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Blue Jays party hard after blowout win, celebrating off-day clinch

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TORONTO – Hey, Toronto Blue Jays, please complete the following sentence – clinching a post-season berth on an off-day is …

“… weird, but awesome,” said George Springer. “I mean, it just allows you to breathe a little bit, you know, allows you to say, well, we accomplished our goal. Yeah, obviously you might want to do it in a little bit of a different way, but at the end of the day, who cares? It’s awesome to say we’re going to the playoffs no matter what.”

“… well, clinching is great, but I would say not ideal,” said Bo Bichette. “It definitely felt weird not being with the team and not celebrating after the game. I mean, that’s part of it. When you’re young and you’re watching the people we watched, you’ve got the champagne showers and everything. We’ll get that opportunity (Friday). So, blessed either way.”

“… it didn’t happen because technically, we didn’t celebrate,” said Matt Chapman. “We’re celebrating (Friday). So clinching on an off day is not ideal, but manageable because we’re going to clinch (Friday).”

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“… weird,” said Kevin Gausman. “In the moment, I really wished that we all would have been here and been able to watch it together. But either scenario would have been weird. If we would have came in, what if (the Baltimore Orioles) come back and win and then we all came in for no reason? So we just decided to wait until Friday.”

“… strange,” said Danny Jansen. “Kind of unfortunate, too. But we’re here now. It was a weird thing, for sure. It’s the first time in Blue Jays history. Probably doesn’t happen very often. It was a weird feeling for sure on the off-day.”

“… cool but a little weird, you know?” said Jordan Romano. “It’s definitely still special but I think it would’ve been a little better if all the boys were around and we were kind of in the moment. Still really cool. We’re all grateful for it. But yeah, a little different.”

“… odd,” said Tim Mayza. “Not your typical (way to) a post-season berth. It’s different, but so were the last two, three years of Blue Jays baseball. You go back to the ’20 clinching and the guys who were there said it was weird. You had an empty stadium in Buffalo. And even last year, we didn’t get back here until August. Then you make a run at the end and you fall just one game short. So I would say for the past few years of Blue Jays baseball, maybe this is typical, that it would happen on and off-day. But it’s fun. It’s exciting.”

“… still clinching,” said David Phelps. “The most important thing isn’t the champagne celebration, the most important thing is that we’re headed to the playoffs. Yeah, obviously we would have loved it after a win and been together for it. But our goal is to get to the post-season and win the World Series and that’s stop one.”

“… easy – we didn’t play,” said interim manager John Schneider. “It was a little weird. You become a Boston Red Sox fan for about three hours and then you turn it off. But we knew that was a possibility and covered all of our bases, but definitely different. But no matter how you do it, doing it is the most important part.”

There was no debating that on one of the more unique Friday’s in franchise history, as the Blue Jays returned to Rogers Centre with an ‘X’ by their name in the wild-card standings courtesy of an Orioles loss at Boston the previous afternoon, planned a post-game party, pounded the Red Sox 9-0 behind six shutout innings from Alek Manoah and then let it rip.

“I woke up and I was ready to go,” said Gausman. “My mind was on my bullpen, but my bullpen’s over so now all I’m focused on is watching Manoah shove and then go pop some bottles. That’s all I’m thinking about.”

In the aftermath, asked about his first champagne shake-and-spray, Manoah grinned.

“That was sick.”

Manoah allowed only two hits and was in total control, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. rocked his team-leading 31st homer of the season and Springer added a three-run shot to ensure the Blue Jays jumped into the party in style.

Raimel Tapia also went deep and Bichette added two singles, giving him a club record for hits in a month at 48, before a Rogers Centre crowd of 37,283 that enjoyed stress-free festivities. Yusei Kikuchi picked up from Manoah and closed things out for a three-inning save, his first in the majors and second of his career after collecting with the Seibu Lions in 2012.

“This party was scheduled and whether we won or lost. For me, it was let’s have a good time, but with a win, you know?” said Manoah. “I feel like it would have been really terrible to get our butt kicked out there and then have to come and party. The biggest thing was being able to just lock it in and make sure that the win comes first and then the party comes after.”

Work still remains for the Blue Jays (88-69) over the final week, starting with locking down the top wild-card spot, which they lead by 1.5 games over the Seattle Mariners (86-70), who beat Oakland 2-1 to clinch their first post-season berth since 2001, and two games over the Tampa Bay Rays (86-71), who also clinched with a 7-3 win at Houston.

