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Naomi Osaka withdraws from Western & Southern Open semifinal – TSN

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The Western & Southern Open tennis tournament says it will not hold play on Thursday to take “a stance against racial inequality and social injustice that once again has been thrust to the forefront in the United States.”

The men’s and women’s tournament says it will resume on Friday.

The U.S. Open is slated to start at the same venue on Monday.

The tournament’s announcement Wednesday night came after Naomi Osaka said she would not play in the semifinals.

Osaka announced she would not play in the women’s semifinals to get “a conversation started in a majority white sport.”

The last Top 10 seed in the women’s bracket joined professional athletes in basketball, baseball and soccer in demanding change after Blake was shot by police.

Osaka tweeted that as a Black woman, she feels compelled to pull out of the tournament to put a focus on police shooting Black people.

“I don’t expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport I consider that a step in the right direction,” she tweeted. “Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach.

“I’m exhausted of having a new hashtag pop up every few days and I’m extremely tired of having this same conversation over and over again. When will it ever be enough?”

NBA, WNBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer games were called off Wednesday as athletes demanded racial justice.

Osaka beat No. 12 Anett Kontaveit 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 on Wednesday afternoon. She was scheduled to play No. 14 Elise Mertens.

Victoria Azarenka will play eighth-seeded Johanna Konta in the other women’s semifinal. Konta beat Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-3, and Azarenka advanced in straight sets against Ons Jabeur.

Azarenka, who was No. 1 in 2012, acknowledged Wednesday that she had considered retiring at the start of the year. She’s currently No. 59 but has reached her first semifinal since April 2019.

“In January, I didn’t know if I was going to play at all,” she said. “So end of January, I decided: You know what? I might try, last time, and see what happens.”

In the men’s bracket, top-ranked Novak Djokovic had no problems with his creaky neck or the swirling winds during a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Jan-Lennard Struff that was by far his best showing of the week.

So far, no rust at all after the long layoff from competitive tennis.

“Everything was worked on in the last six months, I had plenty of time,” Djokovic said. “I worked on every single thing. It’s great it’s paying off so early after the break.”

Djokovic tested positive for COVID-19 after exhibition matches he organized in Serbia and Croatia in June with no social distancing.

In his match Monday against Ricardas Berankis, Djokovic had his sore neck massaged twice by a trainer during a 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory that included seven double faults. The neck has gotten better, and so has his overall game.

“Right now it’s not a concern,” he said. “It’s still not 100% but it’s close to that. I’ve been gaining more range in my movement of the neck every single day, so no complaints.”

In the semifinals, he’ll face Roberto Bautista Agut, who knocked out defending champion Daniil Medvedev earlier in the day.

Medvedev failed to close it out in the second set, and Bautista Agut rallied for a 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory that eliminated yet another top player out of the tune-up tournament for the U.S. Open. Djokovic is the only player left in the tournament with an ATP Masters 1000 title to his credit.

Medvedev led 4-3 in the second before letting it slip away. He converted only five of 20 break points in the match and swatted his racket against the court in frustration at the end.

“Even in the third set I had my chances and didn’t take them,” Medvedev said.

Bautista Agut reached his third Masters semifinal and his first since 2016. He needed a set to adjust to the breezy, cooler conditions on court.

“It’s never easy to come back and play good at first,” he said. “I have to be patient, to try to enjoy every single match I play here after six months without competing. Just pleased and happy to be in the semifinals.”

Medvedev hoisted the champion’s Rookwood Pottery cup last year in Mason, Ohio, where the tournament is held annually. This year’s event was moved to the U.S. Open site in Flushing Meadows because of pandemic precautions, creating a two-tournament event without spectators.

Tsitsipas also advanced to the semifinals when Reilly Opelka withdrew during the first set of their match Wednesday after getting treatment for an injured right knee.

— With files from The Canadian Press.

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Esposito, Gainey celebrate legacies with Stars, Lightning in Cup Final – NHL.com

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The 2020 championship series being played at Rogers Place in Edmonton is the first Stanley Cup Final between two Sun Belt teams, each aiming for its second title.

Watching on TV from his hometown of Peterborough, Ontario, Gainey is pulling for the Stars, having arrived in Dallas in 1993 as GM of a relocated team that had been founded as the Minnesota North Stars as part of the NHL’s 1967 six-team expansion.

Bob Gainey behind the Dallas Stars bench.

