Minnesota drops Game 1 to Houston; Giolito leads White Sox past Athletics
Jose Altuve drew a bases-loaded walk to force in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning for Houston after a two-out error by shortstop Jorge Polanco, and the Astros beat Minnesota 4-1 Tuesday to open their AL playoff series and stretch the Twins’ all-time record postseason losing streak to 17 games.
Game 2 in the best-of-three wild-card matchup is Wednesday at Target Field.
Michael Brantley tacked on a two-run single in the ninth after Sergio Romo issued a full-count walk to the 5-foot-6 Altuve, the 2017 AL MVP who had a quiet season at the plate.
Framber Valdez, who made 10 regular-season starts for the Astros, pitched five scoreless innings in relief of Zack Greinke for the victory to keep the bullpen fresh for the rest of the series. Valdez allowed his only two hits with one out in the ninth, but Willians Astudillo grounded into a double play to end the game.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli called for Romo, the fifth of six pitchers, to start the ninth. The Astros loaded the bases on two singles to start the inning and then the crippling two-out error, when Polanco’s throw to second base after a straight-at-him grounder was low to blow the forceout.
Minnesota’s previous win in the playoffs was notched in New York on Oct. 5, 2004, in Game 1 of the AL division series. That was also the last scoreless postseason start for a Twins pitcher — seven shutout innings by AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana — until Kenta Maeda’s in this game.
The Twins lost 13 straight times to the Yankees after that, including a three-game sweep in the AL division series last year. The Twins have failed to advance in eight straight rounds, since beating Oakland in five games in the AL division series in 2002.
Minnesota broke the record for consecutive postseason losses in major North American sports — the Twins had been tied with NHL’s Chicago team, who dropped 16 straight in the NHL playoffs from 1975-79.
The Astros lost their previous postseason game — that was Game 7 of the World Series last year, at home to Houston.
Giolito nearly perfect, White Sox down A’s
Lucas Giolito dazzled in his post-season debut, stymieing the Oakland Athletics through six perfect innings and sending the Chicago White Sox to a 4-1 victory in the opener of their best-of-three wild-card series Tuesday.
Giolito (1-0) yelled in delight after striking out the side in the sixth, quickly walking back to the dugout with his arms to his side.
Giolito got plenty of support: Jose Abreu hit a two-run homer and Adam Engel also connected for Chicago. Yasmani Grandal homered in the eighth.
Alex Colome, Chicago’s third reliever, worked the ninth for a save in the 2-hour, 53-minute game.
Before the single by La Stella, Jake Lamb’s line drive to centre in the fifth was the hardest-hit ball against Giolito by the powerful A’s, whose offence struggled down the stretch.
Now, Oakland must win Game 2 on Wednesday at home to avoid another early playoff exit.
The A’s are in the post-season for a third straight year, having lost in the AL wild card game each of the past two seasons after 97 wins both times. They advanced just once during 11 previous playoff trips since 2000, reaching the 2006 AL Championship Series before being swept by Detroit.
Ramon Laureano’s groundout in the eighth scored Oakland’s lone run.
Engel crushed an 0-2 fastball for a 1-0 White Sox lead in the second before Abreu homered in the third against 22-year-old lefty Jesus Luzardo.
Chicago was eager for a fresh start in the playoffs after losing seven of eight to finish the regular season, two on walk-offs.
The White Sox snapped a string of seven consecutive losing seasons to reach the post-season for the first time since winning the AL Central in 2008.
World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe, WNBA champion Sue Bird announce engagement
Sports stars became 1st openly LGBT couple to appear in ESPN ‘Body Issue’ in 2018
Two-time soccer World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe and 11-time WNBA All-Star Sue Bird are getting hitched.
Four-time Olympic gold medallist Bird, 40, won her fourth WNBA title with the Storm earlier this month, bouncing back after missing all of the 2019 season due to a knee injury.
