Rough day: Cardinals sweep doubleheader from Blue Jays

After Fowler and Garcia hit back-to-back singles, Matt Carpenter plated a run with a groundout and Stephen Piscotty hit an RBI sacrifice fly. Subban, who had a goal and two assists in his team’s 4-3 win over the St. Louis scored three times in the first inning of the nightcap. Lynn won his last two starts, against the Pirates and Brewers, allowing just one run on six hits over 13 innings. Louis Blues in the opener of their second-round playoff series Wednesday night, sat near the Blue Jays’ dugout on his team’s off day.TRAINER’S ROOMBlue Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez (blister on right index finger) is expected to throw a side session on Friday and could start Sunday against Tampa Bay. Dexter Fowler, Greg Garcia and Matt Adams each had three hits as the St. Piscotty had an RBI fielder’s choice in the fourth to make it 6-0.Adam Wainwright (2-3) got the win in the nightcap while Matt Bowman (1-0) won the opener.Ryan Tepera (1-1) and Casey Lawrence (0-3) took the losses.In the opener, the Cardinals scored four times off Toronto’s bullpen in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to tie the score, capped by Randal Grichuk’s homer off Roberto Osuna.Yadier Molina led off with a double and Grichuk connected two outs later, giving Osuna his third blown save.Mat Latos, making his second start of the season for Toronto, scattered three hits over six shutout innings, striking out four and walking four.Carlos Martinez allowed three runs on five hits in six innings, with eight strikeouts and three walks.Russell Martin hit a solo homer in the second, his third of the year.IN THE CROWDNashville Predators defenceman P.K. Randal Grichuk followed with an infield single and scored on Matt Adams’ opposite-field double into the left field corner.Fowler added a solo home run, his third of the season, in the second inning. Matt Adams had an RBI single in the third. Stroman is coming off a complete-game win over the Angels where he allowed two runs on seven hits.Cardinals: RHP Lance Lynn (2-1, 2.70) opens a three-game series against the visiting Reds. If Sanchez starts Sunday, RHP Marco Estrada will pitch Monday.UP NEXTBlue Jays: RHP Marcus Stroman (2-3, 3.10) will face the visiting Tampa Bay Rays. Louis Cardinals beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-4 on Thursday night to sweep a day-night doubleheader.The Cardinals won the opener, 8-4, in 11 innings on Matt Carpenter’s grand slam.St.

