The Yankees blasted seven home runs, including two from DJ LeMahieu and three from Kyle Higashioka, as the team would go on to beat the Blue Jays 13-2. >> Box score
Six takeaways from Wednesday’s game
1. Gerrit Cole got off to a hot start by not allowing any hits, striking out five Blue Jays and walking just one over 5.0 innings.
A leadoff double down the right field line by Jonathan Villar on a first pitch changeup broke up the no hitter in the top of the sixth inning. After a Danny Jansen line out allowed Villar to tag up to third base, Cavan Biggio drew a walk from Cole. Villar then scored after a wild pitch to make it a 7-1 game.
Cole finished the game after 7.0 innings and 95 pitches, allowing just three hits and one run while striking out eight. He improves to 6-3 on the season.
2. 2B DJ LeMahieu got the Yankees out to a 1-0 lead right away, hitting his fifth leadoff home run on the season (most in MLB) and his eighth homer overall.
LeMahieu launched his second home run of the game, a two-run shot in the fourth inning to give the Yanks a 6-0 lead.
3. SS Tyler Wade singled to start the bottom of the third inning, and then scored after C Kyle Higashioka hit his second home run of the season to extend the Yanks lead to 3-0.
Higashioka would go on to hit his second home run of the game in the bottom of the sixth inning, making it a 8-1 game.
The Yankees continued to pour it on in the sixth inning, after 1B Luke Voit hit a three run homer that scored LeMahieu and CF Aaron Hicks to make it 11-1.
4. LF Clint Frazier hit his seventh homer of the year in the fourth, giving the Yankees a 4-0 lead. Frazier finished the night 2-for-3 from the plate with two walks.
5. It’s rare there are still “firsts” in Yankees team history, but tonight marked the first time that the Yankees have hit six home runs in back-to-back games.
6. Higashioka had arguably the best game of his career, hitting his third home run of the night — and the team’s seventh overall — in the seventh inning to make it a 13-1 game.
The Yankees and Blue Jays continue their series on Thursday night at 7:05 pm at Yankee Stadium. Masahiro Tanaka takes the mound for the Yanks, while Chase Anderson will start for Toronto.
Wawrinka routs Murray in Slam champ matchup at French Open
PARIS (AP) — That Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka were back together on Court Philippe Chatrier, all these years and operations later, was something of an accomplishment — not to mention a rare first-round matchup between past Grand Slam champions.
Only one, Wawrinka, played like it.
Having no trouble smacking his one-handed backhand and other strokes through the thick air as the fall-time French Open got going Sunday, the barrel-chested Wawrinka needed just 97 minutes to overwhelm Murray 6-1, 6-3, 6-2.
The six games collected by Murray equaled the fewest he has managed in any of his 237 career Grand Slam matches; that also happened in a loss at Roland Garros in 2014 against 12-time champion Rafael Nadal.
“I’ll need to have a long, hard think,” said Murray, ranked 111th as he works his way back from two hip surgeries, “and try and understand what happened.”
One big problem: He didn’t serve well, putting only 36% of his first serves in play.
Another: He didn’t return particularly well either and won only 25% of points in Wawrinka’s service games.
Murray said those things weren’t related to his artificial hip.
“It’s going to be difficult for me to play the same level as I did before. I mean, I’m 33 now and I was ranked No. 1 in the world, so it’s difficult with all the issues that I have had,” Murray said. “But, yeah, I’ll keep going. Let’s see what the next few months holds, and I reckon I won’t play a match like that between now and the end of the year.”
This was the first time two men with Grand Slam titles — Murray and Wawrinka each own three such trophies — played each other in the first round at Roland Garros since Yevgeny Kafelnikov against Michael Chang in 1999, and at any major tournament since Novak Djokovic faced Juan Carlos Ferrero at Wimbledon in 2012.
Murray and Wawrinka met in the 2017 semifinals in Paris and neither has been quite the same since.
“Many things happened to him,” said the 35-year-old Wawrinka, who is seeded 16th. “To me, also.”
But 2015 French Open champion Wawrinka’s road back from two procedures on his knee has been less arduous than Murray’s journey.
And Wawrinka’s path in Paris continues for at least another match.
VENUS DONE FOR 2020
Venus Williams finished 2020 with an 0-3 record in Grand Slam matches, adding a first-round exit at the French Open to those she had at the Australian Open and U.S. Open.
After her 6-4, 6-4 loss to Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in front of a handful of spectators at Court Simone Mathieu, the 40-year-old Williams said that, no, she would not play again this season — but that, yes, she “definitely” will be back on tour in 2021.
“It’s really just about going back and reevaluating and moving on as quick as possible,” Williams said. “It’s been a very long year of quarantine. Now I’ll get to rest. So I’m looking forward to that.”
She is a seven-time major champion and was the 2002 runner-up at the French Open to her younger sister, Serena. But after a resurgent 2017 — reaching two finals at Grand Slam tournaments and making it to the semifinals at another — the older Williams has not enjoyed much success at her sport’s four most important events.
Dating to the start of 2018, she now has failed to get past the first round in seven of the past 11 Slams.
