MLB

Bichette matches career high and Ray fans 13 for Jays, Giants streak snapped

By Sports Desk September 16, 2021

Bo Bichette and Robbie Ray led the way as the playoff-chasing Toronto Blue Jays took down the American League (AL) East-leading Tampa Bay Rays 6-3 in MLB.

Bichette homered and matched his career high with five RBIs, becoming the second Blue Jays shortstop to hit 25-plus home runs in a season after Tony Batista in 1999 on Wednesday.

Blue Jays ace Ray struck out 13 batters over seven innings in a dominant display to claim the strike-out lead in MLB.

Ray allowed one run and four hits for his fourth successive decision – the starting pitcher is 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 91 strikeouts since July 21.

He is also just the second Blue Jays pitcher to have double-digit 10-plus strike-out games in a season after Roger Clemens in 1997 and 1998.

Ray leads AL starters in ERA (2.64), strikeouts (223), innings (177.2) and quality starts (22).

The Blue Jays (82-64) – who have won six straight series, New York Yankees (82-64) and Boston Red Sox (83-65) are in a three-team tie in the AL Wild Card race.

 

Yankees win… again

The Yankees topped the Baltimore Orioles 4-3 to clinch their 29th consecutive winning season – the second longest streak in MLB history, behind their own 39-year run from 1926-64.

Jonathan India of the Cincinnati Reds became the first rookie in MLB history with at least 20 homers, 20 hits by pitch and 10 stolen bases in a season, according to Stats Perform. The Reds lost 5-4 to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Kansas City Royals lost a wild clash with the Oakland Athletics 12-10, but it was a memorable outing for Andrew Benintendi. Over his last seven games, Benintendi has 19 hits and 17 RBI. According to Stats Perform, he is the first MLB player to reach both of those numbers over a seven-game span since Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr in 1950.

 

Megill struggles in Mets sweep

It was a rough outing for rookie Tylor Megill as his New York Mets were crushed 11-4 by the St Louis Cardinals in a series sweep. In three innings, Megill gave up six runs, a homer and two walks on nine hits.

The Minnesota Twins suffered a 12-3 defeat to the Cleveland Indians as Jovani Moran allowed four hits and four runs in just 1.2 innings of work. Twins team-mate Andrew Albers gave up three runs, two homers and two walks on three hits in 2.2 innings. It came after starter Griffin Jax pitched 4.2 innings, which included seven hits, five runs, a home run and a walk.

The high-flying San Francisco Giants had their nine-game winning streak snapped following a 9-6 defeat to Wild Card hopefuls the San Diego Padres.

 

Perez extends homer rally in milestone appearance

While the Royals lost, star Salvador Perez hit his 44th home run of the season in the fifth inning, moving into a tie with Shohei Ohtani and within one of MLB leader Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Perez's 196th career home run came in his 1,000th start behind the plate.

 

Wednesday's results 

Miami Marlins 8-6 Washington Nationals
Detroit Tigers 4-1 Milwaukee Brewers
Toronto Blue Jays 6-3 Tampa Bay Rays
Boston Red Sox 9-4 Seattle Mariners
Pittsburgh Pirates 5-4 Cincinnati Reds
Philadelphia Phillies 6-5 Chicago Cubs
New York Yankees 4-3 Baltimore Orioles
St Louis Cardinals 11-4 New York Mets
Colorado Rockies 3-2 Atlanta Braves
Cleveland Indians 12-3 Minnesota Twins
Houston Astros 7-2 Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Angels 3-2 Chicago White Sox
Oakland Athletics 12-10 Kansas City Royals
San Diego Padres 9-6 San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers 5-3 Arizona Diamondbacks

 

Yankees at Orioles

The Yankees (82-64) will be out to extend their winning streak when they lock horns against with the Orioles (46-99) on Thursday. Jordan Montgomery is set to start for the Yankees, while the Orioles counter with Chris Ellis.

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  • League-leading New York Yankees go deep in Baltimore, Cubs put on first-inning show League-leading New York Yankees go deep in Baltimore, Cubs put on first-inning show

    The New York Yankees continued their red-hot start to the season with a 6-2 away win against the Baltimore Orioles on Monday.

    With the win, the Yankees are now 26-9, and sit three games clear atop the standings.

    As has been the story with the Pinstripes this season, their power was again the driving force in their success, with every run scoring as a result of an extra-base hit.

    New York took the lead in the third inning through a Giancarlo Stanton RBI double, before Jose Trevino gave the Yanks some breathing room with a three-run homer an inning later.

    Anthony Santander launched his own long-ball in response for the Orioles, making it 4-1 later in the fourth inning, and that score would hold all the way through to the ninth frame.

