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Blue Jays Lose to White Sox for Fourth Game in Row



CHICAGO — It was Mullet Night at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday and a couple of former Blue Jays made life pretty hairy for Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez.

Former Torontonians (summer residents, anyway) Melky Cabrera and Brett Lawrie collected three hits apiece, including a fifth-inning home run by Cabrera. Against Sanchez, both Cabrera and Lawrie, a native of Langley, B.C., went 3-for-3.

Cabrera would have had four hits if not for a solid defensive play by Toronto first baseman Edwin Encarnacion in the seventh.

But in the end, it was a two-out single to left off reliever Jesse Chavez by Chicago’s Todd Frazier to score rookie Tim Anderson from third in the seventh inning that gave the White Sox their third run of the game and an eventual 3-2 win.

Chicago has now defeated Toronto in four straight this season.

The Jays loaded the bases in the top of the ninth with one out but failed to bring a runner across the plate as Encarnacion struck out and Michael Saunders popped out to short.

“You couldn’t ask for better guys at the plate,” Jays manager John Gibbons said afterwards.

“(Closer David) Robertson did his job. But they held our offence in check. They’ve got some good starters, they’re always tough on us. And if we don’t hold them down enough, that’s what happens.”

The pitchers duel between the two starters was the story early, both Sanchez and lefty Carlos Rodon fighting their way out of jams, but neither figuring in on the decision. Sanchez pitched well, giving the Jays six complete innings, giving up eight hits, two runs, one walk and four strikeouts. Rodon, facing the Jays for the first time in his career, went 5.2 innings and gave up two runs on six hits. He also struck out eight and threw 115 pitches.

Sanchez went primarily with his sinker in this game as his curve ball didn’t feel great. He hung one that Cabrera deposited for his home run.

“Early on, it felt like (the curve) was coming out good. It was breaking off fine,” Sanchez said. “Later in the game, it just felt like it was just rolling off my finger tips, not really doing that little extra bite at the end. That’s something I’ve recognized and something I’ll work on in between (games).

“It was just unfortunate night for us. One-run games like that, you want to come out on top. Exciting, but not the outcome we want.”

The Jays drew first blood in the top of the second. Saunders led off with a double to left and was brought home on a single by Kevin Pillar, though Toronto would strand two runners in the inning.

Sanchez dug himself out of a jam in the bottom of the second after giving up singles to Alex Avila and Lawrie to start the inning. He then managed to get J.B. Shuck to ground out to short, struck out Avisail Garcia and got Tyler Saladino to ground out to first.

Avila and Lawrie put Sanchez behind the eight ball to start the fourth, as well. Avila led off with a walk and Lawrie singled. This time the White Sox managed to bring a run home as DH Garcia hit a grounder to short to score Avila from third, tying the game 1-1.

The Jays threatened in the fifth as Devon Travis led off with a single to left and, two batters later, Josh Donaldson walked after a nine-pitch battle with Rodon. But Encarnacion grounded out to third to end the threat.

Cabrera’s homer, over the wall in right, in the fifth, gave the White Sox a 2-1 lead.

A rare balk was called in the sixth inning against Rodon with Troy Tulowitzki up to bat and Saunders at first. Saunders advanced to second. Chicago pitching coach Don Cooper was thrown out of the game when he argued the call. Saunders then went to third on a deep fly to centre by Tulowitzki and scored on a two-out hustle play by Pillar, who smacked a ball to the right of first baseman Frazier, who made a diving play to field it. But with a dive into first, Pillar beat Rodon to the bag, scoring Saunders and tying the game 2-2. Pillar then moved from first to third on a hit-and-run as Travis smacked a single to shallow right, prompting White Sox manager Robin Ventura to make a pitching change, bringing in right-hander Matt Albers. Gibbons countered by pinch-hitting Ryan Goins for Junior Lake, who had struck out twice before that. With runners at first and third, Goins grounded out to second. A balk was also called on Jays reliever Drew Storen with Tyler Saladino up in the eighth, moving Garcia from first to second.

