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Blue Jays vs. Royals series preview: MLB’s worst team entertains Toronto

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The Toronto Blue Jays begin a 10-game stretch of games against some of the worst teams in the American League when they face the squad at the bottom of the major league standings – the Kansas City Royals – on Monday in Missouri. 

Of course, games aren’t won on paper – otherwise Toronto wouldn’t have dropped two of three against a Minnesota Twins team missing many key players because of injury and COVID-19 issues this past weekend. 

Here’s a look at the three-game series against the Royals. 

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Probable Pitchers 

• Monday, 8:10 p.m. ET / 5:10 p.m. PT (Sportsnet ONE): Toronto RHP Ross Stripling (1-1, 4.22 ERA) vs. Kansas City LHP Daniel Lynch (2-4, 4:81 ERA) 

• Tuesday, 8:10 p.m. ET / 5:10 p.m. PT (Sportsnet ONE): Toronto RHP Alek Manoah (6-1, 1.98 ERA) vs. Kansas City RHP Brad Keller (1-6, 4.15 ERA) 

• Wednesday, 2:10 p.m. ET / 11:10 a.m. PT (Sportsnet): Toronto LHP Yusei Kikuchi (2-2, 3.91 ERA) vs. Kansas City RHP Brady Singer (2-1, 4.15 ERA)

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Latest on the Blue Jays

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After winning eight in a row, the Blue Jays (31-22) cooled down over the weekend, dropping two of three against the shorthanded Twins at Rogers Centre. 

The Blue Jays almost staged an improbable rally in the series finale, closing an 8-3 deficit to 8-6 and then getting two more men on in the bottom of the ninth before the Twins finally ended the last-ditch threat. 

With Kevin Gausman unable to get out of the fourth inning in a rare shaky start (he wasn’t helped when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez dropped balls in the sun in the first inning while not wearing sunglasses), Toronto had to use five arms out of the bullpen. That’s not an ideal scenario for a team using its long man – Stripling – as a starter on Monday and likely for at least several weeks to come with Hyun Jin Ryu on the injured list. 

Latest on the Royals

The Royals (17-35) gave up four runs in the final two innings to drop a 7-4 decision to visiting Houston on Sunday, giving the Astros a 2-1 series victory. 

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Seven-time all-star Salvador Perez had a big game for the Royals, going 2-for-3 with a home run, a double and three RBI. 

Perez also hit a homer and double in Saturday’s 6-0 win, snapping a five-game losing streak and a personal 0-for-22 streak. Veteran outfielder Andrew Benintendi left the game in the ninth inning with a calf injury. 

It figures to be a small turnout in Kansas City for a Monday night visit by Toronto, considering an announced crowd of just 12,776 took in the Sunday matinee versus Houston.

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Wrong Direction

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Since beating the Blue Jays in a memorable 2015 ALCS and then winning the World Series, the Royals have been, well, not very good. The Royals haven’t reached the playoffs since that championship year (Perez was the World Series MVP) and their best record in that span was 81-81 in 2016. 

Catcher Comparison

Heading into the season, you might think a subplot of this series would be Guerrero Jr. going head to head against Perez, who led the league in RBI last year and tied the Blue Jays first baseman for the home run lead. 

But the Royals catcher/designated hitter, like Guerrero, has been inconsistent this year, especially before this past turnaround weekend – he is batting .199 with eight homers and 22 RBI while striking out 48 times and walking just six times on the season (166 at-bats). 

Those numbers, of course, aren’t nearly as good as the stats being put up by surging Blue Jays catchers Danny Janssen (.241 with seven homers, 12 RB, 10 strikeouts, three walks in just 54 at-bats) and Alejandro Kirk (.307 with five homers, 16 RBI, 20 walks, 14 strikeouts in 140 at-bats) 

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Last Year 

The Blue Jays lost three of four in Kansas City last April before sweeping the Royals in a three-game series in July and August in Toronto’s first games at Rogers Centre since 2019 due to COVID-19.

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Stripling the Starter

Stripling makes his sixth start of the season — and first since May 7 on Monday. He has yet to go past the fifth inning. 

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Stripling was the starter for last year’s first game back at Rogers Centre against the Royals, going 5.1 innings while allowing two runs on four hits to pick up the win. 

