Huricane Juan
Toronto Star
  • The roof hasn?t caved in, despite Jays? Game 1 loss: Arthur

    Toronto waited 22 years for this. Well, not this, exactly. There was a moment where the first Toronto Blue Jays playoff game in over two decades appeared to morph from disappointment to disaster, a grease fire that spreads to the drapes. Things went wrong. Then more things. The roof was closed, for some stupid reason, but it felt like it was caving in.

    “It’s not the end of the world,” said catcher Russell Martin, in French, after a 5-3 loss to the Texas Rangers in Game 1 of the best-of-five American League Division Series. “I can only speak for myself, but I’m ready for tomorrow already.”

    Before anybody hyperventilates, this wasn’t fatal. It was just an awful way to play the first playoff baseball game in more than two decades in this town. That’s all.

    “I know it’s there,” said ace David Price, who became the first pitcher in major-league history to lose his first six post-season starts, and admitted to some healthy, natural nerves. “I know it’s there. Hopefully (a win) comes in my next start. And if not, my next one, and my next one.”

    There’s no guarantee Price will start another game for the Blue Jays, and that’s up to everyone else. Price just wasn’t very good: he hit three batters all season, and two on Thursday. He allowed home runs to the number eight and nine hitters in the Rangers lineup. He wasn’t an ace. It happens.

    Price faltering is one thing. Watching the probable MVP get kneed in the head trying to break up a double play, collapse to the turf for a second, grimace as he left the field, play one inning at third before being removed for what manager John Gibbons said was light-headedness: that looked like disaster.

    It was a lot like Troy Tulowitzki being injured by a charging Kevin Pillar: good intentions, bad result. Pillar pointed out that had Hanser Alberto — the replacement for Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre, who left with back spasms — not bobbled the ball to third a little, then the play at second wouldn’t have been as close. “I think if he peeks in there, and realizes that, I don’t think he might have to go as hard as he did,” Pillar said. “But that’s the kind of guy he is, and it led to a run.”

    Bad luck, bad play. Then Jose Bautista wasn’t in right field for the top of the ninth, and it felt like the Jays were just another Toronto team. It had been so big, so anticipated. Three hours before the game started they wheeled out the carts with the cotton candy and the popcorn, the peanuts and cracker jacks, into the square outside the building. Inside, they drew the batter’s boxes, groomed the infield, dusted off home plate. There were 49,834 crammed under the dome, and everyone stood for the anthems, and the AL East banner was unfurled in centre field.

    “There’s a lot of emotions there,” Pillar said. “You look up there and you understand that’s forever, and you’re part of that.”

    And then, that familiar feeling: the floor falling away, and the city’s sports fans clawing at the air. It felt very Toronto. The Raptors lose at the buzzer in Game 7, or get swept; the Leafs were up 4-1, once upon a time. Step right up to the plate, lads. Your turn.

    Except this isn’t over, and is probably a long way from over. Bautista only left because of a mild cramp in his left hamstring; he is expected to play Game 2. Price wasn’t an ace, but Marcus Stroman will start Game 2, and as Pillar says, “Stroman’s a big-time pitcher. He’s an ace on most teams.” He’s better than Cole Hamels, it says here.

    Donaldson is the question mark. He passed concussion protocols, likely after sneaking back out to play the fifth inning, and at least one teammate said “he seemed fine” after the game. Donaldson is expected to play Game 2, but passing protocols doesn’t mean Donaldson won’t wake up on Friday with symptoms. He will be checked in the morning, and we’ll see.

    But even if Donaldson were out, the Jays still have the two best hitters in this series, and better starting pitchers, starting Friday. They can still win this thing. The last two months weren’t an accident. These aren’t the Leafs, or the Raptors.

    “You know what? This is a deep team,” said Pillar.

    There’s an old curse that gets ascribed to the Chinese, but whose actual origin is a mystery: may you live in interesting times. Well, playoff baseball is back in Toronto, and it’s interesting as hell. Game 2 goes Friday. Biggest game in 22 years, since the last one.

