Female pitcher Claire Eccles joins Victoria men’s baseball team

Not wanting their daughter’s hopes to get too high, her mom explained that wasn’t possible.The tears soon followed.“I don’t think she was trying to crush my dreams,” said Eccles. “You have to wonder: ‘Is this just for their own publicity?’ “Brad said I’d get fair opportunities and it’s not just for show.”Norris-Jones got the idea of adding a female player in January, first reaching out to some contacts in the Canadian baseball community to see if there were any viable options. – for comparison, major-leaguers regularly throw in the 90s – but the knuckleball is more about minimizing spin than maximizing speed. “But her knuckleball definitely competes at this level.“That’s what we were very excited about.”Eccles’ fastball tops out at around 76 m.p.h. “I played around with it and it eventually turned into something I could use.”Norris-Jones saw four scouting reports on the five-foot-eight Eccles, with her unpredictable pitch that moves in and out of the strike zone the main reason he believes she can succeed.“If we strictly went on her velocity, I don’t think she could compete at this level,” he said. Female pitcher joining B.C. She’s pitched at the last two Women’s Baseball World Cups for Canada, as well as the 2015 Pan Am Games.Norris-Jones said Eccles will be treated like any other player on the HarbourCats, who averaged around 2,300 fans at home last season and play a 54-game schedule that begins May 30.“I send guys out there every game that get hit around,” said Norris-Jones. men’s baseball league (The Canadian Press)

A member of both the UBC Thunderbirds softball team and the Canadian women’s baseball team, that knuckleball is why Eccles will be wearing another hat this summer after the Victoria HarbourCats announced Tuesday that the 19-year-old from Surrey, B.C., has joined the club for the 2017 West Coast League season.Eccles will be the first female to compete in the 11-team circuit that’s home to mostly men’s university players from the United States and Canada, including some who have been drafted by major league clubs.She will also be the first Canadian woman to suit up at this level.“A hundred per cent Claire is good enough to play on our team,” HarbourCats general manager Brad Norris-Jones said in a recent interview prior to the official announcement. Eccles’ name kept popping up.They initially spoke on the phone before meeting for coffee.“She was game on,” said Norris-Jones, who plans to mostly use Eccles out of the bullpen. “It just started from there.”Eccles, who counts Ichiro Suzuki as her sporting idol, played on boys’ teams until Grade 8 when her parents made her switch to softball.But she then learned about the women’s provincial baseball program, which set her on a course to eventually earn a spot with the national squad at 16. “Is it going to be a challenge for Claire? she’s a member of the team.”Eccles’ goal growing up was to play in the major leagues. But the left-hander, who also throws a two-seam fastball and a curve, wanted to make sure she would be getting a real shot.Her mind immediately went to Mo’ne Davis, the first girl to win a Little League World Series game in 2014, as well as “Pitch,” the recently cancelled television drama where a woman makes the big leagues.“I was obviously a little skeptical,” Eccles said in an interview at UBC. “I could tell in her voice she wasn’t intimidated.”Like many knuckleballers, Eccles fell into the pitch almost by accident.“All the kids would try and throw a knuckleball,” she said. Absolutely.“We’re just going to get everyone involved and show that in 2017 this isn’t different, this isn’t weird. Claire Eccles steps in front of the mound for a couple easy tosses before signalling she’s ready to pitch.The catcher prepares for the delivery, neither really knowing where her knuckleball is headed.And that’s the point.“It’s dancing!” the catcher blurts out after snagging the ball that dipped sharply before returning it to Eccles. “She was just trying to be more realistic.”Playing for the HarbourCats wasn’t what she ended up setting her sights on, but now that the opportunity is here she plans on making the most of it on the field and as a role model.“I want to get it out there that girls can play baseball,” said Eccles, who is considering massage therapy as a career. The pitch is tricky for batters to read because of the ball’s erratic movement.Eccles’ journey from the Little League diamonds of Metro Vancouver to the West Coast League, which has clubs in B.C., Oregon and Washington, started when she was five.She first fell in love with the sport not on the field or in the backyard playing catch, but instead after receiving a baseball video game as a gift.“(My parents) put me in T-ball,” recalled Eccles, who patrols the outfield, not the mound, for UBC. “If that happens to Claire or she strikes out the side … “Hopefully this paves the way for other girls in the future.” It’s normal.”Eccles, who has a baseball subtly tattooed behind her right ear, was intrigued when Norris-Jones first reached out. She flashes a quick smile and heads back to the rubber.