It was Gainey who from the mid-to-late 1990s built Dallas into a Stanley Cup contender, then hit the pot of gold with the 1999 team going all the way.

“I’m happy to see the Stars where they are now,” said Gainey, who won five championships while playing his entire 1,160-game NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens. “I know that their fans in the Dallas area and those who follow them from afar are happy to see them there and they deserve to be there. They’re a really good team.

“I have the lucky situation where I could have a team in each conference and that would give me two horses in the race. I wouldn’t be in a danger zone unless the Canadiens and Stars ended up in the Final against each other.”

From a makeshift broadcast studio in Tampa Bay’s Amalie Arena, where he’s doing radio color commentary, Esposito loudly proclaims himself to be a fierce fan of the Lightning, having been a driving force in bringing the expansion team to Florida in 1992.

In Tampa Bay’s fledgling days, Esposito was team president, general manager and chief marketer, selling sponsorships, tickets and pretty much everything except arena beer. 

The native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, played 1,282 games between 1963-81 for the Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, winning the Stanley Cup in 1970 and 1972 with the Bruins. He was a Lightning radio broadcaster when the team won its Cup in 2004.

Bob Gainey (left) and Phil Esposito early in their NHL careers.
 

As they now pull for their respective sides, Gainey, 66, and Esposito, 78, take great pride in the roles they played in building the Stars and Lightning, cherishing memories of importing the NHL into non-traditional hockey markets.

Gainey was coach and GM of the North Stars when the team moved south to begin the 1993-94 season, having coached and managed the team in Minnesota after cutting his coaching teeth in France in 1989-90, diving in immediately upon his NHL retirement as a player.

If Texas had a rich minor pro hockey history dating to the 1940s, the NHL would be a different product, one that hoped to share a crowded stage dominated by the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, baseball’s Texas Rangers and the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.

“It was an unknown for me and for many of us who were involved,” Gainey said of the move. “We learned quickly more than 25 years ago that Dallas is a very avid sports-minded community. And people came to our games. The business community gave us a chance. They said, ‘This is a new entity, why not? This could be good.’ It took a lot of work by the parts of the organization that were trying to establish ticket and sponsorship sales. But eventually we got there, and we had a very, very good relationship with the community.”

Esposito, who was GM of the Rangers from 1986-89, had been feeling out the expansion process in the early 1990s when then-NHL President John Ziegler told him to stay away from Texas. Esposito had his eye on Florida anyway, and believed that the North Stars might be headed to Houston, his goaltending brother Tony’s final minor-pro stop on his way to the NHL.

Tampa Bay Lightning GM Phil Esposito with defenseman Roman Hamrlik, the No. 1 pick in the 1992 NHL Draft.
 

He recalls playing golf in Orlando when he took a call inviting him to Tampa to meet with high-profile lawyer Henry Paul, who ultimately would be a Lightning co-founder.

“As I’m driving into the city, there are no buildings. No buildings!” Esposito said. “I’m saying to myself, ‘Where are the buildings? How can this be the 12th largest television market in the country?’ I didn’t know anything about St. Pete, Clearwater, Bradenton or Brandon, where we’d have fans. I didn’t know anything about Tampa then. All I knew was that they had the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers and they weren’t very good. I thought we could steal a lot of their business. 

“I went to Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville before deciding to come to Tampa. The decision was clear as a bell to me. I asked Henry Paul in our very first meeting, ‘Do you think hockey can survive in this area?’ Henry said, ‘Well, Phil, we love football, (NASCAR) car crashes, boxing and wrestling. Seems to me you’ve got all of that in hockey.’ I said, ‘I’m going for it, are you with me?’ and he said, ‘Yes, I am.’ That’s how it started — myself, Henry and our partner Mel Lowell.”

Gainey looks back fondly at the Stars 1999 Stanley Cup championship team, one that he helped assemble. 

From left, Bob Gainey, Marcel Dionne and Lanny McDonald with the Hall of Fame rings as members of the Class of 1992.

“We were able to pick up a player like Joe Nieuwendyk, for instance,” he said, the future Hall of Fame center acquired by trade from the Calgary Flames in 1995 for forwards Jarome Iginla and Corey Millen. “Free-agency arrived, and we found Pat Verbeek (in 1996) and Ed Belfour (1997). We learned how to win over two or three years of playoffs where we were eliminated — by Edmonton early (seven-game 1997 Western Conference Quarter-Finals), then a disappointing loss deeper in the playoffs to Detroit (six-game 1998 conference final). But those are the things that ultimately take you up to the next level of competition and allow you to really compete for the Cup.

