TORONTO — After regular-season campaigns with very few dull moments, two postseason-hungry clubs are ready for October.
The Blue Jays and Mariners face off in Game 1 of the American League Wild Card Series on Friday at Rogers Centre.
Seattle snapped the largest active playoff drought in MLB by securing the second AL Wild Card spot with a 90-72 regular-season record, while Toronto will play a postseason game in front of its fans for the first time since 2016.
For both teams, this moment is a balancing act between excitement and the demands of the spotlight.
“It’s the postseason, where confidence can play an important role here,” Castillo said through interpreter Freddy Llanos. “And when I go up on that mound, I’m very confident.”
When is the game and how can I watch it?
Game 1: Friday, 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT, ESPN (Sportsnet in Canada)
Game 2: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT, ESPN (Sportsnet in Canada)
Game 3 (if necessary): Sunday, 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT, ABC (Sportsnet in Canada)
All series are available in the US on MLB.TV with authentication to a participating Pay TV provider. Games are not available live internationally (archives are available approximately 90 minutes after the game ends).
What might the starting lineups look like?
Mariners: Manager Scott Servais hinted on Thursday that the lineup will likely look similar to what he’s rolled out in recent weeks, with Julio Rodríguez and Ty France at the top, followed by Mitch Haniger, Eugenio Suárez and Carlos Santana in some order. Servais likes to go right-left when possible, especially against a power pitcher like Manoah.
Blue Jays: Toronto’s biggest decision comes at the DH spot, but with Alejandro Kirk catching Manoah in Game 1, Danny Jansen has been swinging the bat too well to keep him out of the lineup. This is close to the order that the Blue Jays were using down the stretch against the Yankees and Red Sox as they tried to clinch a postseason spot, then home field.
Who are the starting pitchers?
Mariners: Castillo (8-6, 2.99 ERA) takes the mound bringing supreme confidence after a stellar 11-start stretch after the Mariners acquired him ahead of the Trade Deadline. Though his postseason experience is limited to 2020, when there were no fans in the stands, Castillo has already established himself as a big-game pitcher and welcomes this stage.
Blue Jays: Manoah (16-7, 2.24 ERA) opens the series, and the Blue Jays couldn’t be happier. The big right-hander is built for the postseason and seems to feed off the moment and crowd as well as anyone in baseball. September’s AL Pitcher of the Month is peaking at the right time, and he should benefit from some extra rest just like he did in his last outing.
Mariners: Sam Haggerty (Grade 2 right adductor strain) won’t be on the postseason roster after suffering the injury on Monday, dealing the Mariners a big blow for their sparkplug off the bench. Jesse Winker (cervical disc bulge) also hit the 10-day IL this week, though his role was more unclear given his significant defensive struggles and brutal second half at the plate. Instead, the Mariners will lean on Taylor Trammell and Abraham Toro, the players who were recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to take those guys’ places.
Blue Jays: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (left hamstring strain) and Santiago Espinal (left oblique strain) both flew home from Baltimore early this week to continue their rehabs in the controlled atmosphere at Rogers Centre, and each decision is expected to come right down to the wire. It’s also a question of just how ready either would be after Gurriel said Monday that he may only be ready to pinch-hit by the postseason opener. Would that be enough, especially considering the talent already in this lineup?
The only issue on the pitching side is expected to be a minor one and no longer an issue by Game 2, but Kevin Gausman left his final regular-season outing with a cut on his right middle finger, near the nail. Both Gausman and manager John Schneider said this shouldn’t impact his expected Game 2 start, but it’s worth keeping an eye on over the next 24 hours.
Who is hot and who is not?
Mariners: Rodríguez rocketed his 28th homer in the regular-season finale, putting the finishing touches on an AL Rookie of the Year Award bid, and given how much he already relishes the big stage, it’s a strong bet that he’ll impact this series. As for who’s not, Crawford’s inconsistencies have stretched all the way into a two-month period, with the shortstop slashing .200/.340/.259 (.599 OPS) over the final two months.
Blue Jays: Several Blue Jays are peaking at the right time, which started with Bichette in September. Bichette hit .403 with a 1.134 OPS that month, his 48 hits the most in a single month by a Blue Jays hitter. Merrifield has caught fire since taking over everyday reps from Espinal, too, flashing some power down the stretch and completely flipping the script on his ‘22 season with the Blue Jays. Jansen, who started the year hot then hit the IL with a fractured bone in his hand, is back in a groove, too, and could be an X-factor in this series at the bottom of the lineup.
If there’s one hitter the Blue Jays need more from, though, it’s Guerrero. He’s had his moments, like his walk-off hit to beat the Yankees in 10 innings on Sept. 26, but he simply hasn’t been the hitter everyone saw in ‘21, when he looked like a perennial MVP candidate and Triple Crown threat. Guerrero’s potential impact is unrivaled, though, and the Blue Jays need him to break a game open.