Man City holds final English Champions League spot with one weekend to go

With Liverpool at home to already-relegated Middlesbrough, Arsenal can only beat Everton and hope for the best.If Arsenal misses out, it will be the first time the club has done so in a full season under manager Arsène Wenger. Liverpool is the other team in the hunt. Yaya Touré scored perhaps a farewell goal for the club, and the team virtually guaranteed a place in the Champions League.Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne scored first-half goals, before Touré strolled through West Brom’s defence to add the third and bring the home fans at Etihad Stadium to their feet. Each touch, tackle and foul was applauded and there were tributes, a video montage and a presentation after the game.Arsenal 2, Sunderland 0Alexis Sanchez kept Arsenal’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League alive after scoring twice in the final 18 minutes.Sanchez, who took his tally for the season to 28 in all competitions, was left unmarked to meet Mesut Ozil’s cross and he doubled the lead with a header after Olivier Giroud’s volley rebounded out.Arsenal could still end the season with silverware by beating Chelsea in the FA Cup final, but missing out on the Champions League would be a big blow to Wenger and his chances of both keeping Sanchez and recruiting big-name players.League Championship playoffsReading beat Fulham 1-0 to win 2-1 on aggregate and reach the League Championship playoff.Huddersfield or Sheffield Wednesday await in the final at Wembley Stadium on May 29. Wenger’s latest contract is up at the end of this season, and failing to reach the Champions League could yet sway his decision about whether to stay on.Here’s a closer look at Tuesday’s games:Man City 3, West Brom 1On an almost perfect night for City, popular defender Pablo Zabaleta got a rousing send-off in his last home match. Arsenal – for the first time in 20 years – is the favourite to miss out.Both teams won home games on Tuesday – City beat West Bromwich Albion 3-1 and Arsenal defeated Sunderland 2-0 – to leave them separated by three points heading into the final round of games. Touré, who has been at City since 2010, is waiting to discover if he will receive a new contract.It has already been confirmed that Zabaleta – one of City’s most popular players – will be leaving City after nine years, and he came on for the final half hour. AFP/Getty Images

Arsenal makes late-season push for top-four spot in Premier League

City has 75 points, Liverpool has 73 and Arsenal has 72.Crucially, City has a superior goal difference of three and has a benign-looking game, on paper, away to Watford. Victor Wanyama heads in Tottenham’s first goal Sunday on the way to Hotspur’s 2-1 win over Manchester United in the emotional last game played at Spurs’ 118-year-old White Hart Lane pitch. REUTERS

Kelly: As Premier League dynasties fall, so too do their kings

Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin vies with Stoke City’s Erik Pieters during the English Premier League football match between Stoke City and Arsenal at the Bet365 Stadium in Stoke-on-Trent, England, on May 13, 2017. With one weekend left in the English Premier League, the stage is set for a three-way race for the final two Champions League qualification spots.Manchester City should be guaranteed one.

Bouchard’s lawyers accuse USTA of destroying footage of fall at 2015 U.S. Open

Her attorney Benedict Morelli said the USTA erased the footage even after being told to preserve it and asked a federal court judge in Brooklyn to instruct the jury that the tape would have reflected badly on the USTA.“The USTA intentionally destroyed security camera footage in an effort to deprive plaintiff of evidence relevant to her claims in this case,” Bouchard’s attorneys said in a motion to the court.“This egregious infraction is the culmination of a pattern and practice by defendants throughout the discovery process during which they have consistently played fast and loose with retaining and divulging critical information,” he said.A lawyer for the USTA did not immediately return a call for comment.Bouchard, 23, has been playing outstanding tennis lately, beating rival Maria Sharapova in a thrilling second-round match at the Madrid Open earlier this month.She followed that up by dispatching top-seeded Angelique Kerber two days later before losing to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarter-finals. Attorneys for Eugenie Bouchard on Tuesday accused the United States Tennis Association of erasing security camera footage of her fall in the trainer’s room at the 2015 U.S. Open and subsequent tournaments. Open, which resulted in a concussion and a lawsuit against the USTA.Her lawyers said her fall had been caused by a cleaning substance, with the resulting injury forcing her out of the 2015 U.S.

