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Rays in for a tough test with Walker Buehler’s fastball gaining speed – Sportsnet.ca

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Any good scouting report on Walker Buehler will tell you that he’s got five pitches in his arsenal: a four-seamer, cutter, sinker, slider, and curveball. While that’s a factual way to describe what Buehler brings to the table, it might be more accurate to simply say that he brings the heat.

During the regular season, Buehler’s four-seamer averaged 96.8 m.p.h. It also had 97th percentile spin, the third-best vertical movement on any four-seamer, plus hitters managed a .102 batting average and .119 slugging percentage against it. It was nothing short of an unstoppable pitch.

In the playoffs, it’s gotten even better.

Whether it’s the adrenaline, or an increased distance from the blister issues that plagued Buehler throughout the summer, the right-hander has taken things up a notch. In his four post-season starts he’s seen a slight uptick in velocity, a slight improvement in vertical movement, and significantly more success with missing bats.

The best example of this phenomenon came in Game 6 of the NLCS when Buehler got into a bases-loaded, no-out jam, but worked all the way out of it on the strength of his fastball alone. Against Austin Riley he threw three straight 98-plus m.p.h. heaters and got him chasing at a beauty on the corner.

Then he fed Nick Markakis six consecutive fastballs, finishing with a triple-digit flourish well within the zone that the veteran simply couldn’t react to.

He even got 0-2 on the last man, Cristian Pache, with two fastballs and a cutter, before finishing the inning on a slider that the outfielder was well out in front of — leading to a groundout. The sequence was a showing of pure dominance, and the type of display we rarely see in a league where fastball rates have been dropping for years.

Buehler can overpower teams in a way that few starters are capable of, which is particularly disconcerting for the Tampa Bay Rays because they haven’t handled fastballs very well at all this year.

Sixteen Rays took at least 25 trips to the plate this season, and here’s how they did against fastballs according to Statcast’s Run Value metric:

Only Brandon Lowe, Randy Arozarena, Willy Adames, and Kevin Kiermaier, produced above-average results against heaters this season. If you want to poke holes in that quartet you could also point out that the duo of Adames and Kiemaier went 2-for-18 with 14 strikeouts against fastballs 97 m.p.h. or harder — the type they’re liable to see from Buehler.

One third of the lineup they’re likely to roll out in Game 3 (Austin Meadows, Ji-Man Choi, and Mike Zunino) had both real and expected batting averages below .200 against four-seamers. Neither Yandy Diaz nor Manuel Margot got a single extra-base hit against one.

The sample sizes here are undoubtedly small, and many of these players — like Choi and Meadows — have not had this issue prior to 2020. If we’re talking about true talent, these guys can probably do better against the hard stuff. Choi, for instance, has had a great deal of success against Gerrit Cole, which indicates that he’s not intimidated by an elite fastball.

Unfortunately for the Rays, while true talent and regression to the mean wins over the course of a full season, in a single game (or two if Buehler’s spot comes around again), how players are performing in the moment takes precedence. Right now, the Rays are rolling out a lineup that’s struggled with fastballs this year. Buehler always has one of the best in the business, and it looks especially dangerous at this moment.

That makes this a tough matchup for Tampa, and their best hopes for a breakthrough in this game belong to Arozarena — hardly a surprise considering his record-breaking October — and Lowe, who finally woke up from his post-season slumber on Wednesday night. Beyond that, they might have a lot of guys waiting on Buehler to throw anything but a fastball.

It’s not a bad strategy in theory, but in practice the Dodgers right-hander is happy to dare you beat him on his best pitch. The Braves found that out the hard way in one of the highest-leverage moments of their season. In Game 3, the Rays could learn a similar lesson.

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Report: Ravens Discipline Strength and Conditioning Coach for COVID-19 Conduct – Sports Illustrated

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The Baltimore Ravens announced on Wednesday night that they disciplined “a staff member for conduct surrounding the recent COVID-19 cases that have affected players and staff at the Ravens.”