In case it matters, Manoah is lined up to pitch Wednesday’s season finale at Baltimore, but the Blue Jays want to have the top spot secured by then and not have to contemplate whether to start their ace in order to host the wild-card round.

Hard to imagine them making that choice and while Schneider didn’t quite commit to saving Manoah for the wild-card round, saying “a lot can happen between now and then,” he later added, “if he’s on the mound in Game 1, that would be a really good thing for us.”

Manoah has now logged 196.2 innings over 31 starts with a 2.24 ERA, becoming one of the club’s most reliable arms. His 0.88 ERA in September is a franchise record. The Blue Jays are 18-13 when he starts.

Similarly important is figuring out if Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who did some running Friday as he works his way back from a left hamstring strain, and Santiago Espinal, who ramped up his baseball activities as he recovers from a left oblique strain, will be ready for the wild-card opener Oct. 7.

Their status will significantly impact how the post-season roster is constructed, while decisions on how to line up the rotation and how many relievers to carry also must be settled.

Five games remain to sort out those matters, which they can do knowing the heavy lifting is done and the achievement has been properly feted, the way it was in a pretty wild clubhouse.

The first bottles of champagne were uncorked as Endor’s Pump It Up blared on speakers and then, when Hot by Daddy Yankee and Pitbull followed, Teoscar Hernandez climbed atop a clubhouse table and began waving a pirate flag as his teammates skipped around.

“That was something Chappie brought up for every win we get,” Hernandez explained of their post-victory routine. “He said we were pirates and we’re going to take everything from everybody. So we started doing that every time we win. I’m always with the flag on the top of the table trying to pump everyone up.”

No challenge there and next the room went silent for Schneider.

“This is something you should never not celebrate,” he told the group. “Congratulations to you all. Unbelievable effort all season long. You guys are fucking incredible. Enjoy the shit out of this tonight.”

With that, more corks went flying.

Wave after wave of players ganged up on Guerrero, dousing him as payback, Manoah said, “for all the water he throws on everyone.”

“I tried to hide and avoid everything,” Guerrero said through interpreter Hector Lebron, “but everybody was dumping everything on me. That felt good. It was very emotional and let’s keep going.”

Amid the chaos, Chapman swung by his stall to make sure his glove was safely tucked behind the plastic sheets draped over the lockers and protected from the streams of bubbly flying in all directions. It was.

The pitchers circled pitching coach Pete Walker and emptied out dozens of beer cans on him.

Schneider, asked whether more champagne was on him than in him, said on him but that the ratio was about to change.

Guerrero, Bichette and Cavan Biggio, who rose through the farm system together as the sons of elite major-leaguers, winning championships and single-A Dunedin and double-A New Hampshire along the way, traded dousing and kind words.

“It’s something that we’ve all been through together and enjoyed together,” said Biggio.

The difference between the parties then and now?

“This is way better,” said Guerrero. “In the minor leagues, they give you just one bottle of champagne and that’s it. You’re out. Here there are a lot of bottles.”

Indeed, and even after the party took a brief pause for a team photo on the mound, it quickly moved back into the clubhouse and resumed.

“I feel like we handled it the right way,” said Ross Stripling, whose emergence after Hyun Jin Ryu’s season-ending elbow surgery was pivotal for the club. “We played the game. We took care of the business at hand and then came in here to have a good time.”

Added Schneider: “This is why you play. This is a lot of fun.”

Clinched on an off-day or not.

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Palestinian flag waved on pitch as Morocco celebrates historic World Cup win

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Several players of Morocco’s national team unfurled a Palestinian flag on the pitch while celebrating their historic World Cup win over Spain in Qatar on Tuesday.

World Cup quarterfinals: Qualifying teams, fixtures and schedule

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Following a dramatic penalty shootout, Morocco became the first Arab side to make it to the World Cup quarterfinals.

This is the second time Moroccan players have raised the Palestinian flag after winning a match. Morocco’s player Jawad El Yamiq raised the Palestinian flag while celebrating his country’s 2-1 victory over Canada last week.

Moroccan football fans were also seen waving a “Free Palestine” banner during the North African country’s 2-0 victory over Belgium in Group E earlier in the tournament.

