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Refusing to quit, Blue Jays deliver unlikely comeback win over Athletics –



TORONTO – Maybe this was a springboard performance to better times, or maybe it was just a memorable ending to a really wild night amid the grind of 162. What the Toronto Blue Jays do next will ultimately decide that.

But a nearly impossible comeback in a game that went from lost to stirring to gutting to exhilarating after Marcus Semien’s walk-off three-run homer capped an unfathomable 11-10 win over the Oakland Athletics on Friday night sure felt like a moment.

At the beginning of a crucial seven-game stretch that may not make them, but certainly can break them, the Blue Jays emerged from their recent offensive cold spell to deliver their biggest rally of the season despite their win probability dropping all the way to 0.5 per cent.

Baseball is too unrelenting and the season too long to build up a single game. But given the stakes, the circumstances and the way things played out and this one definitely carried a little more weight.

“Yeah, I think so,” said Semien, whose second career walk-off homer gave him a career-best 34 for the year. “I mean, just being down 8-2 in the eighth inning, of course, you never think you’re out of it, but we did exactly what we needed to do to win that game. We needed a grand slam. We needed to get those guys in at the end and we actually got a homer. Baseball is a crazy game. For me, I feel like I wasn’t swinging the bat well the whole time. And sometimes you just find a little adjustment that works.”

That he did, working Sergio Romo through five pitches before turning on a centre-cut sinker at 84.8 m.p.h. that he launched high and deep to left field, triggering pandemonium at Rogers Centre. A crowd of 14,843 that had spent much of the night casting Josh Harrison as a heel before going berserk when Lourdes Gurriel Jr., hit a game-tying grand slam in the eighth inning, wet nuts again, while the Blue Jays mobbed him at home.

Semien had been 0-for-4 to that point and hadn’t looked particularly comfortable in getting there, but like his team flashed the resilience needed to ensure a night headed into moral victory territory ended in an actual victory. At 71-62, the Blue Jays can ill afford to continue their middling ways of the past month in this three-game set against the Athletics (74-61) before the four-game series at the New York Yankees that follows.

“It’s great to see the offence coming back and the way they did it, it was awesome,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “It was a great game and it’s a boost, for sure, to come back from that far down to tie the game and then after they came back and took the lead, we did it again, it was awesome. Awesome game.”

That it finished that way came as a shock given the way things started.

The Athletics jumped Manoah out of the gate with a two-spot in the first, and after a Teoscar Hernandez two-run shot tied it in the fourth – his first homer since Aug. 18 – the game unravelled on the rookie righty in a dramatic fifth that nearly bubbled over.

Harrison half-swung at the first 2-2 fastball Manoah threw up and in, grimacing as his bat handle flicked the ball towards the A’s dugout. Manoah threw his next pitch to almost the exact same spot, this time just grazing the veteran utilityman’s left hand.

Super mad, Harrison flipped his bat, flung off his hand guard and chirped Manoah as he made his way up the line. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., tried to diffuse the situation at first base, greeting his opponent with a smile and a swipe of his hat in a don’t-be-silly-you-can’t-be-super-mad way.

Harrison wasn’t having it and kept venting, and he got even angrier when on the very next pitch, Manoah unleashed a fastball at 92.1 m.p.h. that sailed into Starling Marte’s helmet.

As the centre-fielder crumpled to the ground, several players emerged from the Athletics dugout. Manoah immediately put his hands up in a my-bad way and the umpires alertly created a barrier between the clubs, even as A’s first base coach Mike Aldrete barked at Montoyo.

“The reason I went out there is just to make sure, ‘Hey man, we’re not hitting anybody on purpose, it’s a tight game,’ and to make sure that nothing happened,” explained Montoyo. “They said a few words but I get it, people get upset when one of your players gets hit in the head. That’s fine. … The one thing about Manoah, he’s going to hit guys because he pitches inside. It’s not on purpose. We all know it’s not on purpose. But he will hit guys once in a while just because he’s not afraid to go inside. And that’s one of the reasons he’s effective because he’s not afraid.”

Once frayed emotions settled and Marte recovered to take his base, Matt Olson made Manoah pay the right way by bringing in both hit batsmen with a two-run double that broke a 2-2 tie.

Tony Kemp knocked the starter out with a two-run shot the next frame and the A’s put up another pair against Nate Pearson in a messy seventh. The game seemed to be over at that point, with Manoah surrendering a career-high six runs for the second time.