Rapinoe, who claimed the Ballon d’Or in 2019 after a career-defining year in which she won her second World Cup title, along with the Golden Boot and Golden Ball, was a regular fixture on the sidelines during the 2020 WNBA season, which took place entirely inside a quarantined setting in Bradenton, Florida, due to the new coronavirus.
The pair, who have been an item for more than three years, became the first openly LGBT couple to appear in the ESPN “Body Issue” in 2018, and have together been vocal advocates for a variety of political and social causes.
The announcement prompted well-wishes from numerous high-profile figures in sport and politics.
“Love will always win,” tweeted former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee. “Congratulations, @S10Bird and @mPinoe!”
How Canada’s men’s basketball Olympic fate could be decided by the NBA schedule
Tokyo hopes renewed with 2020-21 NBA season slated to start earlier than expected
We don’t know when the 2020-21 NBA season will begin. We don’t know how many games will be played, where they’ll be played or who they’ll be played in front of.
We do have some clues though, after multiple recent reports suggested the league wants to start a 72-game season around Christmas. A LeBron James-led player faction would reportedly prefer a Jan. 18 beginning.
NBA owners met on Friday, where they agreed with players to extend the negotiation deadline for one week.
That four-week difference could determine the Canadian men’s basketball Olympic fate.
Instead of waiting until February or March in hopes of having fans in the stadium, the league seemingly prefers staying close to its regular schedule while letting the virus determine when crowds would be OK.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver had previously stated his “best guess” for next season’s start would be January “at least,” but record-low Finals ratings while going up against the NFL may have ignited desire to get the league closer to its regular schedule.
There’s still a gulf between NBA and NBPA on a start date for the 2020-2021 season, sources tell ESPN. NBA wants pre-Christmas; NBPA still preferring mid-January. Economic issues remain significant, including escrow withholding on player salaries w/ revenues down b/c of no fans. <a href=”https://t.co/tX4dlyP1EE”>https://t.co/tX4dlyP1EE</a>
Accordingly, the possibility of NBA players participating in the Olympic basketball tournament that begins July 25 has reopened.
Canada, however, has yet to qualify, leaving itself to a last-chance tournament in Victoria, B.C., beginning June 29, where only the victor heads to Tokyo.
In a regular year, that late-June date would come a week or two after the Finals, meaning many Canadian NBA hopefuls would have had a month or more from the end of their season.
In 2021, however, June 29 could fall right in the middle of the playoffs, with the Finals wrapping shortly before the Olympics.
And that means there are even more questions for the Canadian men’s basketball team. Most crucially: who will be available for the qualification tournament?
Considering the schedule crunch, there’s almost no chance Canada boasts a full roster in Victoria. But that also means competitors won’t have their NBA talent either — including Greece’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.
So what might Team Canada look like?
Projecting the ‘Dare-to-Dream Team’
The first question comes at coach, where the Raptors’ success will be inversely correlated to Nick Nurse’s availability. The further the Raptors advance, the less likely Nurse is available to coach in Victoria. Meanwhile, lead assistant Nate Bjorkgren now helms the Indiana Pacers; his availability will be in question too.
That equation is fairly simple.
It’s tougher to parse how players might be thinking on the heels of the NBA season.
It’ll be tough for the Nuggets to return to the West final in a loaded conference, but they’ve proven capable. Even a second-round exit might make Murray question heading straight to Victoria.
Murray, however, was the first player to tweet his commitment to the team for the Victoria tournament way back in November. It’s an understatement to say lots has changed since then, but his willingness to lead the charge, plus his guaranteed contract with Denver through 2024-25, portend good things for his participation.
Behind Murray, the second-most impactful player would be OKC point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who followed Murray’s footsteps in November by committing to the national team.
Also like Murray, Gilgeous-Alexander’s contract status is set, so barring injury he should have little reason not to attend.
