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In a great pitchers’ duel, Ohtani proves too much for Blue Jays –



TORONTO — The pitchers’ duel was as good as advertised — maybe better.  

Though he didn’t start the day with his sharpest stuff, Alek Manoah was at his best against the Angels, striking out seven while allowing just four hits. Opposite Manoah, Shohei Ohtani was electric, touching 100 m.p.h. while mixing in his hard slider and disappearing splitter on his way to nine strikeouts of his own. And it was perhaps appropriate that on an afternoon the Blue Jays honoured the 1992 World Series Champions, both starters completed seven innings, throwback style. 

“Every game is Game 7 of the World Series for me,” Manoah said afterwards. “It doesn’t matter if Ohtani’s on the mound over there or Roger Clemens. It doesn’t matter. My job is to compete, give the team my all and do everything I can to try and get us a win.”

Ultimately, Ohtani proved too much for the Blue Jays this time, as a Luis Rengifo RBI single was the game winner and the home team lost 2-0 in front of a sellout crowd of 45,311. But where the Blue Jays faltered in all phases of the game Friday, it’s hard to find much fault with their effort Saturday. They just happened to face one of the game’s best pitchers on a day his stuff was as good as it gets. 

“I enjoyed it,” Ohtani told reporters afterwards. “I would like to avoid it if possible because (Manoah’s) a great pitcher. Less chance of getting good results at the plate. But I did enjoy going pitch for pitch with him.” 

Ohtani lowered his season ERA to 2.67 with the outing — and remember, he has 27 home runs, too. 

“He was on today,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider, who was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the eighth. “He dialled in and did his thing. It’s four or five pitches. It’s 100 m.p.h. It’s nasty stuff. You’ve got to tip your cap to him.” 

“Everything that he does is just amazing to me to watch,” longtime Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said before Saturday’s ceremony. “He’s a Babe Ruth in a lot of ways. He’s a great looking player. I just don’t know how he’s going to do that for the rest of his career, but we’ll see what happens.” 

On the mound, at least, Manoah’s right there with Ohtani, who walked, struck out and grounded into a fielder’s choice in three trips to the plate against his counterpart. As impressive as Ohtani has been, Manoah’s 2.60 ERA is lower and he’s pitched 27.2 more innings. Still, both belong in the American League Cy Young conversation along with the likes of Justin Verlander, Shane McClanahan and Dylan Cease. 

Manoah began the day with diminished velocity, but his fastball picked up speed as the afternoon progressed and he ended up topping out at 96.2 m.p.h. His average fastball was 92.9 m.p.h., down from his season average of 94 m.p.h., but it didn’t stop him from holding the Angels to one run. 

“He started slow; his tempo was off,” Schneider said. “But then he dialled it in and it was an old-fashioned pitching duel. They went toe to toe there for seven and he got stronger as he went on. What allows him to win is his desire to win and his competitive nature.” 

Even once Ohtani gave way to the bullpen, the Blue Jays couldn’t generate the offence they needed and fell to 68-57 on the season. But despite the team’s up and down season, some of the Blue Jays’ franchise greats believe the 2022 team has the potential to go on a memorable October run of their own.  

“Last year they learned that one game makes a difference,” Joe Carter said. “They’re going to work to be sure that doesn’t happen again” 

“They’re playing great,” added Gaston, who still watches regularly. “They’ve got a great chance to go right to the World Series. They’ve got a good team out there. They seem to have a lot of fun playing with each other. They seem to have each other’s back. And it’s fun to watch them. It’s really fun.”  

Meanwhile, Teoscar Hernandez was on the bench Saturday after fouling a ball off his left foot for the second time in a week. The discomfort forced him out of Friday’s game early, but he was available off the bench if needed on Saturday. 

Should Hernandez need to ease his way back into the lineup, that’s an option the Blue Jays have now that George Springer has returned to the outfield for the first time since July 28. With their centre fielder back, the Blue Jays can now rotate others through the designated hitter spot to get them partial days off. 

“He’s also at the point where he understands it’s time for other guys to get off their feet a bit, too,” Schneider said of Springer. 