Morocco's team makes a group photo on the pitch, holding the Palestinian flag after beating Spain.

Regulations from FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, prohibit the use of banners, flags and fliers that are deemed to be political, offensive and/or discriminatory in nature.

“The promotion or announcement of political or religious messages or any other political or religious actions, inside or in the immediate vicinity of the stadium, by any means, is strictly prohibited before, during and after matches,” FIFA regulations state.

Israeli journalists experience chilly reception at Qatar World Cup

 

Football authorities have occasionally issued fines for displays of the Palestinian flag inside grounds.

The flag bearing move was hailed by Arabs on social media, as users from Libya, Morroco, Egypt and Saudi Arabia celebrated the Moroccan win.

Videos on social media also show Palestinians celebrating Morocco’s win in the streets of several cities in the West Bank and in Gaza.

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With CBT 'not an obstacle,' Blue Jays can avoid Judge drama with Guerrero and Bichette – Sportsnet.ca

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Matt Murray Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs Dallas Stars

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DALLAS (AP) — Matt Murray made a season-high 44 saves and Mitch Marner extended his Toronto-record point streak to 20 games with an early assist as the Maple Leafs beat the Dallas Stars 4-0 on Tuesday night.

John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Rasmus Sandin and Alexander Kerfoot scored for the surging Maple Leafs, who are 9-0-3 in their last 12 games. They pulled within three points of first-place Boston in the Atlantic Division.

Dallas went 0 for 7 on the power play despite 17 shots on goal, including a four-minute double minor and a 5-on-3 for 1:38.

Toronto blocked 27 shots in its first shutout this season, and the Stars missed the net on 22 attempts.

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“Big thanks to the guys in front who did a heck of a job defensively tonight against a really dangerous team,” said Murray, who was acquired from Ottawa last summer and shares time in net with fellow newcomer Ilya Samsonov.

Murray is 6-0-2 since missing 15 games with an adductor injury following his initial start of the season.

“He was perfect,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Came up with huge saves in big moments. Obviously, the number of penalties we took today could have been a big problem.”

The Stars were shut out for the first time this season and are tied with Winnipeg atop the Central Division with 33 points. The Jets have two games in hand.

Jake Oettinger stopped 25 shots.

It was the NHL’s first game featuring two players with point streaks of at least 18 games.

The Stars’ Jason Robertson saw his run end at 18, a Dallas record. Robertson leads the NHL with 23 goals.

Marner got an assist when his wrist shot was stopped but Tavares tapped in the rebound 4:51 in for the first of two first-period Toronto goals.

“Like I’ve been saying, it’s not a one-man effort,” Marner said. “Just trying to go out there and buzz.”

Matthews took possession after his wrist shot was stopped and circled back into the slot to score at 17:36.

Sandin collected a loose puck just outside the crease and scored at 12:19 of the second period for a 3-0 lead.

Kerfoot added an empty-net goal with 3:53 remaining, rolling the puck in from center ice. It was his first goal since a 3-2 overtime win at home over the Stars on Oct. 20.

Toronto played most of the game with only five defensemen. Victor Mete left with a lower-body injury after playing just 3:04 of the first period. Mete is expected to miss at least a few games.

During part of Dallas’ 5-on-3 late in the second, the Maple Leafs were further handcuffed when Marner had to give up a broken stick. He still managed to block a shot.

Maple Leafs forward Semyon Der-Arguchintsev made his NHL debut, playing 7:16.

FAMILY AFFAIR

It was the second and final scheduled meeting this season matching Robertson against his younger brother, Maple Leafs forward Nick Robertson.

Their mother, Mercedes, traveled from Michigan to attend the game. She followed her custom in these brotherly matchups by wearing the home team’s sweater and the visitors’ cap.

Nick Robertson scored his only two goals of the season to date in the teams’ previous meeting — including the overtime winner.

“He wasn’t too happy about that,” Nick said of his brother when they visited after that game.

POWER OUTAGE

Dallas is 0 for 11 on the power play in its past two games after ranking second in the NHL at 30% going into Sunday’s game, a 6-5 shootout loss to Minnesota.

“We had some great looks,” captain Jamie Benn said of Tuesday’s effort. “We’ve got to find a way.”

UP NEXT

Maple Leafs: Host the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.

Stars: Host the Ottawa Senators on Thursday.

___

AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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