That guard duo is a virtual lock to start, but the other three spots are all up in the air. At the wing, there’s Memphis’ Brandon Clarke and Dillon Brooks, as well as OKC playoff standout Luguentz Dort and national team stalwart Kevin Pangos.
Potential starting bigs include veterans Tristan Thompson and Kelly Olynyk, Dallas’ Dwight Powell, who’s recovering from a torn Achilles, and Pangos’ Gonzaga teammate Kyle Wiltjer.
And then there’s Andrew Wiggins and RJ Barrett. Wiggins famously hasn’t played for Canada since 2015, but indicated a willingness to mend fences. His star has faded since being drafted No. 1 in 2014, but there is certainly appeal for him on Canada as a microwave bench scorer.
We’ll know a lot more about Barrett after next season. If it goes like his rookie campaign, there won’t be much case for him to be on the team — despite his father being GM.
There should also be consideration given to those who have consistently shown up for Canada, like Melvin Ejim, Brady Heslip and Phil and Thomas Scrubb. Raptors depth players Chris Boucher and Oshae Brissett could also be options.
Canada is ranked 21st in the world by FIBA. It will play No. 7 Greece and No. 28 China in the group phase, where the top two teams reach the semifinals. The other group contains No. 43 Uruguay, No. 15 Turkey and No. 9 Czech Republic.
If Canada can dress its full team, it should be favoured to book its ticket to Tokyo. But that’s still a big if.
Wilpon era nears end as record sale of New York Mets to Steve Cohen is approved
Billionaire hedge fund manager to restore employee salary lost to pandemic as 1st act
The Wilpon family’s control of the New York Mets neared its end after 34 years when Major League Baseball owners voted Friday to approve the sale of the team to billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen.
The transfer from the Wilpon and Katz families values the franchise at between $2.4 billion US and $2.45 billion, a record for a baseball team that tops the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers from Frank McCourt to Guggenheim Baseball Management in 2012. The Mets sale is likely to close within 10 days.
Cohen pledged to inject about $9.5 million in additional payments this off-season for pandemic-hit employees.
“I am humbled that MLB’s owners have approved me to be the next owner of the New York Mets,” Cohen said in a statement. “Owning a team is a great privilege and an awesome responsibility.”
An entity controlled by Cohen will own 95 per cent of the franchise, and the Wilpon and Katz families will retain 5 per cent of the team.
Former Mets general manager Sandy Alderson will return as team president.
“My family and I are lifelong Mets fans, so we’re really excited about this,” Cohen said. “With free agency starting Sunday night, we will be working towards a quick close.”
Cohen said all Mets, employees, including unionized groundskeepers, security guards and engineers, will receive restored pre-pandemic salaries as of Sunday that reverse 5-30 per cent salary cuts begun in March. He valued the restoration at over $7 million.
A seasonal relief fund will start Sunday and run through opening day for about 1,000 Citi Field employees of subcontractors that makes each eligible for $500 monthly, a commitment of about $2.5 million.
Pledge to community development
Cohen pledged to “dramatically increase” giving by the Mets Foundation and to prioritize not-for-profits and causes in the Citi Field area. He agreed to donate $17.5 million to programs developed by New York City to make grants to area small businesses through the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
Cohen made his announcement as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city does not object to the sale. The city had the right to review the proposed transfer of the lease of Citi Field, the Mets’ home since 2009.
The current Mets ownership group is headed by Fred Wilpon, brother-in-law Saul Katz and Wilpon’s son Jeff, the team’s chief operating officer. Fred Wilpon turns 84 on Nov. 22 and Katz is 81.
“We appreciate Fred’s decades of service to league committees and the governance of the game,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “Steve will bring his lifelong passion for the Mets to the stewardship of his hometown team, and he will be joined by highly respected baseball leadership as well. I believe that Steve will work hard to deliver a team in which Mets fans can take pride.”
The 64-year-old Cohen is CEO and president of Point72 Asset Management. He first bought an 8 per cent limited partnership stake in the Mets in 2012 for $40 million.
