurt it becomes a National League game,” Montoyo said.

Who pitches Sunday?

At this point, Tanner Roark lines up as the likely starter for Sunday’s season finale — a game that will likely have no bearing on the standings. With that in mind, the Blue Jays face a decision. Do they save Roark for the playoffs or let him contribute by soaking up some innings for the rest of the staff?

Considering Roark recently expressed frustration with the short leash starters often find themselves on, he might embrace the opportunity to pitch seven or eight innings.

“Just because the computers are saying something different — I hate it,” he said after a game earlier this month. “I’m old school. They signed me here for a reason, to not go three, four innings and throw only a certain amount of pitches. I throw a lot of pitches. I try to go as deep as I can.”

Soon, Roark may get his chance. The conversation would be different if Roark were pitching better, yet with a 7.01 ERA and 14 home runs allowed in just 43.2 innings, it’s hard to imagine him pitching high-leverage innings in the wild-card round. But by saving the rest of the staff on Sunday, he could still contribute and potentially re-join the active roster for the ALDS should the Blue Jays advance.

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Halep opens with Sorribes Tormo, Serena set for rematch – WTA Tennis

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22 hrs ago

Simona Halep will begin her French Open campaign against Sara Sorribes Tormo, while Serena Williams faces a familiar foe as the 2020 Roland Garros draw is unveiled.

By Stephanie Livaudais

PARIS, France – 2018 champion Simona Halep will begin her quest for her second Coupe Suzanne Lenglen against Sara Sorribes Tormo, while Serena Williams faces a familiar foe in the first round of the French Open. 

The draw for the last Grand Slam of 2020 was released today, featuring several mouth-watering first-round clashes and plenty of potential landmines for seeded players.  

Read more: Kostyuk, Li, McNally lead youth surge in Roland Garros qualifying

Top seed Halep will seek to build on her momentum after winning two clay titles in the buildup to Paris, lifting the Prague trophy and achieving her career first triumph in Rome last week. Halep is in the same quarter of the draw as No.5 seed Kiki Bertens, who opens against Ukraine’s Katarina Zavatska. The Romanian could face No.25 Amanda Anisimova in the third round, though an unseeded Jil Teichmann could derail those plans. 

Elsewhere in Halep and Bertens’ top quarter, last year’s finalist Marketa Vondrousova, the No.15 seed, will take on 19-year-old Iga Swiatek, while No.9 seed Johanna Konta faces off against teen phenom Coco Gauff in the first round. 

Thank you Original 9 – WTA stars pay tribute to the pioneers

Original 9

Karolina Pliskova, the No.2 seed, anchors the bottom quarter of the draw, and begins her Roland Garros campaign against a qualifier. A potential clash with former champion Jelena Ostapenko could be looming in the second round, should both players advance. The winner could get a third round match against former finalist Sloane Stephens, the No.29 seed who starts against Vitalia Diatchenko.

No.7 seed Petra Kvitova landed in the same quarter as fellow Czech player Pliskova, and will take on home hope Oceane Dodin in her first match. No.31 seed Magda Linette is a potential third round opponent, though the Polish player will have to get through the rising Canadian Leylah Fernandez in the first round. 

Read more: Andreescu ends 2020 season ‘to focus on health and training’

No.18 seed Angelique Kerber was also drawn into this quarter, as she resumes her quest to complete the career Slam with a victory at Roland Garros. She is on a possible third-round collision course with former US Open finalist Madison Keys, the No.12 seed.

Photo by Jimmie48 Photography/WTA

Elina Svitolina leads a stacked quarter highlighted by US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka and 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams. The No.3 seed herself will open against Varvara Gracheva, a rising Russian player who impressed with a run to the US Open third round in her Grand Slam debut. Svitolina could meet No.27 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova in the third round. 

For the second tournament in a row, No.6 seed Serena will face Kristie Ahn in the first round as she kicks off her quest for an all-time record tying 24th Grand Slam crown. Should she advance, Serena could get another US Open rematch with Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round. 

Read more: International Tennis Hall of Fame launches Original 9 exhibit

But the deja vu wouldn’t be over yet, as Serena could see familiar foe Azarenka as early as the round of 16, in a rematch of the pair’s electrifying US Open semifinal. Azarenka herself will start her French Open campaign against Danka Kovinic, and could face an unseeded Venus Williams in the second round. 

To make things even more interesting, No.17 seed Anett Kontaveit, No.16 Elise Mertens and No.23 Yulia Putintseva have also landed in Svitolina, Serena and Azarenka’s quarter, ready to spring a potential upset. 

Photo by Jimmie48 Photography/WTA

No.4 seed Sofia Kenin tops a quarter of on-the-rise stars as she seeks to lift her second Grand Slam title. The Australian Open champion will face Liudmila Samsonova in the first round, with a potential third-round clash against No.26 Donna Vekic awaiting should both players advance. 

No.8 seed Aryna Sabalenka and No.11 Garbine Muguruza have also been drawn into Kenin’s quarter and are on a Round of 16 collision course. They’ll have to get through their opening matches, with former champion Muguruza taking on Tamara Zidansek in the first round and Sabalenka starting against Jessica Pegula. 

Two of the most in-form players of the year also make an appearance in this section, as No.30 seed Ons Jabeur and No.21 Jennifer Brady look to make their mark at Roland Garros. Jabeur, who became the first Arab woman to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam at the Australian Open, will take on Zarina Diyas in the first round, and could advance to face Muguruza in the third. Lexington champion Brady will start against a qualifier, and could meet Sabalenka in the third round herself. 

To view the full draw, visit rolandgarros.com

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