    More Blue Jays on

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    In pictures: ALDS Game 1

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  • Rangers flex their playoff hex on Jays? David Price: DiManno

    From the big dawg, the stud, there was an almost hangdog perplexity.

    Neither haunted nor hexed by the nemesis Rangers, to hear David Price tell it. Just a kind of remorseful bewilderment ? 0-6 now in playoff starts, 0-4 against Texas.

    This was not as envisioned. But that?s the unpredictability, the capriciousness, of baseball.

    It was the biggest game thus far of the Blue Jays? 2015 existence ? a homely thing, as it turned out, and a confluence of the entirely unimaginable: Price, the loser, and gone after seven innings; Josh Donaldson gone too with a rattled brain pan, kneed in the noggin sliding hard into second to break up a double play; Jose Bautista, who had belted the first playoff homer of his career, gone in the eighth, doubled over in pain on the dugout steps with a cramping right hamstring.

    It was as if everything that could go wrong did go wrong. As if the gods of baseball ? after bestowing so much glory on the Jays this year ? had taken a sudden mischievous dislike of the club.

    Just one game, of course, just one loss. But in a five-game series, there?s precious little room to reverse throttle.

    Nerves, admitted Price, usually a long cool glass of water on the bump.

    Nerves to begin, at least, Game 1 of the American League Division Series at Rogers Centre ? 22 years after the last playoff game at Rogers Centre, nee SkyDome.

    So maybe it wasn?t so wise, in retrospect, for manager John Gibbons to give his ace 11 days rest. That will be hotly debated, no doubt, though there?s barely time to reflect on what happened Thursday afternoon ? a 5-3 loss to Texas ? before the teams go at it again, less than 24 hours later and all eyes turning beseechingly to ace-in-training-wheels Marcus Stroman.

    ?It didn?t affect me,? Price insisted of the long layoff. ?The first inning, more so battling nerves. I have nerves first spring training start, first bullpen of the year. If you?re out there and you?re not nervous in those first couple of pitches, first couple of innings, I don?t feel like you?re human.

    ?I care a ton. I want to go out there and pitch well for my teammates and pitch well for this country, and I didn?t do that today.?

    It?s disconcerting to hear Price speak of stress and tenseness because he simply hasn?t shown any such vulnerability in his short tenure as a Jay. Mostly he displays self-confidence and reliability and, bounding off the hill, the grinning buoyancy of a roundly-acknowledged winner.

    So now we know that even so poised and sanguine a marquee pro can wobble under the strain of expectations, particularly those he puts on himself. What lies beneath is what no else sees.

    ?Whenever a duck?s swimming, they look calm and collected on the outside of the water. But below that, they?re kicking away.??

    Post-season heebie-jeebies, in front of an expectant sold-out crowd, might explain the first inning, when Price surrendered two walks before getting out of the jam by inducing a double-play ball from Prince Fielder. He came back strong in the second frame, striking out the side on 14 pitches.

    ?Third inning, I just didn?t make any pitches.?

    Second pitch to leadoff hitter Rougned Odor, hit him. One out later, with the infield wide open, Delino DeShields stroked a single up the middle that brought Odor home for the first run of the game. Ryan Goins, Toronto?s defensively superb second baseman, was moving towards the base in what he explained later had been a set play ? intended as a pickoff by catcher Russell Martin, if DeShields had either swung through the pitch or taken it. DeShields gave Texas a 2-0 lead off Adrian Beltre?s single..

    ?We?ve been running that play all year,? said Goins. ?Two-one, we throw a change-up. I was covering for the back-pick from the catcher. We usually throw a pitch that is going to be pulled, which it was. He did a good job of hitting it to second. So. What can you do???

    What you can?t do, what Price did, was plunk Odor again, leading off the fifth, after Toronto had got on the board, with Ben Revere scoring on an infield dribbler by Edwin Encarnacion. That put a halt to Texas starter Yovani Gallardo?s 16 2/3 shutout streak against the Jays.

    ?I didn?t execute three pitches to him,? said Price, of the bane that Odor became, scoring two runs and then, holy-moley, taking him yard in the seventh. ?I didn?t mean to hit him either time. He would probably have liked to hit a line drive off my shin but I?m sure he?ll settle for a home run.??

