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How Blue Jays’ Estrada is approaching dangerous Rangers lineup

Arden Zwelling | posted Thursday, Oct 6th, 2016

ARLINGTON, Texas — Marco Estrada has an awfully important start Thursday night against the Texas Rangers. Perhaps you’ve heard—it’s Game 1 of the ALDS.

The process for some pitchers in a situation like Estrada’s would be to look back at film of the last few times they faced their opponent, analyzing what went right and, more importantly, what went wrong. Baseball players have an embarrassment of data and resources available to them in today’s game, from advanced scouting to heat maps to spray charts to multi-camera, slow-motion footage of each and every major league hitter’s swing. You can analyze your game to an unbelievable degree, and some pitchers will take advantage of those resources, devising a plan to best nullify their opponents.

Not Estrada. He’s not about that life.

“No, I haven’t looked at one thing,” Estrada said Wednesday, a day before he starts Game 1 for the Blue Jays. “I don’t really do that sort of stuff. I feel like guys change their approach all the time, and you can kind of see it off their swings as the game goes on. I try to pay attention to that a little more than going back and seeing what they’ve done off of me. It’s just something I’ve changed in the last few years. And it seems to work out. So, I’ll just keep it that way.”

And, of course, that’s fine. You’ve got to do whatever works for you. Last season, following the advice of the revered Mark Buehrle, Estrada stopped worrying about the small stuff. He began to take the mound with a conviction to simply throw the exact pitch the catcher called, every single time. The most important thing was hitting his spot, and executing the pitch he’d been asked to execute with precision. Nothing else—results, defence, weather, who’s up in the bullpen, whatever—mattered.

And it’s worked for him. Since the start of 2015, Estrada’s allowed the second-fewest hits of any major leaguer to make more than 32 starts, trailing only some guy named Clayton Kershaw. His 3.30 ERA over that span sits 20th among starters, ahead of name brand pitchers like Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale, and his opponent Thursday night, Cole Hamels.

“To be honest with you, I don’t really think about much while I’m out there. I focus on the glove and the sign and that’s about it,” Estrada said. “I’m just focused on throwing strikes and getting early outs.”

The Rangers will present an interesting challenge. Carlos Beltran and Adrian Beltre are future Hall-of-Famers; Rougned Odor and Carlos Gomez are tough outs and no fun to deal with on the base paths; Jonathan Lucroy, Nomar Mazara and Ian Desmond can leave the yard in a heartbeat. A dangerous lineup awaits Estrada Thursday night. Not that he’s even thought about it.

“I feel the same about this lineup as I feel about any other lineup. Nothing changes for me,” Estrada said. “I actually don’t really pay attention to who’s playing that day. I find out who is going to hit the day of, basically when they step up to the plate.”

It’s an admirable approach. Don’t worry about them; worry about you. Make the hitters try to beat your strengths, instead of you trying to beat theirs. That’s what some of the best pitchers in the game do. Chris Archer isn’t going to shy away from his slider against lineups with a patient approach. Noah Syndergaard isn’t going to lay off his fastball against teams that hunt for heaters. And Marco Estrada shouldn’t back away from his change-up, which is well regarded as one of the best in the game.

“Guys like Lucroy or Gomez, I haven’t really faced them. So we’ll see what we throw at them. But other than that, everybody seems to be the same,” Estrada said. “I try to hit the glove. That’s about it.”

That change-up is Estrada’s best weapon, and when he has it working he’s generally going to perform very well. It’s no coincidence that when Estrada struggled through a frustrating stretch in late August and early September when he posted a 7.53 ERA in six starts, it just so happened to be a rare stretch of time when he lost the feel for his change-up.

Any pitcher who has tried to make a change-up a core piece of their repertoire will tell you that it can be a challenging pitch to harness at times because there are so many working parts. You want your arm action and release point to look like a fastball, creating a deceptiveness that is absolutely paramount to the pitch’s success. You then have to manage the velocity of the pitch to give it adequate separation from your fastball. And on top of that you want to throw it with late action, so that it drops or fades as it reaches the plate, increasing the chance of a swing-and-miss or at least a groundball.

Really, it’s remarkable that Estrada has been able to command the pitch so consistently over the last two seasons, rarely having an outing where he isn’t able to use it successfully. But when he hit that rough patch with it, he found it exceedingly difficult to locate the pitch where he wanted to, which left him with only an 89-mph fastball, an 85-mph cutter and a 77-mph curveball to attack with.

