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What a relief: Bichette’s big hit propels Blue Jays to victory on bullpen day – Sportsnet.ca

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PITTSBURGH – The relief for the Toronto Blue Jays was evident before Bo Bichette’s three-run double in the seventh inning touched green in the left-field corner. George Springer urged trailing runners Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Matt Chapman, who walked after his base hit, to follow him home as he approached the plate. Guerrero pointed out toward Bichette as he came in, while Springer hopped up and down with both arms in the air as Chapman raced across. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who left the on-deck circle for the safety of the dugout after consecutive Bichette foul balls just missed him, emerged and pumped his fists in the air.

That the hit meant so much is a result of both the pressures of playing meaningful September baseball and a collective dry spell hitting with runners in scoring position. Bichette’s 108.7 m.p.h. liner that provided the difference in a 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, on the 10th pitch of a grinding at-bat against Duane Underwood Jr., was the Blue Jays’ first in 10 tries Saturday. The tenacity in his approach was exactly what you want in that spot.

“Just never give in,” Bichette said of his mindset. “Don’t let him speed me up. Trust in my ability. Trust how quick I am. And I just did a pretty good job of that.”

In the seven games preceding this one, against the Los Angeles Angels and Chicago Cubs and Friday’s series opener at picturesque PNC Park, they had gone just 9-for-47, a .191 average, with the chance to bring in runs and scored only 22 times.

As the wild-card standings contracted within that same stretch, the weight on each at-bat felt bigger and bigger. On Saturday, they came up empty after putting two men aboard in four separate innings before Bichette broke through, to the delight of a heavy pro-Blue Jays contingent among the crowd of 23,568.

“That’s just a big, big at-bat, a huge moment,” said Springer. “The at-bats by Vladdy, by Chappy were huge. Bo battled his ass off. He fought off some good pitches. That guy’s throwing 96, 97. He’s got a nasty changeup and a 94 mile per hour cutter and somehow, someway Bo just fought and battled and it’s just a huge moment for us, especially when that’s what we needed.”

Still, the difficulty in pushing across runs meant a steady diet of higher-than-expected leverage against teams the Blue Jays (72-59) expected to handle more comfortably.

Alek Manoah did the heavy lifting for them in Friday’s 4-0 win while the tightrope walk Saturday was far more taxing on a deftly handled bullpen day. Key moments included Yimi Garcia entering the game far earlier than usual and inducing a key double play to end the fifth in relief of Yusei Kikuchi and Tim Mayza striking out Jack Suwinski with men on the corners in the eighth. Jordan Romano threw a clean ninth for his 29th save.

“Kind of all hands on deck,” interim manager John Schneider said of going to Garcia in the fifth. “We were going to pick and choose our spots based on where they were in the order and based on traffic on the bases. A lot earlier than what he’s used to usually but if we didn’t use them there, maybe we wouldn’t use him. Just another hell of a job.”

Indeed, and credit to the pitching staff for keeping the Blue Jays in games, but clear is that the offence needs to start fulfilling more of the innings they’ve created. Small sample sizes are noisy, of course, and the past week could merely be the work of randomness. In zooming out for a better read, the Blue Jays entered the day 14th in the majors hitting with runners in scoring position with a .260 average, along with a .342 OBP and .423 slug, and while not elite, it’s not the raging inferno it’s felt like in recent days, either.

Worth noting is that the Blue Jays entered Saturday eighth in the majors with 605 runs scored, better than Houston, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Seattle and Cleveland. Their hot and cold spells remain enigmatic and there remains a sense of bewilderment around the team about why they haven’t put together the type of extended run they appear to be capable of, but sometimes baseball is weird, winning is hard and the players on other teams drive nice cars, too.

“It’s tough, right? Not a lot of runway” remaining in the season, said Schneider. “Overall, the last month or so, we’re swinging at the right pitches. The results have been a little bit varied, but the talent in there is going come through and tonight was a perfect example of that. You’ve got to stick with it. You can’t abort mission, try to panic and try to do too much. That’s when it goes a little bit south. The season is short, but at the same time, they’re good enough to kind of stick with that approach.”

As quickly as the Blue Jays went cold, they can similarly get hot, too, and Bichette’s recent resurgence bodes well in that regard. He came into the day batting .349/.429/.535 in his previous 11 games and while he swung at the first pitch in his first three trips Saturday – resulting in a single and two flyouts – he wore down Underwood until finally whipping around a 91.7 m.p.h. cutter.

“I definitely feel like myself,” he said. “I’ve always been very aggressive and just kind of feel like I’m embracing that. Being aggressive, trusting in my two-strike approach allows me to do that early count and I definitely feel pretty good.”

The fine line for Bichette and his teammates is the balance between taking it to opponents and, in his words, “being too aggressive and looking wild,” and his swing from the first three trips up to the fourth was exactly that.

