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Matz wins rotation battle by default as Blue Jays split doubleheader – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – A couple years ago around this time, someone asked Charlie Montoyo who the Blue Jays’ upcoming starting pitchers were and his response revealed a lot about the state of starting pitching in the organization at that time.

“We honestly don’t know,” he said back in September of 2019. “An opener and a guy.”

Going into Tuesday’s double-header against the Angels, the Blue Jays actually had more viable big-league starters than rotation spots – a welcome and unusual set of circumstances that added a layer of intrigue to the day. With Steven Matz and Ross Stripling both slated to make final bids to remain in the rotation, a competition of sorts was set to play out at Angel Stadium.

By the end of the night, however, the decision had been made for the Blue Jays, proving once again that any apparent pitching surplus tends to resolve itself more quickly than teams would like.

Matz struggled at times in the opener, allowing four runs on six hits over 4.2 innings in a 6-3 loss, but Stripling left the second game after just two innings and 28 pitches due to an oblique strain. While the Blue Jays still managed to split the double-header with a 4-0 win thanks to some strong relief work, the loss of Stripling hurts considering how well he’s pitched over his last dozen starts.

And though the Blue Jays will continue gathering information on Stripling with further tests scheduled this week, his injury makes the immediate decision for them. It’ll now be Matz who continues starting along with Hyun-Jin Ryu, Jose Berrios, Robbie Ray and Alek Manoah.

“I don’t want to speculate,” Montoyo said when asked about a timeline for Stripling, “but he’s not going to make his next start, that’s for sure.”

Offensively, it was a quiet day for the Blue Jays, though Marcus Semien continued his productive season with a three-hit game including two doubles in the opener. Teoscar Hernandez contributed two hits and an RBI in each game while Lourdes Gurriel Jr. delivered a well-timed two-run single late in the night-cap.

But the Blue Jays were able to split this double-header thanks to their pitching, rather than their bats. Once Stripling left the game, the relievers in the Blue Jays’ bullpen realized the remaining five innings would be up to them.

“Here we go, strap it on boys,” reliever Adam Cimber recalled saying. “Everybody’s all hands on deck.”

In the end, Cimber and fellow mid-season trade acquisition Trevor Richards each stepped up to pitch two scoreless innings before Jordan Romano recorded the final three outs despite loading the bases. This time, the bullpen picked up a rotation that’s been consistent of late.

“Our starters have been great,” Cimber said afterwards. “We’re anxious to get in there whenever we can and it’s been a fun ride.”

“Our relievers did an outstanding job,” Montoyo added.

Injuries aside, Matz may still have been the leader to remain in the rotation over Stripling with two days off approaching next week and no need for a sixth starter. Before the double-header, Montoyo said Stripling’s familiarity with relief pitching would factor into the club’s thinking.

“It’s going to be a tough decision which means both are pitching good, which is great,” Montoyo said. “But we’ll see. The one thing about Ross is he’s done it before and he’s comfortable there, so that could help in the move, but we’ll see.”

In theory, entering games with runners on base or warming up in short order would likely be more familiar to Stripling, who has 88 career appearances compared to Matz’s five. But with the oblique issue now impacting Stripling, the Blue Jays’ bullpen won’t get that anticipated support either.

For the short-term, it’s another challenge for Montoyo and pitching coach Pete Walker. With lots of ground to make up in the standings, the 61-51 Blue Jays don’t have much breathing room at this point in the season, so losing a capable arm like Stripling for any duration of time would be a challenge.

Yet it’s also worth reflecting back a couple of years to 2019, when the Blue Jays used Wilmer Font, Derek Law, Daniel Hudson, David Phelps, Neil Ramirez, Ryan Tepera and Buddy Boshers as openers because they lacked big-league quality starting pitchers.

By comparison, the competition playing out now is far preferable – and a reflection of how far the Blue Jays have come in a short period of time.

“It’s huge,” Montoyo said. “We have a chance to win every day. The one thing about an opener is really that means your starter’s not great. He’s good enough, but … you know what I’m saying. You have to make an adjustment. It’s a smart thing that baseball did, but if you have five or six starters you don’t need an opener and that’s what we’ve got going right now.”

