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LDS Takeaways: Yankees’ pitching plans backfire as Rays even series –



From umpire warnings and historic home runs to big-league debuts and strategic misfires, Tuesday’s slate of MLB playoff games had a little bit of everything.

For Atlanta, Houston, Tampa Bay and Los Angeles, the stress was worth the effort. For the Marlins, Athletics, Yankees and Padres, this was a day to forget.

Yet the results only tell us part of the story, especially in October. On a day of non-stop baseball, these were the moments stood out most…

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Yankees’ strategy backfires

Just last week, the Blue Jays tried to mix and match pitchers against the Rays only to lose in frustrating fashion. On Tuesday, it was the Yankees’ turn.

By announcing right-hander Deivi Garcia as the New York starter, manager Aaron Boone could be reasonably sure Kevin Cash of the Rays would include plenty of left-handed hitters in the starting lineup. That opened the door for left-hander J.A. Happ to enter as a bulk pitcher after just one inning, and gain the platoon advantage much more than he ordinarily would. Meanwhile, Garcia would still be free to pitch later in the series.

At least that’s how it might have looked on paper. In reality, the strategy wasn’t nearly so effective. In becoming the youngest starter in Yankees post-season history, the 21-year-old Garcia allowed a homer to Randy Arozarena in his lone inning. Then the Rays hit Happ even harder, scoring four runs, including two homers, despite all of those left-handed bats.

There was plenty of logic behind the Yankees’ decision, so in that sense it was certainly defensible. Plus, relievers Chad Green, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman are now rested entering Game 3. But to the Rays’ credit, they neutralized a sound decision by producing despite some potentially unfavourable matchups.

A power surge from Stanton

Over the last two years, the Yankees have not been able to rely on Giancarlo Stanton, who has played just 41 regular season games since the start of 2019. But when he does take the field, the 30-year-old’s raw power remains unmatched.

He homered twice Tuesday, and both were impressive. In the second inning, he hit an opposite-field laser over the right field wall. In the fourth inning, he pulled a no-doubt homer 458 feet. He has now homered in all four of the Yankees’ playoff games, which counts for a lot on a team that measures success by what happens in October.

Clevinger injury means Padres’ depth will be tested

By the second inning, it was already apparent that the Padres’ day would not unfold as they’d hoped. Mike Clevinger, who was acquired at the trade deadline to pitch in games just like this, exited just two pitches into the second inning. His velocity was down, suggesting a possible recurrence of the elbow injury that sidelined him for the wild-card round.

Regardless, this causes problems on a few levels for the Padres, whose manager, Jayce Tingler, was ejected mid-game. First off, they had to scramble Tuesday, with 20-year-old Ryan Weathers making his big-league debut in the middle of a scoreless game. Medium-term, beating the Dodgers looks much harder without their ace. And even if San Diego beats L.A., Clevinger would be ineligible to pitch until the World Series if the Padres replace him on the roster now.

The Padres still have plenty of time ahead, but this was not the start they wanted.

Springer’s historic power puts A’s on the brink

Anyone hoping a 29-31 regular season record might foreshadow an early playoff exit for the Houston Astros is already disappointed. Not only did the Astros beat the Twins in the wild-card round, but baseball’s villains are now a win away from a fourth straight ALCS appearance after beating the A’s 5-2 Tuesday afternoon.

Once again, it was George Springer who generated the offence for Houston as the centre fielder homered twice and made some history in the process. The two home runs Springer hit give him 17 career playoff homers (in just 54 games) which ties him with David Ortiz, Jim Thome and Nelson Cruz for 10th all-time. Starting Wednesday, Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle are just a swing away for Springer, a pending free agent.

Now, the obvious caveat — the Astros cheated during that stretch, and all offensive numbers should be interpreted within that context. But I’m guessing Springer will keep putting up big offensive numbers even if he leaves Houston as a free agent.

Of course, offence is only part of the story here, as Houston’s pitching was excellent, too. This Astros pitching staff is far less accomplished than the group that featured Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole a year ago, but there are still some intriguing arms here, including Game 2 starter Framber Valdez. A five-foot-11 left-hander, Valdez was making his first career playoff start after a breakout summer in which he posted a 3.57 ERA. He made the most of it, holding the Athletics to just two runs over seven innings.