‘I told myself not to cry’: South Africa’s Gift Ngoepe makes MLB history

He found himself facing veteran Cubs pitcher Jon Lester, a perennial all-star whose salary is $25-million this season. Last year he led the International League as the shortstop with the highest fielding percentage.When he reached first base with his first hit as a major-leaguer, his memories came flooding back as he tried to contain his tears. He lives with giraffes and lions. In 2015, he became the first African to be selected to a major-league 40-man roster. television broadcasters who mispronounced Ngoepe’s name. It was a top story on radio and television broadcasts and on social media. Come on. Yet baseball has slowly made inroads in Africa in recent years, sometimes sponsored by U.S. Despite the obstacles of poverty and equipment shortages, baseball has become the East African country’s fastest-growing sport.Uganda was the first African country to send a team to the Little League World Series in 2012, and its team was so dominant at the latest Europe-Africa regional finals that it swept its five games by a combined score of 67-2. “I was holding it back,” he said. South Africa is sports-crazy, but dominated by soccer, rugby and cricket. “I told myself not to cry.”The 27-year-old middle infielder, regarded as a slick fielder but light hitter, made his first plate appearance later in the same inning. He ended up with a single and a walk in three plate appearances.Ngoepe’s teammates on the Pirates were thrilled. His family moved to Johannesburg and his mother got a job as a cook and cleaner for the Randburg Mets, a local baseball club. church groups and American philanthropists.Major-league baseball now holds an annual training camp in South Africa for elite groups of teenaged players from across the continent. “I thought about where I’ve come from, what I’ve been through, all the struggles of the minor leagues for almost nine years,” he told reporters later. (His younger brother, Victor, has also been signed by the Pirates organization.)Growing up in a country with little tradition of baseball, Ngoepe had to overcome obstacles that others don’t face: a late start in the game, a shortage of good teams to compete against, and a lack of top-calibre coaching. But there could be more African names on major-league rosters in the future. Ngoepe’s breakthrough was big news in his homeland on Thursday, dominating the airwaves and sparking a buzz on social media. Garth Iorg, a former Toronto Blue Jay player, was impressed by the African prospects when he coached them at the training camp in December.“You will not find better people in the world than these kids,” Iorg told The Globe and Mail. Born in the final years of apartheid, the son of a Johannesburg domestic worker, he had toiled in the minor leagues for nearly nine years after first learning the sport in a country where baseball is an obscure and largely foreign game. Players from eight African countries were invited to the latest training camp near Johannesburg last December. On a 3-1 count, Lester threw him a cutter at 89 miles an hour, and Ngoepe slapped a sharp grounder into centre field.In the dugout, his teammates shouted “For the motherland!” They retrieved the ball as a souvenir for him, while first-base coach Kimera Bartee hugged him. “He’s from Africa. Let’s go!”Baseball is still a novelty in most of the African continent, where soccer remains by far the most popular sport. But it meant even more for Ngoepe. “The clubhouse was my house and the field was my backyard,” he told a South African radio network.At the age of 17, he was invited to a major-league training camp in Italy, where a Pittsburgh scout noticed him, and he was soon signed. “Guys get called up all the time, and it’s special, but this is just different,” shortstop Jordy Mercer told a Pittsburgh newspaper. “And finally to be here and get a base hit.”In South Africa, news of his breakthrough game caused a sensation on Thursday. Major-league scouts often attend the camp to hunt for potential major-league prospects.Uganda is the African country where baseball has enjoyed the greatest popularity in recent years. In exchange, she was given a room in the team’s clubhouse, and Ngoepe grew up with baseball all around him.From the age of 12, he spent all his spare time on the diamond. “They are fun, they are eager.” He has told interviewers that he sometimes wanted to abandon the game when the frustrations in the minor leagues seemed too daunting.But he persevered. It came as a rare glimmer of good news in a country struggling with economic and political crises: a South African has crossed a historic barrier by becoming the first African to reach baseball’s major leagues.Gift Ngoepe’s landmark debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates was a boost for baseball’s global ambitions, adding another potential market to its checklist for world expansion. South Africans, needing a reprieve from a stagnating economy and endless corruption scandals, were ecstatic that one of their citizens had made history in the United States.They laughed at the U.S. In each of the past five seasons, he was rated as the best defensive infielder in the Pirates system. South Africa, meanwhile, succeeded in qualifying for the 18-and-under world cup of baseball in 2015.Ngoepe’s journey to the major leagues began when he was born in Polokwane, in Limpopo province, not far from the Zimbabwean border. Video clips of his historic first hit – a single up the middle against the Chicago Cubs – swiftly went viral here, shared by everyone from cabinet ministers to ordinary citizens, as the country celebrated.To add to the drama, Ngoepe’s debut came in the early hours of a national holiday known as Freedom Day – the anniversary of South Africa’s first free election, when Nelson Mandela was elected president after the end of apartheid.“It’s a dream come true for me, because it’s been my dream since I was a 10-year-old boy, but it also means so much to the people of South Africa and baseball in Africa,” he told reporters before the game, just hours after being promoted from Pittsburgh’s minor-league affiliate in Indianapolis.He later admitted he was on the verge of tears when he entered the game in the fourth inning as a substitute second baseman. Even basketball is more popular than baseball here.