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Jones scores four TDs as Packers bounce back to beat Lions – TSN

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Jones caught three of Aaron Rodgers’ four touchdown passes and rushed for a fourth score, and the Green Bay Packers had a welcome return to normal after an embarrassing opening-week loss, beating the Detroit Lions 35-17 on Monday night.

Green Bay (1-1) won its ninth straight home opener. The Packers, who got thumped 38-3 by the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, looked more like the team that went 13-3 in each of coach Matt LaFleur’s first two seasons.

Rodgers went 22 of 27 for 255 yards and surpassed John Elway for 10th all-time in passing yards with 51,633. Rodgers has followed up each of the Packers’ last five regular-season losses by throwing four touchdown passes and no interceptions in his next game.

Jones became the first Packers running back to catch three touchdown passes in a game since Andy Uram against the Chicago Cardinals in 1942. He had 17 carries for 67 yards and six catches for 48 yards.

Detroit’s Jared Goff completed 13 of his first 14 passes but struggled the rest of the way as the Lions (0-2) blew a 17-14 halftime lead. Goff finished 26 of 36 for 246 yards. He connected on touchdown passes to Quintez Cephus and T.J. Hockenson but also threw an interception and lost a fumble.

Green Bay scored touchdowns on its first three second-half possessions to seize control.

The Packers faced third-and-12 on their opening series of the second half when Rodgers threw a 50-yard completion to Davante Adams, who ended the night with eight catches for 121 yards.

Lions rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu injured his thigh on the play, further weakening a secondary that already lost cornerback Jeff Okudah to a ruptured Achilles tendon in Detroit’s season-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Green Bay dominated the rest of the way.

Rodgers capped that drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Robert Tonyan. Detroit’s next series ended when Goff threw an incompletion on fourth-and-1 from the Green Bay 25.

Rodgers threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jones to extend the Packers’ lead to 28-17.

Green Bay’s Krys Barnes recovered Goff’s fumble at the Detroit 23 on the Lions’ next snap. Jones scored on a 1-yard run and that was that.

INJURIES

Lions: WR Tyrell Williams missed the game with a concussion. … Melifonwu did not return after the thigh injury.

Packers: TE Josiah Deguara was out with a concussion.

ST. BROWN VS. ST. BROWN

The Packers activated wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown from the practice squad, giving him the chance to play against his younger brother. The Lions selected receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown out of Southern California in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Amon-Ra had the better stat line with three receptions for 18 yards, while Equanimeous had one catch for no gain.

PACKERS’ LINE CHANGE

Green Bay’s Lucas Patrick, who started at left guard against New Orleans, was active after getting out of concussion protocol. But he wasn’t on the field for the opening series.

Jon Runyan Jr. was at left guard instead in the 2020 sixth-round pick’s first career start. Runyan’s father was an All-Pro tackle who went on to represent New Jersey in Congress from 2011-15.

IN MEMORIAM

The Packers wore a helmet decal to honor Ted Thompson, who worked as the team’s general manager from 2005-17 and died Jan. 20 at the age of 68. The Packers also honored Thompson during a halftime ceremony.

UP NEXT

Lions: Host Baltimore (1-1) on Sunday. The Ravens are coming off a Sunday night victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Packers: At San Francisco (2-0) on Sunday night. This will be the fourth time in the last three seasons the Packers have played at San Francisco. They won 34-17 last season. Two years ago, the Packers lost 37-8 to the 49ers in the regular season and 37-20 in the NFC championship game.

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Josh Donaldson swapping jerseys with Vlad Guerrero a Blue Jays moment that won’t be forgotten – Toronto Star

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It was a moment Blue Jays fans won’t soon forget, and one they will hope eventually represents a passing of the torch from one American League most valuable player to another.

Josh Donaldson, Toronto’s 2015 MVP now with the Minnesota Twins, signing and exchanging jerseys with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is vying for his first MVP nod this season, following a three-game series between the two teams.

The pair set up the jersey exchange on Saturday and it caused quite a stir of emotion a day later, the end of an already emotional weekend with Donaldson’s return and the Jays back in a wild-card spot.

There they were — the man who last led the Jays’ World Series hopes and the man fans hope can take Toronto one step further by clinching the top prize.

“He just told me after, ‘Stay focused and keep working hard until the end,’” Guerrero Jr. said post-game of his interaction with Donaldson.