Anything else I should know?
Mariners: Seattle hasn’t been on this stage in a generation, and there are only a handful of players on the roster who have any postseason experience. Because of how green they are, they could be susceptible to a sink-or-swim effect, but they’ve also shown late-inning resiliency to punch back when the stakes are high.
Blue Jays: The Blue Jays are ready to be aggressive, a mindset they’ve been preaching since Schneider took the reins in July. That starts on the bases, where the Blue Jays have done a much better job of taking extra bags, but it could extend to bullpen usage, too. Jordan Romano, the Canadian closer coming off a season with a 2.11 ERA and 36 saves, has made nine multi-inning (1 1/3 or more frames) appearances this season. They certainly won’t shy away from another.
After taking Canada so far, an over-reliance on emotion proved their undoing at the World Cup – The Athletic
John Herdman shouted, clenched his fists in anger and walked with his head down, alone, into Canada’s dugout.
The wall of aggressive noises from what felt like hundreds of nearby Croatians must have been deafening. The sound had begun to ramp up eight minutes earlier when Andrej Kramaric scored Croatia’s first goal and a small handful of his vitriolic teammates approached Herdman, possibly using a variety of the same curse word he had used four days earlier when describing their team.
It was a lead Croatia would not relinquish. Despite Alphonso Davies scoring Canada’s first ever men’s World Cup goal with a stunning header in just the second minute, Croatia stomped on Canada because they could and, after Herdman’s comments, they wanted to. They had the tactical precision, the intelligence to execute their decision-making and, perhaps most importantly, the experience that made a 4-1 win over Canada look easy.
They could weather a Canadian storm that felt like it was built on vibes and vibes alone at times. Because when Herdman walked back into the dugout, his head down for the first time in what felt like his entire time as Canada’s coach, he may have realized what happens when a team relies too heavily on emotion.
Canada’s hopes of advancing out of the group stage are now dead, and it was a series of poor decisions that sunk them.
Over a lengthy qualifying campaign, upstart teams have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and correct them. But in a short World Cup run, the margins for error are thin, and mistakes have a way of compounding at an alarmingly quick rate.
Throughout this World Cup run, one of the go-to phrases used by Canada’s players, coach and staff was that Canada was indeed a “football nation.”
It’s the right attitude: you’re at the dance. Act like you belong.
And there were genuine moments — most of an entire game against the No. 2 ranked team in the world, in fact — where they did look like they belong.
But if this team wants to be considered as a “football nation,” one that can routinely be CONCACAF’s best, they cannot make the kinds of decisions predicated on emotions that they did against top-quality teams like Belgium and Croatia, who use experience and tactical know-how to beat down opponents.
And they have to be ready for those decisions to be questioned.
For a little under two years, the vibes around this team have been impeccable: the brotherhood, the positivity, the sword, the belief that this team is on the upswing and can grow the game in their country in an unprecedented way. It was difficult to question this team because of how far they’ve come in such a short amount of time. Their progress, and results throughout CONCACAF were real and deserved to be celebrated.
Those results somehow feel far in the distance now, and the questions surrounding this team must intensify in order to maintain that progress.
First, there are the two words that will likely be the ghost rattling around in Herdman’s closet for some time now: “F— Croatia.”
Herdman must have known, even in some small part, what he was doing.
There are a few things that have become hallmarks of Herdman’s entire ethos, and meticulous preparation is one of them. This is the man who, you’ll remember, sends 64-page documents to what he calls his “tactical architects” on his team about each of Canada’s opponents.
How could he possibly have not known that saying on camera he told his team they were going to “F— Croatia” would lead to an intensified opponent the following game?
Want to know if it had an effect on the Croatia team?
“These are words that have motivated the whole of Croatia,” forward Andrej Kramaric, who scored two goals on the night, said after the game. “I want to thank the coach of Canada for the motivation. He could have chosen better words. He could have formulated it a bit differently. In the end Croatia demonstrated who F’d whom.”
Now, maybe Croatia would have played just as well against Canada. But the point is we’ll never know. A team that was already more talented and experienced than Canada was also served extra motivation on a platter. To be clear: there’s no issue about the message that Herdman delivered within the confines of a team huddle. But the results of sharing that message with the media are now evident. Again, this Canada team sometimes veers more towards relying on their heart than their head, and this was when it went too far.
Tactically, Canada defended in a poor manner on all four goals. That needs to be clear. But the most prevalent tactical mistake on the day was the decision to both start 39-year-old Atiba Hutchinson and leave him in the match.