Gibbons was tossed in the top of the ninth when he argued a call. The ejection, however, seemed to wake the Jays up. With one out, closer David Robertson pitching and Gibbons out of the game, pinch-hitter Darwin Barney walked, Ezequiel Carrera singled and Josh Donaldson hit an infield single which third baseman Saladino flubbed. He finally collected the ball and tried for the force out at the bag, but a diving Barney beat him to the base. Robertson struck out Encarnacion and got Saunders to pop out to short to end the game.

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Up and Coming Sports Stars to Look Out for in 2020



Every year, a raft of exciting new players come onto the scene across all of the major US sports. With the MLS season getting underway and the NFL and MLB drafts not too far away, now is a great time to look at the young sports stars that could have a very bright future ahead of them, and the ones that are already proving they are destined for greatness.

Theo Bair (MLS)

This MLS season is looking like it could be one of the best yet, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team adding some extra dazzle to the league. Whilst Beckham might be able to attract a lot of new players to his MLS team, there are a lot of young stars on their way through such as Theo Bair at Vancouver Whitecaps. Bair has already made an impact on the first team and after impressing at under-20 and under-23 level for the national team, he has made two appearances for the senior team, well before his 21st birthday. This year could see Bair make a real name for himself in the MLS.

Source: Pixabay

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB)

Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr has one MLB season under his belt but it looks like the best is still yet to come from him at the Blue Jays. He was heavily backed to take the league by storm but he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. Without the pressure of being the top-ranked prospect, this season could see Guerrero play with some weight lifted off his shoulders. He has been working very hard on his fitness over the offseason, something that his manager Montoyo has been quick to comment upon.

Baseball by andrewmalone, on Flickr

Baseball” (CC BY 2.0) by andrewmalone

Connor McDavid (NHL)

McDavid has already established him as a top hockey player but at 23, he has the potential to go on to do so much more. The player was born in Ontario and was the first overall draft pick, showing how much expectation was already on him at that stage but he has gone on to prove that he is one of the best players in the NHL. McDavid could go on to be one the NHL’s best-ever hockey players and this season could be the year that he shows the world, not just the NHL.

Chuba Hubbard (College Football)

The Oklahoma State Cowboys running back has been making the headlines for several years now. He continues to improve and grab more attention for his impressive stats and performances. He was close to being a sprinter and nearly made the Canadian Olympic team before switching over to football. He is passing up the 2020 NFL draft to play his senior season at Cowboys. He should give them a good chance of winning the College Football Championship, though they’re trailing at the seventh spot in the latest American football odds at +2400.00, with Clemson as the current betting favorites.

2020 will definitely be a very exciting time with some of these young stars looking to breakthrough in their respective sports and show the world what they are capable of.

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Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby – and looking to break the Curse of Apollo



Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby with early favourite Justify after watching the race from his sofa in Southern California last year.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s ability to produce Derby contenders year after year is an enviable feat and why his absence a year ago stood out. It was just his second since 2009 and occurred because his lone candidate got hurt.

Baffert will saddle Justify and 30-to-1 shot Solomini in Saturday’s Derby.

Justify is one of the greenest colts Baffert has brought to Churchill Downs. He’s won all three of his starts by a combined 19 lengths. If Justify wins, he’d be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a two-year-old.

“The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse. It just happens. You can’t force it,” Baffert said. “All of a sudden, you have good horses and you’re there. So I’ve been really fortunate to have some really good horses.”

Baffert’s four victories are tied for second-most in Derby history. He’s finished second three times, too, including in 2012 with Bodemeister, also the last time he had two starters in the same year.

Like Justify, Bodemeister didn’t race as a two-year-old. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I’ll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

Magnum Moon, the 6-to-1 third choice, also is unbeaten and didn’t run as a two-year-old.

“It’s going to happen,” Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken. “Whether it happens this year or whatever, but it will happen because Bodemeister almost got away with it. But I don’t really worry about that.”

Baffert almost had a third starter this year until McKinzie developed a hind-end issue that knocked him off the Derby trail.

“When McKinzie got hurt, I wanted to throw up,” he said. “I really think McKinzie would probably be second choice here. We’d really have a 1-2 here.”

