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Opening day win gives Toronto Blue Jays early psychological boost – TSN

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TORONTO — It’s only one game of 162 and the Toronto Blue Jays could be a .500 team by Saturday evening.

In other words, it’s a long season and outlining wins in April as “big” or “important” would be best described as reactionary and a touch sensational.

But this was one for the psyche.

An important ‘W’ for a young team trying to prove it should be taken seriously as a World Series contender and not just as a collection of exciting talent on the come up.

Great teams have a knack for emerging victorious in the close ones, doing the little things right — fundamentals were not this club’s strong suit in 2020 — and that’s exactly what the Jays were able to do as they kicked off a season with expectations as high as they’ve been in half a decade.
Beating Gerrit Cole is rare. For anyone.

His Houston swansong in 2019 saw the Astros go 26-7 in Cole starts, sending him towards a well-deserved, massive $324 million payday in free agency.

In his first season in pinstripes, the Yanks were 8-4 in his starts.

That means his team has a 76 per cent chance of winning on days Cole starts.

But to begin 2021, they’re 0-1.

Earning $36 million this season alone, each of the Yankees ace’s starts is worth well over a million bucks.
Last year, Cole faced the Jays twice and beat them twice.

The combined score in those games?

Yankees 25, Jays 3.

Not good for the psyche to say the least. They erased those memories Thursday afternoon in front of 10,850 human fans. Disappointed ones.

No matter if it’s April 1 or September 1, a win is a win is a win and beating this Yankees team in a Cole start — a horse they’ll have to face in key divisional games for years to come — is a confidence-builder that can only help later on down the line.

It’s worth repeating: This one is all about the psyche.
But they only got two runs off him and Cole looked as dominant as ever with eight punch-outs over 5.1 innings, you say?

Pounding the big righty is never the expectation.

A couple timely hits — Teoscar Hernandez, who hasn’t stopped crushing baseballs since the summer of 2019 provided the big, game-tying homer in the sixth, a 437-foot shot off a hanging slider from Cole — execution on defence, and winning a close one is the only realistic calculation when facing a pitcher this good, and that’s what the Jays did.

The gloves did their part and the bullpen — even if the five free passes issued by relievers almost killed them — did theirs.

After a shortened 2020 season that was marked by miscues in the field led to an end-of-season promise from the front office to get better defensively, it’s another win for the psyche.

“Our defence was outstanding today,” said Charlie Montoyo, who earned his 100th win as Blue Jays manager. “It was good to see all the things we worked on in spring training carry over into the first game of the season. (Cavan) Biggio was great at third base. (Marcus) Semien with that nice play in the hole. Bo (Bichette) made nice plays at short and Vladdy (Guerrero Jr.) looked really good at first base picking the balls in the dirt. Every inning is high-leverage so you’ve got to play good defence against a good team like the Yankees and we did that today.”

On the opposite side of the pitching equation, everyone knows by now that the Blue Jays’ rotation is a huge question mark.

That makes winning Hyun Jin Ryu’s starts all the more important.

The Jays did that last year, going 9-3 when their ace took the ball, and it led them to a postseason berth.
It’s an easy equation for any team: You expect to win when your ace is on the bump.

While both aces did what was asked of them on this day, each pitching into the sixth inning and exiting with the ball game tied 2-2, it was the Jays clawing their way to a team win and finding a way with pristine fundamental baseball.

Armed with a potent offence, Montoyo’s message to his club to start the year is a simple one, and, for one day at least, the message has been received.

“I told our team, for us to win and get to the playoffs and do well during the season, it’s going to be pitching and defence.” 

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UEFA threaten to ban breakaway clubs from all competitions

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By Simon Evans

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – European soccer‘s governing body UEFA has warned clubs linked to a breakaway Super League that they face being banned from domestic and international competitions if they set up a rival to the Champions League.

In a joint statement https://www.uefa.com/insideuefa/mediaservices/mediareleases/news/0268-12121411400e-7897186e699a-1000–statement-by-uefa-english-fa-rfef-figc-premier-league-laliga-le with Spanish, English and Italian leagues and federations, UEFA said it will consider “all measures”, including the courts and bans from domestic leagues, in opposition to plans for a breakaway competition.