Braves slap Blue Jays back down to earth with two straight wins

After Toronto fought back from three runs down to tie the game at 5-5 in the sixth inning, Dansby Swanson responded with the key blow – a solo home run in the seventh that moved the Braves ahead for good.The Braves then tagged on three more in the top of the ninth to make the outcome a no-doubter.And now, after a five-game win streak where the Blue Jays showed serious signs of life for the first time this season, Toronto has hit a snag with two consecutive setbacks to one of baseball’s worst outfits.And the Blue Jays can certainly count themselves among that lower echelon, their record now 17-23.Toronto manager John Gibbons said he did not view the two setbacks to the Braves as a lost opportunity for the Blue Jays to build on their recent string of good fortune.“Its competition, you know, at the highest level,” Gibbons said. 9 hitter, took one over the wall in centre to put Atlanta back out in front 6-5. The Toronto Blue Jays were hoping the Atlanta Braves would provide the soft touch they so desperately needed at this juncture of the Major League Baseball season.Instead, the Braves are so far representing a sore spot for the Blue Jays, who dropped their second in a row to Atlanta, 9-5, at Rogers Centre on Tuesday, putting a fairly significant damper on Toronto’s recent flirtation with respectability. He led the majors in hits heading into Tuesday night’s action.Travis set the table for Toronto’s two-run sixth inning, following a Smoak walk with his second double of the game that left the Blue Jays with runners at second and third.A single by Darwin Barney brought home the first run, a groundout by Ezequiel Carrera another, and the score was tied at five.But not for long.With Danny Barnes now on the mound in relief of Estrada, Swanson, the Braves’ No. Those guys in the middle, we had a tough time with them.”The Blue Jays will not have much time to reflect on their recent misfortune as they now head for Atlanta, where they will continue the interleague battle against the Braves with two more games on Wednesday and Thursday.It was not supposed to play out this way against the struggling Braves in Toronto, with the Blue Jays – despite the continued absence of key personnel due to injury – playing their best baseball of the season.Kevin Pillar swatted his sixth home run for Toronto, while Devon Travis, continuing to emerge from a horrible start with the bat, rapped out two doubles, giving him six in the past three games.But it was his last at-bat in the eighth inning, with Toronto trailing 6-5 and runners at first and second and nobody out, that provided one of the game’s main talking points.Instead of having Travis swing away to try to at least tie the score, Gibbons elected instead to have him attempt a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up.Travis wound up striking out before Darwin Barney hit into a double play to end the potential uprising.“We’re down a run, get a guy at third base, contact and maybe score at least the tying run,” Gibbons explained. And both base runners would come around to score when Travis lashed his first double of the game to right-centre to cut Atlanta’s lead to 3-2.The teams got into a little long ball after that, starting with Freeman, who launched his 14th of the season off Estrada in the top of the fifth, a two-run shot that made the score 5-2.Pillar got one back in the bottom half of the frame with his sixth home run and his 51st hit of the season. “And you get a big hit and you take the lead.”The Braves got the early jump on Toronto and its starting pitcher Marco Estrada scoring twice in the top of the first inning after Estrada was raked for four hits.The Braves extended Estrada to 34 pitches in the frame to set the tone for what was a rugged afternoon for the normally reliable right hander.Estrada was tagged for five of the Atlanta runs off eight hits, including a two-run home run by Freddie Freeman, over six innings.Atlanta brought the score to 3-0 in the fourth inning when Tyler Flowers scored from second base on a single to right by Jace Peterson.Toronto had not collected a hit through the first three innings off Atlanta starter Jaime Garcia, but that changed quickly in the fourth when Pillar led off with a double.Justin Smoak then earned a two-out walk, one of three free passes he had in the game. “I’m proud of these guys.“Really, the last two nights, we haven’t been able to shut down their offence, and they’ve got a good one.