Donaldson, 35, is no stranger to hearing fans at Rogers Centre shout “MVP, MVP” during an at-bat. This time around he received a standing ovation during his first plate appearance of the series but the kinds of cheers he once received were now directed at the 22-year-old Guerrero.

The veteran was all for it. When asked on Saturday if he thought Guerrero deserved to join him and 1987 winner George Bell as Blue Jays MVPs, Donaldson’s answer was clear.

“It should happen,” Donaldson said. “He’s put up (an) astronomical season from the offensive side and he’s contributing on the defensive side. The guy’s got a 1.000 OPS at 22 years old, being a huge contributor.”

Guerrero’s stiffest competition in the race for AL MVP is Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani, who many believe is a lock for the award as his team’s staff ace and most productive hitter — he is doing something that has never before been seen in Major League Baseball. But Guerrero, who is vying for the Triple Crown as the league leader in home runs, batting average and runs batted in, is mounting a late season challenge for the award as Ohtani navigates some late season troubles.

The Angels star’s numbers at the plate have dipped in the second half of the season and there has been talk of him being shut down from pitching in the final portion of the season because of arm soreness. And then there’s the age-old question: can a player be the most valuable if his team is not headed to the playoffs? Guerrero and the Jays could very well be; Ohtani and the Angels are not in post-season contention.

To Donaldson, there are holes in the argument for Ohtani: he didn’t start every fifth day, the recent injury could cause him to miss most of September on the mound and, as a designated hitter, he doesn’t impact both sides of the game. Guerrero, on the other hand, strikes fear in opposing lineups unlike any other player this season, Donaldson said.

And if the Jays make the playoffs, Donaldson said, that should tip the scales in Guerrero’s favour.

“If you take Vlad out of that lineup, this isn’t the same team,” Donaldson said. “Not that this isn’t a good lineup, because it is. But what Vlad’s doing is … he’s that security blanket for the rest of that lineup (with) what he’s producing. He takes pressure off of everybody else.”

Hearing that kind of praise from Donaldson, who spent the weekend at the ballpark happily reuniting with familiar faces he knew from his four years in Toronto and touting Guerrero’s MVP worthiness to anyone who would listen, left Guerrero nearly speechless but maybe not surprised. Guerrero, who was signed by the Jays the same year Donaldson won the MVP in 2015, said Donaldson has long been supportive of his career.

“Coming from Josh, it’s unbelievable what he said. Especially coming from someone that already won the MVP,” Guerrero said. “Since I was in the minors when he was here, he was always giving me advice, especially in spring training. When I was playing third, helping me out, taking ground balls with him. He’s always been great to me and I really appreciate his comments.”

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Patriots owner Robert Kraft shocked a gay flag football team by showing up to support it – Yahoo Canada Sports

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Imagine coming off the field from your neighborhood flag football game, dripping in weekend-warrior sweat, and there stands the owner of the New England Patriots. 

Naturally, you might be curious why Robert Kraft — a man said to have a net worth north of $8 billion — is, you know, there. Just hanging out.

Was Kraft watching a relative or close friend play? Did he happen to be nearby and just wander over? Did his driver get lost?

No, it turns out that Kraft was simply there to support a Massachusetts gay flag football team.

There was no press release. No attention drawing needed. Just your average billionaire NFL franchise owner supporting a gay flag football team and a great local charity. 

As one of the flag football team members, Alex Reimer of Outsports.com, noted in his blog about the event, Kraft just swung by to watch the action — one day before the Patriots took on the New York Jets on the road.

What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, it’s a sign that Kraft doesn’t just support the group — FLAG Flag Football Boston — with financial backing. He also comes to watch them play. That’s a personal touch money can’t buy.

There also was a charitable component to the weekend. The flag football team helped raise donations of 25,000 items for Hope & Comfort, a local charity that helps with hygiene insecurity for needy youths and families in the area. The Patriots helped support the cause, and the owner was on hand for it.

Kudos to Kraft, who has been a big supporter of the LGBTQ community for years (even before it was popular to do so) and who appears to go above and beyond mere check writing and ribbon cutting.

This is the kind of outreach we’d love to see more of in the NFL community, and Kraft’s above-and-beyond effort shows that even the world’s wealthiest people can donate something that carries even more value than donations.

Their time.

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