Those three pitches alone aren’t enough to get big-league hitters out. There’s nothing overpowering or especially filthy in terms of movement there. He needs the change-up to be his great equalizer. Without it, Estrada’s practically naked on the mound.

“I kept bouncing my change-ups. Guys weren’t even offering. To be honest with you, I didn’t even see guys flinching at it,” Estrada said. “That’s how bad it was.”

Estrada’s change-up usage plummeted during that stretch as he tried to rely on other pitches to get through his outings. The low point likely came on Sept. 9 vs. Boston, when Estrada was lifted after only 2.1 innings, having allowed 10 of the 16 batters he faced to reach base. Estrada threw just 15 change-ups that day, getting a swing with less than half of them.

But from there, Estrada regained his feel for the pitch, performing better in his next outing before rattling off three straight strong starts to finish his season. In his most recent outing last weekend in Boston against a very patient, very dangerous Red Sox lineup, Estrada threw 34 change-ups, the most he’s thrown in an outing since early August. The pitch was great that day, getting Estrada a strike 62 per cent of the time as Red Sox hitters batted just .111 on the seven change-ups they put it in play.

So, toss out the scouting reports, burn the heat maps, delete the video files. Estrada doesn’t need any of that junk. He just needs his catcher, his approach, and his change-up.

“It’s been much better lately,” Estrada said. “So, I’ve just got to make sure that the pitch is there Thursday. If it is, I think I’ll be OK.”

Hurricane Matthew gains new fury as it hurtles to Florida

Mike Schneider and Keli Kennedy, The Associated Press | posted Thursday, Oct 6th, 2016

Waves crashoff the pilings under the Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier on Oct. 05, 2016, as Hurricane Matthew approaches Jacksonville, Fla. Photo by Bruce Lipsky/The Florida Times-Union via AP. 

As the threat from the major hurricane rose along the Southeast seacoast, the centre extended a hurricane warning area on a large swath of Florida’s east coast farther up to Altamaha Sound, Georgia. And it said a newly expanded hurricane watch area would now reach from the Altamaha Sound to the South Santee River in South Carolina.

As Matthew put the U.S. in its sights, about two million people were encouraged to head inland ahead of the most powerful storm to threaten the Atlantic coast in more than a decade. Matthew killed at least 16 people in the Caribbean as it cut through Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas.

The storm is forecast to near the Florida coast starting Thursday night, potentially as a Category 4 storm with 209 km/h winds. Any slight deviation could mean landfall or it heading farther out to sea. Either way, forecasters say it will come close enough to wreak havoc along the lower part of the East Coast, dumping up to 15 inches in rain in some spots. Storm surge of 5 feet to 8 feet was expected along the coast from central Florida into Georgia.

None of this mattered to John Long, who lives in the Florida town of Cape Canaveral.

“The hype is going to be worse than the actual storm. I feel I can do quite well,” said Long, who owns a bike shop and plans to ride out the storm with his cat in his 32-foot recreational vehicle a half-mile from the ocean. He has lived in the Space Coast area for three decades. “There’s always tremendous buildup and then it’s no stronger than an afternoon thunderstorm. I’m not anticipating that much damage,” he said Wednesday.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has urged people to reconsider.

“This is a dangerous storm,” Scott said. “The storm has already killed people. We should expect the same impact in Florida.”

Similar warnings were issued in Georgia and the Carolinas, where the storm is expected to arrive by the weekend. The last Category 3 storm or higher to hit the United States was Wilma in October 2005. It made landfall with 193 km/h winds in southwest Florida, killing five people as it slashed across the state.

In South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley reversed the lanes of Interstate 26 for the first time on Wednesday so that all lanes of traffic were headed west and out of Charleston. Plans to reverse the lanes were put in place after hourslong traffic jams during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

Haley planned to call for more evacuations Thursday, which would bring the total to about 500,000 people in the state. Florida urged or ordered about 1.5 million to leave the coast, said Jackie Schutz, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott. About 50,000 people were told to go in Georgia.

On Tybee Island, home to Georgia’s largest public beach, Loren Kook was loading up his pickup truck with suitcases and a computer late Wednesday afternoon. He and his wife were trying to decide whether to board up their windows overlooking the marsh grasses of Horsepen Creek before hitting the road to metro Atlanta.

