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World Series Takeaways: Rays add to Dodgers’ history of playoff frustration –



Down to their last out in Game 4 of the World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays sent Brett Phillips up to the plate to face Kenley Jansen. On paper it was a mismatch, even with two runners on base. But then again, nobody could have anticipated what happened next.

After falling behind in the count 1-2, Phillips lined a single to centre. Kevin Kiermaier scored easily to tie the game 7-7, and that should have been all the Rays got. But once centre fielder Chris Taylor bobbled the ball, a truly bizarre play unfolded in a matter of seconds.

Reading Taylor’s misplay, Randy Arozarena rounded third only to trip and fall halfway to home plate. The throw to the plate had Arozarena beat easily, but catcher Will Smith missed it, Arozarena scored and the Rays walked it off to tie the World Series at two games apiece. You had to see it to believe it.

Of all the frustrating playoff losses the Dodgers have suffered over the years, this one has to be up there. Those misplays cost Los Angeles a chance to hand Clayton Kershaw the ball with a 3-1 series lead in Game 5. Instead, Kershaw will face Tyler Glasnow with the series tied 2-2. In the meantime, here are some observations from a memorable Game 4…

How to make sense of a painful finish?

For an idea of just how painful this loss was for the Dodgers, take a look at the win probability graph for Game 4:


Or simply watch Dave Roberts’ reaction to the last play of the game:

Give Phillips credit for a great at-bat against Jansen, but there’s no way the Dodgers should be losing a game like this. In this case the blame has to be shared between Jansen, who allowed two baserunners even before the Phillips single, Taylor, who should have fielded the ball cleanly, and Smith, who should have caught the relay throw.

If the Dodgers lose the series, it’s no exaggeration to say this loss will haunt them — possibly for a long time. So for Roberts, Kershaw and the Dodgers, the only possible outcomes are at the extremes now: either they lose a series they should have won or they win the franchise’s first title in more than three decades.

Seager’s flare nudges Dodgers ahead

On a night six different players homered, it was a flare into shallow centre field that finally allowed the Dodgers to take a late lead against the Rays. In the top of the eighth inning with two out and Taylor on second base, Nick Anderson pounded Corey Seager in on the hands with a 95.3 m.p.h. fastball.

Seager didn’t get much of it, but the blooper he hit had just enough on it to escape the grasp of shortstop Willy Adames and land in shallow centre field. With that, Seager had his fourth hit of the game and a .500 batting average for the series.

Questionable bullpen costs Rays

Maybe this was inevitable at some point. Or maybe it was simply a poorly timed off-night for the Tampa Bay bullpen. But it’s pretty surprising to see the Rays’ bullpen struggle like this.

Pitching in relief of starter Ryan Yarbrough Saturday, Pete Fairbanks, Diego Castillo and Anderson all allowed earned runs. We’re simply not used to seeing that kind of vulnerability from the Tampa Bay bullpen, and this time it nearly cost the Rays in a big way.

Thankfully the Rays’ offence bailed them out with runs in five of the last six innings, but Fairbanks, Castillo and Anderson would all be working on zero days’ rest if needed Sunday. It’s doable, and likely necessary, just not ideal.

Highs and Lowes

In the 14 playoff games leading up to the World Series, Brandon Lowe hit .115/.193/.173. It was an unexpected and ill-timed slump for a player who posted a .916 OPS during the regular season, but despite Lowe’s struggles the Rays kept winning.

If Kevin Cash and the Rays were ever tempted to bench Lowe, they never gave in to that temptation and they’ve since been rewarded. The 26-year-old hit two homers in Game 2 of the World Series, and on Saturday night when he stepped up with one out and two on in the bottom of the sixth inning, he did this:

That three-run shot was the biggest of Lowe’s career and one of the biggest in Rays franchise history.

But in the top of the seventh, the Dodgers loaded the bases with two out. Joc Pederson stepped in and lined a ball off the end of Lowe’s glove for a two-run single that gave the Dodgers the lead again.

Arozarena makes home run history

Entering play Saturday, four players in big-league history had ever hit eight home runs in the course of a single post-season:

• Barry Bonds (2002)
• Carlos Beltran (2004)
• Nelson Cruz (2011)
• Randy Arozarena (2020)

In the third inning, Seager joined that exclusive group with his eighth home run of the 2020 playoffs. And the very next inning, Arozarena separated himself from Seager & Co. with his ninth homer of the post-season.

To be fair, the wild-card round gave Arozarena and Seager a couple more games than usual, but their accomplishments are impressive nonetheless.

