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MLB playoff push: Blue Jays can clinch with win over Yankees Thursday – Sportsnet.ca

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One year after losing 95 games, the Toronto Blue Jays are on the brink of their first playoff appearance in four years. And this time, they don’t need help from anyone else to clinch.

With Hyun Jin Ryu slated to face the New York Yankees Thursday evening, the Blue Jays’ magic number is finally down to one. A win would eliminate the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners and assure the Blue Jays the last available American League playoff berth. On the mound, there’s no one Toronto would rather have pitching than Ryu, whose 3.00 ERA has been instrumental in the team’s success.

Watch live Thursday on Sportsnet, SN1 and SN NOW as the Blue Jays look to clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Yankees. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT with Blue Jays Central.

Considering where the Blue Jays were a year ago, they weren’t considered a playoff favourite entering the season, but they’ve overcome injuries to get this far – all while playing at their triple-A park. And while the Blue Jays would undoubtedly be underdogs should they advance, anything can happen in a three-game series. First things first, though – they have to get there.

Here’s a closer look at where Toronto stands in the MLB playoff picture…

If the playoffs began today
The top two teams in each division make the playoffs along with the top remaining two teams from each league for a total of 16 playoff teams. Those 16 teams will then face off in eight best-of-three series that precede the League Division Series.

If the post-season began today, these eight American League teams would qualify:
No. 1 Tampa Bay Rays vs. No. 8 Toronto Blue Jays
No. 2 Oakland Athletics vs. No. 7 Cleveland Indians
No. 3 Minnesota Twins vs. No. 6 Houston Astros
No. 4 Chicago White Sox vs. No. 5 New York Yankees

And these eight National League teams would qualify:
No. 1 Los Angeles Dodgers vs. No. 8 Cincinnati Reds
No. 2 Atlanta Braves vs. No. 7 San Francisco Giants
No. 3 Chicago Cubs vs. No. 6 Miami Marlins
No. 4 San Diego Padres vs. No. 5 St. Louis Cardinals

How seeding works in 2020: According to MLB, the top three seeds in each league go to the three division winners in order of record. The next three seeds go to the three teams that finish second in their division, in order of record. The final two seeds will go to the two teams with the next best records, regardless of division.

This season, Dan picks an issue, trend, news item or story from around MLB, and digs in on it with a guest. And he does it five times a week for about 15 minutes a day. Enough time to inform and entertain, but also get fans back to all the sports going on.

In striking distance
In the American League, only two teams outside the top eight have a chance of advancing to the playoffs and both will need everything to go right to qualify. The Angels (26-31) and Mariners (25-31) are both off Thursday, but a Blue Jays win would eliminate those AL West teams. Even if the Blue Jays lose Thursday, the Angels and Mariners will still be a single loss away from elimination as they enter their weekend series against the Dodgers and Athletics, respectively.

Meanwhile, in the National League, there are still eight teams in the mix for the final four spots. The Phillies (28-29) and Brewers (27-28) are just one game behind the Giants (28-27) and Reds (29-28), putting lots of pressure on San Francisco and Cincinnati. Even the Mets (25-31) and Rockies (24-31) are still technically in the mix, though they’d need some help to advance.

Playoff odds report
Objectively speaking, here’s where the Blue Jays stand in relation to their closest adversaries, according to FanGraphs and FiveThirtyEight:

Blue Jays’ FanGraphs odds: 99.8% | Blue Jays’ FiveThirtyEight odds: more than 99%

Angels’ FanGraphs odds: 1.5% | Angels’ FiveThirtyEight odds: 1%

Mariners’ FanGraphs odds: 0.1% | Mariners’ FiveThirtyEight odds: less than 1%

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

Next up
The Blue Jays will send Ryu to the mound Thursday evening while the Yankees will counter with Jordan Montgomery. Once the Yankees leave town, the Baltimore Orioles will arrive in Buffalo for three games to wrap up the regular season. Of course if all goes well for the Blue Jays Thursday, that series against the Orioles will merely be a tune-up for the playoffs.

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Report: Ravens acquire DE Ngakoue – TSN

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Yannick Ngakoue is on the move again.

The Minnesota Vikings have traded the defensive end to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional fifth-round pick in 2022.

 Through six games this season, Ngakoue has recorded 12 tackles, 5.0 sacks and two forced fumbles.

In his fifth year out of Maryland, Ngakoue was acquired by the Vikings from the Jacksonville Jaguars – with whom he spent the first four seasons of his career – at the end of August.

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Virtanen signs two-year, $5.1 million contract with Canucks – NHL.com

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Jake Virtanen signed a two-year, $5.1 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. It has an average annual value of $2.55 million.

The 24-year old forward was a restricted free agent and avoided a salary arbitration hearing scheduled for Oct. 28. He scored 36 points (18 goals, 18 assists) in 69 games with the Canucks last season and three points (two goals, one assist) in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

“Obviously there’s a bright future with the Canucks organization, so many young, talented players coming in and the moves that we’ve made, I think it’s going to be just a brighter future for our team moving forward,” Virtanen said. “I’m excited to see how it all pans out and how our team’s going to do and super excited to get things going.

“[Contract negotiations] felt like a long time but obviously super excited to get this done and be back with the Canucks for two more years. Just happy to get it done and get it over with and just focus on training and skating and the whole thing, being ready to go.”

With forward Tyler Toffoli signing a four-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 12, it opened up a spot on one of the top two lines, and Virtanen is hoping he’ll get a chance to play there.

“Obviously I’d love to play top six and have a bigger opportunity, more responsibilities,” Virtanen said. “That’s what I really hope I get. I want to be able to prove that to the team and my teammates that I can play up there and be consistent every night, making sure that I can play night in and night out. It’s an opening for me to try to jump up there. I’ve got to make sure I’m coming to camp ready to go.”

Selected by Vancouver in the first round (No. 6) of the 2014 NHL Draft, Virtanen has scored 95 points (50 goals, 45 assists) in 279 regular-season games and three points in 16 playoff games.

“Jake has continued to make progress on his two-way game and remains a contributor offensively, using his speed and size to generate chances,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning said. “We look forward to him taking additional steps in his growth this year to help our team be successful.”

NHL.com staff writer Tim Campbell contributed to this report

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NHL postpones Winter Classic, All-Star Game – TSN

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The NHL has announced the postponement of the 2021 Winter Classic and the All-Star Game. The annual outdoor game was scheduled for Jan. 1 at Target Field in Minnesota. The All-Star Game was scheduled for Jan. 30 in Sunrise, FL.

The postponements were expected as the dates were scheduled prior to beginning of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The NHL concluded the 2020 playoffs in September — over three months later than originally scheduled — as part of the league’s negotiated Return To Play format. The regular season concluded on Mar. 11, after the league was forced to its season on pause due to the pandemic.

“Fan participation, both in arenas and stadiums as well as in the ancillary venues and events that we stage around the Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend, is integral to the success of our signature events,” said NHL Senior Executive Vice President & Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer. “Because of the uncertainty as to when we will be able to welcome our fans back to our games, we felt that the prudent decision at this time was to postpone these celebrations until 2022 when our fans should be able to enjoy and celebrate these tentpole events in-person, as they were always intended. We are also considering several new and creative events that will allow our fans to engage with our games and teams during this upcoming season.”

Both events will be rescheduled, according to the league.

The NHL also announced that the postponement of the events doesn’t change their target date of Jan. 1 to begin the 2020-21 season. 

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