“It seems like a lot of the longtime residents are staying,” said Kook, who moved to the coast four years ago. “I’ve never sat through a Category Whatever. I’ll watch it on TV.”

Early Thursday, Matthew’s centre was about 410 kilometres southeast of West Palm Beach, Florida, and slogging ever closer at a clip of 19 km/h.

Yet despite evacuation orders and dire warnings, Robert and Georgette Tyler said they were staying put in their 500-square foot rental home in Cape Canaveral, undeterred that Matthew might soon be pounding at their door.

Taking a break from putting plywood on windows, Robert Tyler said he feared getting stuck in traffic and that it was too much trouble to pack up his motorcycles and firearms. He has two generators, 50 gallons of fuel and enough food and water for a week. Plus, he is a handyman and his phone will be ringing off the hook once the storm passes.

“It’s part of Florida life I guess, especially on the coast,” he said.

Police release photo of man suspected of throwing beer can at Orioles player

News staff, The Canadian Press and The Associated Press | posted Thursday, Oct 6th, 2016

Toronto police have released a photo of the person they believe is responsible for throwing a can of beer at Baltimore Orioles outfielder Hyun Soo Kim during the seventh inning of Tuesday’s American League wild-card game.

Earlier Wednesday, police threatened that they would release the image unless the person came forward and turned themselves in.

Just after 6 p.m., they made good on the threat.

The Toronto Sun identified him as Ken Pagan, an employee of Postmedia – and formerly Sun Media, describing him as “an award-winning journalist and passionate baseball player.”

In a statement to CityNews, Postmedia confirmed that Pagan is an employee with the news organization and that they are “conducting an internal investigation but have reached no conclusions at this time.”

In response to the incident, the Blue Jays said they will be increasing security at homes games and banning the person responsible from Rogers Centre.

“The safety of our fans, staff, players and visiting teams is paramount,” the Jays said in a release Wednesday. “We’re cooperating with the authorities to identify the individual involved, and the individual responsible is not welcome back to the stadium.

We will also enact heightened security measures and alcohol policies that will ensure the fan experience and safety of everybody involved.” (Full statement below)

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred tells ESPN’s Jayson Stark that there will be changes to the alcohol policy when the Blue Jays return home to play the Texas Rangers this weekend.

“We’ve also talked to the Blue Jays about the policies with respect to the serving of alcohol,” said Manfred. “No cans, those sorts of things, to make sure that we have as positive an environment going forward as possible.”

Police told 680 NEWS the fan had already left their seat when officers arrived at their row.

Insp. Chris Boddy said the person, who could be charged with public mischief, made a “very poor choice, [and] put the baseball player in danger.”

“Whoever this individual is has to be made responsible for [their] actions.”

With the score tied 2-2, pinch hitter Melvin Upton Jr. flied out to the track in left. Kim made the catch despite the can narrowly missing him as it came out of the stands behind the player.

Baltimore Orioles' Hyun Soo Kim gets under a fly ball as a beer can sails past him during seventh inning American League wild-card game action against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto on Oct. 4, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch
Baltimore Orioles’ Hyun Soo Kim gets under a fly ball as a beer can sails past him during seventh inning American League wild-card game action against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto on Oct. 4, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

Orioles centre-fielder Adam Jones gestured toward the seats, and manager Buck Showalter came out to register his displeasure with the umpires for several minutes.

“That is about as pathetic as it gets. You don’t do that. Yell, cuss or scream,” Jones said. “I hope they find the guy and press charges. … That’s not a part of baseball. Throw an octopus, throw hats.”

Jones, who said he heard racial slurs after the can was thrown, called the incident “pathetic.” Racial slurs were also hurled at Kim.

“I’ve heard that so much playing baseball,” he said. “I don’t really care anymore. Call me what you want … I get it. That’s fine.

“I’ve heard that so much playing baseball, call me what you want, I don’t care. You hear everything, we can hear everything, people cussing you, flipping you off, that’s fine, but to go out of character, put us in harm’s way … we’re here to play baseball, nothing more, nothing less and put us in harm’s way, that’s not part of the game, not part of any sport,” Jones said.

Several baseball fans took to Twitter to express their outrage, and distance themselves from what many called “inexcusable” behaviour.

“Go Jays!!! I hope the moron who threw the beer can is enjoying being the most pathetic person in Canada today,” tweeted one person.