Justify cleared the biggest pre-Derby hurdle by drawing the No. 7 post. Jockey Mike Smith can use the colt’s early speed to position him well for the long run to the chaotic first turn. Solomini ended up in the No. 17 post; no horse has ever won from there.

Baffert turned 65 in January, making him eligible for Medicare and retirement at most other jobs. However, he entertains no such thoughts.

“I work hard at it. I just don’t give up,” the white-haired trainer said. “I’m constantly meeting people. They’re sending me horses. If you don’t have success, you’re not going to get those opportunities.”

After a successful run in the quarter horse ranks, Baffert switched to thoroughbreds. He started with one horse.

“After 25 years, I’m finally getting horses that I don’t have to buy,” he said. “The big guys are sending me horses.”

None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015. The colt swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Baffert has compared Justify to American Pharoah, citing the colt’s imposing physical presence and big stride. Still, Justify has yet to encounter the kind of traffic the Derby’s 20-horse stampede creates and the talent as he’ll run against on Saturday.

“I’d rather have a really talented horse than one who’s seasoned and just on par with the rest of them,” Baffert said.

Early on, Baffert knew Justify had the goods.

“The first time I worked him at Santa Anita, I knew he was a really good horse,” he said. “The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. His first race, he ran incredibly and showed how special he was.”

That kind of intuition is what separates Baffert from his rivals, fellow Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.

“Bob’s got a great feel for it,” he said.

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Matthews ready to return to Maple Leafs lineup after missing a month



NASHVILLE — The hurtin’ tune that Auston Matthews has been singing for the past four weeks finally can be put in the remainder bin in Music City.

The Maple Leafs’ top centre on Wednesday declared himself set to return to the lineup after recovering from a right shoulder injury.

Wonderful timing, of course, considering the Leafs will take on the No. 1 club in the National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators, on Thursday night.

“In my mind, I think I’m ready to go and taking it as I’m getting ready to play (Thursday),” Matthews said after resuming his normal role, between William Nylander and Zach Hyman, during practice at Bridgestone Arena.

“It felt good, nice to get in all the reps and everything. (Wednesday) was a good step forward in that process, going through the line rushes.”

It seemed probable that the Leafs also will have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed the past five games as he recovered from an illness, against Nashville. Zaitsev was paired with Jake Gardiner, his regular partner, at practice.

For Matthews, it has been 10 games as a spectator with his latest injury, his third of the 2017-18 regular season after he missed four games in November with a back issue and then sat for six in December because of a concussion.

Thursday will mark four weeks since Matthews was hurt when he was sandwiched by the New York Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech in a game at the Air Canada Centre.

A major bonus for Matthews in his recovery has been the fact he has been able to skate though much of his recuperation. That was not the case when he was out with his previous two injuries.

It’s worth noting that Matthews scored two goals versus the Montreal Canadiens upon returning on Nov. 18 from his back injury; in his first two games upon coming back from a concussion, he scored a goal in each.

Mike Babcock said a final decision on the participation of Matthews and Zaitsev against the Predators would be made on Thursday morning, but the Leafs coach was talking as though it would be a rubber stamp.

“This is going to be the best opportunity for (Matthews) because he has been able to skate and compete,” Babcock said. “The other times he was not able to do anything.

“To get him back … it’s still going to be going way faster than he has been practising, so there is going to be an adjustment period, but he’s a good player and he will figure it out.”

Defenceman Morgan Rielly didn’t think Matthews will take long to find his footing. Rielly missed six games in late January/early February with an arm injury, so knows what Matthews could be feeling.

“You’re nervous and you just want to get back into it,” Rielly said. “You play your first shift a bit hesitant, but after that it’s important you get back to yourself.

“It’s never easy, but Auston is one of those guys that I will imagine it won’t take long for him to get back into a rhythm.”

And there’s the trickle-down effect through the forward lines with Matthews in uniform.

“Guys are used to playing with certain players and when everyone is healthy, I think you get better chemistry throughout the entire lineup,” centre Nazem Kadri said. “Certain guys don’t have to play with different guys constantly and it’s just more of a set group, so I think it’s going to help us.”

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