Nico Hischier scores in New Jersey’s win over Montreal

MONTREAL — Nico Hischier, the first overall pick at this year’s draft, broke a tie in the second period as the visiting New Jersey Devils downed the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Thursday in the third pre-season game for both teams.

Defenceman Mirco Mueller and winger Jesper Bratt, with two, also scored for the Devils. Goalie Keith Kinkaid stopped all but one of the 29 shots he faced.

Eric Gelinas scored the lone goal for the Canadiens in the second period. Carey Price, who played his first full game of the pre-season, stopped 28-of-31 shots.

Montreal has lost all three of its pre-season games so far. The team’s next match is Saturday in Ottawa.

Mueller got the Devils on the board 47 seconds into the encounter when his shot from the point took a deflection off a Montreal stick to beat Price.

It was New Jersey’s second shot of the game.

Gelinas, who’s on a professional tryout with the Habs, made his case to stay in the NHL by beating Kinkaid with a shot from the point on the power play at 7:09 …read more


Blue Jays muster just two hits in shutout loss to Royals

TORONTO — Starter Jason Vargas and four relievers combined on a two-hit shutout as the Kansas City Royals topped the Toronto Blue Jays 1-0 on Thursday night.

Vargas issued three walks but kept the Toronto bats quiet over his 6 1/3 innings on a warm evening at Rogers Centre. Kendrys Morales reached on a soft single in the second inning and Darwin Barney was generously given a hit in the fifth when Melky Cabrera couldn’t squeeze a flare in shallow right field.

Cabrera drove in Alex Gordon with a two-out single in the third inning off Toronto starter J.A. Happ for the game’s lone run. Royals relievers Peter Moylan, Ryan Buchter and Joakim Soria preceded Mike Minor, who worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save.

Kansas City (75-77) is hanging on to slim playoff hopes in the American League. The Royals entered play 3 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Twins for the second wild-card spot.

Dropping the rubber game of the three-game set guaranteed Toronto (71-82) would finish the season with a losing record.

Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar provided a …read more


J.A. Happ just as effective in 2017 despite slight dip in numbers

TORONTO – Realistically, J.A. Happ’s 2016 season will be tough to top. Not only did he win 20 games, he pitched 195 innings with a 3.18 ERA. By any measure, it was a great year.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that Happ’s 2017 numbers aren’t as gaudy. After Thursday’s 1-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals, he’s 9-11 with a 3.64 ERA.

An early-season elbow injury sidelined him for more than a month, so he won’t come close to matching last year’s innings total, but on a per inning basis, he has been every bit as effective as he was last year.

FB Velo

While Happ’s ERA has risen slightly, his underlying numbers have stayed steady. The back-of-the baseball card numbers might look different, but when healthy, Happ has essentially been just as tough on opposing hitters as he was last year.

That’s three really productive seasons in a row for Happ, who began the 2015 campaign in Seattle before finishing strong with the Pirates. The Blue Jays will be hoping for a fourth in 2018, when Happ will join Marcus Stroman, the newly-extended Marco Estrada and Aaron Sanchez in the Toronto rotation. Based on what Happ has shown in 2017, …read more