“In 1999, we won our first game of the year, started the season in first place and didn’t leave it to win the Stanley Cup,” Gainey said. “It was an end-to-end commitment by the team and players to accomplish what had just been out of our reach the previous couple of years.”

It was the Stars’ championship parade, modest by most standards, that Gainey says was one of his most enjoyable and rewarding moments in Dallas.

“I realized that we had a cross-section of the whole city that was really enjoying the team’s success,” he said. “For me, that was the message that we weren’t just a flash like a sports team that enters a market and stays for a little while then leaves. We’d penetrated deeper and broader and the franchise, handled properly, could be there for a long time.”

Brothers Phil and Tony Esposito play a 1970s table hockey game bearing their names.

More than 1,000 miles to the east, Esposito remembers delegating many of the Lightning roster decisions to his brother, Tony, whom he brought in as director of player personnel. 

“I was busy selling tickets,” he said. “Tony would come to me and ask for my opinion and I’d just say, ‘Brother, do what you think is right, that’s fine with me.’ 

“I remember the first couple years, people up in Canada and the Boston and New York area saying that I was a raving (expletive) lunatic for trying to put hockey in Florida. I just didn’t understand it. I think it was the ego of the Canadian media that couldn’t deal with it. The fact is, you play indoors. You keep the building at 69 or 70 degrees and the ice is fine.”

It’s with fatherly pride that Esposito supports the Lightning, and he gets a kick out of fans asking him whether he cheers for the Bruins, with whom he enjoyed his greatest playing success as a fearsome, record-setting sniper, or Tampa Bay.

“I tell them, ‘Are you kidding me? I gave birth to the Lightning. There’s no question. None,’ ” he said. “If the Lightning were out of the playoffs and Boston was still in, yeah, I’d probably cheer for Boston a little bit.

“Of course, I’m pulling for the Lightning. I’d love to see them win the Cup for (owner) Jeff Vinik and for the fans. It’ll make it even better around here. What’s going on downtown is amazing. And you know what? There are buildings in Tampa now. Lots of them.”

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Blue Jays sit 1 win away from clinching playoff berth after thumping Yankees – CBC.ca

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The Toronto Blue Jays showed Wednesday night why they could be a dangerous wild-card team in the playoffs.

Danny Jansen hit two solo homers as the Blue Jays used a 16-hit attack and eight-run sixth inning to bulldoze the New York Yankees 14-1 at Sahlen Field. Jansen had four hits and three runs to help the Blue Jays move closer to nailing down a playoff berth.

“Putting ourselves in this spot is a great feeling,” Jansen said. “But we’ve still got work to do.”

Toronto (29-27) trimmed its magic number to one with the victory and can secure its first post-season spot since 2016 with a win in Thursday’s series finale.

Cavan Biggio scored three times, Randal Grichuk added a pair of runs and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., had three RBIs. Starter Robbie Ray was effective over four-plus innings and A.J. Cole threw a scoreless fifth inning for the win.

Under Major League Baseball’s expanded playoff structure, 16 teams will reach the post-season. Division winners will be seeded No. 1 through No. 3 in each league, second-place teams will be seeded fourth through sixth, and two third-place wild-card teams will get the seventh and eighth seeds.

The Los Angeles Angels, currently ninth in the AL, kept their faint playoff hopes alive earlier Wednesday with a 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres.

Facing veteran right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (3-3), the Blue Jays took advantage of a couple breaks to put up two quick runs in the first inning.

With Biggio on after a leadoff walk, Teoscar Hernandez hit a double-play ball up the middle that took an unexpected high bounce near the lip of the grass and rolled into the outfield.

Guerrero stroked a single that scored Biggio with the game’s first run. Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez tried to pick the young slugger off first base but a wide throw went down the right-field line as Hernandez trotted home.

Ray earns timely outs

Ray breezed through the first inning but issued two walks in the second. Gio Urshela singled to load the bases and a passed ball allowed Luke Voit to score the Yankees’ lone run.

New York loaded the bases with none out in the fifth inning. But Cole (3-0) held off the heart of the Yankees’ order by fanning Giancarlo Stanton and getting Voit — who leads the majors in homers — on an infield fly and then Gleyber Torres on a flyout.