Celtics capitalize on trade with Nets, win NBA draft lottery

4 and he said it wasn’t us, I said ‘Um, that’s it, that’s all I care about,“’ said Johnson, the Hall of Famer in his first year as Lakers president. Game tomorrow against a tough Cleveland team. 1 pick in the June draft.“Game last night, Game 7, a tough Washington team. 11, with Detroit, Denver and Miami rounding out the 14 lottery spots.The draft is June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Boston acquired the Nets’ 2014, 2016 and 2018 first-round picks, as well as the rights to swap in 2017.The timing was perfect for the Celtics, as Brooklyn finished with the worst record in the league.“And look what I leave behind for the Celts on my way out (No. A late five-game winning streak by his young team had damaged its odds by falling behind Phoenix for the second-worst record in the league.“You see, you don’t know what’s been going on in L.A. Though the Celtics already have a top point guard in Thomas, Grousbeck said he expected they would make the pick.And the Lakers will get a chance to take one of them after beating the odds to move up. The Celtics won by beating out the Lakers, giving the draft lottery an old NBA Finals feel.Yet, obvious by Magic Johnson’s smile, the hated rivals were both celebrating.The Celtics won the lottery Tuesday night to continue another amazing basketball springtime in Boston, capitalizing on a trade they made with the Brooklyn Nets four years ago. “I didn’t know where we were going to land from there, but I was like ‘OK, I can breathe now.“’The Celtics finished dismantling the team that beat the Lakers to win the 2008 championship when they traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn on the night of the 2013 draft. They were guaranteed no worse than the No. Charlotte is No. “We jumped up one more spot. “This team is a lot of fun to be around this year.”Their victory made it three straight years the team with the best odds has won the lottery, after going the previous decade without a victory. A night after winning Game 7 against Washington to secure an Eastern Conference finals matchup with Cleveland, the Celtics cashed in their 25 per cent chance to land the No. They would have had to trade it to Philadelphia if it fell outside the top three.“When (Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum) called out No. Minnesota snapped that streak by getting eventual Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns in 2015 and Philadelphia emerged with Ben Simmons last season.The draft is considered a strong one, loaded with point guards such as Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox. They’ve been like ‘Oh my god, we blew it,“’ Johnson said. 4 pick to add to a team that had the best record in the East this season behind All-Star Isaiah Thomas.“It’s two completely different situations: One is a lot about the future, and one is in the present,” Celtics president Danny Ainge said. I don’t know what’s happening here. 1 pick, but we trust the process and it’s going to be exciting to see what we’re going for.”The Celtics were going to be in prime position no matter how the Ping-Pong balls bounced in a hotel ballroom Tuesday. So now the fans back home can breathe a little easier.”Sacramento actually moved up into the top three, but the 76ers had the right to swap with them through terms of a past trade. And now we squeeze in the lottery and win the pick. “We won five in a row and everybody thought we were crazy. The Kings will select fifth and 10th.Orlando is sixth, followed by Minnesota, New York and Dallas. They had about a 53 per cent chance of falling out of the top three, which would have triggered a trade of the pick as remaining payment of their acquisition of Steve Nash in 2012.Not only that, but they would have had to trade their 2019 first-round pick to Orlando if that happened, so Johnson was all smiles even after finishing behind the rival Celtics. I wish we would have gotten the No. It’s pretty amazing,” said Wyc Grousbeck, a Celtics owner who represented them on stage.The Lakers moved up one spot to second to hold onto their pick. 1) pick,” Pierce wrote on Twitter.The 76ers will pick third, while Phoenix fell two spots and is fourth.“I’m excited,” 76ers rookie centre Joel Embiid said.