The Ducks’ goalie coach may not be ‘conventional,’ but he is sensational

Maharaj found he had both a liking and an aptitude for the position, and because there were no formal goalie coaches back then, he was mostly self-taught.“My oldest brother was a massive Bernie Parent fan, so we’d watch Philadelphia Flyer games on TV and he’d say to me, ‘This is how you’re going to play,’” Maharaj said. He started working with Maharaj when he was the Ducks’ minor-league goaltending consultant, but Maharaj has earned his trust and forged a strong working relationship with the 23-year-old. “So [the student] would hide in the closet and fall asleep there. Maharaj spent nine years working in various capacities for the Islanders – and in between, also helped Hockey Canada launch its summer goaltending instructional camps. But I also knew it would be a long road for him. There really wasn’t much of a problem until you moved up the levels – and then you heard some things.”These days, Maharaj, 53, goes by the nickname Sudsie, which is the universal way of the hockey world. “Within the dressing room, the kids were all from the neighbourhood so we all knew each other. After Maharaj asked around the neighbourhood, he discovered her mother was a prostitute who would bring johns home. I thought, ‘There’s something just not right here,’” he said. The Ducks lost Game 1 on Wednesday night, 5-3. And Bernier’s game needed some rebuilding after two challenging seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs.Bernier’s history with Maharaj dates to his junior days, so when he landed in Anaheim last summer, the 28-year-old was happy to see a familiar face who could help him get his career back on track.Breaking down barriers and communicating with people is one of Maharaj’s strengths, according to Weekes, who first crossed paths with him two decades ago, when he was still on the cusp of his professional playing career.“We’re both from the Caribbean – he’s from Trinidad, my parents are from the Barbados – so culturally, there was an immediate understanding and hockey-wise, there was even a greater understanding,” Weekes said.“I knew right from then he was an NHL goalie coach and that he was better, at that point, than anybody else I’ve ever worked with. So when Kevin Weekes, the former NHLer who was one of Maharaj’s first goaltending pupils, calls on the phone, his first question is: “How’s my man Sudsie doing?”Doing pretty well, as it happens. So that moment really helped me put into perspective that people do what they do for a reason.“With goaltenders, once you understand how they see themselves and see their worlds, it will tell you their trigger points – and how you can address their issues. “I also bought an old Jacques Plante book – he’d put out a goalie manual – and it was dog-eared by the time I was finished with it.”Maharaj learned the craft well enough to play briefly for the University of Wisconsin before transferring to York, where he won a national title as the Yeomen’s backup goalie in 1985. 1 overall draft choice, recommended him to the club. Just as in the sitcom Cheers, where everyone knows your name, in hockey, everyone knows your nickname. “No one could say Sudarshan.”If it happens that the Ducks win the Stanley Cup this year, not only may people learn to finally say Sudarshan, someone will also be obliged to spell it out on a shiny silver trophy, what would be a fitting climax to a long and varied hockey journey. “Back in the old days, we wore the full face masks, so until I popped the mask off, there was no marginalization,” said Maharaj, the Anaheim Ducks goaltending coach and someone who is generally recognized as among the best in his field. His first NHL coaching opportunity came with the New York Islanders, after Rick DiPietro, a former No. When his Islanders contract was not renewed in 2012, he found a home in the Ducks organization. “They did all the assessments and found no major learning disabilities. The Leafs’ Frederik Andersen was among his protégés there.Maharaj learned to speak Swedish during his playing days overseas and it comes in handy in Anaheim now, where the Ducks have Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell among their emerging young stars.Rakell speaks in Swedish with Maharaj all the time and says: “I just think it’s impressive – how many different languages he can speak. I know Swedish is so much different from any other language, so it’s pretty cool how well he picked it up.”As for how he came to be known by his nickname, Maharaj says he’s been Sudsie forever – and its evolution is a predictable tale.“The first three letters of my name are S-U-D, so it became Suds and because this was hockey, the mandatory I-E was added,” he says, with a laugh. He fell in love with the game playing street hockey in Toronto’s west end. There have been moments in Sudarshan Maharaj’s hockey career when he’s had to deal with racial intolerance – including a time when he was playing in Sweden and had a Molotov cocktail thrown at his car.The fiery message had nothing to do with his ability and everything to do with the colour of his skin. In Anaheim, he works with the duo of John Gibson and Jonathan Bernier, who together represent the key to the Ducks’ Stanley Cup aspirations. Typically of any hockey-playing family, his older siblings put him in goal because that’s where kid brothers are asked to play. Just getting the trust of people took time because his background was so out there.”Even in the NHL, with its melting pot of nationalities, Maharaj’s backstory is unusual. From there, he went to Sweden and played six years professionally before returning to Toronto to teach.Many of the principles Maharaj learned as an educator also helped him become a better goalie coach. Gibson had six games of NHL playoff experience under his belt at the start of the Ducks’ first-round series against the Calgary Flames; Bernier just one.Now, the Ducks goalies are in a tough spot, facing Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s been an issue Maharaj – Trinidad-born, Toronto-raised and of Indian descent – has had to face, but not one he dwells on, preferring to focus on his work in an industry that is increasingly valuing his contributions. The youngest of three boys, his family immigrated to Canada when he was 6. Maharaj is in his first full season as the Ducks’ goaltending coach, having replaced Dwayne Roloson this past summer. The thought of doing mass-market goalie drills and expecting them to respond really makes no sense.”Maharaj’s work with Weekes, Steve Valiquette and others put him on the radar as a consultant and eventually he started hearing from other prospective NHLers. Game 2 is Friday night in Anaheim.Gibson, guarded and wary, can be a tough nut to crack. Well, there was no light in there, and so, no homework would get done. Coaching them is very much an individual thing. You’ve got an Indian from Trinidad – it’s not exactly conventional. The greatest lesson he ever learned as a teacher came when he was working with at-risk youths in Toronto.“There was one young girl in Grade 5 who would come to school every day without her homework done,” Maharaj said.