Pitching Problems

The Royals have an AL-worst 5.12 team ERA this season. The bullpen also has been busy recently with the club using four relievers Friday, four Saturday and five Sunday. 

Up Next

The Blue Jays conclude their run of four consecutive series against AL Central foes with a three-game weekend set in Detroit against the Tigers after an off day on Thursday. 

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Toronto then returns home for four games against the Baltimore Orioles. 

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Sandy Alcantara Is On Pace To Shatter Marlins History

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(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

 

The Miami Marlins don’t have much of a chance to accomplish anything this year, but their staff ace Sandy Alcantara does.

The National League Cy Young favorite continued his run of dominance last night, tossing seven scoreless innings against the San Diego Padres and earning his 11th win of the season.

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Alcantara also struck out seven batters and allowed just four hits while only walking two batters and lowering his ERA on the season to 1.92.

In fact, last night marked the eighth time Alcantara has tossed at least seven scoreless innings in a game this year, which ties him with the late Jose Fernandez.

Only Dontrelle Willis has pitched more games where he went seven innings and allowed no runs in Marlins history.

He had nine of those back in 2005.

 

Alcantara’s Dominance

Alcantara is quickly becoming one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.

He might already be there.

With each start, he dominates his opponents and proves why the St. Louis Cardinals made a terrible mistake when they traded him away back in 2017.

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Only Justin Verlander has a better ERA than Alcantara, who is the clear-cut favorite to take home the National League Cy Young Award.

He has dominated in almost every start, and he did it at an important time last night, as he shut down the juggernaut offense of the Padres, who just recently acquired Juan Soto and Josh Bell.

While the Marlins aren’t going to go anywhere, Alcantara has a very good chance to achieve something special.

He matched a Marlins great and is now one dominant start away from matching yet another one.

We’ll see if he can keep up this run of success.

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The post Sandy Alcantara Is On Pace To Shatter Marlins History appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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WNBA Power Rankings: Aces, Sky title favorites as playoffs begin; Mystics lurking as darkhorse

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After a thrilling close to the regular season, it’s time to turn our attention to the 2022 WNBA playoffs, which will tip-off Wednesday night with two first-round Game 1s. In the first game of the night, the Chicago Sky will host the New York Liberty, and in the finale the Las Vegas Aces will take on the Phoenix Mercury. 

The Aces (+165) and Sky (+200) are the top two seeds and the top two title favorites entering the postseason, per Caesars Sportsbook.

The league has once again revamped the playoff format, eliminating the first-and-second-round byes in favor of a standard bracket. Play will begin with a best-of-three first round series, followed by best-of-five series in the semifinals and Finals. One interesting twist, though, is that in the first round, Games 1 and 2 will be hosted by the higher seed, while the lower seed will get to host a deciding Game 3, if necessary. The semis and Finals will be a standard 2-2-1 arrangement. 

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As we wait for the action to begin, here’s a look at how each team fares in our pre-playoffs power rankings. 

1. Las Vegas Aces — No. 1 overall seed

Sunday’s comeback win over the Storm to secure the No. 1 seed capped off a tremendous close to the season for the Aces. They won four straight, including a win over the Sky and two over the Storm. Their reward was a first-round matchup against a depleted Mercury team that should be little challenge, and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. During their mid-season slump there was concern that the Aces had peaked too early, but they’re back on track and the title favorite. 

2. Chicago Sky — No. 2 overall seed

A mini skid during the final week cost the Sky the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage for the entire playoffs. They won the title as a No. 6 seed last season, though, so they won’t be too concerned about their position. What is worrying, is they haven’t been playing their best basketball down the stretch. They went 3-3 in August after losing just four games in June and July combined, and have not been great defensively. Still, we know this team can flip the switch and they have championship experience, cohesion and the ability to be elite on both sides of the ball. 

3. Connecticut Sun — No. 3 overall seed

On the one hand, Sun had an easy schedule post-All-Star break, and cleaned up by going 11-3 down the stretch to secure the No. 3 seed and best net-rating in the league at plus-9.5 points per 100 possessions. On the other, they were 10-0 against bottom-seven opponents and 1-3 against top-four opponents, picking up just a solitary win over the Storm. The Sun are a definite contender, but their 1-6 record against the Aces and Sky is of real concern, especially considering they would likely have to get through both teams to win the title. 