“That was really the game,” Jansen said. “Saving that was huge for us. Bases loaded, no outs, coming in and getting that. There’s a lot of momentum swing right there.”

Toronto followed New York’s lead by putting its first three batters on base in the sixth. The Blue Jays took full advantage by batting around with a two-run single by Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Biggio’s two-run double serving as highlight blows.

The victory came a day after New York dumped Toronto 12-1.

“Today was a big game after yesterday,” said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. “That’s what they’ve done all year — come back from top losses. It was great to see, facing another good pitcher like Tanaka, coming back tonight and scoring all those runs. A big win for us.”

New York (32-24) had four hits and a season-high four errors. The Yankees have a magic number of one to secure a second-place finish in the East Division.

Ray, who was pulled after the first two batters reached in the fifth, allowed three hits, four walks and had five strikeouts. Tanaka gave up three earned runs, eight hits and three walks while striking out five.

Jansen, who went deep off Tanaka in the fourth, added another shot in the eighth off Yankees catcher Erik Kratz, giving the Toronto backstop six homers on the season.

Toronto was a wild-card entry when it last reached the post-season four years ago. The Blue Jays went on to reach the AL Championship Series for the second straight year.

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Jays win big, magic number is 1 – Bluebird Banter

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Yankees 1 Blue Jays 14

Our magic number is now 1. A win tomorrow (or in any of our last four games) would put us into the playoffs.

It is nice when the other team forgets how to play baseball. The Yankees made 4 official errors and a few unofficial ones. They were just playing bad baseball all night.

We got a good start from Bob Rae (as much as it hurts the old man in me to say that 4+ innings is a good start). Through four innings he allowed just 2 hits and 3 walks with 5 strikeouts. There was an unearned run against him, scoring on a passed ball (he and Jansen got crossed up, Ray threw a fastball, Jansen thought something bendy was coming). He went to full counts too much, but he kept the Yankees off the bases.

Ray allowed a walk and a single to start off the fifth and that was it. A.J. Cole came in a gave up a walk to load the bases. Looking at the final score, it doesn’t seem like there should have been a big moment of the game on the pitching side, but this was a big moment. We were up 5-1 with Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Viot and Gleyber Torres coming up. But Cole got a strikeout, popout and fly out. It was nice to see because Cole has had a rough time of it lately.

Ross Stripling pitched the last four inning, giving up just 1 hit with 1 strikeout. He gets a save on a game we won by 13.


We scored 2 in the first, 1 in the third, 2 in the fourth, 8 in the sixth and 1 in the eighth. Our hitters:

  • Cavan Biggio was 2 for 5 with a walk, double and 2 RBI.
  • Bo Bichette was 2 for 4, with 2 walks, double, 2 RBI (he had 3 walks on the season before tonight).
  • Teoscar Hernandez 1 or 4.
  • Randal Grichuk 1 for 4, 1 walk, 1 RBI.
  • Vladimir Guerrero was 2 for 5, double, 3 RBI. He had an interesting night. He misjudged a popup in the first inning. Thankfully it didn’t cost us a run. He drew a pick off throw from Gary Sanchez, by taking a few steps towards second on a strike and Sanchez threw wide of first, getting us a free run. Then an crushed RBI double in third, an RBI ground out. And he made a very nice play, again a going a long way off first to get a ball, but Stripling got to the bag at first in plenty of time, and Vlad made a nice throw hitting the moving target.
  • Lourdes Gurriel was 3 for 5 with an RBI.
  • Travis Shaw was 1 for 5 with an RBI.
  • Joe Panik only managed a walk.
  • Danny Jansen hit 2 home runs on a 4 for 4 night, with 3 RBI. Yes, one of the home runs was off Yankees’ catcher Erik Kratz (but it still counts).

Jays of the Day: Cole (.119 WPA), Vlad (.190) and Jansen (.107).

No Suckage Jays. Shaw had the low mark at -.063.

Tomorrow is our last game of this four game series against the Yankees and then we have a weekend series against the Orioles to end the season.


We had 847 comments in the GameThread. I led us to victory (and I didn’t even have a beer tonight). But I did have a nice day. I took a drive out in the country and saw the changing of the colours, while avoiding the news for a day. I’d say it was a mental health day, but there really is no mental health left.

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