It didn’t take long to see that Hutchinson couldn’t keep up with the pace of the game, and a mix of questionable decision-making in his defending and a lack of speed was partly to blame for Croatia’s first and third goals, in particular.
Hutchinson was playing in his 100th game for Canada and deserves the entire country’s respect for how loyal he’s been to the team and how well he’s played for so long. But in the end, the loyalty Herdman had in Hutchinson burned the team’s chances. Croatia’s midfield had outmaneuvered Hutchinson and exposed his advancing age. Herdman not bringing Hutchinson off at half, or even sooner, might not feel like the most pressing issue to fix with this team, but it might have been the one that put them under an inescapable knife.
What’s curious, however, is that Herdman said after the match that while he might have wanted to take Hutchinson off, the veteran midfielder asked to stay on. Leaning too heavily on loyalty instead of making necessary tactical adjustments was a clear error to nearly everyone else watching the game.
“I thought (Hutchinson) was just next level in that first half,” said Herdman. “I was really, really happy with his performance. A real leader tonight. I asked him in about the 55th minute, because that was the plan to bring him out at that time. I asked him how he was, and he said he wanted to keep going.”
Herdman said that the team needed leadership, and that’s why he kept him in instead of opting for 20-year-old Ismael Kone.
But why opt for intangibles when it was clear the opposition had figured them out tactically?
On the day, playing Hutchinson was just one of the tactical mistakes this Canada team made. As prepared as they claimed to be, they capitulated against a smart, talented team.
Milan Borjan, for one, was out of answers after the game.
“We started to press but then we pulled back, and I don’t know why,” said Borjan.
Jonathan Osorio had some answers worth following. Canada fell apart on the day in the middle of the park.
“Their midfield three is the key to everything, I feel,” said Osorio. “They figured out the spaces, they figured out our formation, they figured out our pressing cues. And they started to use those cues to their advantage because there are three against two in the middle. And they took advantage of that. And as soon as they saw the spaces open up, you saw their midfielders going out into spaces, dragging guys out and leaving the third man open. They’re a very smart team.”
This is all good information, but not new information.
Osorio clutched Luka Modric’s jersey that he swapped for, and smiled when asked about getting a memento from his “idol”.
But the gap between that idol and the Canada team was just too large to overcome.
Finally, it’s in the rearview mirror, but still visible: That there wasn’t a clear penalty taker decided before the tournament and that Alphonso Davies took the penalty against Belgium because he was feeling confident in the moment, only to have it saved, is curious. Had Canada converted that penalty, they might have been able to get a result against Belgium. And their World Cup hopes would still be alive.
But relying on confidence in the moment instead of adhering to a predetermined plan?
That’s heart, not the head.
After Croatia’s fourth goal on Sunday, Herdman tilted his head and threw his arms out wide. He was out of answers. He began walking, once again, to his dugout.
In so many ways, this year and this World Cup represented big steps forward for Canada men’s soccer, but they could have been even bigger if not for those costly judgment errors in recent days. Both Herdman and the team have a little under four years to reflect on this experience, to refine their process, and to create the kind of meaningful World Cup experience they so desperately want.
(Photo: David Ramos – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Riots in Belgium, Netherlands after Morocco win at World Cup – CTV News
Riots broke out in several Belgian and Dutch cities after Morocco’s 2-0 upset win over Belgium at the World Cup Sunday.
Police detained about a dozen people after they deployed water cannons and fire tear gas to disperse crowds in Brussels and eight more in the Northern city of Antwerp. Two police officials were injured in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam. By late evening Sunday, an uneasy calm had returned to most of the cities involved.
Dozens of rioters overturned and torched cars, set electric scooters on fire and pelted cars with bricks. Police moved in after one person suffered facial injuries, said Brussels police spokeswoman Ilse Van de Keere.
Brussels mayor Philippe Close urged people to stay away from the city center and said authorities were doing their utmost to keep order in the streets. Even subway and tram traffic had to be interrupted on police orders.
“Those are not fans, they are rioters. Moroccan fans are there to celebrate,” Close said. There were also disturbances in the city of Antwerp and Liege.
“Sad to see how a few individuals abuse a situation to run amok,” said Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden.
Police in the neighbouring Netherlands said violence erupted in the port city of Rotterdam, with riot officers attempting to break up a group of 500 soccer supporters who pelted police with fireworks and glass. Media reported unrest in the capital Amsterdam and The Hague.
Morocco’s victory was a major upset at the World Cup and was enthusiastically celebrated by fans with Moroccan immigrant roots in many Belgian and Dutch cities.
Canada claims first Davis Cup title with win over Australia in final
The Davis Cup is billed as the “World Championship of Tennis”.
And on Sunday in Malagá, Spain, Canada defeated Australia and won it.
