Vaccine rule costs Royals key players for trip to Toronto

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The Kansas City Royals will be without 10 players when they visit the Toronto Blue Jays, who are under new interim manager John Schneider, for a four-game series that starts Thursday night.

Schneider was promoted from bench coach to interim manager after manager Charlie Montoyo was fired. Montoyo had been on the job since 2019.

“I truly wanted this to work with Charlie and wasn’t able to make that happen,” Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. “I’m extremely disappointed with where we are. I think we are better than how we’ve played.”

Atkins accepted his share of the responsibility for the performance in a season in which there were high expectations. The Blue Jays won 91 games last season and missed reaching the playoffs by one game.

“This is a collective setback, and ultimately that starts with me,” Atkins said. “I’m the one who needs to be most accountable for that.”

Schneider said, “I have all of the respect in the world for Charlie Montoyo as a baseball coach, manager and as a human being. This is bittersweet. It’s something that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and I’m excited to be able to do this with an organization I’ve known for over 20 years.”

The Blue Jays won their first game under Schneider, 8-2 on Wednesday night, completing a two-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies. Teoscar Hernandez hit a pair of two-run homers and Ross Stripling allowed two runs, both unearned, in seven innings.

The Royals, who will be short the 10 players who do not meet Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rules, also are coming off a win. They defeated the visiting Detroit Tigers 5-2 on to take three of four in the series.

Blue Jays right-hander Kevin Gausman (6-6, 2.86 ERA) is scheduled to return to the mound on Thursday. It will be his first outing since July 2, when he sustained a bruised right ankle on a comebacker. He has faced Kansas City just once in his career, taking a loss in 2017 after yielding five runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings.

The Royals had not announced who would be on the mound Thursday for their makeshift roster.

Outfielders Andrew Benintendi, Michael A. Taylor and Kyle Isbel, first baseman Hunter Dozier, second baseman Whit Merrifield, catchers MJ Melendez and Cam Gallagher and pitchers Brad Keller, Brady Singer and Dylan Coleman will be placed on the restricted list, according to manager Mike Matheny.

While Merrifield and Taylor are injured and were not in the lineup on Wednesday, they had not been placed on the injured list.

The Royals will fill those vacancies with minor league players, some of whom are not on the 40-man roster.

“We’re really looking forward to providing an opportunity for some of our players that we want to continue to look at and that we think are a big part of our future anyway,” said Dayton Moore, the Royals’ president of baseball operations. “And so we’re looking at this as a really important opportunity for them and us.”

With both catchers not making the trip, the Royals could use Freddy Fermin, who has appeared in 40 games for Triple-A Omaha. He could be joined by Sebastian Rivero, the catcher at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, who is on the 40-man roster. Rivero went 0-for-7 in three games for Kansas City earlier this year.

 

Braves sweep Mets, take 2-game lead in East with 3 remaining

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ATLANTA — Matt Olson knew the Atlanta Braves were too talented to stay in a season-long slump.

That’s why no one panicked when the New York Mets’ division lead swelled to double digits in May. Now the Braves are on the cusp of another NL East title.

“It’s a clubhouse full of guys who want to win,” Olson said. “That’s all it’s been since the moment I walked in. That’s No. 1 on the program.”

Dansby Swanson and Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Braves beat New York 5-3 on Sunday night, completing a three-game sweep of their NL East rival and taking a two-game lead in the division with three games to play.

The defending World Series champion Braves have been chasing the Mets the entire season. In the final series of the season, any combination of one Atlanta win or one Mets loss would give the Braves their fifth straight division title.

New York plays its final three games of the season against worst-in-the-majors Washington. Atlanta closes out the regular season with a three-game set in Miami. Should the season end Wednesday in a tie, Atlanta would win the division after claiming the season series 10-9 with Sunday’s victory.

“We’ve felt this confidence since the beginning of the year,” d’Arnaud said. “It just didn’t go our way early in the year, but pulling on the same rope, having each others’ backs, not trying to do too much. We’re just trying to play the game of baseball and have fun with it.”

The Braves won five of the last six games in the series, outscoring the Mets 42-19 over that stretch. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1 but now is the lower in the standings than at any point this season.

It was a lost weekend for New York, which came to Atlanta hoping to clinch its first division title since 2015. Instead, aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer lost Friday and Saturday before Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

“We still have three games left in the regular season, we’re still going to the postseason, that doesn’t change, but there’s a lot of learning points that we can take from this series moving forward,” Mets slugger Pete Alonso said. “I thought we played well, but the Braves played better. They played excellent baseball this entire weekend.”

Swanson took Bassitt deep to right-center in the first with his 25th homer, and Atlanta took charge with a three-run third. Bassitt (15-9) issued a bases-loaded walk to Olson before d’Arnaud delivered a single up the middle to score Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley for a 4-3 lead. That chased Bassitt, who was charged with four runs, three hits and three walks.

Olson connected for his 33rd homer to make it 5-3 leading off the sixth, his 410-foot shot landing in the seats in right-center. Olson, in his first year with Atlanta, surpassed 100 RBIs for the second straight season.

“Everyone knew we were underperforming when we were flirting around that .500 range,” Olson said. “It was one of those things where it was trusting the talent we have and the guys in the clubhouse. Everybody was solid, head down, do your work, it’ll turn around and you wind up winning.”

Charlie Morton stranded runners on first and second in the first, but he gave up Daniel Vogelbach‘s 18th homer that tied it at 1 in the second. The righty struck out Francisco Lindor with runners on first and second to end the threat.

Jeff McNeil went deep off Morton in the third and Vogelbach followed with an RBI single to put the Mets up 3-1. Morton entered the game having allowed 28 homers, sixth-most in the NL.

Morton scuffled throughout his start, giving up three runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings as the 38-year-old made his first start since signing a $20 million, one-year contract to remain with Atlanta next season.

Dylan Lee (5-1) relieved Morton and pitched 1 1/3 innings, leaving after a walk to Brandon Nimmo with two outs in the sixth. Collin McHugh entered and struck out Francisco Lindor.

Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh, A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen converted his third save of the series with a clean ninth.

Jansen leads the NL with 40 saves in 47 chances.

The Braves’ bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA last month, pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.

BIG NUMBERS

Atlanta leads the NL with 241 homers. And the Braves have their first 100-victory season since 2003.

TWO, DARN HOT

McNeil went 3 for 5 and has multiple hits in five straight games. His average is .326, one point behind the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman for the NL batting title. In 23 career games at Truist Park, McNeil is hitting .395 with 12 runs, nine doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and four walks. … Jansen tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the career list with 389. He’s also is the 10th closer to have four different seasons with at least 40 saves.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. … Braves 2B Ozzie Albies (broken right pinky finger) is still wearing a cast. … Braves RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique.

ATTENDANCE

The Braves drew 42,713 in their regular season finale, the club’s 42nd sellout of the season. Overall. that’s 3,129,931 for the season – and the most tickets sold since 2000. In 2019, the team’s last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta drew 2,655,100.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11).

Braves: RHP Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76 ERA) will face Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53).