In time, that flexibility will surely help the Blue Jays, yet on Saturday it wasn’t enough. They got the pitchers’ duel they were expecting and enjoyed a celebration 30 years in the making. But a loss to one of the game’s current greats means the Blue Jays will be trying to stave off a sweep when the series concludes Sunday. 

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Roger Federer bids farewell, drops final match of career alongside Nadal at Laver Cup – CBC Sports



This day, this match, had to come, of course, for Roger Federer, and for tennis, just as it inevitably must for every athlete in every sport.

Federer bid adieu Friday night with one last contest before he heads into retirement at age 41 after a superlative career that spanned nearly a quarter-century and included 20 Grand Slam titles and a statesman’s role. He wrapped up his days as a professional player with a loss in doubles alongside his longtime rival Rafael Nadal for Team Europe in the Laver Cup against Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock of Team World.

The truth is that the victors, the statistics and the score (OK, for the record it was 4-6, 7-6 (2), 11-9) did not matter, and were all so entirely beside the point. The occasion was, after all, about the farewell itself. Or, better, the farewells, plural: Federer’s to tennis, to the fans, to his competitors and colleagues. And, naturally, each of those entities’ farewells to Federer.

“It’s been a perfect journey,” Federer said. “I would do it all over again.”

When the match and, with it, his time in professional tennis ended, Federer hugged Nadal, then Tiafoe and Sock. And then Federer began crying. There were plenty of tears to go around; Nadal wiped his own away, too.

WATCH | Federer plays final point of career:

Roger Federer plays his final point of illustrious tennis career

4 hours ago

Duration 2:41

Roger Federer and doubles partner Rafael Nadal fell to Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe 4-6, 7-6(2), 11-2 in Laver Cup play, concluding Federer’s legendary career.

“When Roger leaves the tour, an important part of my life is leaving, too,” said Nadal, 36, who used the words “sad” and “unforgettable” to describe the occasion.

As cascades of clapping and yells of affection came from the stands, Federer put his hands on his hips, his chest heaving. Then he mouthed, “Thank you,” while applauding right back toward the spectators who had chanted, “Let’s go, Roger! Let’s go!” during the concluding moments of a match that lasted more than two hours and ended at about 12:30 a.m.

His wife, Mirka, their four children — twin girls and twin boys — and Federer’s parents joined him on the court afterward for embraces and, yes, more bawling. Members of both teams joined together to hoist Federer up in the air.

“It’s been a wonderful day. I told the guys I’m happy; I’m not sad,” Federer said. “I enjoyed tying my shoes one more time. Everything was the last time.”

Roger Federer is lifted by fellow players after playing the final match of his legendary tennis career on Friday. (Kin Cheung/The Associated Press)

The Swiss star announced last week that the three-day team event, which was founded by his management company, would be his final event before retirement, then made clear the doubles outing would be the last match. His surgically repaired right knee — the last of three operations came shortly after a loss in the Wimbledon quarter-finals in July 2021, which will go down as his official exit in singles — is in no shape to allow him to continue.

“For me, just personally, [it was] sad in the first moment, when I came to the conclusion it’s the best decision,” Federer said in an interview with The Associated Press this week about his emotions when realizing it was time to go. “I kind of held it in at first, then fought it off. But I could feel the pain.”

He had said he wanted this to feel more like a party than a funeral, and the crowd obliged, rising for a loud and lengthy standing ovation when Federer and Nadal — each wearing a white bandanna, blue shirt and white shorts — emerged together from a tunnel leading out to the black court for the last match on Day 1 at the O2 Arena. They remained on their feet for nearly 10 minutes, through the pre-match warmup, holding aloft phone cameras to capture the moment.

They came ready to roar for him, some with Swiss flags, some with homemade signs (“Idol Forever” read one), and they made themselves heard with a wall of sound when Federer delivered a forehand volley winner on the match’s second point. Similar reactions arrived merely at the chair umpire’s announcement before the third game of “Roger Federer to serve,” and again when he closed that game with a 117 mph service winner.

“Obviously had 99.9% of the crowd against us. But it was super fun to just be a part of that match. I think we are going to be forever grateful to be a part of the GOAT’s final match,” Sock said, using the acronym for “Greatest of All-Time.”