Senators need to keep an open mind about switching up their system

Perhaps they should have gone for a walk before they flew.The Ottawa Senators woke up Tuesday morning – no, that wasn’t a bad dream, it was a 1-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins – and spent part of a sunny morning trying to explain what had gone wrong, what had gone right and what to do about Wednesday evening back in Ottawa, where Game 3 of this now best-of-five Eastern Conference final will be played. Defenceman Trevor Daley is hurt. Such as you’re only inviting ambush if you insist on marching your men in formation straight up a narrow passage.In 1755, the general was assigned to lead an expedition that would deal with the irritating French, who were then moving operations into the rich trading areas of the Ohio River.The French had learned from the Natives as well as from their own experience that you fight differently around here. Key forward Patric Hornqvist, a menace in the crease area, is hurt. Keep it “steady,” he said.“I want to push,” Boucher said, “but the Stanley Cup champion is on the other side there. The team’s top offensive defenceman, Kris Letang, is lost for the year. One fan even showed up Monday at PPG Paints Arena with a sign saying “Golf is more exciting than 1-3-1” – the reference being to Boucher’s preference for having one defenceman well back, three skaters defending the middle zone and one forward at least feigning a forecheck.Boucher positively bristles at the mere use of “1-3-1” or any mention of the “neutral-zone trap,” but the fact is his team is passive on the attack, hoping for the opponent to err so that the Senators, with a quick transition, can then threaten themselves. The shot clock seemed “stuck at 16 shots” forever. You want to score more. What was interesting after that goal was how well the Senators pushed back in the final few minutes. “We spent a little too much time in our zone.”Pyatt had noticed in the time leading up to Kessel’s goal that, in fact, his team was generating no offence whatsoever. Not quite forever, but all of the third and beyond Kessel’s goal.This passive play not only drives many fans batty, it has gotten to the team it is intended to bother, the quick-striking Penguins.“It’s tough,” Pittsburgh forward Evgeni Malkin said Tuesday. It has worked, obviously.Boucher says his team played terrifically for five of the six periods during the first two games in Pittsburgh and only had the one disappointing period, the third on Monday night when Penguins forward Phil Kessel got a second chance after a blocked shot and scored at the 13:05 mark.Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson said Tuesday that “I had it” – only to have the edge of his left skate catch and prevent him from making the save.No matter. “You play two games and you score, like, two goals. At least so far as results are concerned.No one pretends it is firewagon hockey. We’re not going to stomp all over them. He was wounded, dragged from the battle and died.His famous last words were: “Who would have thought?”Well, who indeed would have thought that the Ottawa Senators would reach the third round of the playoffs – up against no less than the defending champions with the series tied at one game apiece?And who could have imagined such success possible with an intense, defence-first system that involves neutral-zone trapping, mild-to-no forechecking and a team mantra that if you have an equal choice to make between attack and be safe, you better go safe.“No one thought we would be here,” Ottawa head coach Guy Boucher said on Tuesday morning.True enough, but they are here and there is much to commend about the way in which the players have bought into Boucher’s system. “We’ll have to look at the tapes and video and make some adjustments,” he said.Adjustments – the very thing General Braddock would not consider.The Pittsburgh Penguins are badly banged up. No open fields, but dense bush and rolling hills.Braddock, who would not hear of changing tactics, let his troops get caught in a crossfire. And Monday night, hard checks sent forward Bryan Rust and defenceman Justin Schultz to the dressing room, though both are coming to Ottawa.Asked if perhaps it might be wise to unleash the dogs and mount a push more in line with the final few minutes of Monday’s game rather than continue to play safe at all times, Boucher looked surprised at the thought. They might better have taken a short stroll down the street to Point State Park, where once Fort Pitt stood at the convergence of the Alleghany, Monongahela and Ohio rivers.There they could have had an abject lesson in what happens to those who fail to adjust, who are too stubborn to accept that there might be other tactics more suitable to the situation.They would have learned the story of General Edward Braddock, a British soldier trained in European warfare who, at the outbreak of the hostilities that would lead to the Seven Years’ War, proved too stubborn to listen to good advice. He could equally well be wrong.But it would be nice to see a little more risk taking – especially after “safe” didn’t quite work out.As someone once said, “Who would have thought?” And if we make it an offensive contest, well, we might as well give it to them right there.”He could well be right. … We’re a little bit like, lose mind.”Malkin’s English may need work, but “lose mind” seems exactly right in this circumstance.Mike Hoffman, one of Ottawa’s main scoring threats, stated the obvious: “The more you can play in the offensive zone, the better.”Even more obvious was a comment by Anderson, who has been brilliant in goal: “You certainly need to score to win the game.”Anderson, however, remains optimistic. Sidney Crosby has not seemed quite the force on the ice since he missed an earlier game with a concussion. They came up short, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.When the players spoke on Tuesday, it seemed almost as if they were a bit wistful about lost opportunities and a system that may, in fact, have failed them this time.“We didn’t generate a lot of offence,” forward Tom Pyatt said.

