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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Yankees 9-1 victory

NEW YORK (AP) — Clumsy defense cost the Mets in the Subway Series again.

In a matter of minutes, New York made three crucial errors that led to a four-run second inning for the Yankees in their 9-1 victory Friday night at Citi Field.

Third baseman David Wright and shortstop Alex Cora uncorked wild throws before first baseman Nick Evans fumbled away a grounder. All those miscues were too much to overcome against Yankees ace CC Sabathia, who was on top of his game against a depleted lineup.

"Where we are now injury-wise, I've said it: We've got to play pretty mistake-free baseball to win," Wright said. "And obviously, we didn't get that tonight. You make those kind of mistakes and CC has the stuff that he had tonight, your chances aren't very good."

The only Mets infielder who didn't make an error during the inning was second baseman Luis Castillo.

Of course, two weeks earlier, it was Castillo who dropped what would have been a game-ending popup by Alex Rodriguez, allowing two runs to score and giving the Yankees a 9-8 win at home.

This time, the mistake-prone Mets made three errors in an inning for the first time since May 20, 2004, when first baseman Mike Piazza, shortstop Kaz Matsui and third baseman Todd Zeile were the culprits in the ninth inning of an 11-4 loss to St. Louis.

"We've played pretty good baseball lately. It's unfortunate that we choose tonight to have that game, but you're going to have games like that," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "Their big guy was very good."

Melky Cabrera led off the second with a slow bouncer to third that Wright barehanded and threw past first, allowing Cabrera to reach second. It was the 10th error of the year for Wright, a Gold Glove winner each of the past two seasons.

One out later, Ramiro Pena hit an opposite-field double to left, driving in the first run. Sabathia, who hadn't batted in a game since last Sept. 28, singled up the middle on the next pitch for his 14th career RBI.

Brett Gardner looped a single down the left-field line, with Sabathia huffing and puffing his way to second. Johnny Damon then hit a sharp grounder to Cora that could have been an inning-ending double play. But the shortstop threw the ball into right field, allowing Sabathia to score.

Mark Teixeria grounded to first, and Evans booted the ball with both his glove and bare hand, knocking it into foul territory as Gardner scored for a 4-0 lead.

"I caught it and I looked at home, looked at the runner too soon, and just lost control of the ball," Evans said. "I should have worried about catching the ball first."

A walk to Rodriguez loaded the bases, and fans applauded when Robinson Cano hit a soft liner to Castillo for the second out. Cabrera's grounder to second ended the inning.

"There was a point there, I started laughing," Mets starter Mike Pelfrey said. "I think CC probably hit the hardest ball that inning.

"It's crazy when that happens. You want the ball to get hit to those guys. They make great plays all the time. That was just weird."

Castillo received derisive cheers in the seventh when he caught consecutive bases-loaded popups without a problem.

But by then, it was too late for the Mets to salvage another night of sloppy defense.

by the associated press

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Giants past Rangers 6-4

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Fred Lewis hit a go-ahead, two-run homer for the Giants shortly after Randy Johnson lost the chance for his 302nd career victory, and the San Francisco bullpen then hung on for a 6-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Friday night.

Aaron Rowand and Travis Ishikawa also homered for the Giants, who snapped their three-game losing streak and kept the Rangers winless in all nine games they've played at San Francisco's waterfront ballpark in the past decade.

Marlon Byrd hit a two-run double on the first pitch by Giants reliever Brandon Medders in the sixth to put Texas up 4-3, but Lewis then ended a 2 for 26 slump with a shot onto the arcade above the right field wall.

Michael Young homered for the Rangers, who haven't won in San Francisco since 1998, when the Giants still played at Candlestick Park. The Giants have won nine of 10 overall against the Rangers.

The Giants used five relievers to maintain their lead. Sergio Romo (1-0) was awarded the win after escaping a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, while Jeremy Affeldt pitched a perfect eighth before Brian Wilson picked up his 18th save in 21 chances.

Scott Feldman (5-2) allowed five runs on eight hits in his second straight loss after starting the season with five wins in eight starts. Rowand homered on Feldman's second pitch of the night, while Edgar Renteria and Bengie Molina hit run-scoring singles in the third to put San Francisco up 3-0 before Young connected for his 10th homer in the fourth.

The Giants' June surge was interrupted earlier this week by the Los Angeles Angels, who rolled to the first three-game sweep by an opponent in San Francisco this season.

The Rangers' loss Friday night, coupled with the surging Angels' 5-4 win over the Dodgers, pulled the Angels within a half-game of Texas atop the AL West standings.

Johnson had five strikeouts in another solid start at home, where he has picked up five of his six victories this season — all except career No. 300, which occurred in Washington. Sticking to his season-long tendencies, Johnson again gave up a handful of costly extra-base hits, but got inning-ending strikeouts with runners in scoring position three times in the first five frames.

Right after Texas turned an improbable double play on a broken-bat blooper by Travis Ishikawa in the sixth, Lewis capitalized on his first start in a week by hitting his first homer since May 24.

Notes: Home plate umpire Bill Runge was hit in the mask by the barrel of Ishikawa's shattered bat in the sixth. After the Rangers turned an ensuing double play, the Rangers' medical staff briefly consulted with Runge before he continued the game. ... The Rangers' nine straight losses without a win at the Giants' waterfront ballpark are their most in any road park in club history. ... Texas' Omar Vizquel didn't play when he returned to San Francisco for the first time since spending the past four seasons with the Giants.

by the associated press

Clinton for racial equality

CINCINNATI (AP) — The push for racial equality is far from over, in sports and in everyday life, former President Bill Clinton told a crowd at Major League Baseball's Beacon Awards on Saturday, part of its Civil Rights Game.

Clinton, who as president took part in MLB's ceremony retiring Jackie Robinson's No. 42 uniform number in 1997, spoke at a luncheon honoring Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali and entertainer Bill Cosby for the trio's contributions to civil rights and charitable works.

The former president told a crowd of about 1,400 at the Duke Energy Convention Center that despite such racial progress as the election of Barack Obama as president, problems remain that disproportionately hit minorities. Clinton cited unemployment, the mortgage crisis, high cost of college, and access to health care among continuing issues.

"A lot of people might be tempted to believe that the struggle — which both produced these three giants of sports and comedy and gave them the power to help so many others — that struggle for racial equality is over," Clinton said.

"But I really came here to say if you want to honor Hank Aaron and Muhammad Ali and Bill Cosby, you must first recognize that this struggle is nowhere near over," he said.

The luncheon was among events leading to Saturday night's first regular-season Civil Rights Game, between the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds.

Ali, whose long battle with Parkinson's disease has limited his physical activity, remained seated as fellow former boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard presented him his award. Ali looked it over as his wife, Lonnie, spoke on his behalf.

Cosby had the crowd roaring during his acceptance speech, and urged the audience to make sure new generations know what Ali, Aaron and others had to overcome to be successful, and that there is more to be overcome.

"This is not a time to rest," Cosby said.

Aaron, Ali and Cosby were driven onto the field on carts before the Reds played the Chicago White Sox in the Civil Rights Game, which was held in Memphis, Tenn., the last two years. This was the first time it was held in conjunction with a major league game.

Teams wore throwback jerseys from 1964, the year that the Civil Rights Act was passed outlawing racial segregation. Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who became a star in Cincinnati before being traded to Baltimore after the 1965 season, threw a ceremonial first pitch to Reds Hall of Famer Tony Perez.

Ali wore a Reds jersey and raised his right hand slightly, acknowledging the crowd, as he was driven along the warning track for his grand entrance to Great American Ball Park. He was helped to a chair along the first base line to watch the pregame ceremonies, which included videoboard tributes to all three.

Aaron was particularly touched by the events. He told reporters before the game that Cincinnati has always been special to him.

"My connection with Cincinnati goes back a long, long ways," said Aaron, who tied Babe Ruth's previous home run record of 714 at now-demolished Riverfront Stadium in 1974. "This is a tremendous day for me, not only to get the Beacon Award but to be back in Cincinnati."

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said Aaron was deeply touched by the award.

"I don't think I've ever seen him as emotional as he was today," Selig said.

Major League Baseball was pleased with the weekend, which took the Civil Rights Game onto a much bigger stage for the first time.

"We're very proud of this event," Selig said. "It's come a long, long way in a short period of time."

by the associated press

Mickelson hybrid

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Phil Mickelson gave his adoring fans a shot to remember Saturday in the U.S. Open — a remarkable hybrid that none of the Bethpage Black regulars would even think to try, let alone have the club to play it.

From 164 yards in rough left of the 15th fairway, he opened the face of the hybrid as if playing a wedge and launched a high shot — the crowd cheering as the ball took flight, trying to help it to the elevated green — that stopped 25 feet from the hole.

"This is a special club I actually made, taking the back part of the hybrid out so that I can open it way up and get through that thick rough," Mickelson said.

He was 1 under — seven strokes behind leader Ricky Barnes — after rounds of 69 and 70 and a nifty par save on the first hole in third round before rain stopped play.

Unsure he would even play the event after learning wife Amy has breast cancer, Lefty missed the birdie putt on 15, walking away with his second par on the 459-yard par 4 — the hole where Tiger Woods made a 6 Friday and bogeyed from the fairway Saturday.

"The way the left side kind of cuts in, it's just awkward to my eye," Mickelson said. "I have a tendency to miss it left there. The lie wasn't great. It was in the thick rough, but it wasn't horrible. Short, it's terrible there. And with those pins just on that top section, it's very difficult to get up and down.