Schmiedlova plays U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarena in the second round.
And what’s next for Williams?
“I’m going home from here. I’m done,” she said. “If there is somewhere to play, I won’t be there.”
ALL IN THE FAMILY
For Sebastian Korda, sports success is all in the family.
The 20-year-old American’s father, Petr, won the 1998 Australian Open and was the runner-up at the 1992 French Open; his mother, Regina, reached the top 30 in the WTA rankings.
And his older sisters, 27-year-old Jessica and 22-year-old Nelly, both play professional golf and have won LPGA Tour titles.
He said he tries his hand at golf, and they occasionally pick up a tennis racket.
“I mean, my only claim to fame is the only (golf) tournament I ever played, I won, and I beat my sisters, when I was like 11 years old,” Korda said Sunday, “so, yeah, they will never live that one down.”
Korda is making a name for himself now, earning his first main-draw match win at a Grand Slam tournament by beating Andreas Seppi of Italy 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 after qualifying for the French Open.
“My dad is a really big help. He oversees everything. He doesn’t really travel with me that much, but we’re always in contact and whenever I’m home, we’re always on the court together,” said the Florida-based Korda, who won the 2018 Australian Open junior title. “I don’t think I would be anywhere near where I am right now without him.”
Korda tweaked his back during the first-round victory but said he thinks he’ll be fine for what’s next: an all-American matchup against John Isner.
Playing his first clay-court match anywhere in 2½ years, the 21st-seeded Isner advanced with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 win over Elliot Benchetrit.
“He’s a great hope for American tennis. I’m very happy to be playing him next round, because in five years’ time, I won’t be playing, and he’ll be right in the prime of his career,” the 35-year-old Isner said about Korda. “To be able to say we squared off against each other, I think, is pretty cool. Him and I get along very well.”
AP Sports Writer Pugmire reported from Paris; AP Tennis Writer Fendrich reported from Washington.
More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
At long last, Lakers’ Frank Vogel set to see the NBA Finals
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel was smiling when he was asked what it felt like to finally reach the NBA Finals for the first time, after getting into the league in 2001.
”I actually came in in ’98,” Vogel said, offering a polite correction.
Either way, the point was clear: This opportunity was a long time coming.
Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, Paul Westhead, Bill Sharman and John Kundla all won championships in their first seasons as Lakers coach, and now Vogel has the chance to join that group. The 47-year-old New Jersey native will see the finals stage for the first time this week when the Lakers face off against either the Miami Heat or the Boston Celtics.
”This career achievement is so far away from where I’m at mentally right now,” Vogel said Saturday night, talking while wearing the Lakers’ new Western Conference championship shirt and cap. ”I’m just trying to play my part. Give our guys a plan, make sure that everybody is playing together.”
He makes it sound simple.
Nothing was simple. Not this year.
The Lakers are 64-22 this season when adding up the regular season and the playoffs, on pace for the seventh-best record in franchise history. For an organization with 16 championships, that’s no small achievement.
Vogel’s season started with championship expectations, which are always accompanied by immense pressure. He had to navigate his team through a preseason made rocky by getting caught in the political squabble between China and the NBA – a mess that flared to a very ugly level when the Lakers were in China last October. And then came the devastation on Jan. 26, when Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash.
”He’s been great. He’s been unbelievable,” Lakers forward LeBron James said of Vogel. ”I mean, it’s been a crazy obstacle course for our franchise this whole year. … He’s been able to manage it the whole time. Bringing in guys, losing guys. He’s just always been the anchor, and our coaching staff has been right behind him. I can’t say anything more than that.”
The Lakers were sputtering in their early days in the bubble, with the offense the lowest-ranked out of the 22 teams at Disney.
Vogel never flinched. And the Lakers have gone 12-3 in the first three rounds of the playoffs. The sputter is long forgotten.
”He trusts us,” Lakers forward Anthony Davis said. ”And that’s the only thing you can ask for in a coach is to trust your players. But at the same time. we have to trust him.”
There’s so much irony that can be found surrounding Vogel’s first trip to the NBA Finals.
First, it comes on the outskirts of Orlando, where Vogel coached for two dismal seasons and took the fall when he was fired in April 2018 for the Magic having a roster that featured a bad combination of too little talent and too many injuries.
Next, it comes with James playing for him instead of against him, as he was when the Miami Heat ended Vogel’s seasons with the Indiana Pacers in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Those Heat and Pacers teams, quite simply, hated each other. Vogel wound up leaving the Pacers as their NBA-era leader in coaching wins, then had two bad seasons in Orlando, and the finals seemed a long way away.
”You always wonder,” Vogel said. ”I was always hopeful that I would get another opportunity. I remained confident in my belief in myself.”
That’s always been a Vogel trademark.
Vogel fell in love with the game as a kid, his first brush with fame coming as a 13-year-old when he appeared on ”Late Night with David Letterman” and spun a basketball on one end of a toothbrush while using the bristled end on his teeth.
”You’re going to knock every tooth out of your head doing this,” Letterman said.
The teeth were fine. The trick he learned at a basketball camp is still in his arsenal, too. Clearly, he’s added a few more skills along the way.