Urias flashes overpowering stuff

The first time Julio Urias appeared on Baseball America’s list of top 100 prospects was after the 2013 season. At the time, he was just 17, but his promise was apparent even when the Dodgers signed him out of Mexico as a teenager.

Seven years and parts of five big-league seasons later, Urias is now enjoying a breakout season. The 24-year-old pitched well in the regular season, with a 3.27 ERA in 55 innings, and has been even more effective in the playoffs.

That trend continued in Game 4, as Urias overpowered the Rays for 4.2 innings. His fastball topped out at 96.1 m.p.h. and may have looked even faster considering the Rays whiffed 17 times at that pitch on the way to nine strikeouts for Urias.

In five appearances this post-season, he now has a 1.31 ERA with 25 strikeouts compared to just four walks. Safe to say that prospect pedigree has been realized considering he’s now one of the most important pitchers on one of baseball’s best teams.

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Canada to play 2 more home World Cup qualifiers in U.S.



As Canada continues to wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s national soccer team will play two more of its home World Cup qualifying matches south of the border in June.

Canada will face Aruba in Bradenton, Fla., on June 5, and will take on Suriname in suburban Chicago on June 8, Canada Soccer confirmed Monday.

The games are Canada‘s last two of four matches in CONCACAF Group B. A March 26 Canadian home match against Bermuda was held in Orlando, Fla., which Canada won 5-1. Also, the Caymen Islands were the host team on March 29, when Canada rolled, 11-0.

Only one national team advances to the next round, and Canada and Suriname top the group and the game against Suriname in Bridgeview, Ill., figures to be the deciding match in both teams’ efforts to advance.

Thirty nations from Central and North America are competing in this first round with six group winners advancing to a second round of head-to-head knockout matches for the right to compete in the CONCACAF final round of eight teams competing for four places in the 2022 World Cup. A fifth team from CONCACAF advances to an intercontinental play-in round.

As was executed in Orlando, the match in Chicago will be staged in accordance with the FIFA International Match Protocols supported by the relevant public health requirements.

“We had hoped to play these matches at home with Canadian fans providing the support and momentum to play a tough nation like Suriname in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers,” said John Herdman, coach of the Canadian men’s national team. “The reality of the global pandemic and the priority to keep our communities in Canada safe means the match will be played at a neutral site in Chicago with no home advantage, but we will embrace that challenge.

“Whatever comes at us, we will take it on and do whatever we need to do to advance to the next round.”

-Field Level Media

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Berrettini hopes Madrid ATP 1000 final was the first of many



Matteo Berrettini came up short in his maiden ATP Masters 1000 final on Sunday but the Italian said his performances in Madrid have given him belief he deserves to be competing for top-level titles against the best players in men’s tennis.

German Alexander Zverev, who defeated claycourt specialists Rafa Nadal and Dominic Thiem en route to the final, lost his only set at this year’s tournament to the 25-year-old before rallying for a 6-7(8) 6-4 6-3 win.

The defeat ended the hard-hitting Italian’s eight-match winning streak on clay after he won the ATP 250 event in Belgrade last month.

“I really worked hard to be here. Now that I’m here, I’m upset I lost,” the world number nine told reporters. “It’s important for my tennis, for my level. Sascha won, not easily, but in two sets against Thiem and Rafa, and today (he) was struggling against me.

“This is definitely a good feeling and something that I have to use, to build (on) in my next tournaments. It hurts now, but I know this loss is going to be useful.”

Berrettini said he had his chances against world number six Zverev and he was brimming with confidence going into this week’s ATP Masters event in Rome and the French Open starting at the end of the month.

“I know and I feel that I can play this kind of tennis, this kind of level. I deserve to be here,” he said.

“When I play and I use my weapons in the right way, all the players are struggling. This is something that makes me confident for the future.

“Once I’m healthy, I can reach my level, my best level. I think this week just showed that I can play this level. This was my first final. Hopefully it’s not going to be my last.”


(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Peter Rutherford)

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Anthony Davis drops 42 in Lakers win



Anthony Davis had 42 points and 12 rebounds and the Los Angeles Lakers made 13 shots from 3-point range to overwhelm the Phoenix Suns in a 123-110 win on Sunday night in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles avoided the three-game season sweep by Phoenix and remained one game behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference standings with four games left. The top six teams avoid the play-in tournament to reach the playoffs.

