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Kole Calhoun Will Hernandez Color Rush Jersey , Luis Valbuena and the Los Angeles Angels seem to be hitting their way out of a long funk.
Valbuena homered twice, Calhoun connected for the second consecutive game and the Angels defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 8-5 on Thursday night.
The Angels have won two straight after dropping seven of eight. They handed the Blue Jays their ninth loss in 10 road games.
Calhoun launched a two-run homer off John Axford (1-1) in the fourth inning to put the Angels ahead 4-3. The right fielder went 1 for 3 with a walk, scoring on Martin Maldonado’s double in the sixth, and is 4 for 10 in three games since returning from a stint on the disabled list because of a strained oblique muscle.
”He looks so calm, so comfortable out there. I think he’s seeing the ball much better, more plate coverage. All the things that lead to positive results seem to be in his game,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Calhoun, who was hitting .145 before the injury.
Valbuena made it 6-3 with his two-run shot to center field in the fifth, and added a solo drive to right in the seventh. It was his eighth career multihomer game.
The streaky Valbuena was 5 for 40 over his previous 11 games and hadn’t homered in his last 18. Valbuena went deep twice in that game at Detroit on May 29, and Scioscia had thought that would mark the beginning of a turnaround.
He has the same belief now, and is willing to trade any barren stretches for when Valbuena gets in a groove.
”If you look at Luis’ track record, he gets real hot and at times he gets cold,” Scioscia said. ”There’s no doubt there is more OPS in his game, especially against right-handed pitching. Once he finds it, he usually swings the bat like he did the second half of last year, and that’s something we’re going to need.”
Even the Angels’ erratic bullpen did its part, as Noe Ramirez (3-3) retired all eight batters he faced – striking out four – after relieving John Lamb in the fourth. Justin Anderson got his third save.
Lamb, a late replacement for injured Los Angeles starter Tyler Skaggs, went 3 1/3 innings. Lamb gave up three runs, six hits and one walk in his first career start at home.
For the Blue Jays, they couldn’t remedy their road woes despite home runs from Randal Grichuk, Lourdes Gurriel and Kendrys Morales.
”They got a couple big homers off Ax. I mean, he’s been dominating left-handers all year, and two leftys got him today. We hung around, but we just couldn’t get anything going late,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
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Mike Trout went 0 for 2 with three walks in his 1,000th career game, ending his hitting streak at eight games. Trout, who has reached base in 31 of 47 plate appearances over his last nine games, was the designated hitter and is not expected to be used in the outfield during the four-game series because of a sprained right index finger.
Blue Jays: Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez was pulled after the first inning due to a bruised right index finger. The Blue Jays said X-rays did not reveal any further injury. ”He’d been pitching pretty good lately, but hopefully this isn’t a big deal,” Gibbons said.
Angels: Skaggs was scratched because of tightness in his right hamstring. Scioscia said there’s a chance Skaggs could start Sunday.
Blue Jays: RHP Marco Estrada (4-6, 4.66 ERA) tries for his third straight win. Estrada has allowed three runs in 18 2/3 innings over his last three starts.
Angels: LHP Andrew Heaney (3-5, 3.64) has won three of his last four starts at home, including a one-hit shutout against Kansas City on June 5.
Canada and Sweden will face off for gold medal at the world junior hockey championship Friday night.
”I think it’s the two best teams that are going to meet,” Swedish goaltender Filip Gustavsson said.
Gustavsson made 29 saves and Sweden had a three-goal third period to beat the defending champion United States on Thursday in the first semifinal.
Drake Batherson had a hat trick to lead Canada over the Czech Republic 7-2 and into the title game for the third time in four years.
Canada and Sweden have played for the gold medal game three times before, in 1996, 2008 and 2009. The Canadians won all three contests.
With the expected No. 1 pick in this year’s NHL draft, defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, and several other top prospects on the roster, the Swedes believe they have the talent to claim their first gold medal since 2012. Sweden finished fourth each of the last three years after finishing second in 2013 and 2014.
”Everyone is here to win,” Swedish coach Tomas Moten said. ”So if we’re not going to win tomorrow, I don’t think the feeling will be any different than last year when we lost the bronze medal game.”
