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|It isn’t very often that Alex Bregman whiffs on two straight fastballs Mark Giordano Jersey , so when he did so in the ninth inning on Wednesday it left Houston’s third baseman a bit upset. Fortunately for the Astros, he took out that aggression on the next pitch, connecting for a two-run homer that completed a big rally to lift Houston to a 7-6 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
It was Bregman’s third straight game with a homer and it capped a huge comeback for the Astros, who trailed 5-0 in the middle of the first inning after a terrible start by Dallas Keuchel.
The Astros trailed by one when Tony Kemp singled off Ryan Tepera (5-3) with no outs in the ninth and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Then with one out in the inning, Bregman sent a fastball to left field, where it bounced off the wall above the Crawford Boxes, to give Houston the victory.
”That was the first guy I’ve swung and missed two straight fastballs on this year I think besides (Luis) Severino,” Bregman said. ”So it kind of ticked me off.”
Manager A.J. Hinch wasn’t surprised that Bregman came through for his team.
”For him to be able to stay calm in the moment, we’ve seen this – Alex Bregman, game on the line, ice in his veins,” Hinch said.
Bregman also doubled twice on Wednesday after hitting a homer and doubling three times in a win on Tuesday night.
”I don’t know how many hits Bregman had this series but he had too many,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
Will Harris (3-3) allowed one hit in a scoreless ninth for the win.
Gibbons was frustrated that his team let this one get away.
”That’s probably my low point this year because you’ve got it right there,” he said. ”Those are the teams you want to beat. I think what magnifies that is anytime you get a 5-0 lead that’s what gets you.”
After the Blue Jays took a 5-0 lead in the first, Houston scored three in the bottom of the first to close the gap and got within one Evan Gattis‘ RBI double in the fifth. But Kevin Pillar singled and scored on an error in the sixth to make it 6-4.
Marwin Gonzalez snapped an 0 for 23 slump with a solo shot to the bullpen in right-center off Tyler Clippard with two outs in the eighth inning to cut the lead to one.
The Blue Jays jumped on Keuchel immediately a day after being shut out for the fifth time this season in a 7-0 loss. Randal Grichuk hit a leadoff double followed by a walk by Teoscar Hernandez. Yangervis Solarte made it 1-0 with an RBI double before Keuchel walked Steve Pearce.
Hernandez scored on a sacrifice fly by Kendrys Morales before Pillar made it 3-0 with a run-scoring single.
Another RBI single, this one on a grounder by Aledmys Diaz, pushed the lead to 4-0 before Luke Maile’s sacrifice fly made it 5-0.
Toronto starter Marco Estrada allowed seven hits and four runs – three earned – in five innings.
Keuchel, the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner who hadn’t allowed an earned run in his past two starts, gave up seven hits and six runs in 5 1/3 innings.
Evan Gattis doubled twice and drove in three runs to give him 30 RBIs this month, which is a franchise record for RBIs in June.
Keuchel settled down after his terrible first inning, allowing just one baserunner over the next four innings. But Pillar, who singled in the third inning, hit another single with one out in the sixth before a single by Diaz.
Keuchel walked Maile to load the bases and Toronto extended the lead to 6-4 when Devon Travis reached and Pillar scored on an error by Jose Altuve.
”Just a tremendous job of staying the course. Not getting too mad at himself. Not getting too frustrated and just putting up zeros to allow us to make it a game,” Hinch said.
Astros: SS Carlos Correa sat out for the second straight day with a sore back. Hinch said the problem isn’t serious but he wants to give him time to rest. … RHP Joe Smith (right elbow inflammation) threw a bullpen on Wednesday and will likely begin a rehabilitation assignment this weekend.
Gibbons managed his 1,500th game on Wednesday. He’s managed the second-most games in Blue Jays history behind the 1,764 games that Cito Gaston managed. He is 757-743 in his career, which leaves him in 11th place for wins among active managers.
Gibbons, who is in his second stint as Toronto’s manager, has been at the helm since 2013.
Blue Jays: Toronto is off on Thursday before opening a four-game series against the Tigers on Friday with Marcus Stroman (0-5, 6.80 ERA) on the mound. Stroman allowed six hits in five scoreless innings in his return from the disabled list in his previous start.
Astros: Lance McCullers (8-3, 3.82) will start for Houston in the first of four games at Tampa on Thursday night. McCullers allowed four hits and three runs while fanning nine in six innings in his previous outing.
Vince McMahon is resuscitating the XFL.