"I thought I could get a 5-iron out of that rough up by the green. And I was concerned that it might come out a little dead and be short. I took the hybrid and dug in after it and was able to get it there. I actually was trying to play over the green and get it past, but it came out dead and turned out perfect."

Mickelson returned to the soggy course early Saturday to complete the final eight holes of his second round. He was even par in rain-free conditions, dropping a stroke on the par-5 13th for the second straight day and getting back to red numbers with his second birdie on the par-3 17th.

On No. 1 in the third round, he drove in the deep left rough, hacked out to the fairway, pitched 25 feet past the hole and made the par putt. He drove in the left rough No. 2 before hard rain washed out play for the rest of the day.

"I like the position I'm in," Mickelson said after the second round. "I think that if I can get hot with the putter, I like my chances in the next two rounds."

And there will be two more rounds, no matter the weather, however long it takes.

"It's nice knowing from a player's standpoint, because it allows you to play a certain way," said Mickelson, never worse than fourth in four previous U.S. Opens in New York. "I wasn't out there pressing today forcing birdies, thinking this might be 54 holes. Knowing that it's 72 is helpful."

While the rain has made the greens receptive, Mickelson figured the Bethpage layout has lost only a little of its bite.

"I wouldn't say it hasn't shown its teeth," Mickelson said. "This is a very difficult golf course. It's long. The rough is very difficult, and just a very few yards off the fairways in spots is literally lose your ball or unplayable lie. ... Ernie Els, one of the best players in the game, was 15 over. It's not easy."

That was evident on the 605-yard 13th, where Mickelson's drive embedded in grass on the bank of a bunker, forcing him to take a penalty stroke for an unplayable lie. He called for a ruling, but PGA Tour official Mark Dusbabek — called in by Mickelson for a second opinion — determined the ball didn't break the surface of the ground.

"I don't disagree with the ruling. I understand the rule," Mickelson said. "But I still wanted to get it double-checked."

He didn't need to check twice to know he got a break from the weather that plagued Woods and the other half of the draw.

"We had a great end of the draw," Mickelson said.

by the associated press

Rays beat Mets 3-1

NEW YORK (AP) — Carlos Pena hit a tiebreaking homer off Johan Santana in the seventh inning Saturday, sending James Shields and the Tampa Bay Rays to a rainy 3-1 victory over the New York Mets.

Shields allowed three hits in seven innings and retired his final 14 batters. He outpitched Santana, who was back in fine form following the worst start of his career.

Both starters were lifted after a 73-minute rain delay in the top of the eighth. Dan Wheeler worked a perfect inning and J.P. Howell got three outs for his fourth save.

Ben Zobrist added a solo homer in the ninth, his 15th in a breakout season for the AL champions.

Santana was tagged for nine runs and nine hits in three-plus innings Sunday, losing 15-0 in the Subway Series finale at Yankee Stadium.

The sluggish performance and diminished velocity on his fastball raised questions about Santana's health, though he insisted he felt fine. After adjusting his mechanics and grip during a recent side session, the ace left-hander looked more like himself Saturday against the top-scoring team in the majors.

Santana (8-5) squandered a 1-0 lead and took the loss, but didn't allow a hit until Jason Bartlett's one-out double in the fifth. He yielded three hits and three walks in 7 1-3 innings.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner showed better zip and command with his fastball, which clocked around 92 mph all game. That's not Santana at his best, but it was a noticeable improvement from Sunday.

His strikeout totals, however, have dropped dramatically. Santana fanned three against Tampa Bay, giving him 11 over his last four starts. He averaged 8.6 strikeouts through his first 10 outings.

Gabe Kapler had an RBI double for the Rays, who snapped a three-game slide.

While Santana pitched well, the Mets reverted back to their early-season trend of not supporting him with much offense. Tampa Bay pitchers retired 19 in a row before Carlos Beltran's two-out single in the ninth. Howell struck out David Wright to end it.

Making his 100th major league start, Shields (6-5) won for the first time in five road outings since April 12 at Baltimore. The right-hander struck out four and walked none. The only run he allowed came on doubles by Ryan Church and Omir Santos in the second.

Five of Shields' wins this season have come after Rays losses. He has stopped a five-game skid and a pair of three-gamers.

With the score tied 1-all, Santana grooved a 92 mph fastball to Pena leading off the seventh and he got all of it.

The booming drive landed about five rows deep in the right-center bleachers, between the 408 and 415 signs, for Pena's AL-leading 22nd home run.

Zobrist, subbing beautifully for injured second baseman Akinori Iwamura, connected off Sean Green in the ninth.

Rain fell for much of the day in New York and the forecast indicated heavy showers were on the way, but the game started right on time.

Despite an occasional drizzle, the first six innings were played in 1 hour, 32 minutes. The downpour began at 6 p.m., just as expected.

Umpires called for the tarp and halted play after Michel Hernandez flied out to start the eighth.

The same storm soon soaked the golf course at Bethpage Black on Long Island, where the third round of the U.S. Open was suspended.

Bartlett's fifth-inning double extended his career-best hitting streak to 15 games. Kapler followed with an opposite-field double to right, tying it at 1.

NOTES: The Rays finished with five hits, the Mets got four. ... Tampa Bay LHP Scott Kazmir, out since May 21 with a strained right quadriceps, is scheduled to pitch Monday for Triple-A Durham, which will be his second minor league rehab outing. If all goes well, he could rejoin the Rays by the end of the week. ... RHP Chad Bradford (elbow surgery), on a rehab assignment at Durham, might be about a week from returning, too. ... Jeremy Reed started in LF for the Mets, giving Gary Sheffield a rest. ... Shields and Kazmir are the only pitchers to make 100 starts for Tampa Bay. ... It was the first rain delay in Citi Field history.

by the associated press

Giants beat Rangers 6-4

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Fred Lewis hit a go-ahead, two-run homer for the Giants shortly after Randy Johnson lost the chance for his 302nd career victory, and the San Francisco bullpen then hung on for a 6-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Friday night.

Aaron Rowand and Travis Ishikawa also homered for the Giants, who snapped their three-game losing streak and kept the Rangers winless in all nine games they've played at San Francisco's waterfront ballpark in the past decade.

Marlon Byrd hit a two-run double on the first pitch by Giants reliever Brandon Medders in the sixth to put Texas up 4-3, but Lewis then ended a 2 for 26 slump with a shot onto the arcade above the right field wall.

Michael Young homered for the Rangers, who haven't won in San Francisco since 1998, when the Giants still played at Candlestick Park. The Giants have won nine of 10 overall against the Rangers.

The Giants used five relievers to maintain their lead. Sergio Romo (1-0) was awarded the win after escaping a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, while Jeremy Affeldt pitched a perfect eighth before Brian Wilson picked up his 18th save in 21 chances.

Scott Feldman (5-2) allowed five runs on eight hits in his second straight loss after starting the season with five wins in eight starts. Rowand homered on Feldman's second pitch of the night, while Edgar Renteria and Bengie Molina hit run-scoring singles in the third to put San Francisco up 3-0 before Young connected for his 10th homer in the fourth.

The Giants' June surge was interrupted earlier this week by the Los Angeles Angels, who rolled to the first three-game sweep by an opponent in San Francisco this season.

The Rangers' loss Friday night, coupled with the surging Angels' 5-4 win over the Dodgers, pulled the Angels within a half-game of Texas atop the AL West standings.

Johnson had five strikeouts in another solid start at home, where he has picked up five of his six victories this season — all except career No. 300, which occurred in Washington. Sticking to his season-long tendencies, Johnson again gave up a handful of costly extra-base hits, but got inning-ending strikeouts with runners in scoring position three times in the first five frames.

Right after Texas turned an improbable double play on a broken-bat blooper by Travis Ishikawa in the sixth, Lewis capitalized on his first start in a week by hitting his first homer since May 24.

Notes: Home plate umpire Bill Runge was hit in the mask by the barrel of Ishikawa's shattered bat in the sixth. After the Rangers turned an ensuing double play, the Rangers' medical staff briefly consulted with Runge before he continued the game. ... The Rangers' nine straight losses without a win at the Giants' waterfront ballpark are their most in any road park in club history. ... Texas' Omar Vizquel didn't play when he returned to San Francisco for the first time since spending the past four seasons with the Giants.

by the associated press

Cards' 7-1 win over Royals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Khalil Greene hit a late three-run homer, Albert Pujols hit a two-run shot and Chris Carpenter outpitched Brian Bannister to give the St. Louis Cardinals a 7-1 win over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday.

St. Louis opened the three-game series between the instate rivals Friday night by pounding out 14 hits in a 10-5 win.

Pujols was a key factor in the first win and had even bigger role in this one, hitting his 24th homer off Bannister (5-4) to put the Cardinals up 3-0 in the sixth inning. Greene sealed it in the ninth, lifting a shot just over the wall in left

That was more than enough the way Carpenter (5-1) pitched.

Coming off his first loss of the season, Carpenter was at his what's-he-going-throw best, hitting the corners with a low 90s mph fastball and buckling the Royals' knees with a chin-to-ankles curveball.

Kansas City hit few hard balls of him, spending most of the game dribbling grounders into foul territory.

Carpenter worked out of a few jams, most notably in the third inning, when he got two weak groundouts and a strikeout to strand Mark Teahen at third after a leadoff triple. Mitch Maier's two-out double in the eighth chased Carpenter, who allowed a run on three hits and struck out six in 7 2-3 innings.

Kansas City cut the lead to 3-1 on pinch-hitter Willie Bloomquist's run-scoring single with two outs in the eighth. Yadier Molina hit an RBI single off Kyle Farnsworth in the St. Louis ninth and Greene made it a six-run game with his shot off John Bale.

