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NFL hands more than $1 million US in fines against 3 teams, coaches who didn't wear masks during games –



NFL coaches thumbed their collective, and exposed, noses at the NFL’s mask mandate in Week 2.

The league responded with hefty fines of $100,000 US per coach and $250,000 per club. The first three to get fined were Denver’s Vic Fangio, San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan and Seattle’s Pete Carroll, according to a person with knowledge of the punishment who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the coaches were not identified.

The punishment was meted out a week after the NFL reminded team personnel on the sidelines about the rules for wearing face coverings during the coronavirus pandemic, lest they put the fledgling season at risk.

More coaches and clubs can expect similar punishments as the memo last week from Troy Vincent, who oversees the league’s football operations, was largely ignored throughout the weekend.

Among other offenders: Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his offensive co-ordinator Josh McDaniels, Chiefs defensive co-ordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Colts coach Frank Reich and Rams coach Sean McVay.

Capping a weekend of deliberate defiance and/or desultory disobedience, Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who said last week he felt Vincent’s memo was directed at him, and Saints coach Sean Payton were shown on a split screen Monday night, both of them breaking the rules.

Gruden wore his mask like a chin strap, and Payton sported his gaiter like a turtleneck.

Players exempt from face covering rules

Following the Raiders’ 34-24 win over the Saints, Gruden revealed he’d had COVID-19 and apologized for violating the rules.

“I’m doing my best,” Gruden said. “I’ve had the virus. I’m doing my best. I’m very sensitive about it. I’m calling the plays. I apologize. If I get fined, I will have to pay the fine.”

The scenes were similar Sunday with head coaches and assistants apparently finding it too hard to keep their faces covered as required under the league’s COVID-19 protocols with either a mask, gaiter or face shield. Players, who, like the coaches, are subject to daily COVID-19 tests, are exempt from the face covering requirements.

Some coaches such as Belichick, McDaniels and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wore their masks or gaiters over their mouths but not noses. Others such as Carroll, Spagnuolo and Fangio wore their face coverings around their chins or necks, exposing both their mouths and noses.

In his strongly worded memo, Vincent said teams “must remain vigilant and disciplined in following the processes and protocols put in place by not only the league, union and clubs, but also by state and local governments.”

Vincent added: “Becoming careless or ignoring face covering and physical distancing requirements will put the 2020 season at risk.”

The rules don’t apply to players, but all other individuals with bench area access, including coaches and members of the club medical staff, are required to wear face coverings at all times.

Failure to do so, Vincent warned in his memo, “will result in accountability measures being imposed against offending individuals and/or clubs. The face covering must be worn as designed so that it securely fits across the wearer’s nose and mouth to prevent the transmission of the virus.”

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World Series Takeaways: Rays add to Dodgers’ history of playoff frustration –



Down to their last out in Game 4 of the World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays sent Brett Phillips up to the plate to face Kenley Jansen. On paper it was a mismatch, even with two runners on base. But then again, nobody could have anticipated what happened next.

After falling behind in the count 1-2, Phillips lined a single to centre. Kevin Kiermaier scored easily to tie the game 7-7, and that should have been all the Rays got. But once centre fielder Chris Taylor bobbled the ball, a truly bizarre play unfolded in a matter of seconds.

Reading Taylor’s misplay, Randy Arozarena rounded third only to trip and fall halfway to home plate. The throw to the plate had Arozarena beat easily, but catcher Will Smith missed it, Arozarena scored and the Rays walked it off to tie the World Series at two games apiece. You had to see it to believe it.

Of all the frustrating playoff losses the Dodgers have suffered over the years, this one has to be up there. Those misplays cost Los Angeles a chance to hand Clayton Kershaw the ball with a 3-1 series lead in Game 5. Instead, Kershaw will face Tyler Glasnow with the series tied 2-2. In the meantime, here are some observations from a memorable Game 4…

How to make sense of a painful finish?