“I know that Steve Cohen and his family share the same passion we’ve had for the Mets and for this city,” Fred Wilpon said in a statement. “Steve will continue, and will build upon, this organization’s longstanding commitment to the support of our community, and of those in need, which is especially important at this time. He shares the view that Saul, Jeff and I have long held, that ownership of the Mets is a public trust.”
Wilpons hampered by Madoff involvement
The publisher Doubleday & Co. bought the Mets on Jan. 24, 1980, from the family of founding owner Joan Payson for $21.1 million, with the company owning 95 per cent of the team and Wilpon controlling 5 per cent.
When Doubleday & Co. was sold to Bertelsmann AG, the publisher sold its shares of the team on Nov. 14, 1986, for $80.75 million to Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday, who became 50-50 owners.
Wilpon and his Sterling Equities partners completed his buyout of Doubleday on Aug. 23, 2002, ending what had become an acrimonious partnership. Under the original appraisal, Doubleday would have received $137.9 million — half the team’s $391 million value after accounting for debt. Wilpon sued, and the sides then settled.
The Mets failed to win any titles under the Wilpons’ time of sole control and their final dozen years were hampered by financial losses from the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.
“It has been a privilege and honour for our families to have been a part of this great franchise for the past 40 years,” Fred Wilpon said. “We would like to express our deep appreciation for our loyal and passionate fans, who have consistently supported this organization through the years. We’d also like to thank the many great players, managers, coaches and dedicated employees with whom we’ve been privileged to work with through the years.”
Cohen controlled SAC Capital Advisors, which in 2013 pleaded guilty to criminal fraud charges. SAC agreed to pay a $900 million fine and forfeit another $900 million to the federal government, though $616 million that SAC companies had already agreed to pay to settle parallel actions by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was to be deducted from the $1.8 billion.
No bodychecking allowed in upcoming OHL season, says Ontario sport minister
League recently announced plans to start shortened campaign on Feb. 4
The Ontario Hockey League will not have bodychecking this coming season, according to Lisa MacLeod.
Ontario’s minister of sport said Friday afternoon in a speech delivered to the Empire Club of Canada that removing purposeful physical contact is a necessity for all sports in the province to slow the spread of COVID-19
“Not just in the OHL, not just in hockey in general, but in all sports,” said MacLeod. “We’re in a very serious game right now and the reality is we have to take those public health precautions.”
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season started earlier this month, but the schedule has been affected by several COVID-19 outbreaks as well as provincial government restrictions. After play was restricted to Maritimes Division teams the past two weeks, some Quebec teams are scheduled to resume play this weekend.
The Western Hockey League said earlier this month it plans to start its season on Jan. 8.
MacLeod said the decision to ban bodychecking was influenced by the outbreaks in the QMJHL.
“I suspect [the OHL] will have to modify their play until there is a vaccine or at the very least public health clearance that we have contained the spread of COVID-19,” said MacLeod.
The MPP for Nepean said she normally has no problem with physical play in the sport, but the pandemic is an exceptional circumstance.
“I have done a lot of work on concussion awareness so I do take very seriously the safety but if done appropriately in regular times I wouldn’t,” MacLeod said.
Toronto Titan’s Kylie Masse gets back to racing in International Swimming League bubble
LaSalle, Ont., native returns from 7-month pandemic layoff
World champion backstroker Kylie Masse dubbed her first races in over seventh months “interesting.”
The 24-year-old from LaSalle, Ont., is competing for the Toronto Titans in Budapest, Hungary, in International Swimming League matches.
Toronto’s second round of matches are Sunday and Monday at Duna Arena against the Aqua Centurions, Energy Standard and New York Breakers.
Masse is among 300 international swimmers “bubbled” in Budapest competing for 10 pro teams.
The ISL condensed its race schedule in a hub city in its second season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Masse, a two-time world champion in 100-metre backstroke, could race in up to six matches in five weeks should the Titans be among the final four teams.