Ryan Franklin got four outs for his 17th save in 18 chances.

Another sellout crowd showed up to watch Kansas City's turn to host the Interstate 70 rivalry, though it looked more like a Cardinals home game with all the red in the stands.

Pujols, who attended high school in the area, gave them plenty to cheer about. Of course, he always does against Kansas City. The two-time NL MVP has a career batting average of .385 against the Royals, with 12 homers and 44 RBIs in 41 games.

Pujols hurt Kansas City on Friday night with a two-run single and an intentional walk that set up Ryan Ludwick's first career grand slam. After just missing a homer to center in the first inning, Pujols made sure in the sixth, lining a no-doubt, two-run shot just short of the fountains in left-center off Bannister.

The crowd roared in approval, which Pujols acknowledged with a couple of waves as he made his way to the dugout.

If not for Pujols, Bannister might have ended up with yet another daytime win.

The right-hander, who's 15-5 in 27 career day games, was sharp for the third straight start, allowing three runs — two earned — and six hits in eight innings. It wasn't quite good enough against Carpenter, leading to Kansas City's fourth straight loss.

NOTES: Former Cardinals OF Larry Walker was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ontario, on Saturday. ... Teahen's triple ended an 0-for-11 streak.

by the associated press

Figaro tops Brewers in major-league debut

DETROIT (AP) — Miguel Cabrera and Placido Polanco homered and Alfredo Figaro won his major-league debut as the Detroit Tigers beat the Milwaukee Brewers 9-5 on Saturday.

Figaro, who was called up from Double-A to replace Dontrelle Willis in the rotation, allowed two runs and eight hits in five innings.

Dave Bush (3-4) took the loss, falling to 0-4 in his last six starts. He gave up five runs on seven hits in three innings.

Milwaukee went ahead 1-0 on Craig Counsell's second-inning RBI single, but the Tigers responded with three in the bottom of the inning on a two-run single by Josh Anderson and an RBI triple by Gerald Laird.

Ryan Braun pulled the Brewers within a run with a leadoff homer in the third, but Cabrera's two-run shot made it 5-2 in the bottom of the inning.

The Tigers added two more in the fifth on Polanco's third homer and Brandon Inge's sacrifice fly, and made it 9-2 with another pair of runs in the sixth.

Milwaukee scored twice in the seventh and once in the eighth, but Detroit's bullpen held on.

Polanco left the game in the eighth with stiffness in his left leg — he was hit by a pitch two innings earlier. The team said the move was only precautionary.

Notes: To make room for Figaro, the Tigers designated the contract of C Dane Sardinha for assignment. Sardinha hit .097 in 12 games. ... Tigers manager Jim Leyland said that RF Magglio Ordonez could return to the lineup as soon as Tuesday's series opener with the Cubs. Leyland also repeated that the benching — Ordonez hasn't played since June 17 — is not related to the contract extension that kicks in if Ordonez gets 215 more plate appearances this season. ... CF Mike Cameron served his one-game suspension stemming from a June 6 ejection in Atlanta.

by the associated press

Federer aims to claim 6th Wimbledon

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Roger Federer is building something of a reputation as an on-court crier, and he remembers well the first time he wept after winning a match.

It was July 2, 2001, at Wimbledon, the tournament that means more to him than any other. Federer was 19, up-and-coming and making his Centre Court debut in the fourth round when he stunned Pete Sampras, who was 29, seeded No. 1 and seeking an eighth Wimbledon title.

"I used to cry almost after every single match I lost as a junior. It's not at all a feeling like it's the end of the world — of course not, because tennis is not everything — but some people can control it, some people can't," Federer said. "Crying after a victory is something that started when I beat Pete."

Back then, Federer had yet to reach the semifinals, let alone win a title, at any Grand Slam event. Eight years later, as Wimbledon begins Monday with a roof over Centre Court for the first time, Federer arrives at the All England Club bidding to break Sampras' career record of 14 major championships.

And the complexion of Federer's pursuit of a sixth Wimbledon title changed significantly Friday: He doesn't have to worry about dealing with his nemesis, defending champion Rafael Nadal, who withdrew from the tournament because of bad knees.

Nadal's exit was the talk of the grounds Saturday, and Federer called it "very disappointing for the tournament, and also for myself."

"It's unfortunate. I'm sad for him, because it must have been a very difficult decision to make," Federer said. "I'd love to play him. He's my main rival. We've had some wonderful matches over the years, and especially the one here last year was the one that obviously stands out."

Ah, yes, last year, when Nadal reduced Federer to tears by winning the longest singles final in tournament history, a 4-hour, 48-minute test of skill and will that ended 9-7 in the fifth set as darkness descended.

That 2008 setback ended Federer's streaks of 40 consecutive wins at Wimbledon and 65 in a row on grass, and he is ready to start anew.

"The focus is on the first round — and the first point," Federer said. "Trying to regain my Wimbledon crown, I guess, stands over trying to beat Pete's record right now."

There was something apt about the way Federer tied Sampras' Grand Slam mark by completing a career Grand Slam at the French Open, a tournament the American never won and that the Swiss star came so close to winning, year after year, before finally breaking through this month.

There also would be something fitting if Federer surpasses Sampras at Wimbledon, a tournament that means so much to both men — and where their paths crossed all those years ago.

"I don't feel like I have extra pressure now having to win the tournament or trying to. I mean, anyway, there's a lot of weight off my shoulders since Paris," Federer said. "So I'm entering tournaments, I guess, a little bit more relaxed these days."

On the day Federer won at Roland Garros, Sampras said he expected Federer to get No. 15 "in the next couple of weeks." Asked whether he would travel to the All England Club this year, Sampras replied: "We'll sort of see what happens."

Many current players figure Federer is set to re-establish his supremacy at Wimbledon. As 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt put it: "Roger's going to be the one to beat."

The same must be said of the Williams sisters, particularly Venus. As has been the case with Federer in recent years, Wimbledon is their turf.

Venus has played in seven finals at the All England Club, winning five championships, including the past two. Serena has played in four finals, winning two.

Pay no heed to the rankings, which have both sisters behind No. 1 Dinara Safina. Here are the numbers that really matter: Serena has won 10 Grand Slam titles overall, and Venus seven, while Marat Safin's little sister is 0-3 in major finals.

Maria Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion, can't be counted out, even if her serve has been a trouble spot in her return from shoulder surgery, while a teenager such as Victoria Azarenka or Caroline Wozniacki — who won a grass-court title at Eastbourne on Saturday — could be ready for a breakthrough.

It seems far less likely that someone who isn't a household name will win the men's championship July 5.

For Federer, there are other laurels at stake this fortnight: He could match Nadal's feat from 2008 of winning the French Open and Wimbledon in the same season — that hadn't been done since Bjorn Borg in 1980.

Plus, Federer can reclaim the No. 1 ranking, although he said that doesn't concern him.

Right now, he is focusing on adding to his haul of major championships. He bawled during the postmatch ceremonies after another five-set setback against Nadal at the Australian Open this year, then shed tears of joy when he won the French Open.

Now comes Wimbledon.

"I do think I'm the favorite, actually, with the success I've had and how close I came again last year," said Federer, whose wife is due to give birth to their first child this summer. "Without any disrespect to any of the other players — because I think this year's field is going to be very difficult to topple."

Those words were spoken before Nadal became only the second Wimbledon men's champion in 35 years to decide not to defend his title.

Federer said the rivals chatted briefly Wednesday, and Nadal congratulated him for winning the French Open.

"I asked him how his knee was. He was, like, 'It's OK.' So I kind of knew it wasn't great, because he's very honest to me," Federer said. "So I knew something could be coming up."

Federer had other men in mind, too, such as Andy Murray, the 22-year-old from Scotland who gives local fans a real chance for the first British male champion at the All England Club since Fred Perry in 1936.

Murray reached his first Grand Slam final at last year's U.S. Open, and he showed how his versatility is growing by making the French Open quarterfinals. Then, as if the expectations and pressure weren't going to be onerous enough during Wimbledon, Murray went out and won the grass-court tournament at Queen's Club last weekend, making him that event's first British champion since 1938.

"The buildup beforehand is a little bit more stressful than other tournaments," Murray said, "but once it starts, it's like all the other Slams."

In running down the list of contenders, Federer also named two-time Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick (although that was before the American hurt his foot at Queen's Club), 2008 Australian Open runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and French Open runner-up Robin Soderling, who ended Nadal's 31-match winning streak at Roland Garros.

Still — and especially with Nadal out — it all comes back to Federer, even as far as he is concerned.

"I feel like I've got the game, I've got the mental approach and I've got the experience ... to win at Wimbledon many more times," Federer said. "But I'd like to get this one, this year."

by the associated press

Ramirez start minor league Tuesday

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Suspended slugger Manny Ramirez is set to start his minor league stint on Tuesday with Triple-A Albuquerque.

Dodgers manager Joe Torre said Saturday that Ramirez had agreed to play there. Torre didn't specify how long Ramirez would spend with the minor league club.

Ramirez is serving a 50-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's drug rules. He is eligible to be reinstated on July 3, when the Dodgers are in San Diego.

by the associated press

Klitschko beats Chagaev

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) — Wladimir Klitschko again proved his dominance of the heavyweight division, stopping Ruslan Chagaev in a hastily put together title fight Saturday night before 61,000 fans at a German soccer stadium.

The IBF and WBO champion added the Ring Magazine belt to his haul, knocking Chagaev down in the second round and opening a cut over the Uzbekistan-born fighter's left eye in the eighth.