Raptors hold on to beat Bucks in Game 6, advance to next round

We didn’t expect to be down and fighting back in the last couple of minutes, but we stayed calm and executed.”The Raptors had been 1-5 in Game 6’s. It was easy to recall Game 6 losses to Indiana and Miami last year – series the Raps had to salvage in Game 7. For a third straight game, the Raptors started Norman Powell instead of Jonas Valanciunas.The Lithuanian centre, however, came off the bench two minutes into the game when Serge Ibaka got into foul trouble. There were marvelous athletic feats from Antetokoumpo and timely jumpers from Khris Middleton and Matthew Dellavadova. “But at the end of the day, we fought and I think we got the Raptors’ attention and the NBA’s attention.”The Cavaliers await Toronto, after finishing their sweep of the Indiana Pacers on Sunday. “Possessions where Pat scored, Cory scored, that was big for us, and that was the time of the game where we really buckled down and understood: it’s winning time.” The Greek Freak had 34 for Milwaukee while Middleton had 19 and Dellavadova 12.“I’m going to be honest with you – we thought we were the better team, thought were able to beat the Raptors and make it to the second round,” said Antetokounmpo. He instantly provided rebounding help, but still Toronto was clogging the paint and held the Bucks to 14 second-quarter points.DeRozan had amassed 16 points by halftime. It seemed feasible that a Bucks team lead by the unstoppable Giannis Antetokounmpo could push the series back to Toronto.The fan base in Milwaukee had its attention very much divided Thursday night, between the Bucks and what their beloved Green Bay Packers would do in the ongoing NFL Draft. They were about to have plenty of reason to get loud.The crowd went nuts for the Bucks’ opening 8-2 run – all buckets courtesy of the Greek Freak, and relished the sight of Toronto coach Dwane Casey calling frantically for an early timeout.All the talk early in this series was about the challenge of dealing with Milwaukee’s length. He made his mark – scoring in the paint, drawing fouls, patrolling the boards and generally aggravating Greg Monroe.DeRozan was playing through traps and double teams – scoring 10 first-quarter points, helping Toronto to a 28-24 lead by the end of the first.The Bucks tried throwing 6-foot-11 centre John Henson at Toronto – a guy who had played a total of eight minutes in the series to that point. The Toronto Raptors utterly collapsed. But there had also been the 2014 NBA playoffs, when Toronto held a 3-2 series lead over Jason Kidd’s Brooklyn Nets, only for Kidd’s team to take Games 6 and 7. Lowry was Toronto’s second-highest scorer, with 13 points.“Once it got to the last couple minutes of the game, we understood now we’ve got to execute on both ends – just get one stop, rebound the ball, go down offensively, be calm, be patient, not force anything and get a basket,” said DeRozan. The always-acrobatic Antetokounmpo was getting little scoring support from his Milwaukee teammates, accounting for 18 of his team’s 38 points as Toronto took a 51-38 lead into the locker room.That lead swelled to 25 points in the third, but then Milwaukee made it very tense for Toronto in a last gasp. Still, chants of ‘MIL-WAU-KEE’ opened the night. The Raptors – especially Lowry with his ailing back – are grateful to have a few days to prepare. That series will begin Monday in Cleveland. Raptors coach says winning in Cleveland key to beating Cavs (The Canadian Press)

