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Blue Jays Labour in Loss to Yankees



NEW YORK – The Blue Jays’ highly-touted rotation, which has cruised through most of the season, has hit a rather significant pot hole.

On Monday, for the fourth game in a row, the Jays’ starter failed to pick up a win. Not since Aaron Sanchez in Baltimore last Wednesday has a Toronto starter put together a really solid outing, which is a concern, given that the rotation has been the club’s strength all season with the offence and bullpen inconsistent. R.A Dickey was the latest starter to struggle, on Monday picking up the loss in a 5-3 defeat at the hands of New York at Yankee Stadium.

“Well, they hit Dickey around a little bit today,” said manager John Gibbons when asked about his rotation’s mini-slump. “I thought he was a little inconsistent with the knuckleball today.”

Dickey was pulled after four innings after giving up seven hits and five runs while striking out five and walking only one — his shortest start since July 23 in Seattle. His performance followed rough outings by rotation mates J.A. Happ on Sunday, Marco Estrada on Saturday and Marcus Stroman on Friday. Heading into Monday’s game, Toronto’s starters led the American League in wins (58), ERA (3.78), average (.239), innings pitched (843.2) and were second in WHIP (1.22). The loss dropped Dickey to 9-14 with a 4.60 ERA.

“You know, it was pretty good actually,” said Dickey when asked about his knuckleball. “I had a lot of movement on it, it’s just sometimes this game’s a matter of centimetres.

“It’s just been frustrating, but I got to keep pushing forward,” added the veteran starter. “I got a lot to offer still, and four more starts to do it.”

The Jays had Yankees’ starter Masahiro Tanaka in trouble in the first inning, allowing Toronto to take a 1-0 lead, but he settled down, going 6.1 innings, giving up two hits and two runs. The Japanese veteran is 12-4 on the season.

The Jays made a game of it, scoring two runs when down 5-1 in the seventh, but they fell short as a result of stranding eight runners on base and went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position. On the up side, the bullpen, led by Francisco Liriano, was outstanding. The left-hander, who was recently moved from the rotation, pitched two innings, giving up only one hit and striking out three before being pulled after the sixth inning because his backed locked up — the result, he said, of not being used to pitching out of the pen.

“It’s a little tight, but nothing serious,” said Liriano.

Relievers Brett Cecil and Joaquin Benoit also pitched hitless innings for Toronto.

Tanaka was replaced by Jonathan Holder in the seventh after walking pinch hitter Ezequiel Carrera and giving up a deep fly ball to right by a second pinch hitter Dioner Navarro. Holder ran into trouble, loading the bases with a pair of walks and was replaced with by Ben Heller with two out. Edwin Encarnacion, who went 3-for-4, hit a single to right to score Carrera and Jose Bautista to make the score 5-3. Yanks’ manager Joe Girardi then pulled Heller for left-hander Tommy Layne to face left-handed hitter Michael Saunders, who was then pinch hit for Russell Martin who popped out to second to end the inning.

The Jays jumped into a 1-0 lead on Tanaka in the first, but probably should have come away with more. Toronto posted three hits, including a lead-off double by second baseman Devon Travis, who scored when the next batter, Bautista, who has an 11-game hit streak in New York, shot a long single to left. But that’s all they could get.

The Yankees took the lead in their half of the inning, centre fielder Jacoby Ellsbury smashing a first-pitch offering from Dickey over the wall in right field to score himself and lead off batter Brett Gardner. Ellsbury finished the day by going 3-for-4. Toronto had a chance to tie it in the second as Travis hit a soft liner to right with two out and Melvin Upton Jr. at second, but Gardner made a nice diving catch to end the inning. Dickey was called for a balk on a pick off play in the third with Chase Headley up and Ellsbury at first and two out. Dickey walked over to first base umpire Mark Wegner to argue his case. In the end, it didn’t matter as Headley popped up to second.

With runners at first and second and two out in the fourth, New York first baseman Tyler Austin, another rookie, hit a double off the left field wall to score two more and give the Yanks a 5-1 lead off Dickey who was pulled for Liriano to start the fifth. Encarnacion hit a two-out single to left in the fifth but Bautista tried to get from first to third on the play and was thrown out by Gardner. The Yankees’ closer Dellin Betances closed the game out by pitching a perfect ninth inning.


The Yankees played some rookie ball against the Blue Jays on Monday afternoon. That is, a couple of their rookies had a ball playing Toronto.

New York’s red-hot first-year catcher, Gary Sanchez, showed why he is the talk of the American League. Sanchez, 23, extended his on-base streak to 20 games in the Yanks’ 5-3 victory over the Jays with a single in the first inning. He has hit safely in 17 of his past 20 games. The Dominican also showed his defensive prowess, throwing out the fleet Melvin Upton Jr., at second in a steal attempt in the fourth. His hard, accurate throw got Upton by a couple of steps. Sanchez, who was promoted to the Yanks on Aug. 3, was named AL player of the month and rookie of the month for August, after batting .389 with 11 home runs and 21 RBIs in 24 games and shows no signs of letting up. He became the first player in MLB history with at least 11 home runs and 31 hits in his first 23 career games. On Aug. 29, Sanchez was named AL player of the week for the second straight week, becoming the first rookie ever to achieve that feat.

Another New York rookie, first baseman Tyler Austin, smacked two doubles and had two RBIs on Monday — his first career multi-RBI game. He brought home two runs in the fourth to give the Yankees a 5-1 lead with a hard shot off the left-field wall off Toronto starter R.A. Dickey. The victory keeps New York 3.5 games back in the AL wild-card standings.

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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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