    After Luis Severino pitched six terrific innings, allowing just one hit – Santander's home run – with two walks, the big bats came back to the plate to put the icing on the cake.

    Josh Donaldson blasted the longest shot of the night for a 395-foot solo shot, before Rizzo topped it as the very next batter, sending his solo home run 406 feet through the Baltimore sky.

    In a consolation for the home fans who stuck around, Santander hit his second bomb of the night in the bottom of the ninth.


    Cubs go crazy in first inning

    The Chicago Cubs wasted no time putting their 9-0 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates to bed, jumping out to a 8-0 lead in the first inning.

    Pirates starting pitcher Dillon Peters was only able to get two outs before being pulled from the game as the Cubs piled on eight hits and two walks for their eight runs, highlighted by a grand-slam from Willson Contreras in his second plate appearance of the inning.

    Cubs pitcher Wade Miley was lights-out, retiring 12 straight batters through the fourth inning, and finished with just one hit allowed, and no walks, through seven complete frames.

    Brewers battle for 1-0 win

    A wild pitch was the only thing that could bring in a run in the Milwaukee Brewers' 1-0 win against the Atlanta Braves.

    Freddy Peralta was spectacular on the mound for the Brewers, striking out 10 batters in seven full innings, conceding just two hits and one walk.

    Ian Anderson was not much worse for the Braves, giving up four hits and two walks in his six innings, but a costly wild pitch in the sixth inning while a runner was on third base gifted the Brewers the game's only run, and the win. 

  • The bigger, better Boston Celtics deserve favouritism in 2020 Eastern Conference Finals rematch The bigger, better Boston Celtics deserve favouritism in 2020 Eastern Conference Finals rematch

    Two years after meeting in the 2020 Eastern Conference finals, the Boston Celtics are on a mission to flip the script on the Miami Heat.

    In that 2020 series, which the Heat won 4-2 in 'the bubble' to advance to the NBA Finals, the Celtics were the higher seed, and were playing in their third Eastern Conference Finals in the space of four seasons.

    But in hindsight, it was Miami who were built to win that series, despite it being their first time past the second round since LeBron James carried them to the finals in 2014.

    Jimmy Butler was invigorated in his first year in Miami, in his physical prime at 30 years old and was determined to show he was not at fault for pushing his way out of the Minnesota Timberwolves and being traded from the Philadelphia 76ers in the space of a year.

    He was also supported by Goran Dragic, just two years removed from his lone All-Star appearance, who in the series averaged 20.5 points and 4.7 assists per game in 34 minutes.

    As well as having two strong initiators, the Heat also had a complete mismatch in the form of Bam Adebayo against a Celtics team starting Daniel Theis at center, with no competent back-up. Adebayo averaged 21.8 points while shooting over 60 per cent from the field, with 11 rebounds and five assists per game, and was clearly the most dominant player in the series.

    When taking into account an outlier 37-point showing from Tyler Herro on 14-of-of-21 shooting that single-handedly won Game 4 112-109 for the Heat – making it a 3-1 series lead instead of 2-2 heading back to Boston – it begins to become clear that there was not much the Celtics could do, given their personnel.

    Fast-forward a couple of years, 22-year-old Jayson Tatum is now 24 and in the midst of a rapid ascension into the game's best players, 23-year-old Jaylen Brown is now 25 and has developed into a true number-two option, Marcus Smart is now 28 years old and the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and, more importantly, the supporting cast is built for the long-haul.

    Replacing Theis with Al Horford may be the most consequential addition or subtraction on either side, with the potential to nullify the series-altering presence of Adebayo on the inside. Horford will also have help in the form of Robert Williams III – who became one of the best defensive players in the league this season – while Theis remains as a 'break glass in case of emergency' option.

    Adding to the rise of the Celtics has been the emergence of Grant Williams as a reliable two-way player, capable of slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo while hitting over 40 per cent of his threes, as well as the trade to add Derrick White as a second defensively sound 'small' guard next to Smart.

    For a team with a real defensive identity – willing to 'switch' every screen and allow their small guards to take on bigger assignments – being able to replace Kemba Walker with a trustworthy, stout defender completely takes away an avenue of attack for a sharp offensive team like Miami.

    What it also means is that the Celtics will not have to waste any minutes on players who have no business in big playoff series – such as Brad Wanamaker and Semi Ojeleye, who combined for 21.8 minutes per game in the 2020 series.

    A run to the NBA Finals would be fulfilling the promises of Boston's advanced numbers, which after the All-Star break had the Celtics as not just a legitimate title contender, but as the favourite, and a historic team.

    During that stretch, the Celtics were the number one offense – with a gap to the Charlotte Hornets at number two – and the number three defense, with a net-rating of 12.7. The Memphis Grizzlies (7.6) were the only other team with a net-rating above 6.0.