Los Angeles, which lost eight of its previous 10 games, was without LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma and Dennis Schroder. After being out six weeks because of an ankle injury, James has missed the last four games with the same injury.

Devin Booker finished with 21 points for the Suns, but he made only 5 of 14 shots from the field and missed his only 3-point attempt. Chris Paul had 13 points and 10 assists.

Heat 130, Celtics 124

Jimmy Butler finished strong with 22 of his 26 points in the second half as Miami strengthened its hold on the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference with a win over host Boston.

Despite Butler having only four points at halftime, the Heat managed to build a 26-point lead to help hold off Boston’s fourth-quarter push. Butler also contributed 11 assists and eight rebounds.

Duncan Robinson scored 22 points, Bam Adebayo added 20 and Trevor Ariza scored all but two of his 19 points in the first half for the Heat.

Timberwolves 128, Magic 96

Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell each had 27 points to lead Minnesota to a blowout win, marking just the second time the Timberwolves have won in its previous 12 games in Orlando.

The Timberwolves snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 7-5 over their past 12 games. The Magic dropped their third in a row in their home finale and went 11-25 in Orlando this season.

It was an emotional Mother’s Day victory for Towns, Minnesota’s two-time All-Star, who lost his mother to COVID-19 last year. Towns, who also had nine rebounds and four assists, helped jump-start the Timberwolves as they used an early run to overwhelm the Magic and outscore them 74-44 by halftime.

Knicks 106, Clippers 100

Derrick Rose contributed 25 points and eight assists off the bench and Reggie Bullock finished with 24 points on 5-for-12 shooting from behind the arc as visiting New York defeated Los Angeles.

RJ Barrett added 18 points and seven rebounds and Julius Randle chipped in 14 points and 14 rebounds. Kawhi Leonard topped the Clippers with 29 points but struggled finding his shooting stroke, finishing 9-for-26 (34.6 percent) from the field.

With the win, New York remained the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Clippers maintained their grip on the No. 3 seed in the West despite the loss.

Pelicans 112, Hornets 110

Eric Bledsoe scored 24 points as New Orleans pulled out a tight game over host Charlotte, keeping its slim playoff hopes alive while putting the Hornets’ on hold.

Jaxson Hayes of the Pelicans scored the only two field goals in the last 1:50 for either team before a 3-pointer from Charlotte’s Terry Rozier in the last second accounted for the final score. Rozier finished with 43 points, including 24 in the first half.

The Pelicans went ahead at 109-107 on Hayes’ alley-oop layup on a pass from Lonzo Ball. With 1:29 remaining, Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball missed two foul shots, allowing the Pelicans to retain their lead. Hayes soon scored again on a hook shot off a pass from Nickeil Alexander-Walker, making it a four-point New Orleans lead with just 12.7 seconds remaining and putting it away for good.

Bulls 108, Pistons 96

Nikola Vucevic recorded a double-double with 29 points and 16 rebounds and Zach LaVine added a game-high 30 points as Chicago beat host Detroit.

Chicago used a strong defensive effort to keep alive its slim prospects of making the Eastern Conference play-in tournament, moving to 2.5 games behind Indiana with four games left in the Bulls’ regular season.

The Bulls held Detroit — playing without season leading scorer Jerami Grant on the second leg of a weekend back-to-back — to just 39 first-half points and 36-of-78 shooting from the floor for the game.

Kings 126, Thunder 98

Maurice Harkless and Terence Davis scored 18 points each to lead Sacramento to a home win over Oklahoma City.

The Kings kept their faint hopes of making the play-in tournament alive with the win, their fifth in six games. Sacramento is 2 1/2 games behind San Antonio for 10th in the Western Conference with four games to play.

The Kings had eight players score in double figures, including 15 each by Richaun Holmes and Delon Wright. Darius Bazley led Oklahoma City with 18 points while Jaylen Hoard had a career-high 16.

Mavericks 124, Cavaliers 97

Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 25 points while hitting on 7 of his 11 3-point shots as surging Dallas defeated host Cleveland in the second game of a home-and-home set between the two teams.

The Mavericks won for the fourth straight game and are a season-best 12 games over .500. Dallas remained in fifth place in the Western Conference, moving a game in front of idle Portland in the standings with four games to play.

Josh Richardson added 20 points for the Mavericks, and Luka Doncic scored 15 before being ejected early in the third quarter. Collin Sexton led Cleveland with 24 points while Mfiondu Kabengele hit for 14, Brodric Thomas scored 13 points and Isaac Okoro added 12.


–Field Level Media

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