“Whenever you hit somebody in the head, it’s pretty scary, it’s very dangerous and I felt really bad the moment it left my hand,” said Manoah, who has hit 11 batters in 15 starts. “I had some troubles with the mound early on where they came out there and tried to fix it. I was just trying to run that sinker in there and I’ve had this problem for a while now, and I felt really bad that I hit him in the earhole. I’m praying that he’s going to feel a lot better.”

Marte left the game after scoring on the Olson double.

Given the Blue Jays’ offensive struggles of late, the A’s seemed to be home and cooled, as Sean Manaea cruised through seven, allowing only the Hernandez homer while striking out nine.

Then Breyvic Valera opened the eighth inning with a walk and two outs later, Guerrero singled him home. A Lou Trivino breaking ball hit Bo Bichette in the back. Hernandez walked to load the bases and after Yusmeiro Petit took over, Alejandro Kirk worked another base on balls to make it 8-4. Up came Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who ambushed a lazy middle-in cutter and sent it 421 feet out to left-centre at 107.5 m.p.h. off the bat.

In the top of the ninth, closer Jordan Romano’s 11-game run without allowing a run came to an untimely end on Mark Canha’s two-run shot. But the Blue Jays didn’t let up against Romo, as Valera opened the bottom half with a bloop single, George Springer followed with a double and Semien delivered the dagger against his former team.

“Every win is so important right now and just to be able to swing the bat there and give us the win is huge,” said Semien. “Biggest at-bat of the year for me, obviously, and I hope that we can just build off this, score some more runs (Saturday) and see what happens.”

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Blue Jays' stadium capacity to rise to 30,000 as Ontario increases limits for sporting and event spaces –



The Toronto Blue Jays will get a home-field advantage boost when they return to Rogers Centre next week.

Seating capacity at the downtown stadium will be doubled to 30,000 starting with Tuesday night’s series opener against the New York Yankees.

The Blue Jays received approval from the Ontario government for the increase on Friday.

Ontario announced Friday it is easing capacity limits in certain sports and event venues that require proof of vaccination.

Starting Saturday, capacity limits at outdoor events where people stand will increase to up to 75 per cent capacity or 15,000 people, whichever is less.

For outdoor events where people are seated, capacity limits will be increased to up to 75 per cent capacity or 30,000 people. Proof of vaccination will now be required in outdoor settings where the normal capacity is 20,000 people or more.

The Rogers Centre will be treated as an outdoor venue even with the roof closed, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said, citing the building’s ventilation system.

Noting almost 80 per cent of eligible Ontarians are fully vaccinated, Moore said “we are able to recommend cautiously easing capacity limits in certain settings.”

The Blue Jays announced Thursday that they would make additional tickets available for their final home stand next week. They were hopeful that government regulations would be loosened for those six games and any post-season home games should the team qualify.

Forced to play south of the border last season and part of this season due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, the Blue Jays received clearance to return home in mid-July.

The team played its 2021 Rogers Centre opener on July 30 after receiving a national interest travel exemption from the federal government. The Blue Jays were approved to treat the stadium as an outdoor venue at just less than one-third of the stadium’s regular 49,000-seat capacity.

Other professional teams in the province, including NHL, MLS and CFL clubs, returned to play earlier this year with limited attendance due to government restrictions.

Attendance for Maple Leaf and Raptors games at Scotiabank Arena will be capped at 50 per cent capacity starting Saturday.

The Blue Jays, meanwhile, could certainly use the extra boost from a raucous home crowd as Canada’s lone Major League Baseball club makes a push for the post-season.

Toronto, currently wrapping up a road trip with a weekend series in Minnesota, will entertain the Yankees in a critical three-game set before closing out the regular season against the Baltimore Orioles next weekend.

The Blue Jays will open the stadium’s top deck — the 500 level — for the first time this season and additional seats were made available in the 100 and 200 levels. The team would have issued refunds to ticket purchasers if capacity was not expanded.

Team president Mark Shapiro has said the stadium’s retractable roof would be open as long as the weather allows, and additional measures had been taken to ensure proper ventilation.

The Blue Jays require proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for all fans aged 12 and older upon entering Rogers Centre. A negative COVID-19 test is no longer accepted except for individuals with a doctor’s note indicating they can’t receive the vaccine due to medical exemptions.

