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Matt Joyce receives a two-game suspension for using anti-gay slur

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Athletics’ right fielder Matt Joyce has been suspended for two games without pay, Major League Baseball announced Saturday. The suspension follows an unsavory incident during the eighth inning of Friday’s game against the Angels, when Associated Press photographer Mark J. Terrill overheard Joyce making anti-gay remarks to a fan who was heckling him in the stands. During Joyce’s suspension, the Athletics will donate over $54,000 of his salary to PFLAG, a national organization devoted to family and ally organization in unison with the LGBTQ+ community. He is also expected to participate in a public outreach initiative with the organization.

The outfielder took to Twitter to issue a lengthy apology on Saturday, and further explained the nature of the heckling and his response to it:

In regard to last night’s incident, I first and foremost want to sincerely apologize to the fans, the Oakland A’s, MLB and the [sic] most importantly the LGBTQ community for my comments and actions. A fan yelled vulgar and obscene words about me and my family and I let my frustrations and emotions get the better of me. I am beyond sorry for the inappropriate language that I used and I understand and agree that those words should NEVER come out of someone’s mouth no matter the situation. Anyone who knows me will tell you that incident it is not reflective of me as a person, how I treat others, how I live my life and that those hurtful words are not my views. I fully support and hope to help the LGBTQ community with their efforts in being treated fairly and intend to let my actions speak louder than anything more that can be said about this truly regrettable moment.

Over the last several years, the Athletics have exhibited a no-tolerance policy towards players who express anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments, suspending minor league left-hander Ian Krol and releasing another minor league player over similar incidents in 2011 and 2017, respectively. They also issued a formal statement on Saturday, acknowledging Joyce’s apology and making it clear that the language he chose was not in line with their views:

The Oakland Athletics are very disappointed by the comments Matt Joyce made to a fan during the eighth inning of last night’s game. This language is unacceptable and will not be tolerated by our team. We pride ourselves on being inclusive and expect our entire organization to live up to higher standards. We appreciate that Matt is contrite about his conduct and know he will learn from this incident.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle points out that outfielders are often frequent targets of heckling, and Joyce’s recent poor performance for the Angels likely factored into the situation as well. While players aren’t required to turn the other cheek when fans take things too far, wielding an anti-gay slur in self-defense is not only unacceptable, but reprehensible.

Astros claim AL pennant with walk-off win against the Yankees

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Following a rollercoaster performance on Saturday, the Astros clinched the American League Championship Series with a decisive 6-4 walk-off win against the Yankees, claiming their second AL pennant and earning a well-deserved entrance to the World Series.

Both clubs decided to preserve possible Game 7 starters Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole, electing to have a “bullpen day” for a pivotal Game 6. Chad Green took the mound for the Yankees, tossing one inning before handing the ball off to a long line of relievers, while Brad Peacock‘s rare playoff start was capped at 1 2/3 innings. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that made it the first postseason game since 1999 in which neither starting pitcher lasted two innings or longer.

All told, the two clubs utilized a total of 13 pitchers to make it through nine innings. The Astros lost Ryan Pressly to a worrisome knee injury in the third, but were able to lean on José Urquidy for 2 2/3 innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball. Although Yankees’ bullpen fought back in every inning, they had considerable difficulty recovering from Yuli Gurriel‘s three-run homer off of Green in the bottom of the first:

Still, New York managed to get in a couple of knocks as well: first, with Gary Sanchez‘s RBI single in the second inning, then with Gio Urshela‘s 395-foot blast in the fourth inning — the second of his postseason career to date. That wasn’t enough to close the gap, however, and Alex Bregman‘s productive groundout in the sixth helped cushion the Astros’ lead as they headed toward the final few innings of the series.

That lead started to look a little shaky in the ninth. Only three outs away from a ticket to the World Series, Houston closer Roberto Osuna gave up a leadoff single to Urshela, which was quickly followed by a jaw-dropping, full-count, game-tying two-run shot from DJ LeMahieu that barely cleared the right field fence.

With the threat of extra innings and a potential loss looming, the Astros engineered a last-minute rally to regain the lead and stake their claim for the pennant. With two outs and no runners on, George Springer took a five-pitch walk from Aroldis Chapman. In the next at-bat, Houston pinned their hopes on José Altuve — and he didn’t disappoint, lifting a 2-1 slider out to left field for a 406-foot, two-RBI homer that confirmed the Astros’ series win.

The 2019 World Series will mark the third Fall Classic appearance for the Astros and the first for the Nationals. It all begins on Tuesday night.