Kelly: The disappearing act continues for the Blue Jays

If it’s to be done – and it is an incredibly difficult task despite however much searching one does in the chicken bones of seasons past – that’s when the bulk of the work will happen.“It’ll be good to get out on the road again,” Gibbons said Tuesday, which is an odd thing for any manager to say, especially since the bleeding was staunched in Toronto. Francisco Liriano is soft tossing and should be on a mound “soon.” Russell Martin is taking swings, but apparently does not feel the need to rush back when his time on the disabled list ends Thursday.“I hope I can get back in there soon, but at the same time I want to be back and stay back,” Martin said Tuesday.Player-ese translation – “Don’t hold your breath.”Martin’s catching stand-in, Luke Maile, has one hit in 11 games (a fluke job that bounced out of a glove). He struck out and it was essentially over then.Almost without exception, everyone in white was mediocre to terrible. When they started this mini-streak, they were nine games out of first place in the AL East. That got them back on the right side of .500.The Jays have a string of weaklings coming up in the next little while – Rangers, Reds, A’s, Mariners, the bad part of Chicago, Rangers again, Royals.There are a few quality clubs wedged in there, but Toronto has a remarkably easy ride (on paper) until the end of June. Travis was in a spot to push two men into scoring position with an eighth-inning sacrifice bunt (cue New Baseball Testament outrage), but couldn’t manage it. But the results are the same.However, if Toronto hopes to make the other shore – with or without its first-choice team – it’s now time to start swimming. Keep pitching.Estrada’s tough Tuesday was bookended by a ninth-inning meltdown by closer Roberto Osuna. It’s still more of a panicked flailing. So we’re back to that.Nobody hit much, aside from Devon Travis. And the Jays could still easily have won it. The Jays began treading water during this homestand. They still are.(That’s the problem with win streaks after you’ve put yourself in a terrible hole – someone ahead of you is almost always matching your pace. Perhaps he thinks his team has to keep running ahead of its bad luck.If so, they’ll have to do more than that now. That team didn’t explode until after the trade deadline, but it made its first move in June (18-10). Maile’s doing so poorly that the guy he replaced – veteran Jarrod Saltalamacchia, jettisoned two weeks ago – was just re-signed by Toronto on a minor-league deal.The Jays are so thin that they’re eating their own garbage.It’s curious then that their $20-million (U.S.) de facto captain doesn’t feel a greater sense of urgency to re-enter the fray. Because that’s not going to work.When this homestand started nine days ago, you figured this team was in real trouble. Happ remains amongst baseball’s disappeared since team president Mark Shapiro said he expected a “positive outcome” with the starter’s sore arm … a month ago. As they end it, they’d only pulled back a game and a half.)But if the Jays remain behind the pace, they have at least lost the clubhouse-wide look of stunned incomprehension that typified April.It’s been pointed out that the 2015 Blue Jays – the playoff Jays – were also 17-21 in mid-May. It’s not that effortless synchro-swimming-type water treading. … The only decent pitch I was throwing was a curveball. He’ll join Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson in rehab there.Tulowitzki should be headed to Atlanta to join the Jays in a couple of days. Maybe Martin is afraid of jinxing things.The Jays should not be competing, but somehow they are. “I know some guys are beat up, a little bit tired.”Wait – the replacements for the beat-up players are also beat up? Because Estrada is the only current member of the rotation who is both deeply experienced and doesn’t Velcro his throwing arm on in the morning.He still managed six innings, which has become a prerequisite, regardless of form.When 29-year-old rookie Mike Bolsinger winced in pain in the second inning of Monday’s game, the assistant trainer was sent out to see him without the accompaniment of a coach.At other times on other teams, Bolsinger would have been removed. Right now, the Toronto Blue Jays aren’t running a baseball team so much as a cross-border shuttle service for the disabled.On Tuesday, the most recent amongst the infirm, outfielder Steve Pearce, headed to Florida. It’s mid-May. Donaldson may return by the next homestand, though the team has been saying that sort of thing for what is starting to feel like the entire season. The best player on the team right now is Kevin Pillar – a series of words whose first association would not be “competing team.” But nonetheless …Take Tuesday, which was often fun to watch and only occasionally awful.Starter Marco Estrada summed up his outing this way: “It was obviously bad. At this time on this team, Bolsinger was given what might charitably called a pep talk by inference: We don’t care if it hurts or if you’re terrible. Atlanta pulled away at the end, 9-5.The loss left manager John Gibbons in one of his wistful frames of mind.“They’re all doing a great job and they’ll keep grinding,” Gibbons said of his scrub army and its 6-3 homestand. J.A. “Should be” being the operative words when it comes to anything to do with the intersection of this team and good health. Are the Blue Jays backups in some sort of after-hours Fight Club or something? The wretchedness of the first month has given way to a sort of heedless, stumbling aggression. But I didn’t throw too many of those.”Which was unfortunate.