“Tossing beer cans and yelling racial slurs is abhorrent in any instance. The vast majority of Jays/sports fans/Canadians aren’t like that, tweeted another.


“Any fan who resorts to dangerous actions like last night’s – in Toronto or elsewhere – will be subject to arrest by local authorities,” Major League Baseball said in a statement. “We ask all fans to alert stadium operations employees if they witness any form of unacceptable behaviour from fellow spectators. We are committed to providing a safe and fan-friendly atmosphere at all of our games.”

Showalter said it was fortunate no one was hurt in the incident.

“It’s tough when you have many people in the ballpark and one person does something that reflects poorly on all of them,” he said.

Kim, the target of the toss, said such an incident should never happen.

“It’s the first time for me and hopefully the last,” he said through an interpreter.

It’s not the first time, however, that rowdy behaviour from some Jays fans has caused a stir.

Blue Jays fans tossed bottles and debris on the field during Game 5 of last year’s AL Division Series against the Rangers, upset by the call that let Rougned Odor score from third after catcher Russell Martin’s throw back to the mound deflected off Shin Soo Choo’s bat. A baby was narrowly missed.

Following that episode, a decision was made to serve beer in plastic cups in the upper tier of the stadium for certain games.

A Blue Jays fan also threw a drink at Orioles outfielder Nate McLouth during a game at Rogers Centre in May 2013.


The Toronto Blue Jays would like to express our extreme disappointment for the incident that occurred during last night’s American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre involving an object being thrown onto the field of play.

Throughout this season, we have witnessed an incredible level of fan engagement, with a passionate and loyal fan base that extends across Canada.  On the heels of one of the most competitive and exhilarating baseball games in our club’s history, it is extremely unfortunate that the irresponsible actions of one individual would detract from the game on the field, and tarnish an otherwise memorable night.

We would like to offer our sincere apologies and regrets to the entire Baltimore Orioles organization, its manager and players, as well as Major League Baseball for this embarrassing incident.

The safety of our fans, staff, players and visiting teams is paramount. We’re cooperating with the authorities to identify the individual involved, and the individual responsible is not welcome back to the stadium. We will also enact heightened security measures and alcohol policies that will ensure the fan experience and safety of everybody involved.

We hope the focus will remain on the exciting play on the field, and that our fans will express their passionate support for the Blue Jays while demonstrating a level of respect and responsibility that has made Rogers Centre one of the best atmospheres for families and fans of baseball.

Encarnacion homers as Jays win wild-card game with Orioles in extra-inning thriller

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Oct 5th, 2016

Edwin Encarnacion slammed a three-run homer in the 11th inning to lift the Toronto Blue Jays to a 5-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night in a drama-filled American League wild-card game.

Devon Travis singled with one out off Ubaldo Jimenez, a starter who was Baltimore’s seventh pitcher on the night, and moved to third on Josh Donaldson’s single. Then Encarnacion went to work, depositing the ball over the left-field fence.

The Jays dugout emptied, sending a jubilant mass of Toronto players onto the field. The capacity crowd chanted “Eddie, Eddie.”

Toronto now faces Texas, the top seed in the American League, on Thursday in Arlington to open the five-game AL Division Series.

Both bullpens put on a show, putting up one zero after another. Then, in extra innings, the managers turned to starters with Francisco Liriano and Jimenez.

By then, the sellout crowd of 49,934 was living and dying with every called strike and ball.

Tied 2-2, the Jays sent in closer Roberto Osuna for the ninth. He needed 14 pitches to end it, striking out Mark Trumbo and Matt Wieters as the decibel level grew.

Toronto had a glorious chance to end it in its half of the ninth.

Donaldson doubled off Brad Brach down the left field line to open the inning. Encarnacion was intentionally walked, bringing up Jose Bautista who struck out. Darren O’Day needed just one pitch to induce Russell Martin to hit into the Jays’ third double play of the night.

Osuna got one out in the 10th then left quickly with an apparent injury, bringing out Liriano who got the two remaining outs.

Bautista had a solo homer in the second inning for Toronto, which got six strong innings from starter Marcus Stroman and some great defence from Kevin Pillar, Troy Tulowitzki and Donaldson before a loud, passionate crowd under the stars at the Rogers Centre.

Stroman retired the first nine hitters he faced but stumbled in the fourth when Trumbo, who led the majors with 47 home runs this season, hit a two-run shot to left.