Doubles requires far less movement and court coverage, of course, so the stress on Federer’s knee was limited Friday.

“Honestly,” he said, acknowledging that leading into the match there were the sorts of nerves he’d get before a Grand Slam final, “I was so surprised how well I was able to play tonight.”

He showed touches of his old flair, to be sure, and of rust, as to be expected.

There were a couple of early forehands that sailed several feet too long. There also was a forehand that slid right between Sock and Tiafoe and seemed too good to be true — and, it turned out, was: The ball traveled through a gap below the net tape and so the point was taken away from Federer and Nadal.

Although this match amounted to, essentially, a glorified exhibition, all four doubles participants played as if they wanted to win. That was clear when Sock, a three-time major champion in doubles who is 29, leaped and screamed after one particularly terrific volley or when Tiafoe, 24, sent a couple of shots right at Federer and Nadal.

There were moments of levity.

Federer and Nadal were able to laugh after a bit of confusion over which should go for a ball on a point they lost. After Nadal somehow flicked one back-to-the-net shot around the post, only for it to land barely wide, Tiafoe, a semifinalist at the U.S. Open, crossed over to extend a hand with congratulations for the effort.

Roger Federer, left, and Rafael Nadal of Team Europe interact during their doubles match on Friday. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

In the first set, the older duo couldn’t quite hear each other between points, so Federer trotted from the net back to the baseline to consult with Nadal, then pointed to his ear to signal what the issue was.

Before Federer began winning Grand Slam titles in 2003, the men’s mark for most major tennis championships was 14 by Pete Sampras. Federer blew past that, accumulating eight at Wimbledon, six at the Australian Open, five at the U.S. Open and one at the French Open, setting a new standard that Nadal, now with 22, and Novak Djokovic, with 21, equaled, then surpassed, as part of a golden era for the sport.

Surely, there are those who would have found it particularly apt to see Federer finish across the net from Nadal, often an on-court nemesis but eventually an off-court friend. Maybe it could have taken place about 15 miles away at Centre Court of the All England Club, say, or in Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros, or Rod Laver Arena at Melbourne Park, or even Arthur Ashe Stadium, the centrepiece of the U.S. Open, the lone Grand Slam tournament at which they never faced off, somehow.

Perhaps they could have provided everyone with one final installment of a head-to-head matchup as memorable as any in the long history of their sport — or, indeed, any other.

Roger vs. Rafa — just one name apiece required — belongs up there with McEnroe vs. Borg (as it happens, the two Laver Cup team captains, John and Bjorn), Evert vs. Navratilova, Sampras vs. Agassi, Ali vs. Frazier, Magic vs. Bird, Brady vs. Manning, and so on.

Over the years, Federer and Nadal showed off individual greatness and compelling contrasts across their 40 matches, 14 at Grand Slam tournaments, nine in major finals: righty vs. lefty, attacker vs. grinder, seeming effortlessness vs. relentless intensity.

And yet, there was an unmistakable element of poetry with these two men who challenged each other and elevated each other performing as partners, slapping palms and sharing smiles.

This goodbye follows that of Serena Williams, the owner of 23 major singles championships, at the U.S. Open three weeks ago after a third-round loss. It leaves questions about the future of a game he and she dominated, and transcended, for decades.

One key difference: Each time Williams took the court in New York, the looming question was how long her stay would endure — a “win or this is it” prospect.

Friday WAS it for Federer, no matter the result.

“All the players will miss him,” said Casper Ruud, who beat Sock in singles 6-4, 5-7, 10-7.

The day’s other results, which left Team Europe and Team World tied at 2-2: Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Diego Schwartzman 6-2, 6-1 in a match interrupted briefly when an environmental protester lit a portion of the court and his own arm on fire, and Alex de Minaur got past Andy Murray 5-7, 6-3, 10-7.

Due to begin playing shortly after the end of Murray’s loss, Federer and Nadal first provided him with some coaching tips, then watched part of that one on TV together in a room at the arena, waiting for their turn. When Federer and Nadal were in action, it was Djokovic’s turn to suggest strategy.