Predators rally, beat Ducks to take 2-1 series lead

But the net came off its moorings at the same time with Nashville defenceman Mattias Ekholm crashing into it. That earned McLeod an instigator penalty along with a game misconduct. Nashville had been 0 of 11 on the power play in this series. Perry then squeezed a wrister past Rinne from a severe angle to the right of the net. Roman Josi scored a power-play goal with 2:43 left, and the Nashville Predators rallied to beat the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 Tuesday night in their first-ever home game in the Western Conference finals.The Predators grabbed a 2-1 lead in the series with their 10th straight home win in the post-season going back to last season. Referee Brad Meier immediately waved off the goal, which was upheld on review.Anaheim got the man advantage after Predators forward Cody McLeod fought Jared Boll of the Ducks, upset at a hard hit on teammate Harry Zolnierczyk. Filip Forsberg tied it up at 3:54 of the third as the Predators rallied for the win against an Anaheim team that has notched four comeback victories already when trailing by multiple goals this post-season.The Predators thought they had taken the lead earlier in the period only to have two goals within the span of eight seconds waved off for goalie interference.Josi scored Nashville’s first power-play goal of the series for the win.Ducks goalie John Gibson made 38 saves, and Corey Perry scored a power-play goal in the second period for Anaheim.Game 4 is Thursday night in Nashville.Forsberg tied it up shortly after being poked by Gibson after the whistle, upset after a shot went off him. Josi ended that drought with his wrister from the right circle off an assist from Viktor Arvidsson.The Predators didn’t hold back on star power for the biggest game in franchise history.Keith Urban performed the national anthem, the latest country star to take a turn, and his wife, actress Nicole Kidman, joined him in the stands decked out in her own Predators’ sweater.Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota waved the rally towel along with his offensive linemen from the band stage.The Ducks finally got the faster start they missed in the first two games in Anaheim, outshooting Nashville 8-4 to open the game.But the Predators took the next 11 shots and outshot Anaheim 40-20 for the game.The Predators held the Ducks without a shot throughout the second period until 8:12 left when Brandon Montour put a backhand on Rinne, a puck that went across the goal line. That revved up the home crowd, and they tossed towels onto the ice after officials waved off first a would-be goal by Colton Sissons at 6:25 and then Ryan Johansen’s goal at 6:33.Chris Wagner went to the box for high-sticking Nashville defenceman Ryan Ellis with 3:55 left.