    For the Heat, Dragic has been replaced by Kyle Lowry, who is now 36 years old and recovering from his second hamstring injury of the playoffs, and the veteran presences of Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder have been replaced by a combination of Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and the shell of Victor Oladipo.

    Erik Spoelstra boasts arguably the deepest bench in the entire NBA, but this is playoff basketball, which generally comes down to each side's best seven players, nullifying their advantage on the back-end of their roster.

    The identity of this Miami offense through the playoffs has largely relied on the brilliance of Jimmy Butler, who at 32 years old is putting together the best playoff run of his career, averaging 28.7 points per game on 52.7 per cent shooting, with 7.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.1 steals.

    Miami's second-best scorer this postseason has been Adebayo, way down at 14.6 points per game compared to his 19.1 for the regular season.

    Butler was perfectly matched up against the Philadelphia 76ers, who have no wing defenders capable of matching the Heat star physically – but the Celtics do not have the same problem.

    The Celtics have at least four players – Tatum, Brown, G. Williams and R. Williams – who match up well with Butler, and they showed against the Milwaukee Bucks that they were more than happy to play straight-up defense and force one player to try and beat them with isolations all day.

    If Miami cannot figure out a way to unleash a second scorer in a real way – be it Herro, Adebayo, or even Strus, who averaged 20.5 points in his two matchups against Boston this season – they may be playing straight into the Celtics hands. 

    The one advantage Miami will have is the rest-factor. It will be five days since the Heat's Game 6 win against the 76ers, while the Celtics will only have one true rest day after handling their business in Game 7 on Monday night.

    For the regular season, the Heat won all three of their games with at least three days rest, although the Celtics were the fourth-best team in the NBA coming off one day of rest (28-13, .683 winning percentage).

    If the Heat can take advantage of their fresh legs and win Game 1, anything could happen, but ultimately, just like the Celtics were almost helpless in 2020, the Heat just may not have the horses this time around.

  • Chiellini says time is right for Juventus departure, reveals World Cup blow influenced decision Chiellini says time is right for Juventus departure, reveals World Cup blow influenced decision

    Giorgio Chiellini asserted it was the right time to end his Juventus career after making his final home appearance for the club, revealing Italy's failure to reach the Qatar World Cup influenced his decision.

    Chiellini played the first 17 minutes of a Serie A clash with Lazio on Monday, in which Juve threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2.

    First-half goals from Dusan Vlahovic and Alvaro Morata looked set to ensure the Bianconeri marked the Allianz Stadium swansong of Chiellini – and Paulo Dybala – with a win, only for Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to equalise with the final kick of the game after Alex Sandro put through his own net.

    The 37-year-old defender, who has won 20 trophies during his incredible career with the Turin giants, has made 392 top-flight appearances for the club, a tally bettered only by Gianluigi Buffon (489) and Alessandro Del Piero (467).

    With Juventus guaranteed to finish fourth in Serie A after enduring a frustrating season, which also saw them lose the Coppa Italia final to Inter, Chiellini said the time had come for the Bianconeri's young players to take centre stage.

    "The decision came in months, weeks, not days," he told Sky Sports Italia. "I have always said that I would like to leave at a high level, and I succeeded. 

    "It was a difficult year, for Juventus and for me, but in the matches I managed, I played at my level. 

    "All this led me to leave now, to leave room for young people. Juve need to restart, and young people have to take responsibility and mature. I helped to clip some people's wings, now it's right for them to fly alone. 

    "I will cheer for them from near or far, and I made this decision with joy and serenity."

    The legendary Chiellini has made 25 appearances for Juventus in all competitions this season, 17 of them starts.

    Chiellini will end his Italy career after facing Argentina at Wembley Stadium on June 1, having won 116 caps to date during a glittering career with the Azzurri.

    Having helped Italy to Euro 2020 glory last year, he revealed March's shock World Cup qualification play-off defeat to North Macedonia had influenced his desire to step away from both Serie A and international football.

    "Of course, I wanted to get to the World Cup. It was the obsession I had after the European Championship," he added. "It is inevitable that I cannot play every match, but I wanted to be part of the national group. 

    "It didn't go the way we wanted, which accelerated my choice. [But] I leave a national team and a Juve in good hands."

    Chiellini is not planning on retiring, however, and has been linked with a potential move to Major League Soccer.

    Although he said he had not yet made a final decision regarding his future, Chiellini hinted that a move abroad would interest him. 

    "I don't know. It has attracted me, but for 10 years, I have to decide at home," he added. 

    "An experience abroad enriches you, I think I need to see a little outside my life and Juve. I have to understand together with the family, I have to take a look outside, also for my future."

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