OK, let’s get the bad jokes out of the way: Are some teams going to be wearing masks and representing parts unknown? Will the hook-and-ladder play involve smashing someone with a real ladder?
The XFL was a ”colossal failure” the first time McMahon tried it – his words – and there’s every reason to believe XFL2 will meet a similar fate.
But a spring football league, done the right way, could work.
And, no, we’re not kidding around.
The United States Football League came up with the most feasible concept back in the 1980s, only to crumble after just three seasons because of out-of-control spending and a suicidal push by owners such as Donald Trump to compete directly against the NFL .
But the USFL might still be around today if it had stuck to its original concept, which was to serve as more of a complement to the NFL than a direct competitor.
The timing is ripe for another attempt.
While the economy is booming and football remains the nation’s most popular sport, the NFL is contending with shrinking TV ratings Youth Matthew Tkachuk Jersey , empty seats and a lingering debate over players kneeling during the national anthem to protest social injustice. For the first time in decades, there are actually some cracks in the league’s armor.
Clearly, those issues figured into McMahon’s planned re-launch of the XFL in 2020 .
”As far as this league is concerned, it will have nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with social issues,” he said. ”That’s what the fans want. When they tune in to a game, they don’t want to deal with political issues. They want to watch good football.”
Good football will likely be the fatal flaw in McMahon’s new venture, just as it was for the original XFL. While the risque cheerleaders and close ties to wrestling brought plenty of much-deserved ridicule, it was the amateurish quality of play that ultimately caused its downfall. As Bob Costas memorably observed, it was ”mediocre high school football” combined ”with a tawdry strip club.”
Since McMahon’s new XFL will follow the same single-entity plan – he’ll be the sole owner of the eight-team league – there’s unlikely to be nearly enough money to lure any recognizable names, unless Tim Tebow (yes, he came up during the announcement Thursday) decides to make a football comeback.
But an updated version of the USFL concept would have a real chance at succeeding during the spring and summer, football’s traditional offseason.
Here’s a few ideas:
– Start with 10 or 12 teams, split between major NFL cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles; those that have lost teams (San Diego, St. Louis and soon-to-be Oakland); and untapped markets with big league stadiums (San Antonio comes to mind).
– Restrict ownership to those who not only have deep pockets, but are totally committed to the concept (i.e., not simply trying to turn their investment into a merger with the NFL). Point out the relative bargain of owning a team in the new league compared to, say, the Carolina Panthers, whose selling price will surely exceed $2 billion. Maybe Mark Cuban would be interested in a Dallas franchise. Reach out to Oprah Winfrey about a Chicago team.
– Don’t get into a bidding war with the NFL over players. Focus heavily on scouting and development, which means pursuing lower-level pros who might thrive in a bigger role and college stars projected to go in the later rounds of the NFL draft. Always be on the lookout for someone like 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, the subject of wildly varying draft projections, who might have a better chance at playing time in a new league. And let’s not forget: Colin Kaepernick is still unemployed.
– Line up a traditional TV deal to provide financial stability, perhaps some combination of a major network and a newer, sports-themed cable outlet such as NBCSN or Fox Sports 1. But also be on the cutting edge of subscription services, mobile streaming and other innovative conduits that appeal to a younger audience.
In essence, follow the model laid out by the late David Dixon, the New Orleans businessman whose longtime push for an out-of-season league finally came to fruition with the launch of the USFL in 1983.
Looking back, that first season was a rousing success in many ways. The Denver Gold averaged more than 41,000 fans. Overall attendance was roughly in line with the hoped-for 25,000 per game. TV ratings on ABC and then-fledgling ESPN actually exceeded projections. The quality of play was solid.
But the seeds of the USFL’s downfall were already in motion. When the New Jersey Generals skirted the salary cap to lure Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker away from Georgia, it only led more teams to dole out big bucks in pursuit of stars. That, in turn, led to huge financial losses. Dixon wisely walked away after that inaugural season.
In the end, the USFL’s most enduring legacy was the $3 judgment it ”won” in an antitrust suit against the NFL, a ruling that finished off the league in 1986 before it carried out a Trump-backed move from spring to fall.
No one since has made a serious attempt at a spring football league.
A revived XFL certainly doesn’t qualify.
But someone out there should heed McMahon’s words.
”Football is America’s favorite sport,” he said. ”We’ve got seven months of no football on the gridiron and 70 million fans. Why not now? Now is the perfect opportunity.”
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