Tom Brady had a concussion last year: Gisele Bundchen

The NFL has agreed to pay $1 billion to retired players who accused the league of concealing the link between football and brain damage.An NFL spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. “I mean, we don’t talk about it. Tom Brady played through a concussion last year on his way to a fifth Super Bowl title, according to his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen. The Patriots declined to respond to Bundchen’s comments on Wednesday morning. But he was not listed on the league-required injury reports for a concussion or head injury at any point during either the 2016 calendar year or the 2016 season.The NFL requires “significant or noteworthy” injuries to be reported, regardless of whether a player is expected to miss playing time, and says honest reporting of injuries “affects the integrity of the game.”The league is especially — though belatedly — sensitive to concussions, which have been linked to a brain disease that leaves former players forgetful, violent or suicidal. Brady’s agent did not immediately respond to a request for comment.By winning his fifth NFL title at the age of 39 — leading the biggest Super Bowl comeback in history — Brady has already defied age and cemented himself among the league’s all-time greats. “I’m planning on him being healthy and do a lot of fun things when we’re like 100, I hope.” But he does have concussions. I don’t really think it’s a healthy thing for anybody to go through.”Brady sat out the first four games of the season as punishment for his role in the “Deflategate” scandal and missed practice late in the season for leg, thigh and ankle injuries. “He had a concussion last year. He has concussions pretty much every …” she said, before cutting herself off. He has long said he wanted to keep playing until his mid-40s, but he told ESPN in an interview published this week that he would continue beyond that if he was able to stay healthy and productive.But Bundchen balked at those plans when asked by CBS host Charlie Rose about her husband’s plans.“That kind of aggression all the time, that cannot be healthy for you,” she said. The injury, which was not reported by the team, left her worried about how long he should continue to play football.Asked if she wanted the New England Patriots quarterback to retire, Bundchen expressed concern “as a wife” in an interview on “CBS This Morning” that aired Wednesday.

Raonic downs Haas, advances to third round at Italian Open

Canada’s Milos Raonic advanced to the third round of the Italian Open with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Germany’s Tommy Haas on Wednesday.Raonic, from Thornhill, Ont., used his dominant serve to dispatch Haas in a little over an hour. Raonic, seeded fifth in Rome, will face 12th-seed Tomas Berdych in third-round action Thursday.The 26-year-old Raonic has won four of his last six games against the Czech veteran, but Berdych took their last clay-court match in Monte Carlo in 2015.Raonic is 5-2 this season on clay, and advanced to his first final on this surface two weeks ago in Istanbul. Raonic lost only 13 service points while firing 10 aces past the 39-year-old veteran and saving both break points he faced.

Guay, Osborne-Paradis lead Canada’s alpine team into 2017-18 season

Dustin Cook of Lac-Sainte-Marie, Que., a super-G silver medallist at the 2015 world championship, is on the World Cup team as are Calgary brothers Erik and Jeffrey Read, the sons of former national team skier Ken Read.Marie-Michele Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., who was sixth at this year’s world championship in the alpine combined event, leads a young women’s alpine team into next season.The ski cross team features reigning Olympic women’s ski cross champion Marielle Thompson of Whistler, B.C., and Calgary’s Brad Leman, who finished second overall in men’s World Cup racing last season.Olympic silver medallist Kelsey Serwa of Kelowna, B.C. and West Vancouver’s Georgia Simmerling, who helped Canada win team pursuit track cycling bronze in Rio last summer, give Canada depth in women’s ski cross.Athletes either met Alpine Canada’s selection criteria or were named to the team via coaches’ discretion.Canada’s Olympic ski team will be named in January after the final qualifying races. World champion Erik Guay and bronze medallist Manny Osborne-Paradis are the headliners of Canada’s alpine ski team for next season.Alpine Canada announced its World Cup alpine and ski cross teams for 2017-18 as well as its developmental squads Wednesday.Guay of Mont-Tramblant, Que., won super-G gold and downhill silver at the world alpine championships in February while Vancouver’s Osborne-Paradis took bronze in super-G.