Impressive — but chances are most fans and teams will be rooting against the Astros when the series resumes Wednesday.

Atlanta’s lineup too deep for Marlins to contain

Atlanta’s lineup was as good as anyone’s this year (MLB-leading .355 weighted on base average) and when you think about reasons why, you think of Ronald Acuna Jr., Marcell Ozuna and Freddie Freeman. Not necessarily Travis d’Arnaud.

And yet it was d’Arnaud who delivered the decisive hit in Atlanta’s 9-4 Game 1 win over the Miami Marlins — a game that was much closer than the score might indicate. For a while it looked as though the story of the game might revolve around Acuna Jr., who homered his first time up then took a pitch off the hip two innings later, leading to warnings for both sides.

Yet Marlins starter Sandy Alcantara kept things close until the seventh, when d’Arnaud took Yimi Garcia deep with a 421-foot homer to centre field. Compared to the rest of Atlanta’s stars, d’Arnaud might be easy to overlook, but the 31-year-old has quietly become a difference-making offensive player over the last couple seasons. Counting both 2019 and 2020, d’Arnaud has played 147 games and batted 575 total times. During that stretch he’s a .273 hitter with 25 home runs, 103 RBI and an .801 OPS.

If that wasn’t enough to convince teams that d’Arnaud is dangerous at the plate, Tuesday’s homer certainly will be.

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Rays walk-off Game 4 to even World Series against Dodgers –



ARLINGTON, Texas — Brett Phillips squatted on the field crying, and Randy Arozarena was on the ground slapping his hands on home plate.

Tears of joy, smacks of celebration — and a crucial, wild win for the scrappy Tampa Bay Rays.

Light-hitting Phillips delivered a tying single off Kenley Jansen with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning that turned into the game-ending hit when the Los Angeles Dodgers dropped the ball twice, allowing Arozarena to score and lift the Rays to an 8-7 victory Saturday night to even this suddenly dramatic World Series at two games each.

“Golly, what a special moment,” Phillips said.

Centre fielder Chris Taylor misplayed Phillips’ ball in right-centre for an error and chased it down while Kevin Kiermaier scored the tying run. Arozarena kept charging around third base but stumbled and fell well before reaching home.

He was able to get up and score when catcher Will Smith looked up too early and missed the relay throw, letting it squirt toward the backstop while Arozarena dived on top of the plate.

“Once I saw Randy slip, I was like `Aw, shoot, at least we tied it up,’ and then he missed the ball,” Phillipes said. “I don’t know what happened but then he scored. The next thing I know, I’m airplaneing around the outfield and I get dogpiled and here I am.”

Jansen came on in the ninth for the Dodgers and struck out Yoshi Tsutsugo before a single by Kiermaier, the longest-tenured Rays player. Arozarena, the rookie who earlier hit his post-season record ninth homer earlier, drew a two-out, full-count walk to set up the wild final play.

A 26-year-old from Seminole, Florida, Phillips was drafted by Houston and played for Milwaukee and Kansas City before Tampa Bay acquired him in August for a minor leaguer. Touted for his outfield defence, he hasn’t hit much in the majors, ending the regular season with a career .202 average in 153 games. He had been 0 for 2 in the post-season and hadn’t batted since Game 3 of the AL Division Series on Oct. 7.

Phillips was left off the AL Championship Series roster but shined as a cheerleader, writing up phoney scouting reports on a clipboard touting Arozarena before dancing against him in battles after the team locked up the AL pennant.

“What a great team effort on this win. It took almost 28 guys,” Phillips said. “That’s what special about this team. Just all come together, our one goal is to win. We don’t rely on one guy. It takes everyone, and man, baseball is fun.”

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Toronto FC forced to take "hard lesson" from blowout defeat to Philadelphia Union –



USA Today Sports

Toronto FC haven’t had many nights in recent seasons like the one they had on Saturday, when the Reds were overrun and looked overmatched in an ugly 5-0 defeat to the Philadelphia Union.

