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Friday, August 22, 2014

{allcanada} JAYS KICK OFF NINE-GAME HOMESTAND WITH BLOWOUT LOSS TO RAYS

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TORONTO -- The Toronto Blue Jays wanted to kick off a critical nine-game homestand with a bang to give their fading playoff hopes a boost.

The Tampa Bay Rays ended up showing them how it's done.

Drew Smyly threw a two-hit shutout and Evan Longoria homered and drove in three runs as the Rays dumped the Blue Jays 8-0 on Friday night at Rogers Centre. Wil Myers also went deep as the Rays pounded out 14 hits in the opener of a three-game series.

It was the seventh loss in nine games for the Blue Jays (65-63), who entered play four games out of the final wild-card spot in the American League.

"When you're high, everything is going to go your way. When you're struggling, everything is going to go against you," said Toronto catcher Dioner Navarro. "A couple of plays here and there probably would have changed the outcome of the game.

"But they outplayed us today, they outpitched us, they outhustled us."

Longoria took Marcus Stroman's first pitch in the second inning over the wall to give Tampa Bay an early 1-0 lead. It was his 16th homer of the season.

Tampa Bay took advantage of some suspect defence in the fifth inning. Matt Joyce led off with a double on a ball that bounced off right-fielder Jose Bautista's glove as he tried to make a running catch at the warning track.

Longoria walked and James Loney followed with a grounder to short that should have been a double-play ball. But second baseman Steve Tolleson's throw to first bounced in the dirt, allowing Joyce to score.

The Rays drove Stroman (7-5) from the game in the sixth and burned reliever Aaron Loup in a four-run frame that put the game out of reach.

"I figured we'd come out there tonight with a little more energy," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "We didn't have it and we made some mistakes, we couldn't turn that big double play. We laid back on a couple balls, things like that.

"But Smyly was pretty good out there, I'll give him that."

It was the first shutout and first complete game of the southpaw's career. Smyly threw 75 of his 105 pitches for strikes, didn't walk a batter and had four strikeouts.

"It was good, I have been waiting for this game," he said. "I didn't know if I was ever going to get it because I usually have high pitch counts."

Stroman, meanwhile, allowed 10 hits, five earned runs, three walks and had six strikeouts.

"I was just up a little bit," Stroman said. "My sinker was pretty good, change-up wasn't bad. It was just a couple pitches that I left up, some curve balls that were up in the zone and they capitalized on it."

Smyly (8-10) allowed a single to Jose Reyes in the first inning and a single to Tolleson in the third before retiring the next 19 batters in order.

"That was, for my money, the best pitching performance I've seen from a Ray in this ballpark," said Tampa manager Joe Maddon. "Truly a really artistic performance tonight."

Myers tacked on an insurance run in the eighth inning with a solo shot off Todd Redmond.

Tampa Bay left 12 men on base while Toronto left just one.

Notes: Myers has six homers on the season. ... Toronto's Kyle Drabek worked the seventh. He has pitched three scoreless innings of relief since his recent callup from triple-A Buffalo. ... Announced attendance was 28,506 and the game took two hours 45 minutes to play. ... The Rays are the only team in the major leagues with a winning record on the road (34-29) and a losing record overall (63-65). ... The Blue Jays fell to 5-13 in August. ... Tolleson ended an 0-for-14 drought with his single. ... Left-hander Mark Buehrle (11-8) is scheduled to start for Toronto on Saturday afternoon. The Rays will counter with right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (1-2).

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{allcanada} GRIGSBY, BLUE BOMBERS HOLD OFF REELING ALOUETTES FOR HOME WIN

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WINNIPEG -- Drew Willy likes to shine in the fourth quarter.

And for the fourth time this season, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback guided his team to a late-game victory, the latest a 24-16 win over the Montreal Alouettes on Friday.

Nic Grigsby ran 26 yards for a touchdown with just over two minutes left to lift Winnipeg's record to 6-3, while Montreal (1-7) has now lost six straight games.

"I definitely enjoy playing in the fourth quarters," Willy said. "I just try to stay calm, cool and collected.

"I wish we would have played better in the first half."

Willy completed 14-of-23 pass attempts for 200 yards, no TDs and one interception as Winnipeg ended a two-game losing streak.

The teams didn't give the 29,881 fans at Investors Group Field much to cheer about in the first half, with Montreal taking a 6-1 lead into the break. But the second half was a see-saw battle with several lead changes.

Grigsby capped off a six-play, 74-yard drive for the Blue Bombers that was helped when the Alouettes were called for pass interference.

He finished with 10 carries for 73 yards, but was unavailable to reporters right after the game as he was selected for a random drug test.

Winnipeg defensive back Maurice Leggett intercepted Montreal quarterback Jonathan Crompton with 1:44 left in the game, a pick upheld despite a challenge for a pass-interference call.

Bombers kicker Lirim Hajrullahu then booted his third field goal of the game from 16 yards out to make it 24-16 at 14:07.

Leggett had another interception -- his third of the game -- that he took to the end zone with 36 seconds left, but it was wiped out by a Bombers penalty.

Alex Brink started at quarterback for Montreal, but Crompton replaced him in the second quarter.

Alouettes head coach Tom Higgins told reporters the day before the game that all three of his QBs would get some playing time. Tanner Marsh went in the game in his usual short-yardage situation.

"It's tough tonight," said Crompton, who was 18-of-29 for 266 yards, with no TDs and three interceptions. "No one in this locker-room really wants to lose this game. We didn't think we were going to lose this game.