Referee Eddie Cotton stopped the fight before the 10th round.

"You can't underestimate Chagaev," said Klitschko, who stands with his brother Vitali as clearly the best in the division. "He did everything today, but I was better."

Chagaev, who is the WBA's "champion in recess," raised a deep bruise under Klitschko's right eye, but was done in by the Ukrainian's height advantage and superior power. With his strong left jab and hard straight rights, Klitschko (53-3, 47 KOs) bloodied Chagaev and never appeared in danger.

The sellout crowd was the biggest boxing audience in Germany since Max Schmeling knocked out Adolf Heuser in front of 70,000 people in Stuttgart in 1939.

"Throughout the fight, I searched for the keys to unlock a win, but I just couldn't find them," said Chagaev, whose win over Carl Davis Drummond in February was stopped by a similar cut above his left eye.

The matchup at the Schalke soccer club's Veltins Arena was originally billed as a showdown between Klitschko and former cruiserweight champ David Haye, and the two had gone on a worldwide press tour in which the outspoken Haye flaunted T-shirts showing him standing in the ring with the decapitated heads of the Klitschko brothers.

But the British fighter, whose only victory since moving to heavyweight was a knockout of Monte Barrett in November, pulled out earlier this month citing a back injury. He asked to reschedule the fight for July, but Klitschko wanted to keep the date and sellout crowd.

"I never, ever worked with such unprofessional people as David Haye and his team," Klitschko said, adding that he would consider arranging another fight against him. "I think he's going to end up on the floor."

Klitschko found a replacement in Chagaev (25-1-1), who was supposed to fight Nikolai Valuev for the WBA title last month in Helsinki. That bout was called off after the weigh-in when doctors found Hepatitis-B antigens in Chagaev's blood.

Because the rules are different in Germany, Chagaev managed to pass a medical exam and was allowed to fight Klitschko, even though several organizations protested, including the American Association of Professional Ringside Physicians.

Valuev turned down an offer to fight Klitschko in Haye's place.

Klitschko said after the fight that he felt he was in better form than at any point in his career. He hasn't lost in more than five years, and at this juncture, it's becoming hard to believe there's anyone out there who can stop him.

"I'm not looking forward to proving my chin, because it's made of glass and I want to take care of it," Klitschko said, joking about those who once criticized him for not being able to take a punch. "So, I want to dominate my fights like I do pretty much all my best fights."

by the associated press

Wood gives game as Cubs rally

CHICAGO (AP) — Andres Blanco hit a tying single and then scored the winning run on Kerry Wood's wild pitch in the 13th inning Saturday as the Chicago Cubs staged another wild comeback and beat the Cleveland Indians 6-5.

Luis Valbuena hit his second homer of the game, a solo shot in the top of the 13th inning, to give the Indians a 5-4 lead. But once again Wood, the former Cubs ace who spent a decade in Chicago, couldn't hold it.

After blowing the save in Friday's 8-7, 10-inning loss by giving up a ninth-inning homer to Derrek Lee, Wood (2-3) gave up a leadoff single Saturday to Kosuke Fukudome. He took off for second as Koyie Hill struck out and made it to third when Indians' catcher Kelly Shoppach threw the ball into center field for an error.

With the infield playing in, Blanco slapped a hard grounder past diving shortstop Valbuena for a single to tie the game. Aaron Miles then dropped a single into shallow left, sending Blanco to third, and Wood uncorked a wild pitch to send Blanco home.

It was Wood's fourth blown save in 12 chances and sent Cleveland to its fifth straight loss. David Patton (3-1), who gave up the homer to Valbuena, got the win.

The Cubs had rallied from a 7-0 deficit to beat the Indians on Friday. And they had come back from a 5-1 deficit with two at-bats left to beat the White Sox 6-5 on Thursday.

Pinch-hitter Micah Hoffpauir homered Saturday in the sixth for Chicago and Lee connected in the fifth, his fourth homer in three games. Jhonny Peralta also homered for the Indians.

Valbuena, the No. 8 batter who entered the game with a .204 average, hit a long solo homer to right in the fifth off Cubs starter Ted Lilly. That gave the Indians a 2-0 lead.

Hoffpauir's two-run homer off Tomo Ohka to put the Cubs ahead 4-3 in the sixth on a warm and windy day at Wrigley Field. But Cleveland tied it when Chicago reliever Carlos Marmol walked Peralta with the bases loaded in the seventh.

Peralta led off the sixth with his third homer of the season, a long drive to left that gave the Indians a 3-2 lead.

Cleveland's first two batters of the game, Jamey Carroll and Peralta, hit back-to-back doubles off Lilly for an early 1-0 lead.

Notes: Cleveland LF Mark DeRosa, who hit his leg against a brick wall in the Cubs' bullpen while chasing a foul fly Friday, was scratched from the starting lineup, but came up as pinch-hitter in the eighth and struck out with two runners on. ... Indians' CF Grady Sizemore took batting practice and did some throwing Saturday as he recovers on the disabled list from a sore left elbow. . ... Fukudome doubled in the sixth to snap an 0-for-23 skid and finished with four hits to tie a career high. ... Lee has a 17-game hitting streak.

by the associated press

USC hires Kevin O'Neill

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kevin O'Neill returned to the college ranks Saturday when he was announced as Southern California's basketball coach, taking over from Tim Floyd.

The school announced O'Neill's hiring in an e-mail. Floyd suddenly resigned June 9 amid allegations that he paid to have O.J. Mayo delivered to the Trojans. He said he was quitting after four seasons because he no longer had enthusiasm for his job.

O'Neill is scheduled to be introduced Monday at a campus news conference.

"We're thrilled to have Kevin O'Neill as our men's basketball coach," athletic director Mike Garrett said in a statement. "I love his coaching philosophy and principles: he's a no-nonsense coach who is very detail-oriented and prepares his teams well. He stresses defense and I've always believed that defense wins championships."

O'Neill's NBA tenure seemingly appealed to Garrett as well.

"His 30 years of experience at the college and professional levels has prepared him well for this opportunity," Garrett said.

The 52-year-old defense-oriented coach was an assistant with the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies this past season. Mayo plays for the Grizzlies. O'Neill led the Toronto Raptors to a 33-49 record in 2004.

O'Neill also had stints with the New York Knicks, Detroit and Indiana.

He returns to the Pac-10 after serving as interim coach at Arizona in 2008 when Lute Olson took a leave of absence.

During his tenure in Tucson, O'Neill led the Wildcats to a 19-15 record and the school's 24th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, the nation's longest active streak.

He was designated Olson's permanent successor, but when the Hall of Famer returned that spring he announced O'Neill would no longer be part of the program.

O'Neill is 171-180 in 12 seasons as a college head coach, including stints at Marquette, Tennessee and Northwestern.

O'Neill takes charge of a USC program that won at least 20 games and made the NCAA tournament each of the last three seasons, both school records, at a university best known for its powerhouse football program, which is also being investigated by the NCAA.

"I'm very excited about this opportunity to coach at such a great institution as USC, with its tremendous athletic and academic tradition," he said in the statement. "I appreciate Mike Garrett's confidence in me. I will work my hardest to coach us to a championship level every single day. I can't wait to get started."

But all is not well with the Trojans as O'Neill moves into a program under investigation by the NCAA for alleged improprieties involving Mayo, who played one season at USC before leaving for the NBA.

If the NCAA can prove Floyd paid to have Mayo delivered to USC, that would be considered a major violation. The Trojans could be forced to forfeit victories, and they could face recruiting restrictions and lose scholarships.

Floyd has never addressed the allegations involving Mayo.

Since the Trojans' season ended in March, starters DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett, along with Marcus Johnson, declared for Thursday's NBA draft, and the Trojans have lost eight recruits.

by the associated press

Boston beat Atlanta 3-0

BOSTON (AP) — Josh Beckett allowed just five singles for his first shutout since joining the Red Sox, and Jason Varitek doubled twice and scored twice to lead Boston to a 3-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Saturday night.

Beckett (8-4) rebounded from giving up a season-high 11 hits in his last outing for his first complete game of the year. He struck out seven, walked none and only allowed one runner to reach second base to win for the sixth time in seven decisions.

Varitek helped Boston spoil the homecoming of ex-batterymate Derek Lowe, who spent 7 1/2 seasons with the Red Sox and helped them end their 86-year World Series drought.

In his first appearance at Fenway since the 2004 AL championship series — and his first-ever game against the Red Sox — Lowe (7-5) allowed three runs on seven hits, walking one and striking out two.

The Braves lost for the seventh time in 10 games.

Lowe and Beckett were locked in a scoreless game until the fifth, when Varitek doubled off center fielder Nate McLouth's glove and scored on Nick Green's double. J.D. Drew doubled to lead off the sixth and scored on Kevin Youkilis' single to make it 2-0.

Boston scored another in the seventh to chase Lowe, but the Fenway crowd rose to give him a standing ovation as he walked to the visitor's dugout and he waved his cap in appreciation.

The lanky right-hander came to the Red Sox with Varitek in 1997 a lopsided trade for heartbreak closer Heathcliff Slocumb, and together they became the core of the team that would lead the franchise to the '04 World Series title. Lowe, who was bounced from the rotation after struggling down the stretch, earned the victory in the clinching game in all three playoff series.

NOTES: 3B Mike Lowell got the day off and might get another on Sunday because he's "feeling beat up," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. ... Beckett threw just 94 pitches. ... The game lasted a brief 2 hours, 11 minutes. ... Atlanta closes out its nine-game road trip on Sunday.

by the associated press

US Open may still end on schedule

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) — The U.S. Open might still crown a champion Sunday, even though rain has prevented any of the first three rounds at Bethpage Black being completed on schedule.