“We stayed calm,” said DeMar DeRozan, who led Toronto with 32 points. Yet, the Raptors saved the series by going small – swapping a big man out of the starting lineup for a winger. The Bucks hacked furiously at the lead, largely by turning the Raps over, then capitalizing. With every bucket, the raucous, towel-waving crowd grew louder.Suddenly a Toronto team that was shooting 50 per cent earlier couldn’t make a thing. To poke fun at the Raps’ frequent references about ‘repping the 6ix’, the Milwaukee fans circulated a giant flag with their area code – 414. We knew they would make it hard and we just had to sustain. It was 39-year-old Jason Terry who hit the dagger with 3 minutes left – a three-pointer that finally put the furiously-charging Bucks into the lead.Toronto wrestled the lead back in the nail-biting final minutes on buckets from Patrick Patterson, Cory Joseph and DeRozan. That sets up a second-round series with LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference final. Yet they gathered themselves in the nick of time and managed to survive.Despite letting a 25-point lead completely disappear, the shaky Raptors escaped Milwaukee with a harrowing 92-89 win over the never-say-die Bucks to win the first-round series 4-2. “They fought extremely hard.

Karlsson scores late to lift Senators over Rangers in Game 1

It was the ideal weather forecast for the opening of the Eastern Conference semi-final.Dense fog to start the day, slow clearing building eventually to the hottest day, so far, of Ottawa’s spring 2017.The Ottawa Senators won an extremely tight 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers in a game that didn’t catch much fire until the end of the second period. And, as Ottawa head coach Guy Boucher seemed so keen to have it, Ottawa the “underdog” against the potentially overwhelming Rangers.Boucher called it a “soap opera,” but there was one storyline that could not be disputed: the reluctance of Ottawa fans to warm to this team that now, along with the Edmonton Oilers, represents but one of two Canadian teams in the postseason.In Edmonton, you can’t find a ticket. The puck came to him in what seemed an impossible spot to score from near the icing line and a quick wrist shot somehow squeezed through what seemed a throng of bodies.Story lines intact: Karlsson versus Lundqvist. Lukewarm most of the season to Boucher’s dictatorial, dull style, fans seemed not to believe the playoffs were a possibility and certainly not extra rounds.At the moment, the Senators’ playoff motto – “All in, Tous ensemble” – sounds like a plea for ticket buyers. They outshot the Rangers 21-12 (43-35 by night’s end) and had multiple scoring opportunities. Finally, with barely two minutes left in the period, Ottawa was given a power play courtesy of a holding penalty to Rangers defenceman Brady Skjei.With the Senators pressing in the New York end, centre Kyle Turris got away a hard wrist shot from the left circle that Lundqvist deflected with his left shoulder. The puck popped into the air and landed directly in front of hard-luck Ottawa forward Ryan Dzingel who, this time, couldn’t possibly miss.The game was tied 1-1, the crowd, for the first time since the Canadian anthem, alive and screaming. The local Ottawa Metro publication found a ticket online for the Oilers first game at $275 (U.S.), whereas tickets could be had online for the Senators opener at $57.50, with the price dropping through the day.Ottawa is a curious entity, a bureaucratic town cautious to embrace. Whether this opening night victory changes that may be shown by the turnout for Saturday afternoon’s Game 2.Attendance this night was only 16,744, nearly 2,500 below capacity.“We’re going to have to have our best game,” Round 1 overtime hero Clarke MacArthur vowed.And for the opening period, certainly, it seemed as if the Senators had brought that game to the Canadian Tire Centre. Two centres traded for each other last summer, the Rangers Mika Zibanejad against Ottawa’s Derick Brassard. “We almost enjoy that.”“I love proving people wrong.” A lobbed point shot by defenceman McDonagh sailed into the net through a screen, Anderson never getting a fair look at the puck.Lundqvist continued his stellar play into the second, making a critical right pad save on Stalberg coming in untouched.Again, the game settled back into trapping, the crowd silently growing impatient with the Senators. And the “underdogs” were, at least for the moment, top dog in this best-of-seven series.“People are writing us off,” Ottawa defenceman Marc Methot said. In Ottawa’s first power-play, Lundqvist was simply brilliant, turning away point-blank opportunities by Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone.Ottawa’s Craig Anderson, handling the net at the other end of the ice, was little tested, but did stop a clear breakaway by Ryan McDonagh late in the period and, earlier, had his goalpost turn away a good shot by New York’s Michael Grabner.The Rangers’ Rick Nash had predicted the style of play Ottawa would resort to – “trap it up in the neutral zone” – and, indeed, the game slowed to a crawl in the second period. It is often as if they feel that teams, like governments, fall. It took a New York power play, on a tripping penalty given to Ottawa defenceman Cody Ceci. Time lent itself to a seemingly endless string of potential story lines, some of them just a tad foggy themselves: the best skater Sweden has, Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson, against Sweden’s best goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist. But once it did …

