ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – No team torments the Toronto Blue Jays quite like the Tampa Bay Rays, and adding insult to injury in their final regular season meeting was getting a beatdown from their archnemesis and then watching them clinch a playoff berth.
The finale of a three-game set at Tropicana Field lacked the typical drama most of Wednesday afternoon after Ross Stripling got lit up for five runs in a six-run third that effectively decided a 7-1 Rays win. But theatre arrived in the eighth when Ryan Borucki hit Kevin Kiermaier, who triggered ill will Monday by grabbing a data card dislodged from Alejandro Kirk’s wristband during a play at the plate, prompting words to be exchanged and the dugouts to empty.
Relative calm prevailed as Rays manager Kevin Cash ranted to the umpiring crew, which then gathered by the mound after and ejected Borucki. That prompted pitching coach Pete Walker and manager Charlie Montoyo to argue, and Walker was restrained before he was ejected, too.
David Robertson closed things out in an incident-free ninth inning and the Rays poured out on the field afterwards for business-as-usual handshakes.
As usual, the Rays got the better of season series with 11 wins, and at 94-59, now have a magic number of four to clinch the American League East in back-to-back seasons. Of their 19 clashes this season, it was only the sixth time the game was decided by four runs or more, in contrast to the 10 contests settled by two or less.
The Rays winning the East is an inevitably at this point and should the Blue Jays successfully clinch a wild-card berth and then win that game to reach the division series, the Rays are likely to be waiting for them there.
There are steps to be taken for them to get there, but the math remains fairly favourable for the Blue Jays (85-67), who fell even with the New York Yankees (85-67) for the second wild card and dropped two games back of the Boston Red Sox (87-65) for the first, pending Wednesday night’s action. The Yankees were scheduled to host Texas, the Red Sox home to the Mets.
With 10 games left, beginning with a four-game set at the Minnesota Twins opening Thursday, a 6-4 run would push them to 91 wins, a total likely enough to get them into the playoffs. After the Twins, the Blue Jays have three-game series at home versus the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, so the opportunity for 7-3 or even better is certainly there.
A big weekend versus the Twins while the Red Sox and Yankees play three in New York this weekend is a pivotal chance to gain ground before Boston closes out against Baltimore and Washington. The Yankees finish against the Rays after playing Boston and Toronto.
Nothing should be taken for granted, but the Blue Jays are set up fairly well, even after their bullpen game Wednesday went terribly awry.
Stripling, entering behind opener Julian Merryweather as the bulk pitcher, got through his first inning unscathed but didn’t survive the next, going single, double, walk, sacrifice fly, three-run homer by Austin Meadows and single before Montoyo came with the hook.
Taylor Walls added a two-run single in the frame before it was over and, with the Rays’ bullpen game going much more to plan, this was a hole the Blue Jays offence couldn’t dig out of.
Surviving as best as possible for Thursday became the priority at that point, and essential on that front was the 2.1 shutout innings delivered by Anthony Castro. That allowed the Blue Jays to both get Jordan Romano and Trevor Richards needed rest and keep Adam Cimber and Tim Mayza available for the Twins opener.
Pearson was pressed into duty after Borucki’s ejection.
Castro’s work may very well get him optioned, as Thomas Hatch, at one point a candidate to be activated from the taxi squad for Wednesday, is likely to join the bullpen Thursday.
Another reinforcement could be Santiago Espinal, whose return from a rehab assignment at triple-A Buffalo is suddenly more urgent with Breyvic Valera on the COVID-19 IL for coming into close contact with a family member.
Valera is fully vaccinated and produced a negative test, but when he’s eligible to return will be dependent on returning more negative tests and getting sign-offs from both MLB and the union. Kevin Smith was recalled from the Bisons to cover for the time being.
Cavan Biggio is a possibility to join the club next week, although the Blue Jays are hoping he can establish some rhythm at the plate before he’s returned from his rehab assignment.
Schwarber hits grand slam, Red Sox hammer Astros to take ALCS lead – Sportsnet.ca
BOSTON — Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez walked off the mound with a six-run lead and a message for Carlos Correa and the rest of the Houston Astros:
Now it’s Boston’s time.
Tapping his wrist to mimic Correa’s Game 1 celebration, Rodriguez rode four more Boston homers — including Kyle Schwarber’s record-setting grand slam — to a 12-3 victory Monday night as the Red Sox took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series.
The taunt drew a rebuke from Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who reminded his pitcher that they still need two more wins to advance to the World Series for the fifth time since 2004. Games 4 and 5 are at Fenway Park on Tuesday night and Wednesday.
“It’s not that I’m mad at him,” said Cora, who was celebrating his 46th birthday. “We don’t act that way. We just show up, we play, and we move on.”
One game after J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers each hit grand slams, Schwarber hit a second-inning 3-0 pitch 430 feet into the right field grandstand.
Boston is the first team ever with three slams in a postseason series.
“Electrifying. It’s unbelievable,” outfielder Alex Verdugo said. “You can have a big swing and get four runs in on just that one play — it’s huge.
“It’s one of the best plays in baseball, man. You give up a grand slam, it takes a lot out of you,” he added. “And just to kind of keep stepping on their neck and adding the pressure, it’s huge.”
Martinez and Devers each homered again, Christian Arroyo also hit one, and Kike Hernandez had two more hits for Boston, which opened 9-0 leads and coasted to victory in back-to-back games. Right fielder Hunter Renfroe ended it with a diving catch of Correa’s sinking line drive.
