The appetite for sports in Canada is never stronger than during an Olympic year, so it’s no surprise to see Olympians throughout our list of the top 10 Canadian sports stories of 2016. On top of all the successes of the country’s athletes in Rio, there were also eye-catching performances on the ice, court, and pitch that made it a most memorable year for Canadian sports fans.
Jose Bautista ripped a ball to left field and the crowd at the Rogers Centre roared, reaching a crescendo as Bautista arrived at second base standing up to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning. This Toronto Blue Jays team that rose to prominence after years of mediocrity on the strength of a loaded lineup was finally going to break through and the player whose breakout gave the team its first building block years ago was getting the rally started. Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion struck out swinging and Troy Tulowitzki’s pop up was caught by first baseman Carlos Santana in foul territory for the final out of the inning, the game, and in Toronto’s case, the season.
Aaron Sanchez stepped on the mound at Rogers Centre on Tuesday afternoon knowing full well he could be making his final start of the season. After pitching six innings of one-run ball as the Blue Jays beat Cleveland 5-1 in Game 5 of the ALCS, Sanchez made sure it wouldn’t be the final start of the year for his team. Down 0-3 in the series, Toronto needed the first win before they could start dreaming of an October comeback for the ages, and Sanchez delivered with one of his best performances of the season to spark the faith.
The best the Blue Jays could come up with was that at least they have another game to play. Toronto lost Game 3 of the ALCS 4-2 on Monday night, going down 0-3 in the series, this latest loss the most frustrating of the three because of the circumstances of how the game played out. Cleveland’s starter Trevor Bauer had no choice but to leave the game in the first inning after recording just two outs as the blood gushing from the pinky he sliced servicing his drone would not relent.
Josh Donaldson stood by his locker and might as well have been asked how he had walked on water. The Toronto Blue Jays had just lost Game 2 of the ALCS 2-1 on Saturday at Progressive Field, but it was Donaldson who had the answer to the question everyone wanted to know. How did he possibly manage to work a hit off Cleveland reliever Andrew Miller?
The Blue Jays’ visible complaints about the strike zone Friday night at Progressive Field in Game 1 of the ALCS were not made vocal after the game in the clubhouse. There was definite frustration following a 2-0 loss to Cleveland, but the angst was directed internally, not externally, at least not publicly. “We’ll leave that up to you guys to talk about,” said Jose Bautista, who went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, one of them called.
The Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays are proof that you can make a playoff run with vastly different kind of rosters. Offensively, that’s by design. What remains to be seen is what will make the difference when they match up in the American League Championship Series, beginning Friday in Cleveland. The Indians are a team that, for the most part, manufactures runs with sustained rallies.
These Toronto Blue Jays did not enter the postseason as the team to beat. Sure, their starting pitching was finally up to snuff, but their bullpen was thin and their play most of September was about as far from ready-to-do-this as you could get. Sunday night’s 7-6 walk-off win to sweep the Texas Rangers in the ALDS was Toronto’s sixth straight win: the two final regular season games – games they needed to clinch home field in the wild-card game – that wild-card game, also a walk-off, and the three games in the division series.
TORONTO– When the Toronto Blue Jays signed Russell Martin as a free agent ahead of the 2015 season, they were well aware of his postseason pedigree. The Blue Jays have made the playoffs in Martin’s first two seasons with the team, and if anyone needed another reminder of Martin’s considerable experience in October – he’s been there nine times over 11 seasons with four teams, if you were wondering – he provided one in Game 3 of the ALDS on Sunday night. Martin’s first-inning home run off Texas Rangers starter Colby Lewis made him the fourth player in major-league history to hit a playoff home run for four different teams. Ron Gant, John Olerud and Reggie Sanders are the other three, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
The Toronto Blue Jays announced Sunday morning ahead of Game 3 of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers that all beer sold inside Rogers Centre for the duration of the playoffs will be served in plastic cups, not in cans. The change in policy is the result of an ugly incident during the AL wild-card game Tuesday, when a fan threw a beer can toward Orioles left fielder Hyun Soo Kim as he prepared to make a catch. Toronto Police identified the culprit as Ken Pagan and he was charged with one count of mischief.
The most resistance Aaron Sanchez faced as a pitcher this season may have come from his own team, a testament to his brilliance on the mound and the constantly changing circumstances surrounding it. Sanchez, who will take the mound for the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 3 of the ALDS on Sunday night at Rogers Centre against the Texas Rangers, has been preparing for this moment since the second last season ended. This is what baseball players dream of, and Sanchez had worked too hard, buoyed by personal successes piling up start after start, that he had to speak up when it looked like it wasn’t going to happen at all.
The Toronto Blue Jays are heading home with a 2-0 series lead over the Texas Rangers in the ALDS and are happy pitcher Francisco Liriano has been deemed healthy enough to join them after he was hit in the head by a line-drive by Carlos Gomez in the eighth inning of the Blue Jays’ 5-3 win Friday afternoon. Liriano was able to gather himself and walk off the field without any help, but an ambulance was outside the Blue Jays’ clubhouse after the game and a conscious Liriano was loaded into it on a stretcher with his neck mobilized, according to Sporsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi. The ball came off Gomez’s bat at 102 mph, connected with the side of Liriano’s head, and caromed into right-center field. The good news is that Liriano’s received the all-clear from doctors at a local hospital in Arlington to travel back to Toronto on the team flight.
