TORONTO – With two on and two out in the top of the seventh inning, Robbie Ray prepared to throw his 111th pitch of the night.
By that point Wednesday evening, Tim Anderson had stood in against Ray three times without yet reaching base. By that point in that at-bat, Anderson had seen two of Ray’s sliders, fouling the pitch off both times. But Ray went back to the slider a third time, placing it knee-high just off the plate inside, and Anderson whiffed.
“I knew it was probably my last hitter,” Ray said. “I threw three really good sliders and got the punchout, so I was really fired up. The fans were loud, getting behind me. It was a really cool experience.”
With that, Ray had strikeout number 14, equalling a career-high, yet the Blue Jays still didn’t have the lead. Considering the recent struggles of the Jays’ offence and the disparity in talent between the Chicago White Sox and Toronto Blue Jays bullpens, it seemed all too possible that another strong start would go to waste.
In that context, it was almost surprising to see the Blue Jays respond with the kind of late-inning rally that’s too often eluded them in recent weeks. But Teoscar Hernandez got things started with a two-out hit in the eighth before Breyvic Valera advanced him to second with a pinch-hit single of his own and Alejandro Kirk delivered a line-drive single to give the Blue Jays the lead.
“We wanted Kirk to get to the plate and the best chance to do that is trying to get somebody on base,” manager Charlie Montoyo said post-game. “Valera had a better chance against the lefty and he got the hit. It worked out great.”
A bases-loaded walk to Randal Grichuk brought home a welcome insurance run before Jordan Romano closed out the 3-1 win. At 66-59 the Blue Jays have all kinds of work remaining if they’re going to fully reinsert themselves into the playoff race, but Wednesday’s win was a good start.
“Nights like tonight, they’re pretty special. The team’s able to grind it out and get a huge win there at the end,” Ray said. “It was an all-around really fun game.”
Front and centre in the win was Ray, who pitched at an elite level against the White Sox while relying almost exclusively on his fastball and slider. Over the course of seven innings, Ray allowed just one run on five hits and one walk.
“All of his outings are very good,” Kirk said afterwards via interpreter. “It was very emotional, very special. What can I say? He was great tonight.”
It was the 14th quality start Ray has recorded in his last 16 outings – a remarkable feat for any pitcher, but especially for one who didn’t record a single out after the fifth inning last year. These days, Ray appears to be Montoyo’s most trusted starter, even in the late innings long after the bullpen would ordinarily have taken over.
“There was no room for error because we’re not scoring runs right now,” Montoyo said. “It was his game to win or lose and he did a great job. The more he throws, the better he gets. He’s that guy. He’s having a hell of a year.”
“He ended up striking out 14 guys?” the manager continued. “Against that lineup? That was fun to watch.”
If anything, Ray appears to be improving as the season progresses, and he’s now squarely in the American League Cy Young race alongside the likes of Lance Lynn and Gerrit Cole. Plus, at 29 years old he’s setting himself up to be one of the most intriguing pitchers available in free agency this winter.
More immediately, he’s the pitcher who gives the Blue Jays the best chance to win. And should the Blue Jays somehow defy the odds and reach the wild-card game, there’s zero doubt that Ray would ideally be the pitcher who gets the ball.
Of course, offence remains an issue for the Blue Jays even after a much-needed win. They’ve now scored just 14 total runs in the six games they’ve played on this homestand, an average of 2.33 runs per game.
In recent weeks, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has been swinging more, chasing more and hitting more grounders. That combination has contributed to his summer slump – though those shifts may also be linked to the nagging injuries and fatigue many players experience this time of year.
“The at-bats were really good the last two days. Vladdy’s at-bats have been really good, so that’s a good sign. Of course we need him to get back to who he was,” Montoyo said. “But we can never forget it’s the first full season for all these kids getting to 500 or 600 at-bats.”