“They count as one (loss),” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We come back and win tomorrow and the series is even. You don’t like it tonight, but you come back in the morning.”
Rodriguez gave up five hits, including Kyle Tucker’s three-run homer, and struck out seven. He retired Correa to end the sixth and let the Astros shortstop know that his gesture in Game 1 was not appreciated.
Cora chastised Rodriguez before giving him a hug when he reached the dugout.
“He just told me `Don’t do that,’” said Rodriguez, who said he would apologize to Correa if he sees him. “It was something that was part of the moment. But (Cora) just told me, ‘We don’t do that here. Stay humble. Just go out there and play hard every time.”’
“Besides that,” Cora said, “he was outstanding.”
Correa said he “loved every single bit of it.”
“It’s just the way baseball should trend, moving forward,” he added. “You need to let the players have fun.”
Boston matched a franchise record with its seventh straight postseason win at home. The Red Sox had 11 hits in all, becoming the first team in major league history to reach double digits six straight times in a single postseason.
Hernandez, who has 18 hits during the playoffs and is batting .500 — both leading the majors — left the game after six innings.
Asked why, Cora said with a smile: “He has been running the bases a lot in the last few days, or weeks, or whatever.”
The Red Sox capitalized on two Astros errors and the struggles of Houston starter Jose Urquidy, who gave up six runs, five earned, on five hits and two walks, striking out one in 1 2/3 innings.
Rodriguez, who missed all of last season with COVID-related heart problems, retired the first six batters before running into the trouble in the third, when Tucker made it 9-3.
His outing enabled Cora to keep Nick Pivetta fresh for a Game 4 start.
To the delight of the Fenway fans, who targeted him with profane chants for his role in the Astros 2017 cheating scandal, Jose Altuve struggled at the plate and in the field.
A Gold Glove and AL MVP-winner, the three-time batting champion went 0 for 4 and let Arroyo’s chopper bounce off his chest for an error with the bases loaded in the second inning. One batter later, Schwarber hit Boston’s third grand slam in 11 innings.
The Red Sox, who only had three grand slams during the regular season, matched the 1998 Atlanta Braves as the only clubs to hit three in a single postseason. Boston has 20 homers this postseason, matching the 2004 Astros for the most through the first eight games of the playoffs, per MLB.com.
Altuve also waved at a throw from Martin Maldonado on Hunter Renfroe’s stolen base in the third; the error went to the catcher. The throw to third was also wild, but the Astros were saved another error when the ball missed the dugout and bounced off the padding back toward the field.
Astros: Baker said outfielder Jake Meyers, who injured his left shoulder crashing into the wall in Game 4 of the Division Series, is doing better and could start as soon as Tuesday.
The teams play Game 4 on Tuesday night. The Red Sox are expected to rely on Pivetta, who was 9-8 with a 4.53 ERA in the regular season. Houston will call on RHP Zack Greinke, with RHP Cristian Javier ready to follow the veteran. Greinke has been limited over the past two months due to a neck issue and a positive COVID-19 test.
Canada's women's team drops third straight game with 8-0 loss to Drumheller Dragons – The Globe and Mail
The Drumheller Dragons held Canada’s women’s hockey team off the scoresheet Monday, blanking the national squad 8-0 in a tune-up game.
Adam Raesler scored a hat trick for the Alberta Junior Hockey League side, while Luke Fennig added a pair of goals. Ty Daneault, Grayson Dietrich and Ty Whitford all scored singles.
Canada’s Kristen Campbell stopped 19-of-22 shots in two periods of work and Emerance Maschmeyer made six saves in relief.
Eric Ward saved all five shots he faced in 29 minutes of play for the Dragons and Garrett Fuller finished out the game, making six stops.
Neither side capitalized with the man advantage, with Team Canada going 0 for 3 on the power play and Drumheller going 0 for 2.
Canada has now lost three games in a row to junior-A hockey teams as it prepares for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Olympics-Small minority of U.S. Olympians oppose COVID-19 vaccine mandate, say officials
The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said on Monday its decision to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for those competing at next year’s Beijing Olympics has been met with some resistance.
In a bid to create a safe environment and restore some level of consistency in planning, the USOPC announced last month that Team USA athletes hoping to compete in the Beijing Olympics will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“The response is as you would expect: Within our general population, there are some people who are extremely happy that we introduced this policy,” Jonathan Finnoff, the USOPC’s chief medical officer, said during the virtual Team USA media summit.
“And there are others that are upset and would like to not have any mandate regarding vaccinations.”
According to Finnoff, it is only a “very small minority” of Team USA athletes who oppose the mandate and the USOPC is having one-on-one conversations with each one to discuss their feelings and explain why the decision was made.
Last month’s announcement by the USOPC came days before the International Olympic Committee said the Beijing Olympics would have tight COVID-19 measures in place to ensure the safety of all participants during the Feb. 4-20 event.
Finnoff said the “more stringent” Beijing measures, which he added unlike the USOPC’s rules will not grant religious exemption, would supersede the U.S. policy.
Any athlete who is granted a medical exemption will have to go through a 21-day quarantine in Beijing before they can begin training ahead of their event.
“These are challenging times but the vaccine policy that we’ve put in place and that China has put in place is going to make the Games as safe as possible,” said Finnoff.
USOPC Chief Executive Sarah Hirshland said the COVID-19 mandate is all about the safety and health of the team.
“The presence of this virus makes the challenge greater for all of us in a Games environment but we are committed to doing everything we can to mitigate illness and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” said Hirshland.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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