Schneider called the duel with Underwood “a testament to him and who he is as a competitor” and added that Bichette “is really, really good right now. And it’s just a big boost for us.”

“You can look back a couple of weeks ago when we talked about there’s one at-bat, or one inning that really gets you going – that at-bat by Bo symbolized that a little bit,” Schneider added. “You don’t want to do too much. The walks by Vladdy and Chappy to get to that point is really indicative of what we’re trying to do and then just keep passing the baton, get someone up there, get a good pitch to hit and don’t miss it. All in all, that inning, the approach is kind of what we wanted to do and you got the right hitter up at the right time.”

Bichette delivered and a night headed for frustration instead ended in elation for a Blue Jays team fighting to unlock the floodgates at the plate.

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Mariners-Blue Jays 2022 Wild Card Series Game 1 FAQ – MLB.com

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TORONTO — After regular-season campaigns with very few dull moments, two postseason-hungry clubs are ready for October.

The Blue Jays and Mariners face off in Game 1 of the American League Wild Card Series on Friday at Rogers Centre.

Seattle snapped the largest active playoff drought in MLB by securing the second AL Wild Card spot with a 90-72 regular-season record, while Toronto will play a postseason game in front of its fans for the first time since 2016.

Since the Blue Jays secured home-field advantage by finishing the regular season with the best record among AL Wild Card teams, at 92-70, all of the games in the best-of-three set will be played at Rogers Centre. The winner gets a date with the Astros in the American League Division Series.

For both teams, this moment is a balancing act between excitement and the demands of the spotlight.

“Pressure is something you put in your tires,” said righty Alek Manoah, who will start Game 1 for the Blue Jays against the Mariners’ Luis Castillo. “This is just baseball. This is just a game. Understand [that,] go out there and have some fun and leave the pressure for your tires.”

“It’s the postseason, where confidence can play an important role here,” Castillo said through interpreter Freddy Llanos. “And when I go up on that mound, I’m very confident.”

When is the game and how can I watch it?

Game 1: Friday, 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT, ESPN (Sportsnet in Canada)
Game 2: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT, ESPN (Sportsnet in Canada)
Game 3 (if necessary): Sunday, 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT, ABC (Sportsnet in Canada)

All series are available in the US on MLB.TV with authentication to a participating Pay TV provider. Games are not available live internationally (archives are available approximately 90 minutes after the game ends).

What might the starting lineups look like?

Mariners: Manager Scott Servais hinted on Thursday that the lineup will likely look similar to what he’s rolled out in recent weeks, with Julio Rodríguez and Ty France at the top, followed by Mitch Haniger, Eugenio Suárez and Carlos Santana in some order. Servais likes to go right-left when possible, especially against a power pitcher like Manoah.

Blue Jays: Toronto’s biggest decision comes at the DH spot, but with Alejandro Kirk catching Manoah in Game 1, Danny Jansen has been swinging the bat too well to keep him out of the lineup. This is close to the order that the Blue Jays were using down the stretch against the Yankees and Red Sox as they tried to clinch a postseason spot, then home field.

Who are the starting pitchers?

Mariners: Castillo (8-6, 2.99 ERA) takes the mound bringing supreme confidence after a stellar 11-start stretch after the Mariners acquired him ahead of the Trade Deadline. Though his postseason experience is limited to 2020, when there were no fans in the stands, Castillo has already established himself as a big-game pitcher and welcomes this stage.

Blue Jays: Manoah (16-7, 2.24 ERA) opens the series, and the Blue Jays couldn’t be happier. The big right-hander is built for the postseason and seems to feed off the moment and crowd as well as anyone in baseball. September’s AL Pitcher of the Month is peaking at the right time, and he should benefit from some extra rest just like he did in his last outing.

Mariners: Sam Haggerty (Grade 2 right adductor strain) won’t be on the postseason roster after suffering the injury on Monday, dealing the Mariners a big blow for their sparkplug off the bench. Jesse Winker (cervical disc bulge) also hit the 10-day IL this week, though his role was more unclear given his significant defensive struggles and brutal second half at the plate. Instead, the Mariners will lean on Taylor Trammell and Abraham Toro, the players who were recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to take those guys’ places.

Blue Jays: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (left hamstring strain) and Santiago Espinal (left oblique strain) both flew home from Baltimore early this week to continue their rehabs in the controlled atmosphere at Rogers Centre, and each decision is expected to come right down to the wire. It’s also a question of just how ready either would be after Gurriel said Monday that he may only be ready to pinch-hit by the postseason opener. Would that be enough, especially considering the talent already in this lineup?

The only issue on the pitching side is expected to be a minor one and no longer an issue by Game 2, but Kevin Gausman left his final regular-season outing with a cut on his right middle finger, near the nail. Both Gausman and manager John Schneider said this shouldn’t impact his expected Game 2 start, but it’s worth keeping an eye on over the next 24 hours.