The last hurrah came after a total of 103 career singles trophies and 1,251 wins in singles matches for Federer, both second only to Jimmy Connors in the Open era, which began in 1968.

At the height of his powers, Federer appeared in a record 10 consecutive Grand Slam finals, winning eight, from 2005-07. Extend that to 2010, and he reached 18 of 19 major finals.

More than those numbers, folks will remember the powerful forehand, the one-handed backhand, the flawless footwork, the spectacularly effective serve and eagerness to get to the net, the willingness to reinvent aspects of his game and — the part of which he’s proudest — the unusual longevity. Beyond the elegance and effectiveness while wielding a racket, Federer’s persona made him an ambassador for tennis, someone whose immense popularity helped attract fans.

“This is not the end-end, you know. Life goes on. I’m healthy, I’m happy, everything’s great,” Federer said, “and this is just a moment in time.”

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Homan eliminated at PointsBet Invitational after losing draw to the button – TSN



FREDERICTON — Rachel Homan’s third-seeded team was eliminated from the PointsBet Invitational Friday after dropping a 7-6 decision to Kristie Moore’s sixth-seeded side.

Moore, who’s filling in for absent skip Casey Scheidegger, scored two points in the ninth end and held Homan to a single in the 10th.

Since traditional extra ends are not used at this event, Moore sealed the victory by finding the rings with her draw to the button after Homan’s throw was short of the paint.

“I knew that that was the one I wanted if we had that draw,” Moore said of her 10th end shot selection.

“We hadn’t played much of the game on the other side, and I hadn’t actually drawn for quite a while. I was happy to get that one in my for sure. It’s tricky out there and it’s not easy ice to draw on.”

Moore played lead for Scheidegger at two Scotties Tournament of Hearts and the 2021 Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials before forming a new team in the off-season as a skip.

Despite her past experience playing with Jessie Haughian and against vice-skip Kate Hogan and lead Taylor McDonald, Moore said it’s a process to get familiar with the team.

“We’re just trying to learn as much as we can out there. We’re a new team, literally,” she said. “I was lucky enough to get to practice with Taylor and Kate two times before the event so we’re still just learning … learning their tendencies and learning as much as I can this whole weekend. I’m happy to be here still.”

Moore will next play second-seeded Kaitlyn Lawes, who topped No. 10 Penny Barker 9-4 to also advance to the semifinals of the single-knockout competition.

Fifth-seeded Jennifer Jones also advanced by outscoring No. 13 Selena Sturmay 11-9 and top-seeded Kerri Einarson doubled No. 8 Kelsey Rocque 10-5. Einarson and Jones will matchup in the other semifinal on Saturday.

In the men’s draw, top-seeded Brad Gushue defeated John Epping 8-4 to continue his march to the final.

Despite the win, vice-skip Mark Nichols feels the team still has some work to do.

“There are some loose shots out there — from everyone, I think,” he said. “You’re definitely still knocking a little bit of rust off. You try to manage it as best you can based on what you’re feeling on the day.

“We had a good practice weekend last weekend (in Toronto), but the instincts take over when you’re out there. Lucky for us, we’ve had enough experience on the ice where we can manage those situations.”

Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., will meet Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers in Saturday’s semifinal. Carruthers took out Calgary’s Kevin Koe 8-6 to advance.

In other action, Edmonton’s Brendan Bottcher trounced Saskatoon’s Colton Flasch 10-3 to earn a spot in Saturday’s other semifinal against Matt Dunstone of Kamloops, B.C.

Dunstone scored an 8-7 win over Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene, Ont.

Play continues through Sunday at Willie O’Ree Place.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2022.

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Rejuvenated Hoglander opening eyes at Canucks camp: 'He looks so much faster' –



WHISTLER, B.C. — Sixteen months ago, at the end of Nils Hoglander’s rookie season amid the pandemic, the discussion around him was about his potential to become another of the Vancouver Canucks’ young, core players — someone essential to their future.

In training camp here ahead of the Swede’s third season, the discussion is whether he’ll even make the roster next month.

That’s how disappointing the second National Hockey League season was for Hoglander.