A steady downpour limited play to a total of just over 3 hours Thursday. The first round was completed Friday, and the second round started, but darkness caused play to be suspended with more than half the field having played less than 36 holes.

Even though the forecast called for heavy rain and possible thunderstorms Saturday, the second round was completed, the cut line established and the third round got under way at 5:30 p.m. A brief, heavy shower and the onset of darkness forced the third round to be suspended at 7:10 p.m. Eight groups, including the leaders, did not tee off.

But Mike Davis, the USGA's senior director of rules and competition, said Saturday night there was a chance to get the 72 holes in on time.

"We were unbelievably lucky today," he said. "Then, having 60 players make the cut made a big difference. If we don't have weather tonight, enough to cause problems that would delay the scheduled restart at 7:30, we could complete the third round around noon, re-pair and get the final round started as late as 1:30 and have the final round end around 7, 7:30."

Davis said changing the final round to threesomes instead of the traditional twosomes wouldn't be necessary. But groups will start at both the first and 10th tees.

"But we wouldn't re-pair them. So if it really got bad, then we'd just keep them in the same groups they're playing in Round 3. That's not ideal, because you literally could have the winner of the U.S. Open finishing on the ninth hole. But we want to get done with this thing, so we will do that if we needed to."

by the associated press

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Boston's Chara named as NHL's top defenseman

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Boston's Zdeno Chara has edged Washington's Mike Green to win the Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman.

Chara beat Green and Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom, a six-time winner, for the award on Thursday night. Green led NHL with 31 goals.

Chara helped the Bruins' post the lowest goals per game average in the regular season. He ranked 12th in the league in scoring among defensemen with 50 points.

Chara snapped Lidstrom's three-year Norris winning streak. Lidstrom had won the award six of the previous seven seasons.

by the associated press

Datsyuk hockey's gentlemanly of the year for the 4th time

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk has been picked as hockey's most gentlemanly player for the fourth straight year.

The award was his second of the night, after winning the Selke — given to the top defensive forward — earlier Thursday.

Datsyuk, who was assessed only 22 penalty minutes in 81 games, finished well ahead in voting over fellow Lady Byng finalists Martin St. Louis of Tampa Bay and New Jersey's Zach Parise. Datsyuk received 64 first-place votes.

He finished they season fourth in the NHL with 97 points and was second with 89 takeaways.

by the associated press

Padres over Mariners 4-3

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Adrian Gonzalez matched his career high with four hits, including a homer, and scored the winning run with two outs in the 10th inning as the San Diego Padres beat the Seattle Mariners 4-3 Thursday to end their major league-record interleague losing streak at 13.

Gonzalez doubled off Miguel Batista (3-2) and scored on Kevin Kouzmanoff's single to left, beating the throw from Endy Chavez. Gonzalez also homered in the sixth, his first in 13 games, to tie Albert Pujols for the major league lead with 23.

Heath Bell (3-1) threw two innings for the win.

The Padres had lost 10 straight games to Seattle in San Diego, and 16 of 20 overall against the Mariners.

Seattle's Franklin Gutierrez hit two homers for the first time in his career, both off Josh Geer. Gutierrez has six this season.

He homered into the sand play area beyond the fence in right-center with one out in the fourth to tie the game at 2. His second shot landed in the balcony on the second level of the Western Metal Supply Co. brick warehouse in the left-field corner with one out in the sixth to give the Mariners a 3-2 lead.

Gonzalez tied the game with his homer to straightaway center leading off the bottom half. Gutierrez, the center fielder, ran back to the fence and leaped for the ball but it hit off the back of his glove and went over. Gutierrez slapped his glove in frustration.

It was Gonzalez's first home run since June 2 against Philadelphia.

Ken Griffey Jr. hit an RBI double for the second straight game, giving Seattle a 1-0 lead in the first. San Diego went ahead in the bottom half on David Eckstein's RBI double and Gonzalez's RBI single.

Geer allowed three runs and six hits in six innings, struck out six and walked none.

Brandon Morrow made his second straight start for Mariners left-hander Erik Bedard, on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Morrow lasted four innings, allowing two runs and five hits with six strikeouts and one walk.

NOTES: Chris Young will be placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday due to inflammation in his right shoulder, meaning the Padres' top two pitchers will be out of action. San Diego ace Jake Peavy went on the DL on Saturday, a day after learning he would be sidelined at least a month because of a strained tendon behind his right ankle. ... Seattle placed 2B Jose Lopez on the bereavement list and called up INF Chris Woodward from the minors. Lopez, who leads the team with 42 RBIs, left the club before Thursday's game to return to his native Venezuela because his sister is seriously ill. Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu doesn't expect Lopez back for at least five days. ... Mariners 1B Mike Carp had his first big league start, hit and run. He singled with one out in the first and scored on Griffey's double.

by the associated press

Formula One drivers to form a new series

The future of Formula One is in the balance after a number of teams confirmed they are to form a breakaway series, sparking the greatest upheaval in the sport's 60-year history..

The shock announcement came after a meeting of the eight rebel teams which make up the Formula One Teams' Association - Ferrari, McLaren, Renault, BMW Sauber, Toyota, Brawn GP, Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso - during which they all made it clear they will not sign up unconditionally for the 2010 season.

The meeting was sparked by the continuing deadlock in talks with FIA president Max Mosley over controversial budget cap proposals.

In a sharply worded statement that pointed accusing fingers at the FIA and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, FOTA said: "The FIA and the commercial rights holder (Ecclestone) have campaigned to divide FOTA.

"The wishes of the majority of the teams are ignored. Furthermore, tens of millions of dollars have been withheld from many teams by the commercial rights holder, going back as far as 2006. Despite this, and the uncompromising environment, FOTA has genuinely sought compromise.

"It has become clear, however, the teams cannot continue to compromise on the fundamental values of the sport and have declined to alter their original conditional entries to the 2010 world championship.

"These teams, therefore, have no alternative other than to commence the preparation for a new championship which reflects the values of its participants and partners."

Mr Mosley unilaterally announced the introduction of a voluntary £40 million budget cap at the end of April without consulting the teams, most notably Ferrari.

It was his publish-and-be-damned attitude to push forward his plans that has angered the teams, and despite hours of negotiations to resolve the furore, it has culminated in the greatest rift to strike F1 since the championship began in 1950.

However, whilst FOTA have now confirmed their intention to stage a breakaway series, actual implementation is another matter and the teams will have to tackle a number of issues in order to succeed - including a major legal wrangle involving Ferrari which could last months.

by the press association

Alderman needs Daley to explain money guarantee

CHICAGO (AP) — Mayor Richard M. Daley has taken the plunge in trying to lure the 2016 Summer Olympics to Chicago. Now he has to explain to taxpayers in this cash-strapped city why they may be on the hook for millions of dollars if the event flops.

Daley was nowhere near Chicago on Thursday. He was still overseas after telling the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland that he would sign a contract requiring the city to take full financial responsibility for the games, a move intended to erase any IOC doubts about the commitment of the U.S. bid city.

The IOC will announce Oct. 2 whether the games will go to Chicago, Madrid, Tokyo or Rio de Janeiro.

When Daley gets home, Chicago Alderman Joe Moore wants the mayor to explain his thinking. Moore also said there should be an independent review of the taxpayer risk if Chicago gets the games.

"The days where we just take the mayor's word for it when he says 'Trust me,' those days are over. We need to verify, we need to cross all the T's and dot all the I's," Moore said.

Daley's office said Thursday that he will meet with the City Council to talk about signing the so-called host city contract.

Chicago bid officials this week said they had come up with an additional $500 million in private insurance, clearing the way for Daley to sign the contract if Chicago wins.

Daley has said a Chicago games would not "burden local taxpayers" and he insists that's still the case. Local organizers have a safety net of $2.5 billion in public and private funds if the Olympics are a money-loser.

"It's not appropriation of any more money," Daley said in Switzerland. "It's just an insurance policy for anything above $500 million. It's not a liability for the city."

Chicago organizers have repeatedly described additional financial exposure for taxpayers as "extremely remote."

Chicago resident Christopher Jones doesn't buy it. Chicago already is in tough financial shape with some 1,500 city workers facing layoffs next month because of ongoing budget troubles in a sluggish economy.

"We already have enough our own problems," said Jones, 24. "It's irresponsible to take on such a huge responsibility at this point."

But another resident, Tara Bailey, said any money the city commits to the Olympics needs to be viewed as an investment.

"Our city could be put on the map for this," the 40-year-old Bailey said. "And, the city has already said they'd do the Olympics. Of course we would have to be fully committed."

Still, Alderman Leslie Hairston wants a public hearing on Daley's "arrogant" decision.

"This is a really big decision and it's too big of a decision to make unilaterally," she said.

The city is counting on private financing to pay for the games, which are expected to cost $4.8 billion. The number almost certainly will rise because of the inevitable cost overruns other Olympics have seen.

But Chicago also has history on its side. The 1984 Los Angeles Games, for example, were profitable, said Carson Cunningham, a visiting assistant professor at DePaul University who teaches a class on the history of the modern Olympics.

"I'm pretty confident, outside of a catastrophic event, that the games would be a net plus economically for Chicago," Cunningham said.

Daley surely won over IOC members by agreeing to sign the host contract and he likely would have lost backing if he didn't, Cunningham said.

Chicago is in a tight contest for the games with Rio coming out strong after presentations this week to the IOC. The three other finalists have the financial backing of their governments, but the U.S. federal government doesn't do that.