Sources later told NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero that the Ravens disciplined a strength and conditioning coach “for not reporting symptoms and not consistently wearing a mask or tracking device.”

This comes hours after the NFL announced the Ravens-Steelers matchup that was originally scheduled for Thanksgiving night has been postponed until Sunday afternoon

ESPN’s Adam Schefter originally reported that the Ravens had five players and four staffers test positive for COVID-19 this week. 

But by Wednesday evening, seven Ravens were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list with positive tests or close contacts following tracing, including running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins, defensive linemen Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell, outside linebacker Pernell McPhee and offensive linemen Matt Skura and Patrick Mekari.

Multiple Steelers players expressed their frustration on Twitter. 

The Ravens have lost three of their four previous games and were scheduled to travel to Pittsburgh on Wednesday before Thursday’s matchup. The Steelers enter the AFC North divisional matchup undefeated. 

While the Ravens were proactive with their internal discipline, they could still face penalties from the league.

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Hockey Canada shuts down camp, mandates 14-day quarantine after positive tests – CBC.ca

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Hockey Canada has temporarily shutdown national junior team selection camp following the confirmation of two positive COVID-19 tests among players.

Hockey Canada announced on Wednesday that players, coaches and staff at the camp have entered a 14-day quarantine retroactive to Monday. All camp activities will be paused until Dec. 6.

The original announcement of the positive player tests came on Tuesday — three days after Hockey Canada said a “non-core member” of the team’s staff also tested positive. Hockey Canada said it was suspending all camp activities for the day, including a scheduled intrasquad game, at the time.

Both players and the staff have been in quarantine at the team’s hotel in Red Deer, Alta.

Players, coaches and staff all took mandatory COVID-19 tests upon arrival at the camp and have been tested regularly while there.

Hockey Canada is in the midst of their selection camp ahead of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton that opens on Christmas Day.

“Hockey Canada has confirmed that all players, coaches and staff are considered close contacts and are therefore subject to the mandatory 14-day quarantine period under Alberta Health Services,” said senior vice-president of national teams, Scott Salmond.

“Upon learning of the positive tests on Monday, the decision was made to suspend all camp activities and quarantine players and staff immediately. As per Hockey Canada’s safety protocols, all players, coaches and staff members will go through additional testing before resuming any camp activities.”

Canada seeks its second consecutive gold medal at the tournament, which would be its 19th title all-time.

WATCH | Steve DeBus remembers the Michigan goal:

In episode 5 of our new series, Rob Pizzo speaks to former Minnesota Golden Gopher  goalie Steve DeBus about the infamous Mike Legg lacrosse goal in the 1996 NCAA Tournament.   4:37

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Hockey Canada suspends world junior selection camp after positive COVID-19 tests – CityNews Toronto

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Hockey Canada has temporarily shutdown national junior team selection camp following the confirmation of two positive COVID-19 tests among players.

Hockey Canada announced on Wednesday that players, coaches and staff at the camp have entered a 14-day quarantine retroactive to Monday. All camp activities will be paused until Dec. 6.

The original announcement of the positive player tests came on Tuesday – three days after Hockey Canada said a “non-core member” of the team’s staff also tested positive. Hockey Canada said it was suspending all camp activities for the day, including a scheduled intrasquad game, at the time.

Both players and the staff have been in quarantine at the team’s hotel in Red Deer, Alta.

Players, coaches and staff all took mandatory COVID-19 tests upon arrival at the camp and have been tested regularly while there.

Hockey Canada is in the midst of their selection camp ahead of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton that opens on Christmas Day.

“Hockey Canada has confirmed that all players, coaches and staff are considered close contacts and are therefore subject to the mandatory 14-day quarantine period under Alberta Health Services,” said senior vice-president of national teams, Scott Salmond.

“Upon learning of the positive tests on Monday, the decision was made to suspend all camp activities and quarantine players and staff immediately. As per Hockey Canada’s safety protocols, all players, coaches and staff members will go through additional testing before resuming any camp activities.”

Canada seeks its second consecutive gold medal at the tournament, which would be its 19th title all-time.

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