Stroman was good but so was Orioles starter Chris Tillman, who only allowed Bautista to reach base until he ran into trouble in the fifth. Michael Saunders hit a swerving ground-rule double to left with one out and Pillar then doubled to right field on a play Michael Bourn looked to have but missed at the last second after a long run.

That left men on second and third, with Saunders coming home on Ezequiel Carrera’s short single to centre. Tillman gave way to Mychal Givens, who got Travis to hit into a double play.

There was a nasty moment in the seventh when Baltimore left fielder Hyun Soo Kim was almost hit by a beer can thrown from the stands he made a catch near the fence.

The wild-card race went down to the last day of the regular season with Toronto having to throw ace Aaron Sanchez into action Sunday in Boston. He did his job but as a result the Jays, who went 13-16 in an up-and-down September, were denied their top pitcher in the one-game wild-card showdown.

The atmosphere was electric on a 17-degree Celsius October night.

“Let’s go @BlueJays! Canadians are behind you,” tweeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

For a city caught up in Jays fever, it was more than a playoff game. A loss and it was possibly the end of an era with Bautista and fellow star slugger Edwin Encarnacion facing free agency.

There was a pre-game buzz with the 50/50 draw prize ticking past $50,000 some 25 minutes before first pitch. The crowd was in good voice early, roaring when Stroman jogged out to the bullpen for his warmup pitches.

The Orioles were greeted by boos as they lined up before the game for introductions. Fans, waving giveaway rally towels, roared on the Jays when they came out. Seconds later, a “Let’s Go Blue Jays” chant started. It got even louder as Adam Jones stepped up to the plate to open the game.

Stroman and Tillman signalled a tight game with 1-2-3 12-pitch first innings. But after Stroman did it again in the second, Bautista opened the second by depositing a 3-1 pitch over the left-field fence. It was his fifth post-season homer, second only to Joe Carter (6) in Toronto history. Seventeen of Bautista’s 23 home runs this season have put the Jays ahead.

Baltimore didn’t get a runner on base until Jones singled to right to open the fourth. With Jones running on a full count, the Orioles avoided a double play as Kim grounded out to first. Pillar then made a highlight-reel diving catch after a long run to dispatch Manny Machado.

The crowd was silenced when Trumbo, the next batter, slammed a two-run shot to left.

Tillman retired 11 of the first 12 batters he faced with Bautista’s homer the only blemish. He walked Bautista in the fourth ending a run of eight straight outs but quickly ended the inning,

In the fifth, Tulowitzki dove acrobatically to get a Jonathan Scoop screamer at shortstop.

Tillman went 4 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on four hits in a 74-pitch outing that included 44 strikes

Stroman gave up two runs on four hits with no walks and six strikeouts in his six innings. He threw 81 pitches, of which 53 were strikes.

Donaldson drew cheers for vacuuming up a hard hit Wieters ball to third to open the seventh inning. After Brett Cecil issued a walk, Joe Biagini — who was pitching in Class-A ball last season — cleaned up.

Jason Grilli pitched a 1-2-3 eighth.

Toronto has history with Texas.

Last year, Bautista’s dramatic three-run homer — complete with bat flip — lifted the Jays past the Rangers in Game 5 of the AL Division Series before a riled-up capacity crowd of 49,742 at the Rogers Centre.

Toronto went on to lose to the Kansas City Royals in six games in the AL Championship Series.

The bad blood between the Jays and Rangers bubbled to the top in May when Texas second baseman Rougned Odor punched Bautista in the face after objecting to the Toronto outfielder’s slide. That sparked a bench-clearing melee at Globe Life Park in Arlington.

Odor was subsequently suspended for eight games while Bautista got a one-game ban. In all, 14 players and staff members were disciplined.

Tuesday marked the 20th time the Baltimore and Toronto had met this season with the Jays holding 10-9 edge coming into the game. Both clubs finished with the same 89-73 record in the regular season.

Fan throws beer can at Orioles’ Kim during wild-card game

Rob Gillies, The Associated Press | posted Wednesday, Oct 5th, 2016

A fan threw a can at Baltimore Orioles outfielder Hyun Soo Kim during the seventh inning of Tuesday’s AL wild card game.

With the score tied 2-2, pinch hitter Melvin Upton Jr. flied out to the track in left. Kim made the catch despite the can narrowly missing him as it came out of the stands behind him.