Toronto were fielding a shorthanded lineup due to a rash of injuries, but even so, head coach Greg Vanney said his side should’ve fared more competitively against one of the teams they’ve been measuring themselves against for much of the season. For whatever reason, Vanney said the energy needed to match the intensity of Philadelphia just wasn’t there.

“It was wrong from start to finish,” Vanney said on his postgame video call. “We weren’t close to them the entire night, really. We weren’t in good spots for each other, we weren’t clear in terms of the stepping out in how we were going to defend, we couldn’t put passes together. And they were just at a different speed than we were on the night, that’s for sure. 

“So part of it is just we need to put it behind us. But part of it is we also need to recognize it’s just a reminder of the time of year. You physically have got to be ready to compete and battle and fight for balls and win tackles and all of those things first and foremost, and then you can play. You’ve got to be strong when you’re holding up the ball, the ball has to move a lot quicker. A lot of that stuff has to happen, and tonight it didn’t. Yeah, we were missing some guys, but guys had the opportunity to step in and try to show that this time of year they might be able to help us, and we just from start to finish it was never right.”

Highlights: Philadelphia Union vs. Toronto FC

It’s an even more disappointing result considering the stakes of the matchup, with the Union snatching away first place in the Supporters’ Shield standings with the three points. Both sides currently have 41 points, but the Union are technically on top due to their superior goal differential.

Vanney said going forward the objective will have to be using the lopsided defeat as a reminder for what the games are going to be like come playoff time.

“Obviously credit goes to them because they played at a proper playoff-like intensity and today as a group we didn’t match that,” he said. “And also, in terms of the set-up of things, we needed to put a little bit more into being able to play out of their pressure, maybe play beyond their pressure. We didn’t get behind them enough in the game. There’s a lot of things that went on with that. Credit to them, but I think that’s what you expect this time of year, is teams to come out when you’re fighting for a Supporters’ Shield at the top of table, is you expect a team to come out fighting and you have to fight back and push back and set the intensity bar, but tonight it got set on us and we’ve got to take that as a hard lesson as we go through these last games.

“It’s not one that we needed to take, but we’re going to take it and we’re going to have to move forward.”

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Toronto FC thrashed by Union – TSN



CHESTER, Pa. — A top-of-the-table showdown turned into a lopsided loss Saturday for an understrength Toronto FC that saw its nine-game undefeated run snapped in a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the Philadelphia Union.

It was one-way traffic all night long, a night to forget for a Toronto franchise used to being the hammer rather than the nail. Philadelphia took advantage of TFC’s shambolic defending and non-existent attack, bullying a team that had been on a 7-0-2 run.

It was a costly defeat, given a win would have put TFC six points ahead of its nearest challenger. Instead, the Union moved into first place in both the league and Eastern Conference on goal difference over Toronto with the two teams at 12-3-5.

Toronto had gone unbeaten since suffering a pair of losses Sept. 1 and 5, against Montreal and Vancouver respectively.

Toronto coach Greg Vanney called it a “hard lesson,” the kind of performance he had not see for “a long, long time.”

“What went wrong? It was wrong from start to finish,” he said. “We weren’t close to them the entire night, really…We couldn’t put passes together and they were just at a different speed than we were on the night, that’s for sure.”

The decision matched Philadelphia’s largest margin of victory and Toronto’s largest margin of defeat in MLS play, according to Opta. TFC lost 6-0 to the Montreal Impact in a Canadian Championship semifinal second-match in 2013.

Philadelphia outshot Toronto 27-3 (12-1 in shots on target) and had 11 corners to TFC’s three.

“There’s no time to feel sorry for ourselves and nobody’s panicking, I can promise you that,” said captain Michael Bradley, who marked his 200th career MLS start.

Sergio Santos scored three goals, Mark McKenzie and Jamiro Monteiro added singles with Kacper Przybylko contributed three assists for a rampant Philadelphia side. The margin of victory could have been higher had it not been for some fine saves by overworked Toronto ‘keeeper Quentin Westberg.