4. Seattle Storm — No. 4 overall seed

Even in defeat to the Aces on Sunday in the regular season finale, we saw how dangerous the Storm can be when everything is clicking. Moving Tina Charles into the starting lineup has indeed juiced their offense, and that new unit has a plus-20.9 net rating in 16 games together. In the last two playoff runs where the trio of Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird have been healthy, the Storm are 12-2 in the postseason and won the title both times. Can they do it again? Perhaps, but they have not been one of the elite teams over the balance of the season, and do not have the same level of supporting cast as they did in 2018 and 2020. 

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5. Washington Mystics — No. 5 overall seed

Despite being the No. 5 seed, the Mystics could be a darkhorse contender. They coasted through the regular season to some extent in order to keep Elena Delle Donne healthy for the playoffs, and it’s clear they could have been a higher seed if she played a full schedule. In her 25 games they went 18-7 – a .720 winning percentage that would be right in line with the Aces and Sky over a full season – and had a plus-12.3 net rating with her on the court. In the 11 games she sat out, they were 4-7. This team could cause problems if Delle Donne can withstand the demands of a playoff schedule, but they would almost certainly have to beat three of the top-four teams in succession in order to win the title, which may be too much to ask. 

6. Dallas Wings — No. 6 overall seed

The Wings caught fire toward the end of the season and won five straight games from July 30–Aug. 8 to clinch a second consecutive playoff berth. That stretch included victories over the Aces and Sky, and they seemed to have unlocked something by giving more playing time to Teaira McCowan. They will be without All-Star guard Arike Ogunbowale for at least the first round, however, due to a hip injury, and while they’ve had some good games in her absence, her shot creation will be missed in the playoffs. During the regular season they were 2-1 against the Sun, and should be competitive, but actually winning the first-round series will be difficult. 

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7. New York Liberty — No. 7 overall seed

The Liberty enter the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league. They closed the season on a 6-2 run, and had the third-best net rating (plus-6.8) in the league in August. When healthy and at their best, they have the ability to play with and beat any team in the league thanks in large part to their prolific 3-point attack. However, they have not been able to reach that level on a consistent basis this season, and will be sizable underdogs against the defending champion Sky. 

8. Phoenix Mercury — No. 8 overall seed

After losing in the Finals last season, the Mercury went all in for another run at the title. Their plans fell apart over the course of the last six months, however, as Brittney Griner was detained in Russia, Tina Charles abruptly left the team mid-season and both Diana Taurasi (quad) and Skylar Diggins-Smith (personal reasons) are now sidelined. They deserve a lot of credit for even making the playoffs, but they lost five of seven games to close the season and it’s hard to imagine them being competitive against the Aces. 



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Stat Trolls Tua Tagovailoa As He Tries To Make A Change

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(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

 

Much is left to be desired from Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

In two NFL seasons, the former Alabama standout has amassed 4,467 yards and 27 touchdowns.

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However, he has thrown 15 interceptions, which put him in a bad light.

But there have been changes that can turn the tide for him in 2022.

First, he will have an offensive-minded head coach in Mike McDaniel.

Second, they gave him more targets downfield like Cedrick Wilson, Chase Edmonds, and Tyreek Hill.

Third, the Dolphins also improved the protection around him with offensive linemen Terron Armstead and Connor Williams.

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Those additions should help him rise above this eye-popping comparison.

The NFL on CBS tweeted that Odell Beckham Jr. has more 30-yard passes (2) for touchdowns than Tagovailoa (1).

While the claim may sound dubious, it should motivate Tagovailoa to throw more deep balls and to trust his teammates.

He has no excuse to falter, especially after getting everything he needs on offense.

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Likewise, he should build more confidence to throw the deep ball with ease.

Doing so will help him overtake Beckham on that statistic.

 

No Excuse For Failure

Coming into his third NFL season, Tagovailoa will be compared to his NFL Draft classmates Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert.

The former has already led the Cincinnati Bengals to a Super Bowl stint while Herbert has become Offensive Rookie of the Year.

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Those are the lofty standards that Tagovailoa should live up to if he wants the Dolphins to take the next step.

Gone are the days of finding an alibi because he already has several weapons around him.

Therefore, Tagovailoa should make a significant jump in performance to make the front office consider him as a long-term option.

The post Stat Trolls Tua Tagovailoa As He Tries To Make A Change appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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