Troy Tulowitzki’s two-run shot in the second inning was just the start of the Toronto Blue Jays’ home-run barrage as they beat the Texas Rangers 5-3 Friday afternoon at Globe Life Park to take a 2-0 series lead. Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Edwin Encarnacion also homered for the Blue Jays, all of the solo variety and all in the fifth inning, which was the final inning of the game for Rangers starter Yu Darvish. The Blue Jays left-hander gave up nine hits – all singles – and one run over five innings and struck out five.
The Toronto Blue Jays’ bats came alive in Arlington, chasing Texas Rangers starter Cole Hamels in the fourth inning, to win Game 1 of the ALDS 10-1. The offensive onslaught began in the third, as the Blue Jays put up five runs, three of them coming from a bases-clearing triple by Troy Tulowitzki. Hamels returned in the fourth and promptly allowed a leadoff home run to Melvin Upton Jr. that made it 6-0 and Josh Donaldson’s RBI single three batters later ended Hamels’ outing early. The Rangers’ bullpen came in and kept the Blue Jays quiet until the ninth, when Jose Bautista blasted a three-run homer off Jake Diekman.
The last time the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays met in a postseason game, we saw one of the wildest innings in baseball history unfold that was punctuated by Jose Bautista’s unforgettable home run and bat flip. What will they do for an encore? The Rangers and Blue Jays square off in the American League Division for a second straight year and there’s a feeling it won’t take long for the fireworks to start.
For years there was no question the Toronto Blue Jays belonged to Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Year after year there was a certain familiar tinge to it, too: Bautista and Encarnacion made All-Star teams and their real team missed the playoffs. Bautista and Encarnacion appeared to be headed down that path in Toronto.They were the two late-bloomers who had come to the Blue Jays and emerged as two of the game’s most feared hitters.
The Toronto Blue Jays are back in the postseason, but this time as one of the wild-card teams in the American League, after failing to repeat as American League East champions. The core of that squad that reached the ALCS last year is still kicking though, and they feel like they have some unfinished business to deal with. It all starts with the AL wild-card game Tuesday night at Rogers Centre against the Baltimore Orioles in a matchup that features two powerful offenses. A win there, and the Blue Jays can take advantage of their biggest strength this season, consistent starting pitching, in a series.
The powerful Baltimore Orioles’ first two runs came courtesy of a sacrifice fly and an RBI fielder’s choice. Not how you would expect the team that leads the major leagues in home runs to generate its offense, but as long as they scored more runs than the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night it was good enough. Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez – he of the 5.71 ERA on the season, but 3.17 ERA in the second half – shut out Toronto over 6 2/3 innings and Baltimore’s lights-out bullpen did the rest in a 4-0 win at Rogers Centre where the home team managed just one extra-base hit.
The Blue Jays, still in the playoff hunt, and Yankees, all but out of it, engaged in a beanball back-and-forth Monday night that saw three batters get hit and the benches clear twice. Yankees right-hander Luis Severino was summoned from the bullpen to make a spot start for injured ace Masahiro Tanaka and his first inning on the mound was, to put it lightly, effectively wild. He gave up one run but walked two and hit Josh Donaldson with a pitch. As the Blue Jays have felt Donaldson has been the unfair target of fastballs before what followed shouldn’t be too surprising, even if Severino was struggling with his command and didn’t intend to plunk the reigning AL MVP.
Bryce Harper left Sunday afternoon’s game between his Washington Nationals and the Pittsburgh Pirates with an apparent left hand injury. What led to Harper’s hurt hand also led to the benches clearing at PNC Park. Harper legged out a triple in the top of the third inning and when he neared third Jung Ho Kang appeared to fake a tag – the throw was off line so the ball wasn’t even near Kang – causing Harper to slide awkwardly and jam his left hand into the base. Harper stayed in the game initially after a quick visit from a trainer but was replaced in right field by Chris Heisey in the bottom of the inning.
Jose Fernandez brought the game of baseball to life every time he took the field. Fernandez, 24, was killed in a boating accident Sunday morning and in a life and career that ended far too early he produced a number of memorable moments that will not be forgotten. From the moment Fernandez arrived in the big leagues as a 20-year-old in 2013 with the Miami Marlins he showed he belonged.
Seattle Mariners catcher Steve Clevenger has been suspended without pay for the remainder of the season after sending out two controversial tweets Thursday referencing the Charlotte protests, the Black Lives Matter movement, athletes kneeling during the national anthem and President Obama. “As soon as we became aware of the tweets posted by Steve yesterday we began to examine all of our options in regard to his standing on the team,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said via a statement Friday.
Asdrubal Cabrera knew it was gone as soon as he connected. Twice in this game it appeared the Mets were headed to a fourth straight loss, not ideal at a time when they’re trying to hold onto a wild-card spot in the National League. New York went to the plate in the home half of the ninth down 6-4 and Jose Reyes sent the game to extra innings with a two-run homer.
David Ortiz’s highlight reel with the Boston Red Sox is full of clutch hits and monster home runs. After striking out during a game in 2013, Ortiz returned to the dugout and took out his anger on the phone box hanging on the wall, completely smashing it to pieces. Ortiz played his final game in Baltimore on Thursday night and the Orioles held a pregame ceremony to recognize him.
15-year-old Eric Pardinho lit up the radar gun in a WBC qualifier. Brazilian pitcher Eric Pardinho made sure at least some major-league teams paid attention to the World Baseball Classic qualifying games during the stretch run of the MLB season. The high heat came during a relief appearance in the sixth inning, going two-thirds of an inning and allowing one hit and one walk. Brazil is certainly not known as a baseball power – Yan Gomes of the Indians and Paulo Orlando of the Royals are the only active MLB players from there – but Pardinho’s potential speaks to the game’s growth in the country.