Centre fielder Adam Jones gestured toward the seats, and manager Buck Showalter came out to register his displeasure with the umpires for several minutes.

“That is about as pathetic as it gets. You don’t do that. Yell, cuss or scream,” Jones said. “I hope they find the guy and press charges. … That’s not a part of baseball. Throw an octopus, throw hats.”

It was not clear whether the fan was ejected.

“Something like that should never happen. It’s the first time for me and hopefully the last,” Kim said through an interpreter.

Showalter said he just wanted the person identified and thrown out.

“It’s tough when you have many people in the ballpark and one person does something that reflects poorly on all of them,” he said. “We’re fortunate and lucky that somebody didn’t get hit.”

Blue Jays fans tossed bottles and debris on the field during Game 5 of last year’s AL Division Series against Texas, upset by the call that let Rougned Odor score from third after catcher Russell Martin’s throw back to the mound deflected off Shin Soo Choo’s bat. A baby was narrowly missed.

A Blue Jays fan also threw a drink at Orioles outfielder Nate McLouth during a game at Rogers Centre in May 2013.

Fans in the north end of the Rogers Centre beyond the outfield walls tweeted Tuesday night about seeing a meteor shower south of the stadium. Police and firefighters responded to 911 calls about a possible plane crash in the water just blocks from ballpark.

Police spokeswoman Natasha Zver said scores of emergency personnel searched the waters, ruled out a plane crash and said they think it was a meteor.

Pence calm and steady in VP debate, but dodges in defending Trump

Julie Pace and Catherine Lucey, The Associated Press | posted Wednesday, Oct 5th, 2016

Republican Mike Pence was calm and steady in the face of Democrat Tim Kaine’s fiery and frequent challenges. But when it came to defending Donald Trump, Pence dodged, sidestepped or was silent about some of his running mate’s most provocative words.

Kaine aggressively pressured Pence to vouch for Trump throughout the 90-minute debate, often citing the brash businessman’s own words. Pence defended Trump’s tax history, but manoeuvred around criticism of Trump’s demeaning comments about women, his public doubting of President Barack Obama’s citizenship and broader questions about temperament.

“I can’t imagine how Governor Pence can defend the insult-driven, me-first style of Donald Trump,” said Kaine, the Virginia senator and Hillary Clinton’s No. 2.

The usually easygoing Kaine went on the attack from the start and seemed determined to make the debate a referendum on whether Trump has the disposition for the Oval Office. He slammed Trump for having called women pigs and slobs, and condemned the GOP nominee’s praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Pence frequently avoided taking the bait – a shrewd move for a conservative darling who could have eyes on the Oval Office himself if Trump loses in November. But for voters seeking assurances from Pence about Trump’s temperament, there was little to cling to.

Five weeks from election day, the White House race appears to be tipping in Clinton’s favour. She was widely viewed as the winner of last week’s first presidential debate, rattling the real estate mogul with jabs about his business record, responding to his attacks with calm rejoinders, and sending him into a multi-day tailspin over comments he made about a beauty queen’s weight 20 years ago. New public opinion polls have shown her improving her standing in nearly all battleground states.

Pence was markedly more prepared and more detailed in his answers than Trump was on the debate stage. He was also more consistent in painting the Democratic ticket as career politicians unwilling to shake up Washington.

“Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine want more of the same,” Pence said. He repeatedly accused the Democrats of running an insult-filled campaign – an ironic attack line given that Trump has levelled repeated insults against Clinton and his former rivals in the Republican primaries.

Republicans hope Pence’s performance will help steady Trump’s campaign. But that boost could be short-lived if Trump has another weak performance when he and Clinton meet Sunday in their second of three debates.

Trump is sure to be peppered with questions in the next debate about his tax records, as Pence was Tuesday. Asked about reports that the businessman might not have paid any federal taxes for years, Pence said his running mate “used the tax code just the way it’s supposed to be used, and he did it brilliantly.”

Records obtained by The New York Times showed Trump suffered more than $900 million in losses in 1995 that could have allowed him to avoid paying federal income taxes for as many as 18 years.

Kaine, too, defended his running mate’s weaknesses, chiefly the public’s questions about her honesty and trustworthiness. He said that while Trump was “selfish,” Clinton had devoted her career to helping children and families.

Social issues were a bigger part of the conversation than in the first presidential showdown, reflecting both candidates’ religious faith.