    After thrice beating the Rangers in the regular season, Price believed he had buried whatever mystifying edge they held over him. ?I felt I got that monkey off my back.??

    It clings.

    Whenever the Jays put up runs, the Rangers countered.

    ?We scored in the (fourth, fifth and sixth),? said Price. ?In two of those innings I gave runs right back. And we need those shut-down innings at this time of the year.??

    There was not, it should be emphasized, great dejection in the clubhouse. ?I?m over it,? said Martin, slinging a backpack over his shoulder. ?I?m ready to go tomorrow. I don?t know how many series where we lost the first game and still came out and won the series. It?s good to have that in the back of our mind.?

    In fact, when losing the first game of a series, the Jays were 4-16-2, win-loss-split. But they were 3-2-0 after the trade deadline and the arrival of Price.

    If the lanky lefty gets to pitch in this series again, it will have to go five games.

    More Blue Jays at

    The roof hasn't caved in, despite Jays' Game 1 loss: Arthur

    Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista exit Blue Jays' Game 1 loss to Rangers

    Odor hurts Jays in field, on base and at bat: Griffin

  • Premier visits school at centre of sex-ed controversy

    Premier Kathleen Wynne visited Thorncliffe Park Public School earlier this week as a show of support amid ongoing sex-ed protests.

    The elementary school, in Wynne’s riding, has been a main target in the controversy over the updated curriculum. About 150 students have been out of class on a regular basis since school began in September, instead being taught by volunteers at the park or community centre next door.

    Thorncliffe was also hit by vandalism the second day of school, with “shame on you” scrawled on the building, and the kindergarten next door, in four different places.

    “As the member for Don Valley West, where Thorncliffe Park Public School is located, Premier Wynne dropped in this week to show support for staff and students,” said Jennifer Beaudry, spokesperson for the premier’s office.

    “This visit was during a challenging time for the school as they have been dealing with protests over the updated health and physical education curriculum. The informal visit was to thank the principal, vice-principals, teachers and support staff for their continued hard work helping students and their families.”

    Principal Jeff Crane said Wynne came Monday morning, “walked around and spoke to staff.”

    “They were very appreciative of her visit,” he added.

    Both Crane and Thorncliffe teacher Susan Mabey — who has fought for gay and lesbian rights for decades — have publicly stated that while the outspoken protesters do oppose the updated sex-ed curriculum, homophobia is also at play.

    Unlike the first school she taught at, Mabey said she does not feel comfortable openly discussing her sexual orientation with all parents, but when asked will disclose she has a wife.

    Wynne herself, who is openly gay, has said she knows some protesters have “destructive and divisive attitudes.”

    Even though it is believed to be a small group leading the charge, Mabey said what’s going on continues to affect staff morale and spirit, and that parents have been bullied for sending their children to school and told the public system is going to “indoctrinate their kids into homosexuality.”

    A vocal group in the neighbourhood, the Thorncliffe Parents Association, has posted on Facebook its concerns about hiring gay teachers or even “homosexuality books.” Spokesperson Khalid Mahmood has told the Star the group is respectful of all lifestyles, even those they don’t approve of, and that parents’ real issue is with outside community groups coming in to talk to their kids about equity and sexual orientation.

    The association has no official standing with the school, and Crane has said he does not negotiate or meet with them.

    A posting on the Thorncliffe parent group’s Facebook page noted Wynne’s visit and said she was there to “meet and sense the pulse. ‘Maybe’ she found a new friend,” it said.

    “You gave a deaf ear to thousands of Ontarians but you took time out to diligently visit and sympathize a false cry. You are so caring!!”

    Some parents have accused the Liberals of not properly consulting them on the curriculum — which was last updated in 1998 — and they have called it everything from immoral to age-inappropriate.

    However, Education Minister Liz Sandals has said the curriculum review began in 2007 and included consultations with parent, students, teachers, post-secondary experts as well as more than 70 health organizations.

Arts & Letters
Sunday, 12 August 2007