She says she’s getting crucial racing experience in a season currently devoid of any because of the pandemic.
“Racing is such a huge part of our training,” Masse told The Canadian Press from Budapest. “You don’t don’t want to go a long time without racing.”
She was days away from competing in Canada’s Olympic trials in April when the event was called off due to both the pandemic and the postponement of Tokyo’s Olympic Games to 2021.
The pandemic closed pools. Canada’s swim team was out of the water 122 days, which was the most among the world’s top 10 swim countries, before a gradual return to pool training in late June.
“Everybody that I’ve talked to has said that they were not out of the water nearly as long as we were, which is room for concern,” Titans coach Byron MacDonald said.
Canada’s trials are scheduled for April, 2021.
Masse chose to compete in the ISL because she’d rather have race experience than not before that.
Olympic gold medallist Penny Oleksiak opted to remain in Canada.
“Definitely personal preference,” Masse said. “There were times when I definitely hemmed and hawed and there’s so much uncertainty in the world right now.
“Ultimately, it came down to this is really the only thing on the agenda. Nothing is set up for the next little while, so we don’t really know the next opportunity we are going to have to race and get this kind of stimulus again.”
ISL races are in a 25-metre pool instead of an Olympic 50-metre pool.
Masse felt rusty in her 50-metre and 200-metre backstroke, and her 100 in a medley relay on Day 1 of in the Titans’ first match.
She won her signature race on Day 2, however. Masse’s time of 56.38 seconds in the 100 backstroke would put her in the final of the most recent short-course championship.
“I was really pleased with my time and obviously the win to get points for my team was my main priority,” Masse said.
Ten Canadians plus swimmers from the United States, Sweden, Russia and Britain compete for the Titans.
Canadian Olympians Kierra Smith (LA Current), Markus Thormeyer (Tokyo Frog Kings) and Sydney Pickrem (London Roar) are also in Budapest.
Teammate Hayden ends retirement
Masse’s Titans teammate Brent Hayden has come out of retirement after winning an Olympic bronze medal in the 100-metre freestyle in 2012.
He says the ISL is knocking the race rust off him.
“Definitely as a preparation strategy, there’s something in competition that you cannot replicate in training and that’s performing under the pressure of competition, having fast swimmers flanking you on your right and left rather than your teammates that you train with and see every single day,” said the 37-year-old from Maple Ridge, B.C.
Swimming Canada gave national-team swimmers its blessing to compete in Budapest with cautions to do what’s necessary to avoid the virus, and also to take care of their bodies in a tight racing schedule after months of zero international competition.
ISL athletes are housed on Budapest’s Margaret Island in the middle of the Danube River. The teams are transported by bus to the pool for competition and training.
Hayden says he’s been tested for the virus five times in the last two weeks.
“I think it’s totally safe here,” Hayden said. “We’ve got pretty strict rules. We’re not allowed to go into the city to explore. Most of our time is just spent inside the hotel.
“The great thing about being here is there’s no outside distractions. When we’re not swimming, we’re still thinking about the things that we need to do to take care of our bodies in order to swim fast.”
Novak Djokovic suffers stunning loss to 42nd-ranked Sonego in Vienna quarters
‘I have done what I needed to do and why I came here,’ says world’s top player ahead of ATP finals
Novak Djokovic won just three games in a lacklustre quarter-final performance at the Erste Bank Open on Friday in Vienna, Austria, losing 6-2 6-1 to 42nd-ranked Lorenzo Sonego.
It was only Djokovic’s third loss of the year, after being disqualified for hitting a line judge with a ball at the U.S. Open and losing the French Open final to Rafael Nadal.
“I came here with the intention to try to earn more points and secure the No. 1 in the end of the year. I have done that, so I move on,” Djokovic said.
“I am happy, I am pleased, I am healthy, and hopefully I can have a strong finish [at the ATP finals] in London.”