The squad that wasn’t even supposed to be in the finals at all lifted the iconic trophy for the first time since its initial participation all the way back in 1913.
After being swept 4-0 by the Netherlands in a qualifying tie back in March — a tie top players Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov both decided to skip — Canada was given a pass (as the highest-ranked country eliminated) into to the final phases of the event when defending champion Russia was ejected from the tournament following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Given a second life, the Canadians got through the elimination rounds in September in Valencia to reach the final eight this week in Malagá.
They defeated Germany in the quarterfinals Thursday, Italy in Saturday’s semifinal and then swept their two singles match against Australia on Sunday to clinch the title.
“What a way to end the year. It’s Davis Cup and we are the champions, world champions,” said Vasek Pospisil, the veteran of the group.
Captain Frank Dancevic, who took part in the Davis Cup for 14 years as a player, vowed the party would last all night — right through to their 6 a.m. flights on Monday.
Young substitutes Alexis Galarneau and Gabriel Diallo, who undoubtedly will have their part to play in years to come, came into the post-tournament press conference but could barely croak out a few words.
Their unwavering and very vocal support from the sidelines, along with a large contingent of Tennis Canada employees, coaches and support staff, made it a true team effort.
“We faced a lot of obstacles this week. We were down many matches, but we had our spirits high and kept fighting until the end, and we are here now with the trophy. It’s just an incredible feeling,” Dancevic said.
After the nervous moments earlier in the week, the final against Australia Sunday was almost anticlimactic.
Shapovalov, who was battered physically Saturday after a three-hour, 15-minute effort in defeat, came out a new man in the opening match.
He easily defeated a nervous-looking Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-2, 6-4.
And then, to clinch the tie — and the Cup — Auger-Aliassime was just as impressive in dispatching Australian No. 1 Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-2.
His performance during the week — notably coming in for Shapovalov in doubles against the Italian team on Saturday, to give Canada the opportunity to play in Sunday’s final — was impeccable.
“I saw the opening. I thought, ‘This is it. I’m going for it.’ That’s it,” Auger-Aliassime said of match point. “After that, my legs just dropped on me. I was just … my leg just collapsed. To have Frank and everybody rush me, screaming, it was amazing.”
Fans watching in Canada on both official broadcasters — Sportsnet in English and TVA in French — were deprived of seeing the final moments of victory when the international feed went down, right at the most inopportune time. The commentators were left scrambling to try to explain. And only after the fact were they able to get some coverage of the trophy ceremonies by hooking into the American feed from Tennis Channel, which was not affected.
The Canadian men have excelled in team-format competition in recent years, beginning with their surprise run to the final of the first “new-format” Davis Cup in 2019.
They were defeated by the far more experienced Spanish team there.
But Auger-Aliassime was just 19 then; Shapovalov just 20.
Last January down in Australia, Canada won the ATP Cup, a new team competition with a similar format that featured even more of the world’s best players.
And on Sunday, it won the ultimate prize.
The Davis Cup has been around since 1900. And despite recent fundamental and much-derided changes to the format that have, in the opinion of many, turned the event into a pale shadow of its former iconic self, it remains the ultimate prize.
Auger-Aliassime didn’t commit to the preliminary final rounds in September until after a surprise early elimination at the U.S. Open a couple of weeks beforehand.
But he made the date and led Canada to qualification, without which Sunday would never have been possible.
He and Pospisil had to get it done without Shapovalov, who didn’t play.
Pospisil, 32 and a decade older than the team’s young stars, has always answered the call of his country. And on some occasions before their rise to prominence, he basically lifted the entire team on his shoulders and carried it to victory.
It’s no wonder he was by far the most emotional on Sunday.
“Over the years we have just slowly been growing closer and closer to getting the title. In 2013, we had a bit of a run and made the semis. Then we’ve been in world group for a while and made finals in 2019,” Pospisil said. “It’s hard to explain, but (at the) beginning of the week it kind of felt like we were going to win it. Just kind of this feeling that I had. Maybe some of the other guys had it, too.”
The return of Shapovalov to the fold for the final stages allowed Pospisil to focus on the doubles and gave Canada two top-25 singles players.
And Canada took full advantage of teams that were missing key elements.
Germany did not have Olympic gold medallist Alexander Zverev, who has been out with injury since June.
Italy was missing its top two singles players: Jannik Sinner and Matteo Berrettini.
And notably, Nick Kyrgios was not in the lineup for Australia. He is that country’s highest-ranked player in both singles and doubles.
So Canada boasted one of the best one-two singles punches in the event, and the one with the most upside.
But potential is one thing; without the on-court performance to back it up, it’s only a theory.
On Sunday, Canada back it up to become world champions.
After taking Canada so far, an over-reliance on emotion proved their undoing at the World Cup – The Athletic
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