For an idea of just how painful this loss was for the Dodgers, take a look at the win probability graph for Game 4:


Or simply watch Dave Roberts’ reaction to the last play of the game:

Give Phillips credit for a great at-bat against Jansen, but there’s no way the Dodgers should be losing a game like this. In this case the blame has to be shared between Jansen, who allowed two baserunners even before the Phillips single, Taylor, who should have fielded the ball cleanly, and Smith, who should have caught the relay throw.

If the Dodgers lose the series, it’s no exaggeration to say this loss will haunt them — possibly for a long time. So for Roberts, Kershaw and the Dodgers, the only possible outcomes are at the extremes now: either they lose a series they should have won or they win the franchise’s first title in more than three decades.

Seager’s flare nudges Dodgers ahead

On a night six different players homered, it was a flare into shallow centre field that finally allowed the Dodgers to take a late lead against the Rays. In the top of the eighth inning with two out and Taylor on second base, Nick Anderson pounded Corey Seager in on the hands with a 95.3 m.p.h. fastball.

Seager didn’t get much of it, but the blooper he hit had just enough on it to escape the grasp of shortstop Willy Adames and land in shallow centre field. With that, Seager had his fourth hit of the game and a .500 batting average for the series.

Questionable bullpen costs Rays

Maybe this was inevitable at some point. Or maybe it was simply a poorly timed off-night for the Tampa Bay bullpen. But it’s pretty surprising to see the Rays’ bullpen struggle like this.

Pitching in relief of starter Ryan Yarbrough Saturday, Pete Fairbanks, Diego Castillo and Anderson all allowed earned runs. We’re simply not used to seeing that kind of vulnerability from the Tampa Bay bullpen, and this time it nearly cost the Rays in a big way.

Thankfully the Rays’ offence bailed them out with runs in five of the last six innings, but Fairbanks, Castillo and Anderson would all be working on zero days’ rest if needed Sunday. It’s doable, and likely necessary, just not ideal.

Highs and Lowes

In the 14 playoff games leading up to the World Series, Brandon Lowe hit .115/.193/.173. It was an unexpected and ill-timed slump for a player who posted a .916 OPS during the regular season, but despite Lowe’s struggles the Rays kept winning.

If Kevin Cash and the Rays were ever tempted to bench Lowe, they never gave in to that temptation and they’ve since been rewarded. The 26-year-old hit two homers in Game 2 of the World Series, and on Saturday night when he stepped up with one out and two on in the bottom of the sixth inning, he did this:

That three-run shot was the biggest of Lowe’s career and one of the biggest in Rays franchise history.

But in the top of the seventh, the Dodgers loaded the bases with two out. Joc Pederson stepped in and lined a ball off the end of Lowe’s glove for a two-run single that gave the Dodgers the lead again.

Arozarena makes home run history

Entering play Saturday, four players in big-league history had ever hit eight home runs in the course of a single post-season:

• Barry Bonds (2002)
• Carlos Beltran (2004)
• Nelson Cruz (2011)
• Randy Arozarena (2020)

In the third inning, Seager joined that exclusive group with his eighth home run of the 2020 playoffs. And the very next inning, Arozarena separated himself from Seager & Co. with his ninth homer of the post-season.

To be fair, the wild-card round gave Arozarena and Seager a couple more games than usual, but their accomplishments are impressive nonetheless.

Urias flashes overpowering stuff

The first time Julio Urias appeared on Baseball America’s list of top 100 prospects was after the 2013 season. At the time, he was just 17, but his promise was apparent even when the Dodgers signed him out of Mexico as a teenager.

Seven years and parts of five big-league seasons later, Urias is now enjoying a breakout season. The 24-year-old pitched well in the regular season, with a 3.27 ERA in 55 innings, and has been even more effective in the playoffs.

That trend continued in Game 4, as Urias overpowered the Rays for 4.2 innings. His fastball topped out at 96.1 m.p.h. and may have looked even faster considering the Rays whiffed 17 times at that pitch on the way to nine strikeouts for Urias.

In five appearances this post-season, he now has a 1.31 ERA with 25 strikeouts compared to just four walks. Safe to say that prospect pedigree has been realized considering he’s now one of the most important pitchers on one of baseball’s best teams.

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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.”

Source:Toronto FC forced 

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