Who is hot and who is not?

Mariners: Rodríguez rocketed his 28th homer in the regular-season finale, putting the finishing touches on an AL Rookie of the Year Award bid, and given how much he already relishes the big stage, it’s a strong bet that he’ll impact this series. As for who’s not, Crawford’s inconsistencies have stretched all the way into a two-month period, with the shortstop slashing .200/.340/.259 (.599 OPS) over the final two months.

Blue Jays: Several Blue Jays are peaking at the right time, which started with Bichette in September. Bichette hit .403 with a 1.134 OPS that month, his 48 hits the most in a single month by a Blue Jays hitter. Merrifield has caught fire since taking over everyday reps from Espinal, too, flashing some power down the stretch and completely flipping the script on his ‘22 season with the Blue Jays. Jansen, who started the year hot then hit the IL with a fractured bone in his hand, is back in a groove, too, and could be an X-factor in this series at the bottom of the lineup.

If there’s one hitter the Blue Jays need more from, though, it’s Guerrero. He’s had his moments, like his walk-off hit to beat the Yankees in 10 innings on Sept. 26, but he simply hasn’t been the hitter everyone saw in ‘21, when he looked like a perennial MVP candidate and Triple Crown threat. Guerrero’s potential impact is unrivaled, though, and the Blue Jays need him to break a game open.

Anything else I should know?

Mariners: Seattle hasn’t been on this stage in a generation, and there are only a handful of players on the roster who have any postseason experience. Because of how green they are, they could be susceptible to a sink-or-swim effect, but they’ve also shown late-inning resiliency to punch back when the stakes are high.

Blue Jays: The Blue Jays are ready to be aggressive, a mindset they’ve been preaching since Schneider took the reins in July. That starts on the bases, where the Blue Jays have done a much better job of taking extra bags, but it could extend to bullpen usage, too. Jordan Romano, the Canadian closer coming off a season with a 2.11 ERA and 36 saves, has made nine multi-inning (1 1/3 or more frames) appearances this season. They certainly won’t shy away from another.

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Stutzle's three-point night propels Senators over Canadiens in Gander, N.L. – Sportsnet.ca

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Tim Stutzle recorded a goal and two assists as the Ottawa Senators won their third consecutive game over the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 Thursday in pre-season action at the Steele Community Centre in Gander, N.L.

Drake Batherson opened the scoring just 38 seconds into the game, followed by a Brady Tkachuk goal under eight minutes later as Ottawa (4-3) took an early 2-0 lead.

Kaiden Guhle put Montreal (0-6-1) on the board 12:23 into the first period to cut the deficit.

In the second, Kirby Dach scored a power-play goal to even the game for the Canadiens 5:13 into the period. However, Stutzle responded six minutes later to put Ottawa up once again.

Claude Giroux added to the Senators’ lead 8:02 into the final period. Josh Anderson scored for Montreal a minute later but that was all the Canadiens could muster.

Anton Forsberg stopped 20-of-23 shots he faced in the victory while his counterpart Cayden Primeau made 22 saves for Montreal.

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Online gambling in Canada: The risks and how to stay safe

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Gambling is a popular pastime in Canada, with many people regularly taking part in activities such as the lottery, casinos, and online gambling.

While gambling can be a fun and enjoyable way to spend time, it’s important to be aware of the risks involved.

How to online gamble safely in Canada – A guide for beginners

There are a few things to keep in mind when gambling online in Canada, especially if you’re a beginner.

First and foremost, you should only gamble with money that you can afford to lose. It’s also important to set limits for yourself – both on how much you’re willing to spend and how much time you’re willing to spend gambling.

It’s also a good idea to do some research before you start gambling. This means reading up on the different types of games available on N°1 guide to online gambling in Canada, as well as the odds of winning. Once you have a good understanding of the basics, you can then start looking for an online casino that offers the games and odds that you’re interested in.

What are the risks of online gambling in Canada?

There are a few risks associated with online gambling in Canada, but they are relatively minor. The biggest risk is probably financial, as it can be easy to get carried away and spend more money than you intended to.

Another risk is that of addiction, as gambling can be quite addictive. If you find yourself spending more and more time gambling, or if you start neglecting other aspects of your life in favor of gambling, it might be time to seek help.

Finally, there is the risk of getting scammed. There are a lot of scams out there, and some of them target people who gamble online. Be sure to do your research and only gamble with reputable sites to minimize this risk.

What types of online gambling are available in Canada?

The most popular type is online casino gambling, which includes games such as slots, blackjack, roulette, and poker. There are also many sports betting websites available in Canada, where you can bet on your favourite teams and players. Finally, there are also online lottery websites where you can purchase tickets for various lottery games.

So if you’re thinking about gambling online, remember to do your research, choose a reputable site, and most importantly, don’t bet more than you can afford to lose.

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