The U.S. was trying to become the first country to win back-to-back gold medals since Canada claimed five straight from 2005-09. The Americans have never won a gold medal on home ice.
”This one blindsided us because we felt so strong with how we were going,” U.S. coach Bob Motzko said. ”We had a vampire suck it out of us today. It just tells you how tough it is.”
Elias Pettersson, Lias Andersson, Oskar Steen and Axel Jonsson Fjallby scored for Sweden, which has not trailed in any game during the tournament. Linus Lindstrom had two assists.
”We have every chance to win gold,” Dahlin said. ”We’re so excited about tomorrow.”
Sam Steel, Maxime Comtois, Jordan Kyrou and Boris Katchouk also had goals for Canada, which has won every game in dominating fashion aside from its 4-3 shootout loss to the U.S. in the preliminary round.
Canada came alive late in the first period after spotting the Czechs a 1-0 lead in the first six minutes. Steel and Batherson scored power-play goals to make it 2-1 by the end of the first.
”The first goal was more of a wakeup call for us B.J. Hill Color Rush Jersey ,” Batherson said. ”After that, we played our game and showed our true colors.”
The Canadians scored four times in a 10-minute span of the second period. Batherson, a fourth-round draft choice of the Ottawa Senators, scored his third goal to make it 6-1 with 3:02 remaining in the third and tie U.S. forward Kieffer Bellows and the Czech Republic’s Filip Zadina for the tournament lead with seven goals.
Zadina, one of the top prospects eligible for this year’s NHL draft, scored both goals for the Czech Republic.
”I was glad to play well, but I’m so sad because we lost. My goals mean nothing,” Zadina said. ”We will do anything锟絫omorrow. We will die on the ice to bring a medal back to Czech Republic.”
After beating Canada in a shootout to win the gold medal last year, the U.S. will try for its sixth bronze medal against the Czechs on Friday. The Americans placed third in 1986, 1992, 2007, 2011 and 2016.
”The goal at the beginning of the tournament when everything starts is gold medal,” Bellows said, who scored his tournament-leading seventh goal against Sweden. ”But I know we have to push this behind us and get ready for the bronze medal game. We’re doing this for the team in the locker room and USA Hockey as a whole.”
The Czech Republic last won a bronze medal in 2005. Czechoslovakia placed third six times from 1977-1993.
Bellows and Brady Tkachuk scored late goals for the U.S. after Sweden built a 4-0 lead midway through the third period.
The U.S. controlled the action for much of the first two periods before Pettersson’s power-play goal put Sweden ahead 1-0 with 6:30 left in the second.
With U.S. defenseman Dylan Samberg in the penalty box for high-sticking, Pettersson, the Vancouver Canucks’ No. 5 overall pick last year, received a pass in the left faceoff circle from Buffalo Sabres 2016 first-round selection Alex Nylander and one-timed a slap shot over Woll’s shoulder into the far corner of the net.
Nylander’s assist gave him 28 career points at the world juniors, equaling father Michael Nylander for fourth on Sweden’s career list.
Gustavsson’ preserved the lead when stopped U.S. forward Casey Mittelstadt on a 3-on-0 breakaway in the final minute of the second period. Mittlestadt, the Sabres’ most recent first-round pick, entered the game leading the tournament with 10 points.
Andersson made it 2-0 when he tapped in his sixth goal of the tournment on a 2-on-1 with Fredrik Karlstrom early in the third period. Steen and Jonsson Fjallby scored shorthanded goals 38 seconds apart before the U.S. pulled goaltender Joseph Woll with 11:25 remaining.
”We failed Joe tonight,” Motzko said. ”Joe didn’t fail us.”
Bellows scored on a power play to end Gustavsson’s shutout bid with 7:36 remaining. Tkachuk’s goal came with 3:01 left to play and the U.S. was unable to score on a power play in the closing minutes.
Pro Football Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas dropped the ceremonial first puck wearing a replica of one of his older Buffalo Bills jerseys, matching the U.S. uniforms. Team USA also wore the blue jerseys and pants during its preliminary-round win over Canada outdoors at the Bills’ New Era Field.
Earlier Thursday, Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup scored