Alderman Toni Preckwinkle said it seemed Daley didn't have a choice but to make the commitment. Preckwinkle is counting on vigorous fundraising to make sure a Chicago Olympics would be a success and taxpayers wouldn't be out any money.

"The Olympics aren't until 2016 and my assumption is that the economy will be better in 2016," she said.

What the mayor did still doesn't sit right with Andy Shaw, head of the Better Government Association watchdog group.

"It may be a good idea but that wasn't part of the original bargain," he said. "You can't make it up as you go along. The stakes are too high."

by the associated press

Thomas takes NHL's top goalie award

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Journeyman Tim Thomas has been picked overwhelmingly by NHL general managers as the league's top goalie.

Thomas earned 22 first-place votes to take the Vezina Trophy. Columbus' Steve Mason, awarded the Calder Trophy earlier Thursday night as rookie of the year, was the next closest finalist with three first-place votes. Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom received one.

Thomas told a crowd at the Palms Casino Resort that winning the Vezina was a dream. He said he was more used to worrying about whether he'd be on a roster than winning awards.

by the associated press

Rain-shortened Game

BOSTON (AP) — Dan Uggla and Ronny Paulino homered in the second inning, and Ricky Nolasco pitched five solid innings Thursday night before the game was called early in the sixth because of rain, giving the Florida Marlins a 2-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox.

Nolasco (3-6) limited Boston to Kevin Youkilis' homer in the first, striking out five for his first victory in five starts since May 8. The only other Red Sox batter to reach was when David Ortiz hit a high popup that third baseman Emilio Bonifacio dropped for an error when he collided with Uggla behind second base.

The Marlins avoided a sweep in the interleague series after being outscored 14-3 in the first two games.

One night after the Red Sox celebrated their 500th consecutive sellout at Fenway Park, rain kept thousands of ticketholders away — though it was still a sellout — and sent many more scurrying for cover when a steady drizzle turned into a downpour. Jon Lester (5-6) had a 2-2 count on Uggla in the sixth when plate umpire Scott Barry called for the tarp at 8:59 p.m.

For those who stuck around, the scoreboard showed the New York Yankees' loss to the Washington Nationals. Then it showed the Baltimore Orioles beating the New York Mets, the Detroit Tigers beating the St. Louis Cardinals and flipped on the West Coast game between the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fourth inning.

The game was officially called after a delay of 2 hours, 26 minutes.

Lester gave up two runs and eight hits, striking out four. In his previous three starts, Lester had struck out 34 while allowing seven hits and three earned runs and limiting opposing batters to an .099 average.

Nolasco has put together three solid starts after opening the season with a 2-6 record and 9.07 ERA in his first nine starts.

NOTES: Youkilis had just two hits and 11 strikeouts in the previous five games. ... A scoring change made by the commissioner's office took a June 10 double away from Dustin Pedroia and instead gave an error to New York Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher. Chien-Ming Wang was charged with one fewer earned run from the 6-5 Boston victory. ... Red Sox RHP John Smoltz threw two simulated innings in the bullpen as he tries to get ready for next Thursday's start against Washington — his first since April 27, 2008. ... Boston SS Jed Lowrie had four at-bats in an extended spring training game as he tries to come back from wrist surgery.

by the associated press

NFL suspends Donte' Stallworth indefinitely

NEW YORK (AP) — Donte' Stallworth will get out of jail in four weeks. Now it's up to Roger Goodell to say when the Cleveland Browns receiver can return to the field. Stallworth was indefinitely suspended by the NFL commissioner Thursday, two days after he began a 30-day jail sentence for killing a pedestrian while driving drunk in Miami.

In a letter to Stallworth, Goodell said Thursday the player's actions caused "irreparable harm." He will not be paid while suspended.

Stallworth pleaded guilty this month to a DUI manslaughter charge for striking Mario Reyes on March 14. He began serving a 30-day jail sentence Tuesday and has reached a financial settlement with the family of the 59-year-old construction worker.

After jail, the 28-year-old Stallworth must serve two years of house arrest and spend eight years on probation. The house arrest provisions would allow him to play.

"The conduct reflected in your guilty plea resulted in the tragic loss of life and was inexcusable," Goodell wrote. "While the criminal justice system has determined the legal consequences of this incident, it is my responsibility as NFL commissioner to determine appropriate league discipline for your actions, which have caused irreparable harm to the victim and his family, your club, your fellow players and the NFL."

In the letter, excerpts of which were released by the NFL, Goodell said he will eventually contact Stallworth's representatives before determining the length of the suspension.

Browns spokesman Neal Gulkis said the team would comment later.

The last indefinite suspension by Goodell was of Adam "Pacman" Jones of the Dallas Cowboys in October 2008. The suspension later became a six-week ban.

After a night of drinking at a bar in Miami Beach's Fountainebleau hotel, police said Stallworth hit Reyes, who was rushing to catch a bus after finishing work about 7:15 a.m. Stallworth told police he flashed his lights in an attempt to warn Reyes, who was not in a crosswalk.

Stallworth had a blood-alcohol level well above Florida's legal limit. He stopped after the crash and reported the accident. Police estimated Stallworth was driving about 50 mph in a 40 mph zone.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle cited Stallworth's cooperation and willingness to accept responsibility as factors in the plea deal. Rundle also said the Reyes family — particularly the victim's 15-year-old daughter — wanted the case resolved to avoid any more pain.

Stallworth also must undergo drug and alcohol testing. His driver's license was suspended for life and he must perform 1,000 hours of community service.

Stallworth told Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy that he hopes to get involved in drunken driving education programs.

"I accept full responsibility for this horrible tragedy," Stallworth said. "I will bear this burden for the rest of my life."

Stallworth signed a seven-year, $35 million contract with the Browns before last season but was injured much of the year, finishing with 17 catches for 170 yards and a touchdown. A star at the University of Tennessee, Stallworth has also played in the NFL for New England, Philadelphia and New Orleans.

The night before the crash, Stallworth earned a $4.5 million roster bonus from the Browns, whose offseason moves since have indicated they were not counting on having him available.

They added free-agent wide receiver David Patten this spring and then drafted Ohio State's Brian Robiskie and Georgia's Mohamed Massaquoi. Patten is in his second stint with the club after stops with New Orleans, the New York Giants, New England and Washington.

The Browns also released receiver Joe Jurevicius three days before the accident.

by the associated press

Orioles over Mets 5-4

BALTIMORE (AP) — Aubrey Huff drove in the winning run with a ninth-inning single off Francisco Rodriguez, capping a two-run rally that carried the Baltimore Orioles past the New York Mets 5-4 Thursday night.

Rodriguez entered the game with a 0.56 ERA and 16 saves in 17 tries. After Matt Wieters hit a leadoff double and Nolan Reimold walked, Brian Roberts laid down a bunt, and the throw to third by catcher Omir Santos was too late to nail pinch-runner Felix Pie.

Rodriguez (1-2) then walked Adam Jones to force in a run, and after Nick Markakis struck out, Huff hit a liner to right — his second straight game-deciding hit.

Matt Albers (1-2) pitched the ninth for the Orioles, who were 0-34 when trailing after eight innings.

Rodriguez converted his first 16 save chances with New York before the Yankees beat him when second baseman Luis Castillo dropped a ninth-inning popup Friday night. The right-hander had not yielded an earned run since April 27.

Baltimore took two of three from the Mets, who have lost 10 of 14.

Held to one infield hit through the first five innings by rookie Jason Berken, New York rallied from a 2-0 deficit by scoring two runs in the sixth and two more in the seventh. Alex Cora got the first hit in each inning and scored twice.

Baltimore closed to 4-3 in the eighth when Huff doubled and scored on a groundout by Luke Scott, and the Orioles completed the unlikely comeback in the ninth.

Robert Andino homered for Baltimore, now 5-17 in series finales this season.

Mets starter Livan Hernandez gave up two runs and eight hits in seven innings. He left with the lead, and although the bullpen gave it away, Hernandez remained unbeaten since April 23.

After putting only one runner in scoring position over the first five innings, the Mets pulled even in the sixth. Singles by Cora and Carlos Beltran preceded a sacrifice fly by David Wright, and after Gary Sheffield singled, Ryan Church hit an RBI single off the right-field wall.

Berken retired the first two batters in the seventh before Cora singled and scored on a double by Daniel Murphy. Beltran followed with a run-scoring single off Danys Baez.

Making his fifth career start, Berken allowed four runs and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings. He had a career-high eight strikeouts, getting Wright, Santos and Murphy twice.

Andino put the Orioles up 1-0 in the third with his first home run since April 7, 2008, with Florida.

Baltimore added a run in the fifth when Roberts ended an 0-for-12 skid with an RBI double. But with the bases loaded and one out, Markakis struck out and Huff lined out to Castillo at second base.

NOTES: Baltimore 3B Melvin Mora has hit in 16 of his last 19 games, but has gone 34 straight games without a home run — the third-longest drought of his career. ... The Mets have not made an error this season while Hernandez is pitching.

by the associated press

Dodgers beat A's 3-2

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Orlando Hudson homered, pinch-hitter Mark Loretta drove in the go-ahead run and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Oakland Athletics 3-2 on Thursday night to take the rubber game of their interleague series.

Randy Wolf pitched six solid innings as Dodgers manager Joe Torre earned his 2,195th regular-season victory, passing Sparky Anderson for fifth on the career list.

Brad Ziegler (1-3) relieved Oakland starter Vin Mazzaro after six innings, giving up a one-out double in the seventh to James Loney and a walk to Russell Martin. Loretta, hitless in his previous 14 at-bats as a pinch hitter, singled to left field to snap a 2-2 tie.