The Blue Jays played last year’s condensed schedule at the home field of their triple-A affiliate in Buffalo. The team started the 2021 campaign at its spring training home in Dunedin, Fla., before moving back to Buffalo and then finally to Toronto.

Entering play Friday, Toronto was one game behind New York in the race for the second American League wild-card spot. The Yankees were two games behind the Boston Red Sox, who held the first spot.

The AL wild-card game is scheduled for Oct. 5. The winner advances to a best-of-five AL Division Series starting Oct. 7.

The Blue Jays reached the playoffs last season but were swept by the Tampa Bay Rays in a best-of-three wild-card series. It was Toronto’s first post-season appearance since 2016.

Toronto’s last World Series title came in 1993.

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Rory McIlroy is sitting a Ryder Cup session for the first time in his career – Golf Channel



SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – For the first time in a storied Ryder Cup career, Rory McIlroy will play the role of cheerleader on Saturday at Whistling Straits.

McIlroy was not in European captain Padraig Harrington’s foursomes lineup after going 0-2, including a 5-and-3 loss to Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele in the morning foursomes session, on Day 1 at Whistling Straits. Paired with Shane Lowry in the afternoon fourball session McIlroy lost, 4 and 3.

“He’s already a leader. You saw him out there after a tough day, he was out following those matches and supporting his team,” Harrington said. “He is very much a leader amongst his peers and I couldn’t have asked more from him during the year, I couldn’t have asked more from him today.”

Match scoring for the 43rd Ryder Cup

McIlroy had played 26 consecutive matches (including his singles starts) before Saturday. Because of weather delays in Wales in 2010 that forced officials to combine the second and third sessions he only played four times.

McIlroy’s overall record in the Ryder Cup is now 11-11-4.

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Wiggins denied COVID-19 vaccination exemption by NBA – CTV News



The NBA has denied Andrew Wiggins’ request for a vaccination exemption, leaving the Golden State Warriors swingman ineligible to play home games until he meets San Francisco’s vaccination requirement.

The ruling was announced Friday hours after the New York Knicks said their entire roster is vaccinated, making all their players eligible to play in their home games.

Because of local coronavirus regulations in New York and San Francisco, the Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Warriors are required to be vaccinated to play in their home arenas unless exemptions for medical or religious reasons apply.

Wiggins sought an exemption from the league for religious reasons.

“The NBA has reviewed and denied Andrew Wiggins’ request for religious exemption from the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s order requiring COVID-19 vaccination for all participants age 12 and older at large indoor events,” the league said in a statement. “Wiggins will not be able to play in Warriors home games until he fulfills the city’s vaccination requirements.”

Unvaccinated players are allowed to play this season, though the NBA has said that they will have to be tested daily on practice and travel days and at least once — possibly more — on game days, while fully vaccinated players will not be subject to daily testing.

However, the Knicks, Nets and Warriors face stricter rules because of their local regulations, which the NBA has told teams do not apply to clubs visiting them.

The Knicks are the first of those teams to say they have met the mandate.

“I’m proud to say that our organization — players, coaches and staff — are 100 percent vaccinated,” general manager Scott Perry said Friday. “And I think it’s a credit to our players, too, in particular that they took this thing very seriously and took the responsibility to get that done.”

Nets general manager Sean Marks said earlier this week that a couple players wouldn’t yet be eligible, but he was confident everyone would be able to participate by the time the regular season began on Oct. 19.

Wiggins still has time, as San Francisco’s mandate doesn’t take effect until the middle of next month. Training camps open Tuesday.

The NBA has struck agreements this offseason to have virtually all parties involved in games — referees, coaches, stat-crew workers and anyone else who will be in close proximity to players on or off the court in NBA arenas — vaccinated in order to participate.

The one exception: The players themselves, with the National Basketball Players Association rebuking all efforts from the NBA to mandate that they be vaccinated. About 85% of players were vaccinated at the end of last season. The leaguewide figure is believed to have increased since.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau credited the Knicks’ medical staff for keeping the organization educated and aware about virus protocols. Perry praised the players for acting on the information they were given, saying their decision to get vaccinated was unrelated to any rules.

“As an organization we’re obviously following laws and mandates for the league and state government, but a lot of this was internal, internally driven,” Perry said.


AP basketball writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

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