Both teams had been on an extended break since their Round 1 victories, the Rangers over the Montreal Canadiens and the Senators over the Bruins. Dzingel was sent in alone and fired hard shot that Lundqvist merely reached out and plucked out of the air as if it were a floating feather.Not to be out done, Anderson soon followed up with similar glove dramatics when Rangers defenceman Brendan Smith moved in from the point and found himself alone with the puck in front of the Ottawa net.It seemed only a near-impossible goal would settle matters and, no surprise, this was supplied with only four minutes left in the game by Karlsson.The slick Ottawa captain slipped down the boards while the Rangers were trapped with sloppy play in their own end. The temperature inside and outside was challenging a new high for the year.Lundqvist’s brilliant play in net continued into the third, with a fired-up Senators team abandoning its trapping and instead attacking.

Crosby scores twice, Bonino has winner as Penguins beat Capitals

He beat Braden Holtby with his first two shots of the second period.Holtby stopped 18 shots, but he allowed Bonino’s goal at 12:36.Game 2 is Saturday night.The Capitals had waited since their Game 6 overtime loss to the Penguins a year ago for another shot at them, and coach Barry Trotz was among many who said it felt right for these teams to meet again. Evgeny Kuznetsov tied it in the third, but Marc-André Fleury made 15 of his 32 saves in the final period to help the Stanley Cup defending champions to the victory. Sidney Crosby scored two goals in 52 seconds, Nick Bonino had the winner in the third period and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 in Game 1 of their second-round playoff series on Thursday night.Crosby versus Alex Ovechkin got much of the buzz heading into the showdown of two of NHL’s best teams, and Ovechkin collected his fourth goal of the playoffs. The NHL’s divisional playoff format put the top two teams in the regular season on this crash course to meet in the second round for one of the most anticipated series since, well, last year.A red-rocking Verizon Center was electric through a goal-less first period, and the sellout crowd got a chance to boo quickly in the second period. Within the first 64 seconds of the second period, Crosby had as many goals as he had points in the Penguins’ series against the Capitals last year.Two days after saying he enjoys the battle against Crosby, Ovechkin answered in vintage fashion 18:17 into the second, firing a snap shot short side on Fleury. When Washington defenceman Matt Niskanen lost the puck battle with Patric Hornqvist in the neutral zone, Crosby finished on a 2-on-1 with Jake Guentzel 12 seconds in.As public-address announcer Wes Johnson was just finishing announcing that goal, Holtby allowed a juicy rebound off Olli Maatta’s point shot that Hornqvist corralled and fed to Crosby for his second of the night. Bonino untied it with 7:24 left, taking a pass along the boards from Wilson and beating Holtby.Fleury made a flurry of five saves with three minutes left to preserve the victory. It was Ovechkin’s 11th goal in 14 career playoff games against Pittsburgh.Then Kuznetsov scored his first, finishing a powerful shift by hitting the empty net at 8:05 of the third period off a tape-to-tape pass from Niskanen. Crosby was a threat to score just about every time he touched the puck.