Wolf allowed a run and five hits. Rookie Brent Leach (2-0) got the victory, getting Adam Kennedy to ground into an inning-ending double play in the seventh after Cory Wade gave up the tying run.

Wolf has 10 no-decisions in 15 starts this season. He allowed two hits over five innings in his previous start at Texas, but a power failure led to a 1-hour, 41-minute delay and the hard-luck left-hander did not return to the mound. The Dodgers scored all of their runs after the game resumed, and won 3-1.

With closer Jonathan Broxton sitting out his second straight game after getting a cortisone shot to treat a sore toe on his right foot, Ramon Troncoso got the final two outs for his fourth save in five attempts after 1 1-3 scoreless innings by Ronald Belisario.

Juan Pierre singled in Russell Martin in the fifth to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. Martin led off with an infield hit and advanced on Wolf's sacrifice.

Pierre is batting .323 with 19 RBIs in 38 games since left fielder Manny Ramirez was suspended on May 7 for violating Major League Baseball's substance abuse policy.

In the seventh, Pierre made a costly split-second decision to relay the ball to second on a pinch single by Nomar Garciaparra with one out and the speedy Rajai Davis on first base. Davis looked over his shoulder at Pierre while rounding third and continued home with the tying run. Garciaparra was not credited with an RBI.

Kurt Suzuki hit a two-out RBI double in the third but the Dodgers tied it at 1 in the bottom half. Hudson drove a 1-0 pitch to center field with two out for his fifth homer and the only one allowed by Mazzaro in 25 2-3 innings spanning his first four big league starts.

Mazzaro allowed two runs and five hits in six innings and struck out five. The right-hander set up Oakland's first run with a sacrifice, and got another one his next time up.

Mazzaro also had two in his previous start last Friday at San Francisco, which made him the first A's pitcher with two sacrifices in one game since Ken Holtzman on Aug. 27, 1972 — the year before the American League adopted the designated hitter rule.

NOTES: The A's activated OF Ryan Sweeney from the 15-day disabled list and optioned OF Chris Denorfia to Triple-A Sacramento. Sweeney had been sidelined since June 3 because of a sprained left knee. ... The A's begin another three-game interleague set Friday night at San Diego, where former Oakland president and general manager Sandy Alderson is the Padres' CEO. ... The Dodgers and Angels begin a three-game series down the freeway in Anaheim. The Angels did them a favor this week by sweeping a three-game set at San Francisco.

by the asspciated press

White Sox 6-5 at Wrigley

CHICAGO (AP) — Derrek Lee and Geovany Soto hit consecutive homers to tie the game in a four-run eighth inning, then Alfonso Soriano singled home the winning run in the ninth to give the Chicago Cubs a 6-5 victory over the White Sox on Thursday.

The crosstown rivals split a rain-shortened, two-game set at Wrigley Field. Their all-time interleague series is tied 34-all.

Pinch-hitter Reed Johnson started the ninth with a single, moved up on a sacrifice and scored on Soriano's two-out single to right-center off Matt Thornton (4-2). Soriano was 14 for 102 before singling in his final two at-bats.

Kevin Gregg (1-1) got the win with a scoreless ninth.

With the Cubs trailing 5-1, Lee hit a three-run homer in the eighth. Soto followed with a solo shot off Scott Linebrink to tie the score and send the crowd into a frenzy. All four runs were unearned after an error on second baseman Chris Getz.

Alexei Ramirez's two-run homer in the seventh off Carlos Zambrano gave the White Sox a 3-1 lead. They tacked on two more in the eighth off Carlos Marmol on an RBI double by Getz and a run-scoring single by Gordon Beckham.

But Linebrink couldn't hold the four-run lead. Getz made his second error of the game on pinch-hitter Micah Hoffpauir's leadoff grounder. After Soriano singled, Linebrink got Ryan Theriot to pop out and struck out Milton Bradley.

But Lee's drive to right-center just cleared the fence for his eighth homer and made it 5-4. Soto then hit a 1-1 pitch to left-center for his fourth homer as the Cubs' stagnant offense finally showed some life.

White Sox starter Gavin Floyd gave up just one run and four hits in seven innings, leaving with a 5-1 lead.

Zambrano, making his first start at Wrigley Field since a May 27 meltdown that led to a six-game suspension, gave up six hits and three runs in seven innings.

The White Sox took a 1-0 lead in the sixth when Brian Anderson foiled some Cubs strategy. After Jermaine Dye doubled, the Cubs elected to intentionally walk A.J. Pierzynski with two outs, but Anderson delivered an RBI single.

The Cubs came right back in the bottom half to tie it on Lee's RBI grounder.

Zambrano was making his first home start since his outburst during a game against the Pirates. After he was ejected for arguing with umpire Mark Carlson over a play at the plate, Zambrano gave Carlson the ejection sign, fired a ball into left field, slammed his glove into a dugout fence and took a bat to a dugout drink dispenser before heading to the clubhouse.

Zambrano kept his composure Thursday, showing just a glimpse of emotion when he struck out in the fifth by angrily exchanging the bat from one hand to the other.

NOTES: Soto had his first career stolen base in the fourth. ... Cubs OF Kosuke Fukudome is in an 0-for-22 slide.

by the associated press

Alex The Great

LAS VEGAS (AP) — He is Alex The Great — again.

Washington Capitals star forward Alex Ovechkin pulled off the kind of repeat the Detroit Red Wings dreamed about by snagging the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP for the second straight year Thursday night.

Ovechkin also walked off with the NHL Players' Association's Lester B. Pearson Award, given to the most outstanding player in voting by fellow players.

"What a life," Ovechkin said after winning the Pearson for his first jackpot at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.

It made no difference that the awards ceremony was moved to Sin City from Toronto to make it a more glitzy spectacle. Ovechkin, the leading goal scorer each of the past two seasons, stood out above the rest.

Ovechkin led the league with 56 goals and was second with 110 points. Voters for the Hart Trophy overwhelmingly picked Ovechkin over Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, awarding him 115 of 131 first-place votes to make him the first back-to-back Hart winner since Buffalo goalie Dominik Hasek in 1997 and '98.

"It's important for me. What I'm doing on the ice, it's working and I don't want to stop," Ovechkin said. "Right now, I'm the best, but next year everyone will be better."

Ovechkin said he planned to send his trophies to his family's home in Russia for safekeeping.

"My parents take care of it," the 23-year-old winger said. He also won $10,000 for the award.

Datsyuk couldn't top Ovechkin for the Hart or Pearson awards, but he did pull off a double play for the second consecutive season. Datsyuk, the Red Wings' outstanding two-way center, claimed the Selke Trophy as the league's top defensive forward and the Lady Byng for gentlemanly play and skill.

"Second," Datsyuk said after winning the Lady Byng, "Now I'm more confident."

Datsyuk, who nearly helped the Red Wings to a second straight Stanley Cup title after returning from injury during the finals, has won the Lady Byng four consecutive years and the Selke twice in a row.

The Boston Bruins made a disappointing exit in the second round of the playoffs after posting the best record in the Eastern Conference, but they took home multiple awards on Thursday.

Tim Thomas, who had a 2.10 goals-against average, won the Vezina Trophy for best goalie, and 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara earned the Norris Trophy as top defenseman, breaking the three-year winning streak of Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom. Lidstrom had won it six of the past seven seasons.

Thomas called his trophy a dream that he wasn't used to thinking about.

"I had been more worried about getting my name on a roster than about winning the Vezina Trophy," he said.

Thomas took 22 of 26 first-place votes in the Vezina voting.

Bruins coach Claude Julien was given the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top bench boss.

Columbus goalie Steve Mason took the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year after leading the NHL with 10 shutouts and ranking second with a 2.29 goals-against average. He was the first rookie to lead the NHL in shutouts since Chicago's Tony Esposito in 1970.

Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin settled for being a finalist after winning the regular season and playoff scoring titles. Votes were cast before the Penguins' run to the Stanley Cup championship.

The league moved its awards show to Las Vegas from Toronto in hopes that injecting some Sin City glitz would generate buzz for its players and the sport.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in moving the show that Las Vegas would give it more room to expand its year-end celebration of its players. Las Vegas, he said, would attract more fans and celebrities and make things more exciting for players honored as the best of the best.

The show included performances from singers Robin Thicke and Chaka Khan, as well as several celebrity appearances.

The league also announced its All-Star teams Thursday night, with Calgary winger Jarome Iginla joining Ovechkin, Thomas, Green, Chara and Malkin on the top squad.

Second-team honors went to Mason, Lidstrom and Datsyuk along with San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle, Detroit forward Marian Hossa and New Jersey winger Zach Parise, who was a Lady Byng finalist.

by the associated press

Nats kick the crap out of the Yankees

NEW YORK (AP) — Craig Stammen and the Washington Nationals really dampened the New York Yankees' day.

After waiting out a 5 1/2-hour rain delay at the start, Stammen earned his first major league victory, Julian Tavarez provided key relief and the last-place Nationals beat New York 3-0 Thursday night in the first game without a homer at the new Yankee Stadium.

Boosted by Ryan Zimmerman's three hits and a bunch of nifty plays, Washington posted its first two-game winning streak since taking three straight May 7-9. Behind Stammen (1-2), the Nationals became the last team in the majors to pitch a shutout this season.

Maybe it was the damp air, or perhaps it had more to do with Stammen's neat 6 1-3 innings, but nobody managed to clear the fences. There had been a whopping 119 home runs through 34 games at the majors' newest launching pad.