The dynamo forward plummeted from the Canucks’ top six and saw his minutes decline under new coach Bruce Boudreau, who even made Hoglander a healthy scratch in February before a groin injury a month later put an exclamation mark on the winger’s sophomore slump.

He had managed to exasperate two head coaches in one season, as both Boudreau and his predecessor, Travis Green, expressed concern about Hoglander’s play and awareness without the puck.

When he reported to Whistler, Hoglander found himself on Boudreau’s “fifth line,” assigned to skate with Linus Karlsson and Nils Aman, Swedish prospects who almost certainly will start the season in the American Hockey League.

Through two days of camp, Hoglander has done everything he can to prove he doesn’t belong there.

“I was going to say, let me talk about Hogs because I think he’s the best player on the ice right now,” Boudreau said Friday after the second day of camp. “He looks so much faster than he did last year. Determination. He’s definitely, you know, he’s definitely ready. Last year was a little bit of a setback for him and he doesn’t want it to happen again.”

Hoglander’s speed stands out, and on Friday he seemed to bury every good scoring chance he had during drills. But what was exceptional was his competitiveness, how physical and determined he was in his puck battles and one-and-one drills.

At five-foot-nine and 185 pounds, Hoglander is getting under the shoulders of taller players, using his strength and low centre of gravity against defenders.

“It’s definitely a response,” Boudreau said. “He saw who got signed and everything else. He’s counting (NHL jobs) and he’s going, ‘Well, I better get my stuff together.’ And he is. He’s doing a great job.”

The Canucks signed Russian free agents Ilya Mikheyev and Andrei Kuzmenko over the summer, and those guys are playing with Elias Pettersson far above Hoglander. But the team also rebuilt its fourth line, adding experience and size that will make it difficult for Hoglander to secure a spot there.

To play, he probably has to be in the Canucks’ top nine, possibly ahead of Kuzmenko if the newcomer struggles to adapt to the NHL and smaller ice or is held back by conditioning.

“You always want to be in the top lines, but sometimes you aren’t,” Hoglander said when asked about starting on the fifth line. “Then you just have to work your way up. It’s a challenge to come back again, and I take that challenge and I’m ready for it. I’ve been working all summer for this camp and this season, so I should be ready.

“I mean, this time of year, you’re always excited to come in and take a spot on the team. And I feel more excited now because I had it a little bit tough last year and I had the injury and I’m just ready to come back and show I can play.”

Hoglander’s sophomore season was far from a disaster statistically. He didn’t shoot as well or score as often, managing only 10 goals and 18 assists in 60 games after amassing 13 goals and 27 points in 56 games as a rookie. But he still drove possession with a shot share of 53.3 per cent.

His coaches, however, publicly noted the flaws and lack of structure in Hoglander’s overall game, and his average ice time fell to 13:05 from his rookie TOI of 15:27 when he was a sparkling source of hope in an otherwise dark and desultory Canucks season. Hoglander’s name periodically surfaced in trade rumours, and continues to do so.

“It’s not like the whole defensive zone, it’s small things, like coming back and stopping (on the puck or a check),” he acknowledged Friday. “It’s small things — not really harder than that. I know what I can do in the offensive zone.”

“Young guys, it’s always the hardest thing,” Boudreau said of playing without the puck. “Hopefully he learned a lot last year. Again, he’s going to be another one playing a lot of pre-season games and we’ll see how it goes. I certainly have liked exactly what he’s shown. (But) let’s call it like it is: It’s only two days. A lot of guys can look great in two days. Let’s see how they look in 10 days.”

The third and final day of training camp is Saturday. The Canucks’ pre-season opens with a pair of split-squad games against the Calgary Flames, home and away, on Sunday.

Especially for forwards, the Vancouver lineup looks a lot harder to make now than it was two seasons ago.

“I mean, you always want it to go up,” Hoglander said, angling his hand towards the sky, when asked about his trajectory. “But sometimes it’s going down, too. You have to be ready for that because it’s never going to go up the whole time. I mean, I had a good rookie season and then a little bit last year wasn’t that good. A lot of things happened with the team, and then the injury. So I’m just ready for this to show what I can do.”

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