"That's the good thing about this team, we always feel we can win every week. We've just got to come back and correct it and go from there."

Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea said there was no doubt on the sidelines that the team could come out ahead on the lead changes.

"They came out and they decided they wanted to get after it in the second half," O'Shea said of his players. "Special teams sparked it, they got it going."

The first touchdown of the game was scored early in the third quarter when Bombers defensive back Don Unamba blocked a Sean Whyte punt.

Winnipeg defensive back Derek Jones scooped the ball up at the one-yard line and ran in for the TD at 1:01 for the 8-6 lead.

After Montreal went two and out on the next series, Whyte's punt was returned 65 yards by Troy Stoudermire to Montreal's 14-yard line.

Willy then threw an incomplete pass and ran short on the following play, leaving Hajrullahu to attempt a 21-yard field goal. The ball hit the upright and Winnipeg retained its 8-6 lead with 11:05 left in the third quarter.

Montreal was denied on third down with two yards to go and turned the ball over with just over six minutes in the quarter, but the Bombers couldn't do anything with the gift.

It was all running back Tyrell Sutton in the Alouettes' first touchdown drive.

Crompton threw a pass to Sutton that he took down the sidelines for a 71-yard gain. He also ran for six yards and caught an 11-yard pass before he was hurt and went to the sidelines for a few series.

The Als took the spot Sutton got them to at Winnipeg's five-yard line and ended up scoring with quarterback Tanner Marsh's one-yard run at 13:28 for the 13-8 lead.

Hajrullahu then booted field goals from 22 and 24 yards to give Winnipeg the 14-13 lead with 9:12 to go in the game.

But Montreal regained the lead after an eight-play, 61-yard drive capped by Whyte's 21-yard field goal with 4:18 left.

Whyte made three field goals and one attempt hit the upright.

With 2:37 left and Winnipeg facing third down, Montreal was called for pass interference, leading to Grigsby's TD.

"You just have to show resilience as a team and make sure that you continue to chip away at the opposition and make sure that you're doing the simple things right," Winnipeg offensive lineman Glenn January said.

"I think that we shot ourselves in the foot several times with fumbles and dropped balls."

The Bombers will be tested in their next two games, back-to-back tilts against Saskatchewan in the Labour Day Classic and at home the next week in the Banjo Bowl. Montreal hosts Ottawa and then Hamilton in the East Division's tight race.

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{allcanada} Top prospects revel in opportunities at showcase

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TORONTO – Many of the NHL's top young prospects earned a fun break from a summer spent focusing primarily on preparation for NHL training camps when they attended the 2014 NHLPA Rookie Showcase. The two-day event, staged during one of the final weekends before training camps begin, hosted 33 NHL hopefuls and featured a healthy combination of work and play.

In its sixth iteration, the event allowed attendees the opportunity to participate in a series of functions, most of them organized by Upper Deck, the official trading card company of the NHL. On Friday, the majority of the time was spent signing merchandise and posing for photographs, as well as enjoying a preview of EA Sports NHL 15 video game.

"It's a pretty exciting experience this weekend," Arizona Coyotes prospect Max Domi said. "It's going to be cool to spend some time with the guys."

The group included Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, as well as Sam Reinhart of the Buffalo Sabres and Sam Bennett of the Calgary Flames, who were selected second and fourth, respectively. Other top prospects in attendance included Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals, Teuvo Teravainen of the Chicago Blackhawks and Anthony Mantha of the Detroit Red Wings.

During a busy Friday, the group also enjoyed a tour at the Hockey Hall of Fame, which was followed by dinner. The showcase is scheduled to conclude Saturday at Mattamy Athletic Centre, formerly the site of Maple Leaf Gardens, for individual photo shoots and a group scrimmage.

For many players, the opportunity to be photographed for their first NHL trading card was one of their first major milestones as an NHL player.

"I remember having quite a few cards growing up. Not sure where those went, but I had some fun with that," Reinhart said. "It's cool over the past couple of years to see some cards getting out there. But at the NHL level, it's a little bit cooler, so I'm looking forward to that."

The whirlwind weekend will surely provide plenty of memories for these young players, as well as an informal introduction to life in the NHL.

But for many, the highlight was the NHL 15 video game tournament, which saw the players' hand-eye coordination and competitiveness tested in a very different way. In the end, San Jose Sharks forward Chris Tierney defeated Ottawa Senators prospect Curtis Lazar in the final to win a PlayStation 4 video game console, as well as ultimate bragging rights.

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{allcanada} RAIDERS RB SHEETS INJURES ACHILLES, WILL MISS ENTIRE SEASON

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The 2014 NFL season is over before it began for tailback Kory Sheets.

The 2013 Grey Cup MVP sustained a suspected Achilles injury in the Oakland Raiders' 31-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Friday night and will miss the entire 2014 campaign. The former Saskatchewan Roughrider took to Twitter after the game to confirm that his season was over.

"A dream deferred...out for the year," tweeted Sheets.

Sheets, 29, was said to have been one of two finalists for the Raiders' kick return duties with Latavius Murray the other.

This marks the second NFL training camp to end in an Achilles injury for the man who set the record for most rushing yards in a Grey Cup last year with 197. He incurred an Achilles injury in 2010 whilst attempting to crack the roster of the Miami Dolphins.

After tweeting that his season was over, Sheets also tweeted thanks to Roughriders fans for their support.

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