Kaine, a Catholic who personally opposes abortion but has consistently voted in favour of abortion rights, said of the Republican nominee, “Why doesn’t Donald Trump trust women to make this choice for themselves?” He also pointed to Trump’s assertion that women should face some kind of “punishment” for abortion, a comment Trump later walked back.

Pence stressed his opposition to abortion and said he was “proud to be standing with Donald Trump” on the issue.

On national security, Kaine revived Trump’s frequently flattering comments about Putin, the Russian president.

“He loves dictators,” Kaine said. “He’s got like a personal Mount Rushmore: Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Moammar Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein.”

Pence tried to flip the tables by accusing Kaine’s running mate of stoking Russia’s belligerence.

“The weak and feckless foreign policy of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has awaked an aggression in Russia that first appeared in Russia a few years ago,” Pence said. “All the while, all we do is fold our arms and say we’re not having talks anymore.”

On criminal justice, Kaine argued that Trump’s embrace of “stop-and-frisk” style policing was a mistake. Pence argued that Clinton has used police shootings to argue that there is “implicit bias” in police departments, and he said the Democrats should “stop seizing on these moments of tragedy.”

Kaine quickly shot back, “I can’t believe you are defending the position that there’s no bias.”

The vice-presidential debate was held at Virginia’s Longwood University, which Pence called Norwood University. While last week’s first presidential debate was watched by a record-setting television audience of 84 million people, Tuesday’s contest was expected to have smaller viewership given Pence’s and Kaine’s lower profiles.

Associated Press writers Josh Lederman and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.

Officials worried about complacency as Hurricane Matthew nears Florida

Terry Spencer and Jennifer Kay, The Associated Press | posted Wednesday, Oct 5th, 2016

Hurricane Matthew’s slog toward the East Coast has government officials worried about complacency, especially in South Florida, which hasn’t seen a major hurricane in 11 years.

South Carolina’s governor said she would issue an evacuation order Wednesday so that 1 million people would have time to leave the coast, and residents up and down the Eastern seaboard flocked to hardware stores, grocery aisles and gas stations to prepare for the powerful storm.

Presently a dangerous Category 3 storm with top sustained winds of 125 mph, Matthew was churning toward the southeastern Bahamas early Wednesday amid predictions it would be very near Florida’s Atlantic coast by Thursday evening.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Matthew – recently a Category 4 storm and at one brief point a fierce Category 5 – will remain a powerful storm at least through Thursday night. It added that while maximum winds decreased slightly in recent hours, further fluctuations in intensity are possible in coming days.

Previously: Powerful Hurricane Matthew roars across Haiti

Officials hope to avoid a repeat of Hurricanes Wilma and Katrina, which caused major damage to South Florida in 2005, and Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm, levelled much of the city of Homestead in 1992. The latter storm was on the minds of some officials Tuesday – both Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Jean Monestime and U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo mistakenly called the current hurricane “Andrew” during a press conference, drawing nervous laughter.

Curbelo, a Republican, said he wants assurances that the federal, state and local governments are working together.

“We just can’t take it for granted that that’s always going to happen,” Curbelo said.

The Miami forecasters issued a hurricane warning for the area north of Golden Beach near Fort Lauderdale to Sebastian Inlet, meaning hurricane force winds of 74 mph or higher are expected within two days. A hurricane watch is in effect from Sebastian Inlet to the Daytona Beach area, meaning hurricane force winds could occur.

During rush hour Tuesday, long lines formed at gas stations in Charleston, South Carolina, snarling traffic as lines snaked out of gas stations and into travel lanes. At one gas station in Mount Pleasant, the line reached about a quarter mile down the street.

In South Florida, lines at grocery stores were heavier than usual and some essentials were in short supply. When Simone Corrado and her husband tried to buy water at their Publix in Davie near Fort Lauderdale, they mostly found empty shelves. There were a few bottles of high-end water brands, but there was so much empty shelf space that Corrado lay down and fully stretched out on the bottom shelf.

“I got scared because all that was left at Publix was just the pricey water,” said Corrado, who lived through 1992’s catastrophic Hurricane Andrew, which practically levelled the nearby city of Homestead. “They really put the fear into you here. On the television screen every few minutes is the ‘beep, beep, beep’ storm alert.”

Gov. Rick Scott warned residents they must be prepared to take a direct hit and evacuation orders could be issued as early as Tuesday.

