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Jake Arrieta silences Cleveland bats, Chicago Cubs bust loose for 5-1 win to even up World Series



CLEVELAND — World Series rings are rarely claimed without a clean box score created here and there by a sublime pitching performance.

Corey Kluber did exactly that for the Cleveland Indians in Game 1, helping his team jump out to a one-game lead.

It was a short-lived World Series advantage, though, as Jake Arrieta returned the favour Wednesday night for the Chicago Cubs and suddenly, we have a deadlocked affair heading back to a city that hasn’t hosted a Fall Classic on the north side in 71 years.

The stage is now yours for three games, Chicago.

“It’s always crazy good, but I’d have to imagine a little bit more than that, especially coming back at 1-1,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said when asked about the Wrigley Field atmosphere. “I think the folks will be jacked up about the win tonight.

“Now, having a World Series to root for, it’s going to be incredibly special.”

Thanks to Arrieta, the 2015 National League Cy Young winner, rain threatened more than the Indians did, while the Cubs’ powerful offence did what they’ve done all season long, but couldn’t do one night earlier — work counts, pile up baserunners, cross home plate.

Twenty-four hours or so after Kluber was dealing and Jon Lester was scuffling, the pitching script flipped completely during the Cubs’ 5-1 win in Game 2.

Arrieta didn’t give up a hit until the sixth inning, the same frame his night ended at 98 pitches, while Indians starter Trevor Bauer was at his inefficient best and couldn’t get through four innings.

“That’s really not the focus in a game like this,” said Arrieta, who was conscious of the fact he had a no-hitter going. “You want to continue to pile up outs as often as you possibly can.”

As Arrieta was cruising, his offence was providing the support, building up an early five-run lead that would be more than enough to help even the series 1-1, with Game 3 set for Friday night at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs lineup is as deep as it gets, but it was the meat of the order doing most of the series-tying damage, as 3-4-5 hitters Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber all reached base three times on a cold, dreary October night.

With the first pitch Wednesday already moved up by an hour due to ominous looking weather reports, rain was on the mind of many as it poured most of the day leading into Game 2, washing out batting practice and keeping the tarp on the Progressive Field diamond up until the last possible minute.

There was already a contingency plan in place to finish off what looked like an inevitable rainout in Cleveland, which would have scrapped the scheduled travel day back to the Windy City on Thursday.

It the end, everything went as planned.

For the visitors, at least.

The Cubs hadn’t held a World Series lead or scored a run in the Fall Classic since 1945, but after getting shut out by Kluber & Co. in Game 1, they wasted no time getting on the board in part deux.

Kris Bryant singled off Bauer who, this time around, wasn’t leaking blood from his bandaged pinky finger like he was during an abbreviated ALCS outing in Toronto, and was cashed when Rizzo drove a 90-mph fastball down the right field line for a double.

It looked like the Indians would have a shot at nailing Bryant at home, but right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall elected to throw to second base instead.

Thanks to Schwarber, playing in just his second game since tearing up his knee on April 7, the Cubs doubled their lead when the 23-year-old designated hitter swung away on a 3-0 count and laced an RBI single to centre that scored Rizzo with two outs in the third inning.

Schwarber, showing zero rust, finished the night 2-for-4 with two RBI, and the Cubs will now have a decision to make back home without the benefit of the DH spot for the power hitter to slide into, as he may not be able the outfield..

“You saw, he jacks everybody up,” Maddon said of Schwarber, adding he’ll defer to the doctors on the outfield decision.

While Bauer’s first start of the post-season was cut short after just two outs and 21 pitches when his drone-induced finger injury started bleeding, this start was cut short simply due to bad pitching.

Bauer laboured from start to finish, which came in the fourth inning when he was lifted after 87 pitches — one less than Kluber needed to get through six shutout innings on Tuesday — and six Cubs hits.

“They never let him settle into the game,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “You’ve got to give them a lot of credit.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Arrieta, wearing short sleeves on a night that the first pitch temperature sat at 6 degrees Celsius, hadn’t given up a hit through four innings.

Shortly after Indians manager Terry Francona turned to his bullpen, the Cubs broke the game open in the top of the fifth inning.

After Rizzo worked a 10-pitch walk with one out, Zach McAllister’s night ended on a Zobrist triple down the right field line thanks, in part, to Chisenhall slipping as the ball careened off the wall.

Francona quickly dipped into his ’pen again, but right-hander Bryan Shaw promptly gave up an RBI single to Schwarber, making it a 4-0 lead for the visitors.

It was an impressive night for Schwarber, an Ohio native.

“I can see why (Cubs president) Theo (Epstein) sent a plane for him,” Francona said. “I would, too. That’s a lot to ask, but special players can do special things.”

The Cubs weren’t done there.

Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis booted a Willson Contreras grounder, setting up first and third for the Cubs, before Shaw issued a free pass to Jorge Soler to load the bases.

With nine-hole hitter Addison Russell up, Shaw still couldn’t find the plate, walking in the Cubs’ fifth run of the night on four straight pitches.

Meanwhile, Arrieta was still dealing, keeping the Indians hitless through five innings, before Kipnis broke up the no-hitter in the sixth with a double that, eventually, led to the Indians’ only run of the ball game on a wild pitch.

Arrieta’s unblemished 5 1/3 innings was the longest World Series no-no bid since Jerry Koosman went six hitless innings for the New York Mets in 1969.

With a pivotal Game 3 set for Friday in a frenzied atmosphere amid the ivy, the Cubs will turn to right-hander Kyle Hendricks, while the Indians will counter with Josh Tomlin.

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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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