He eventually made his way to Kentucky and got noticed by then-Wildcats coach Rick Pitino. After Pitino jumped to the NBA (and Vogel got his degree from Kentucky in biology), he brought Vogel to the Celtics as a video coordinator.
A career began. And more than two decades later, a ring is four wins from Vogel’s finger.
”This run is about LeBron James and Anthony Davis and all the guys that bought into starring in their roles and about the Lakers family who is used to being in this position and used to being in the finals, used to winning championships,” Vogel said. ”It’s been a long time for them and it’s been a difficult number of years out of the playoffs. So it’s really just all about them.”
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Plucky Stars, leading Lightning confident going into Game 6
EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — After a very un-Dallas Stars-like first overtime period in which they sat back and let the Tampa Bay Lightning take it to them, players and coaches in the locker room had a very distinct message.
”We’ve got to play to win, let’s go at them, let’s get back on our toes and get skating again,” coach Rick Bowness said. ”We found our legs. We found our second wind.”
And it’s their second win of the Stanley Cup Final to force a Game 6 Monday night that these teams see very differently. The plucky Stars are embracing the underdog role missing several key players to injury and feel as if they’re playing with house money, while the deep, talented Lightning still feel like the favorites up 3-2 in the series and are confident based on recent experience they’ll be able to close the series out in their next opportunity.
Dallas was doubted against Calgary, Colorado and Vegas, and the injuries still make it an uphill climb to beat Tampa Bay two more times in a row. Shots are 175-136 in favor of the Lightning and goaltender Anton Khudobin has had to come up big in his team’s two wins this series, but being counted out is just how the Stars like it.
”Every person really this whole time we’ve been in the bubble seeming to choose the other team we’re playing – we relish that,” said center Tyler Seguin, who has five points in the past two games after a five-game drought. ”We believe in each other. We’ve got a confident group, and we don’t want to leave the bubble, so we’re having fun.”
That’s what made the first OT so troubling for the Stars, who put the Lightning on their heels to take Game 1. Suddenly, the same team that buzzed and attacked until Joe Pavelski tied it in the third period Saturday night was playing not to lose when one goal against would end the season.
The attacking mentality returned, leading to Corey Perry’s goal in double overtime, and the Stars get one more shot to prove they belong here. Of course, they’re taking an us-against-the world outside the bubble approach.
”We just battle,” said Perry, who along with Pavelski has three goals in two games. ”It doesn’t matter. We believe in that dressing room. We came here with 51 people, and all of those guys in that dressing room believe that we could go out and get this done. That’s all that really matters.”
All that matters to the Lightning is they’re still in control of the series. Only they can win the Cup on Monday night, and they believe playing the same way as Game 5 will be enough to finish this off and celebrate.
”That’s what playoffs are about,” forward Yanni Gourde said Sunday. ”You’re not going to win every elimination game. You just got to go out there and play our best, try to win that particular game and go from there.”
They’ll have to do it without injured captain Steven Stamkos, who’s out for the rest of the series. Coach Jon Cooper and Stamkos made that determination in a conversation Sunday morning, though it was growing obvious that his postseason would be limited to 2:37 of ice time and a memorable goal in Game 3 of the Final.
”He did everything he could to get back, and he did get back and unfortunately he couldn’t go any further,” Cooper said. ”Hopefully the next time you see him on the ice is during a trophy presentation.”
Cooper said multiple times his team has been ”pretty good at responding after losses.” Not just pretty good but perfect.
Led by goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy’s ability to bounce back like the Vezina Trophy finalist he is, Tampa Bay is 6-0 after a loss this postseason. Vasilevskiy has a 1.41 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in those games.
So, that’s a source of confidence along with the experience earned along the way in previous playoffs and even as recently as last round. The Lightning lost their first chance to wrap up the Eastern Conference final, to the New York Islanders in overtime of Game 5.
Facing a similar situation in the Cup Final, they’re prepared.
”We’ve been in this situation before,” top defenseman Victor Hedman said. ”We’re a resilient group. We know how to respond to adversity. We were up 3-1, now it’s 3-2, so you just got to go out and get the next one. That’s our focus.”
And the next one comes against an opponent seemingly on its last legs. Dipping now four deep into their players from their taxi squad of ”Black Aces” with forwads Joel Kiviranta, Nick Caamano and Justin Dowling and defenseman Joel Hanley feeds the Stars’ underdog mentality but depletes their depth.
”I give them a lot of credit because we’re missing a lot of key guys on our hockey club,” Bowness said. ”There’s no question about it.”
There’s no question Dallas is hurting.
With forwards Radek Faksa, Roope Hintz and Blake Comeau and defenseman Stephen Johns already out, veteran Andrej Sekera was injured blocking a shot early in Game 5 and missed a period and a half before returning. Jason Dickinson is hobbling through as best he can after blocking a shot with each foot in this series, and the Stars are trying to gut through it all and force Game 7.
”Every guy’s going through something this time of the year,” Seguin said. ”Everyone’s ready to get tapped in. That’s just how our identity’s been and how we’ve been all this bubble, so it’s been great.”
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
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