“Don’t take a chance. Leave before it’s too late,” he said. “We have to be prepared to be hit by a catastrophic hurricane.”

Hurricane Hermine became the first to strike Florida since Wilma in 2005 when it hit the eastern Panhandle on Sept. 2 as a Category 1 storm, causing one death, storm surge damage to beachfront homes and downed trees and power lines. That 11-year lull between storms hitting Florida was the longest on record.

The last storm to hit Florida from the Atlantic side was Katrina, which struck on its way to devastating the Gulf coast.

Wilma made landfall as a Category 3 storm with 120 mph winds, killing five people as it pushed from southwest Florida, through the Everglades and into the Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach area, causing an estimated $21 billion in damage and leaving thousands of residents without power for more than a week. It concluded a two-year span when a record eight hurricanes hit the state.

Governors in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina declared states of emergency, and the White House said President Barack Obama cancelled a campaign and health care events in Florida on Wednesday and would instead visit the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for an update.

Some airlines let passengers change travel plans without penalty if their trip might be affected by Matthew.

Near Fort Lauderdale, The Home Depot in Davie briefly ran out of propane for gas barbecues and the supply of batteries was dwindling. People bought plywood to cover windows, tarps to put over outdoor furniture and coolers for food storage.

Anesthesiologist Darby Lipka lugged a 20-pound propane tank across the parking lot, saying he had already purchased food and water. He installed hurricane windows years ago so he wouldn’t need to erect shutters

“I am just trying to be prepared,” he said.

Haley said state officials would reverse lanes on major evacuation routes in South Carolina. It would be the first major evacuation since Hurricane Floyd in 1999, when the governor at the time didn’t reverse the lanes and Interstate 26 became a parking lot. A typically two-hour drive from Charleston to Columbia turned into 24-hour nightmare.

Kay reported from Miami Beach. Associated Press reporters Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina; Mike Schneider in Orlando; Freida Frisaro in Miami and Martha Waggoner in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed to this report.

Is the ‘killer clown’ prank coming to Toronto?

Alanna Kelly | posted Wednesday, Oct 5th, 2016

Imagine driving along a dark, winding road, turning the corner and seeing a clown standing in the middle of road. It’s a scene right out of a scary movie.

Creepy clowns, also called “killer clowns,” have been making appearances on social media via prank videos and even threats at schools.

What appears to have started as a prank has taken a sinister turn in some cases. There have been reports of people in clown costumes approaching children. And a 13-year-old girl was arrested in Virginia after asking a person posing as a clown on social media to kill one of her teachers, The Associated Press reported.

The girl was charged with one count of threatening to kill by electronic message.

Police in Toronto say it isn’t a laughing matter.

Const. Jennifer Sidhu said at this moment there have been no reports of killer clowns in Toronto.

“It is not illegal to dress up in a clown costume … It’s the actions that the person does or takes while dressed up in any costume that will lead to them possibly being charged if it is an infraction against the criminal code,” said Sidhu.

“We are aware of the incidents in the States, but as of now there is nothing on file of killer clowns in the city.”

Sidhu added that any complaints will be fully investigated and dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

One Toronto teacher reached out to CityNews on Twitter to say her students have been talking about the clown at school.

Shawn Hamilton owner of Amazing Party Store said he has seen an increase in killer clown costumes this year.

“They are looking for something scary, evil-looking, and they will put their own slant on it with knives and blood,” Hamilton said.

He receives a handful of calls every day asking for the killer clown costume.

Hamilton believes the demand is due to the “instances of supposed killer clowns doing pranks.”

Many of the images appearing on social media haven’t been proven as real.

Professional clowns in Montreal said their craft shouldn’t be confused with the creepy clown sightings over the past few weeks.

Stacey Laureyssens, interim president of the 150-member Clowns Canada, says the distinction between the fear-sowing tricksters and the real thing should be clear.

“What these people are doing is acting like monsters in clown costumes to prank people. They are not clowns,” she said.

It’s not clear if the prank is related to the movie It, based on the novel by Stephen King, featuring a demon that takes the form of a sadistic clown. The film is currently being remade in Toronto and set to be released in 2017.

Clown costumes have been banned from Connecticut School District, and a school in an Ohio School District cancelled classes on Friday because of a creepy clown threat.

Hamilton said he hopes people don’t take the killer clown costumes too seriously.

“I hope it is just for fun, [that] the pranks are safe and they don’t harm anybody.”

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press.

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