J.A. Happ clinches 100th career win

Orioles Blue Jays Baseball
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The Blue Jays celebrated their first back-to-back win since May 1 on Friday night, taking down the Orioles 5-1 and backing J.A. Happ for the southpaw’s 100th career win. The left-hander rattled off seven innings of two-hit, one-run ball in his seventh quality start of the season; beyond Trey Mancini‘s run-scoring force out in the second inning, Happ didn’t allow a single runner past second base.

Happ has yet to replicate the 3.53-ERA, 2.9-fWAR totals of yesteryear, but he’s been a steady presence in the Jays’ rotation with a 7-3 record in 12 starts and a 4.08 ERA, 2.5 BB/9 and 11.5 SO/9 across 70 2/3 innings in 2018. He’s also benefitted from a generous helping of run support — leading up to Friday’s win over Baltimore, Happ enjoyed an average of 6.81 runs of support per start (including three double-digit blowouts).

That run support was on full display with a trifecta of home runs from Russell Martin, Randal Grichuk and Kevin Pillar. Martin tacked on another RBI single in the sixth, while Teoscar Hernandez returned in the seventh with an RBI triple, his fifth of the year. Thanks to a strong showing from the offense, Happ earned membership in yet another exclusive (and oddly specific) club:

That may not be enough consolation for the team’s fanbase, however. Following their win, the Blue Jays have still only clinched three of their last 10 games and currently sit fourth in the AL East with a 28-35 record.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.