UEFA said it had learnt that clubs from those countries “may be planning to announce their creation of a closed, so-called Super League”.

“If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we….(and) also FIFA and all our member associations – will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever,” UEFA said.

“We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way,” the statement added.

In January, FIFA had said that a breakaway league would not be recognised and that “any club or player involved in such a competition would as a consequence not be allowed to participate in any competition organised by FIFA or their respective confederation” – meaning players would be banned from the World Cup.

Sunday’s UEFA statement said: “The clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.

“We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this. We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced. This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough.”

 

(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond and Christian Radnedge)

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Netherlands and Poland seal narrow Billie Jean King Cup playoff wins

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(Reuters) – The Netherlands and Poland both needed deciding doubles wins to battle through their Billie Jean King Cup playoffs on Saturday but Britain, Italy and Canada all enjoyed easier passages.

In Den Bosch, the Dutch were without world number 11 Kiki Bertens for the second day because of injury and found themselves trailing China 2-1 after Wang Xiyu beat Lesley Kerkhove in Saturday’s opening singles.

But Aranxta Rus beat Wang Xinyu to level the tie and then teamed up with Demi Schuurs to defeat Zhang Shuai and Zu Yifan to send the hosts through.

It was equally tight in Poland where the hosts were pushed to the brink by Brazil.

Brazil’s Carolina Meligeni Alves took the tie into a deciding doubles with a win over Katarzyna Kawa but the Poles prevailed 3-2 as Kawa and Magdalena Frech came back from a set down to beat Meligeni Alves and Luisa Stefani.

Kazakhstan also won a deciding rubber to see off Argentina.

Britain led 2-0 overnight against Mexico in London but Marcela Zacarias beat Heather Watson to keep alive the tie.

Katie Boulter proved too strong for Giuliana Olmos though to clinch the tie for the hosts.

Italy beat Romania 3-1 while Canada‘s teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez sealed her country’s path as she gave her side an unassailable 3-0 lead over Serbia thanks to a three-set win over Nina Stojanovic.

Ukraine eased past Japan 4-0 while Anastasija Sevastova secured Latvia’s 3-1 victory over India.

The eight winners move forward to next year’s qualifying round where they will hope to reach the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup Finals.

The old Fed Cup was re-branded last year and named after the American great and 12-times Grand Slam singles champion who won the inaugural tournament nearly 60 years ago.

This year’s 12-team Finals were postponed because of the pandemic and a new date has yet to be finalised.

 

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Clare Fallon)

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Motor racing-Canadian Grand Prix cancelled for second year

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(Reuters) -The Canadian Grand Prix scheduled for June 13 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal has been cancelled for the second year in a row, CBC Radio reported on Thursday although Formula One said discussions remained ongoing.

With the spread of new COVID-19 variants and Canada battling to contain a third wave of the virus, Montreal public health authorities concluded that even if run behind closed doors without spectators the risks were too high, reported the CBC.

F1 officials, according to the CBC, wanted to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine for the hundreds of staff, crew members and drivers and rely on private medical staff and have the entire operation run in a bubble.

The race is scheduled to follow on immediately from Azerbaijan, whose grand prix is scheduled for June 6 in Baku and is due to go ahead after also being cancelled last year.

“We are continuing our discussions with the promoter in Canada and have no further comment,” an F1 spokesperson told Reuters.

The Autosport website quoted a spokesperson for the Canadian promoter as saying the radio report referred to “a document of recommendations from public health.

“We as an organisation have not had confirmation from our public health officials and won’t comment until we get an official confirmation.”

Canada, with some of the world’s toughest travel rules, obliges its citizens and residents arriving from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days.

International arrivals are required to quarantine for up to three days in a hotel.

One of Canada‘s biggest sporting events, it would mark the second consecutive year the grand prix has been removed from the F1 schedule due to the spread of COVID-19.

Media reports have suggested Turkey is on standby to be slotted in as Canada‘s replacement.

The Istanbul circuit is logistically convenient for freight coming from Baku and was brought in last year also at short notice to bolster a calendar ravaged by the pandemic.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto/Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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