On Wednesday, Guerrero Jr. grounded out his first time up before contributing with a line-drive single and a walk. More days like that and his results should start to normalize once again.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays will be without George Springer for at least two more days as he continues working his way back from a Grade 1 sprain in his left knee. If Thursday’s baserunning drills go according to plan, Springer could conceivably return this weekend against the Detroit Tigers, but the Blue Jays will be careful not to rush him.
First, though, the series finale against the White Sox – and one last chance to combine some excellent pitching with the full-fledged offensive attack that’s gone missing lately.
“It was a great win,” Montoyo said. “That’s what we need to do. When your hitters are struggling, your pitchers need to keep you in the game and they have been.”
Elks name Cornelius as starting QB for injured Harris – TSN
Taylor Cornelius will get the starting nod at quarterback when the Edmonton Elks face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday.
The 26-year-old quarterback has not taken any snaps for the Elks this season, but has three carries and rushed for two yards in five games played.
Cornelius previously played for the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL where he threw for 858 yards with four touchdowns and six interceptions in five games played.
The Amarillo, TX native will be replacing starting quarterback Trevor Harris, who was placed on the six-injured list after sustaining a neck injury during September 11th loss against the Calgary Stampeders.
Harris has thrown for 1481 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions over five games this season.
Patrick Kane says he didn’t know in 2010 about assault allegations – Sportsnet.ca
Editor’s note: The following story contains references to sexual assault which may be distressing. Please exercise discretion before reading.
CHICAGO — Blackhawks star Patrick Kane said Friday he has participated in the investigation into allegations that a then-assistant coach sexually assaulted two players in 2010, adding that he did not know anything happened at the time.
“Obviously very serious allegations, and everyone knows that,” Kane said at the annual NHL/NHLPA preseason player media tour. “But I will say that I didn’t know anything about it at the time and did participate with the investigation.”
Kane’s comments were his first since the allegations came to light. The Blackhawks launched the investigation led by a former federal prosecutor and pledged to release the findings.
The three-time Stanley Cup champion said he also was unaware of homophobic bullying of one of his former teammates that ensued.
“Obviously disturbing,” Kane said. “You never want to hear that type of stuff. I feel for (someone making) those type of allegations. And hopefully it didn’t affect the player too much. But I’m sure when you’re hearing that type of stuff, obviously it could affect you deep down.”
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press the Blackhawks investigation was proceeding but did not have a timeframe for when it would be completed. The team pledged to release the findings of the investigation, a decision the league supports.
“We probably would have supported the decision if it was different, if it was made for the right reasons,” Daly said. “Since these allegations arose, I think the Blackhawks as an organization have handled everything in the right way and they’ve taken the proper steps. We’ll see at the end of the day what comes of it.”
Two lawsuits were filed against the team earlier this year. The first alleges sexual assault by trainer Bradley Aldrich during the team’s run to the 2010 Stanley Cup title, and the second was filed by a former student whom Aldrich was later convicted of assaulting in Michigan.
According to reports, two Blackhawks players told then-skills coach Paul Vincent in May 2010 of inappropriate behaviour by Aldrich. Vincent said he asked mental skills coach James Gary to follow up with the players and management.
Vincent was called into a meeting with then-team President John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman, hockey executive Al MacIsaac and Gary the next day. He said he asked the team to report the allegations to Chicago police, and the request was denied.
In an email to the AP earlier this summer, Vincent said he stands by everything he said.
Bowman and former coach Joel Quenneville, who’s now with Florida, have said they would cooperate with the investigation.
Blue Jays right-hander Berrios won’t miss any time after abdominal scare – Sportsnet.ca
Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Jose Berrios is feeling fine after leaving his last outing with an abdominal injury and will make his next start Sunday against the Minnesota Twins, manager Charlie Montoyo said before Friday’s series opener.
Berrios pulled himself out of a 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday after seven innings.
Ace left-hander Robbie Ray will start Monday’s series opener in Tampa against the Rays before Alek Manoah gets the call on Tuesday as the team elects to give the rookie some extra rest.
Manoah’s last start was this past Monday in an 8-1 win over Tampa.
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