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Bartolo Colon of Texas Rangers flirts with perfect game vs. Houston Astros

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Bartolo Colon, who turns 45 next month, flirted with history Sunday night, taking a perfect game into the eighth inning against the World Series champion Houston Astros.

A leadoff walk to Carlos Correa and a Josh Reddick double ended the bid by Colon, who would have become the oldest pitcher to throw a no-hitter.

Nolan Ryan, who threw a record seven no-hitters, threw one in 1991 at the age of 44 years, 90 days, and also threw one a year earlier.

The beefy Colon — he has added about 100 pounds since his rookie season — struck out seven. A fan favorite all around the majors, he is on his ninth team in the past 11 seasons.

Correa ended up coming around to score to tie the game at 1-1, and Colon left after 7⅔ innings and 96 pitches while lowering his ERA on the season to 1.45.

The Rangers ended up winning the game 3-1 in 10 innings, despite coming in as +270 underdogs at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, tied for the biggest underdogs in a game this season.

That’s because few would have given Colon much of a chance in his matchup with Astros ace Justin Verlander, who put up a stellar performance of his own. Verlander went eight innings and allowed just one hit, a third-inning home run by Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos. The right-hander struck out 11 and walked just one.

Colon’s longest no-hit bid came with the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 18, 2000, when he held the New York Yankees hitless for 7⅓ innings. Colon ended up with a one-hitter in a 2-0 win at Yankee Stadium.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Toronto Blue Jays clinch first playoff berth since 2016 season

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched seven shutout innings and the Toronto Blue Jays clinched their first postseason spot since 2016, beating the Yankees 4-1 Thursday night and further damaging New York’s chances of hosting a first-round playoff series.

New York lost for the fourth time in five games and remained two games behind the slumping White Sox for the fourth seed. Chicago lost 5-4 at Cleveland, its fifth straight defeat.

Toronto secured at least an AL wild-card spot and ensured its eighth trip overall to the postseason.

Blue Jays players embraced on the diamond at their temporary home of Sahlen Field in Buffalo after Rafael Dolis struck out Aaron Hicks to end it.

The Blue Jays trail the Yankees by two games for second place in the AL East. Both teams have three games remaining. Toronto hosts Baltimore in Buffalo while the Yankees host the Marlins.

New York failed to hit a homer for the fourth straight game, matching its longest drought since June 2016. It’s the first time the Yankees have failed to homer in a four-game series since doing so at Texas in July 2013.

New York loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, but pinch-hitter Gary Sanchez flied out to deep center, where Randal Grichuk made a leaping catch at the wall.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered for Toronto.

Ryu (5-2) scattered five hits, walked two and struck out four. Luke Voit and Hicks hit back-to-back singles to begin the sixth but Ryu struck out Giancarlo Stanton, got Gleyber Torres to fly out and retired Gio Urshela on a ground ball.

Dolis got four outs for his fifth save in six chances.

Ryu became the first Blue Jays starting pitcher since Aug. 22, 2019, to pitch into the seventh, pitching around Clint Frazier‘s leadoff single by setting down the next three, including pinch hitter Aaron Judge. The left-hander lowered his ERA from 3.00 to 2.69.

The Blue Jays finished 5-5 in their 10-game regular season series against the Yankees.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Los Angeles Dodgers bring Walker Buehler off IL as playoffs approach

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The Los Angeles Dodgers activated Walker Buehler, who has been dealing with a blister on his right index finger for about a month, off the injured list Thursday for one final tuneup start before the postseason.

Buehler, 26, was placed on the IL because of that blister for the second time in two weeks on Sept. 10, but the right-hander threw a six-inning, 90-pitch simulated game at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, throwing the first 75 pitches with his finger uncovered.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he would be monitoring Buehler “pretty closely” in his return against the Oakland Athletics and that the primary objective is to ensure he doesn’t suffer a setback. Buehler recently sought advice from former Dodgers starter Rich Hill, who has dealt with blisters throughout his career.

“Walker feels really good, confident, the finger itself in a good place,” Roberts said. “It’s just up to all of us to make sure we just manage it tonight. He wouldn’t be making this start if we didn’t feel good as far as him taking on a regular start.”

The Dodgers are still ironing out most of their pitching plans for the best-of-three wild-card series that begins at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, partly because the team might not learn its opponent until the end of the week.

Buehler and Clayton Kershaw are expected to start the first two games, but the Dodgers have yet to determine the order. A potential Game 3 could see the Dodgers deploy an opener, with the traditional No. 3 starter — either Julio Urias, Dustin May or Tony Gonsolin — pitching bulk innings later in the game.

Buehler wasn’t properly stretched out when Major League Baseball restarted and has logged only 32⅔ innings heading into his final regular-season start, posting a 3.86 ERA with 36 strikeouts and 10 walks. Most of his recent work has come in controlled environments.

“He’s still pitched and understood what’s at stake in these sim games, and I expect him to be sharp,” Roberts said. “You’re one start away from the postseason, so I expect him to be sharp and ready to go.”

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Chicago Cubs planning for reduced capacity at Wrigley Field to start 2021 MLB season

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The Chicago Cubs laid off about 25% of their business staff on Thursday because of a loss in revenue and in anticipation of an uncertain 2021, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN.

The move follows a significant round of cuts on the baseball side in August.

Based on advice from medical experts, as well as restrictions because of local ordinances, the Cubs are not expecting full capacity inside Wrigley Field at the beginning of next season.

It’s possible only season-ticket holders will be allowed to attend games. They’ll get first priority as they make up about 50% of overall ticket holders, which is about the same capacity the team is expecting to allow inside the stadium.

The Cubs expect to miss out on about 75% of their revenue in 2020, according to sources, because of the COVID-19 outbreak that has limited the season to 60 games, without fans in the stands. That could add up to a $125 million to $140 million loss.

Uncertainty in the next collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players also is contributing to the overall financial picture of the Cubs, according to sources.

“This is through no fault of their own and had nothing to do with their performance, talent or contributions,” a team source said when asked by ESPN about the lost jobs. “This was a difficult decision but the goal was to restructure the organization based on the current operating environment with losses of more than $100 million anticipated next year. We’re no longer a business that welcomes 3.3 million fans and we’re not sure when that business will resume.”

The team is hopeful to get back to full capacity at Wrigley Field later in the 2021 season, but with no guarantee from medical experts about when there might be a vaccine, the team is preparing for reduced capacity for as long as necessary.

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