Djokovic lacked power in his groundstrokes and produced a string of mistakes from the start. He soon dropped 4-0 behind, winning just five points on Sonego’s serve in the opening set.
Djokovic slightly improved in the second, but missed all six break points before conceding his service game for a fifth time when Sonego closed out the win with a passing shot.
“I have done what I needed to do and why I came here. I am completely fine with today’s result and looking forward to the next chapter,” Djokovic said.
Djokovic will not defend his title at the Paris Masters next week. The ATP will deduct no points in this shortened season because of the pandemic, while he also could gain no additional points as the defending champion.
Instead, Djokovic was looking forward to travelling home to Serbia.
“I would call it a blessing, being a father and being a husband, it’s the best thing in the world. I am not far from home, so I look forward to that,” he said.
Sonego lost in the final qualifying round to Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia, but was added as a lucky loser to the main draw after several players pulled out with injuries.
Success for lucky loser
The Italian became the first lucky loser to beat the world No. 1 since 2017 when Jordan Thomson stunned Andy Murray at Queens.
Sonego will play Grigor Dimitrov or Daniel Evans for a place in Sunday’s final.
Also, Andrey Rublev reached the semifinals, continuing his quest for a record fifth ATP title this season.
No. 5-seeded Rublev beat defending champion Dominic Thiem 7-6 (5), 6-2 to set up a semifinal against 2018 champion Kevin Anderson, who defeated Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 7-6 (5).
Rublev held off two break points early against Thiem and won a fast-paced opening set in the tiebreaker.
The eighth-ranked Russian dominated the second as Thiem looked hampered by a blister on his right foot.
“I was lucky that Dominic had problems with the feet. We had some great battles in the past,” Rublev said. He added that winning “two unreal rallies” in the tiebreaker shifted the quarterfinal in his favour.
Raptors support NBA investigation into assault charges against Terence Davis
Rookie guard allegedly hit girlfriend in the face, broke her phone
The Toronto Raptors say they will fully support the NBA’s investigation into the arrest of guard Terence Davis on assault charges.
The team commented publicly on the issue for the first time in a statement released Friday.
Davis faces several charges after he and and his girlfriend allegedly got into a verbal dispute at a hotel in lower Manhattan, N.Y., on Tuesday evening. According to the criminal complaint, Davis hit the woman in the face, and then broke her phone.
The complaint also stated the woman’s young son was standing next to her when Davis hit her, causing the son to fall.
“Incidents of this kind are addressed and managed by the league through the joint NBA-NBPA policy on domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse,” the Raptors said.
“The Toronto Raptors take these issues very seriously, and we will fully cooperate and support the League in its investigation of this matter as we work to determine the appropriate next steps for our team.”
None of the charges have been proven in court. A lawyer for Davis said his client denies the charges and he declined further comment.
Davis was released on his own recognizance and his next court date was set for Dec. 11.
Ontario cabinet minister outlines initiatives to help sport, tourism industries
Lisa MacLeod says redeveloping Ontario Place and supporting bid for 2026 World Cup among province’s plans
Ontario’s minister of heritage and sport says redeveloping Ontario Place and supporting bids for major sporting events are among the province’s plans to boost the economy when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Lisa MacLeod laid out 15 initiatives in a speech to the Empire Club of Canada today, including plans to support bids for the 2026 FIFA World Cup and the 2027 Commonwealth Games.
Canada is co-hosting the 2026 World Cup along with Mexico and the United States, but the venues for the men’s soccer tournament have yet to be named.
A committee has also been formed to put together a bid for Hamilton to host the Commonwealth Games in 2027. The quadrennial event features 6,500 elite athletes and coaches from 71 countries competing in summer sport.
MacLeod also says she will work on having a stronger relationship with Ontario’s athletic organizations and its professional sports teams.
After her speech, MacLeod confirmed in an on-stage interview with former NHLer Nick Kypreos that when the Ontario Hockey League starts its season in early February, there will be no bodychecking.
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