“The way that we play represents, I think, (Philadelphia) in a lot of ways,” said Union coach Jim Curtin “We don’t fear anyone. We’ll go toe to toe with any superstars and our guys stick together and really fight for each other.”

It marked the first time Toronto had given up five goals since a 5-1 loss to Houston in April 2018. That day, Toronto fielded a second-string lineup in advance of a CONCACAF Champions League game.

Vanney and Bradley were singing off the same hymn sheet after the game, saying it was a reminder for some of the intensity of play in the run-up to the post-season and the playoffs themselves.

Bradley, who came off the bench last week in his return from a knee injury, made his first start since Sept. 1. Fullback Justin Morrow, who had missed the last four matches with a calf strain, returned to action off the bench.

But Vanney had plenty of other injury concerns including designated player Pablo Piatti who sat out with calf tightness.

Centre back Chris Mavinga and striker Ayo Akinola missed their second straight game with hamstring issues. Midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who left last week’s 1-0 win over Atlanta after just 20 minutes with a hamstring injury, did not dress.

Star forward Jozy Altidore, another Toronto DP, is a long-term casualty with a Grade 2 hamstring strain.

“Yeah, we were missing some guys but guys had the opportunity to step in and try to show that this time of year they might be able to help us” said Vanney.

Akinola could be back for Wednesday’s game against New York City FC. Osorio is being pencilled in for either NYFC or next weekend’s game against Inter Miami, TFC’s penultimate regular season match. Vanney is awaiting a final verdict on Piatti from club doctors.

Richie Laryea, Nick DeLeon and Gallardo came into the starting 11. Gallardo had played just 62 minutes in two substitute appearances since March 7, when he started the second game of the season.

The Venezuelan lasted just 35 minutes before Vanney brought on Patrick Mullins in a bid to find someone to boost an impotent attack

Philadelphia ran its undefeated streak to five (4-0-1) since a 2-1 loss to Toronto on Oct 3 in East Hartford. The Union also improved to 7-0-0 in league play this season at Subaru Park, which has opened its door with local authorities allowing 15 per cent capacity or approximately 2,775 spectators.

“They’re making a lot of noise, really pushing the players on,” said Curtin.

Philadelphia wasted little time taking it to a Toronto lineup missing some big names through injury.

The Union outshot Toronto 15-1 (6-0 in shots on target) in the first half alone, with 60 per cent possession and nine corners to TFCs one.

The Union went ahead in the 27th minute on a rapid-fire counter attack after Brazilian fullback Auro and Gallardo both lost possession for Toronto in the Philadelphia end. Jose Martinez swept the ball wide to Kai Wagner, who made a run down the left flank and floated in a perfect cross that Santos headed in as defender Omar Gonzalez lunged in vain at the ball.

The Union doubled the lead off a corner in the 33rd minute, taking advantage of some dreadful defending. Monteiro’s corner found Przybylko alone beyond the back post and he floated a header to an unmarked McKenzie to head it in from close range as a half-dozen defenders looked on.

Monteiro made it 3-0 in the 56th minute with a booming shot off that cracked in off the cross bar after a giveaway by Liam Fraser. Santos scored his second on the night in the 63rd minute, knocking in a cross from Wagner with little opposition from Toronto. A dummy run by Brenden Aaronson added some sizzle to the goal.

Santos’ hat trick came in the 68th minute, with the unmarked Brazilian knocking in an Aaronson cross over Westberg. It raised Santos’ season goals total to seven

Alejandro Pozuelo played up front with Tsubasa Endoh, Gallardo and DeLeon trying to offer support. But the Toronto attack offered nothing and Pozuelo, usually a game-changer, was rarely seen.

Morrow and Fraser replaced Auro and Marky Delgado at halftime.

Midfielder Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, who turned 16 on June 16, became the youngest player to appear for TFC when he came in the 72nd minute — four minutes after Santos exited to applause. Raph Priso, an 18-year-old midfielder just signed as a homegrown player, also made his Toronto debut in the 64th minute.

Coming into the contest, Toronto had lost just two of 29 regular-season games (16-2-11) since a 2-0 defeat at the New York Red Bulls on Aug. 3, 2019.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2020.

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