Scheduled to start at 1:05 p.m., the game did not begin until 6:31 p.m. because of the same storm system that put an early stop to the first round of the U.S. Open on Long Island. A postponement here seemed unlikely because the teams shared only one mutual off-day the rest of the season for a possible makeup.

There is no official record of the longest rain delay in big league history, but this certainly ranked high at 5 hours, 26 minutes. The start of a pennant-race game in 1999 between Cincinnati and Milwaukee was delayed 5 hours, 47 minutes.

About 10,000 people were sprinkled around the ballpark for the first pitch. When the Yankees announced fans could move down, there was a stampede toward the $2,625 seats in the front row. By the end, the upper deck and bleachers were virtually empty.

Later, the Yankees said all tickets for the game — used or not — could be redeemed for tickets or merchandise this season or in 2010.

Despite the messy weather, it was an extremely crisp game. No pratfalls, no errors and several sharp plays on both sides.

Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner made one of the best, tracking down Austin Kearns' long drive in the eighth. The back of Gardner's head whiplashed against the plexiglas wall, and he was down on the warning track for several minutes. With help from manager Joe Girardi, a woozy Gardner got onto the back of a golf cart and was driven off.

The Nationals' problematic outfield produced two gems. Left fielder Willie Harris made a diving catch on the warning track to rob Alex Rodriguez, and Kearns unleashed a perfect throw from right to cut down Nick Swisher at second.

Stammen worked around six hits, walked none and struck out two in his sixth big league start. The 25-year-old rookie sent the Yankees to their sixth loss in nine games.

Tavarez relieved with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh. He retired pinch-hitter Derek Jeter on a grounder, with shortstop Cristian Guzman skidding to his left to make the stop. Exactly four years ago, Jeter hit the only grand slam of his career.

Mike MacDougal pitched the ninth for his second save. On Wednesday night, he closed out the Yankees for his first save in the majors since 2006 with Kansas City.

Zimmerman doubled twice and singled off Joba Chamberlain (3-2). He scored twice and drove in a run as the Nationals took a 3-0 lead after five innings.

NOTES: Jeter did not start for the second straight game because of a sore left ankle. ... Washington 2B Ronnie Belliard wasn't feeling well and was scratched from the starting lineup.

by the associated press

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Laker are 2009 NBA Champions

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)—Kobe Bryant(notes) has the NBA title he needed most—the one without Shaq.

Bryant’s seven-year chase of a coveted championship is over. He’s got his fourth, and Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson his record 10th, a ring for each finger. One year after failing in the finals, Bryant and the Lakers have redemption, and all the rewards that go with it.

They earned their 15th title on Sunday night as Bryant scored 30 points and Pau Gasol(notes) added 14 and 15 rebounds in a 99-86 win in Game 5 over the Orlando Magic, who ran out of comebacks.

It took longer than Bryant expected, but he has stepped out of former teammate Shaquille O’Neal’s(notes) enormous shadow—at last. His fourth championship secured a strong case can be made for Bryant being the league’s best player since Michael Jordan hung up his sneakers.

His coach stands alone.

Jackson, the chilled-out, bow-legged Zen Master who won six league titles in the 1990s with Jordan in Chicago, now has won No. 4 with Los Angeles and broke a tie with legendary Boston coach Red Auerbach as the winningest coach in finals history.

Bryant and Jackson, whose relationship strained and briefly snapped under the weight of success, are again at the top of their games.
by the associated press

Chad Billingsley of the Dodgers-best ninth victory

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Chad Billingsley earned his National League-best ninth victory, retiring 16 of 17 batters after an early error put the Dodgers behind, and Casey Blake drove in four runs for Los Angeles in a 6-3 victory over AL West-leading Texas on Sunday.

After shortstop Rafael Furcal botched an inning-ending double play with a bad throw that allowed two runs in the first, Billingsley (9-3) set down everybody but former Dodgers bust Andruw Jones until Nelson Cruz had a leadoff single in the seventh.

Jones homered for the second day in a row against the Dodgers leading off the fourth.

Blake had a sacrifice fly in the first and a three-run homer in the third off rookie left-hander Derek Holland (1-4).

It was the most RBIs for Blake in his 117 games since being traded to Los Angeles last July 26, and his best game since matching a career high with seven RBIs in his previous visit to Texas with Cleveland last June.

Texas lost an interleague series at home for the first time since 2006, after winning the opener 6-0. Los Angeles is 7-28 in American League parks the past five seasons.

Jonathan Broxton worked the ninth for his 16th save in 18 chances. The right-hander struck out three consecutive batters after allowing a leadoff single to Michael Young.

Billingsley, lifted after Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled to start the eighth, moved within one victory of injured Toronto starter Roy Halladay for the major league lead.

The Dodgers right-hander, whose 24 victories since April 30, 2008, are second only to Halladay's 28 in that span, scattered five hits and allowed three runs. Only once in his 14 starts this season has he allowed more than three runs.

Cruz was quickly erased in the seventh on a double-play grounder, with Furcal successfully making that relay throw. Saltalamacchia was caught stealing right after Billingsley came out of the game.

Texas had the bases loaded in the first after Billingsley got what should have been an inning-ending double play grounder by Cruz. But Furcal made a high throw to first for an error after stepping on second base.

The Dodgers regained the lead for good on Blake's 10th homer.

Holland, whose only major league victory came in relief, gave up four runs on five hits and four walks in five innings. He struck out two.

James Loney and Brad Ausmus had run-scoring singles in the seventh, after Blake had a leadoff double.

The Dodgers manufactured a quick run after Juan Pierre led off the game with a walk. Furcal attempted a sacrifice bunt, but ended up with a single when he placed it perfectly between the fielders. Orlando Hudson then had a sacrifice bunt before Blake's sacrifice fly.

NOTES: Dodgers manager Joe Torre got his 2,193th career victory, within one of Sparky Anderson for fifth on the career list. ... Pierre, among the NL leaders with a .343 batting average, was the only Dodgers batter without a hit. He was 0 for 3, but did walk twice and score two runs. ... Rangers 1B Chris Davis, the left-hander who leads the majors with 92 strikeouts in his 59 games, was out of the starting lineup even though Texas was facing a right-handed pitcher. Manager Ron Washington said Davis needed a "mental break." ... Texas played its last scheduled day game at home until Aug. 16.

by the associated press

Kevin Johnson wins Knoxville

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Kevin Johnson tied the Nationwide Tour career victory record and moved within a win of an in-season promotion to the PGA Tour, beating Bradley Iles with a birdie on the second playoff hole Sunday in the Knoxville Open.

The 42-year-old Johnson, also a playoff winner two weeks ago in the Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh, N.C. has six Nationwide Tour victories, matching the record shared by Sean Murphy, Matt Gogel and Jason Gore. With two victories this season, Johnson is a win away from earning an immediate promotion to the PGA Tour.

Johnson closed with a 4-under 68 to match Iles at 20-under 268 on the Fox Den Country Club course. Isles tied the course record with a 63.

Johnson earned $94,500 to jump from third to second on the money list with $253,445, with the final top 25 earning 2010 PGA Tour cards.

Johnson ended the playoff with a short birdie putt on the par-5 18th.

"It was maybe only a foot but it sure looked longer than that because of what it was worth," the former Clemson player said.

Blake Adams (65) and David McKenzie (72) tied for third at 19 under, and Tjaart van der Walt (66) and Jason Schultz (66) were another stroke back. McKenzie, three strokes ahead of Johnson after the third round, three-putted the 18th for a bogey.

"The end of regulation was basically a playoff, too," Johnson said. "If one of us makes birdie there we don't need the playoff. I figured at worst, you make a par and you're in a playoff."

Johnson and Isles opened the playoff with birdies on 18, with Johnson rolling in an 8-footer and Iles following with a 6-footer to send it back to the 18th tee. Iles then left his wedge 10 feet shy of the pin, while Johnson spun a wedge back from 90 yards to 15 inches to set up his winning birdie.

"The last two years were just dismal," said Johnson, who made only three of 22 cuts in 2008 and three of 14 the year before. "It's not like I was playing poorly, I just couldn't get off the cut line. I knew I needed to do something because what I had wasn't working. I needed to make a change or quit playing."

Johnson sought out Jeff Leishman, an acquaintance of a dozen years and a coach to several of Johnson's cohorts.

"I think I went searching for a new golf swing and a new Kevin Johnson," he said. "Jeff didn't make big changes but worked on getting me back to what makes me tick. I had gotten to steering it around with handcuffs on. It wasn't fun playing."

Australia's Michael Sim, also a two-time winner this year and the money leader with $388,117, missed the cut.

by the associated press

Rollins homers in Phillies' 11-6 beats the Red Sox

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jimmy Rollins homered as part of a six-run seventh inning to help the Philadelphia Phillies bust the game open late, avoid a three-game sweep and beat the Boston Red Sox 11-6 on Sunday.

Rollins led off the seventh with a tiebreaking home run off Josh Beckett (7-3) that helped turn this one into a rout. Pedro Feliz added a two-RBI double, and Rollins was hit with a pitch and the bases loaded to make it 10-5.

Rollins had three RBIs to salvage the finale and help the Phillies improve to 13-16 at home.

Chan Ho Park (3-1) earned the win in relief.

Beckett failed to hold an early 4-1 lead, then tied the game at five when he hit a solo home run in the sixth. Rocco Baldelli and Nick Green also homered for the Red Sox.

Beckett and two Red Sox relievers completely unraveled in the seventh that led to the end of their five-game winning streak. Beckett surrendered the lead on Rollins' fifth homer of the season. Daniel Bard gave up doubles to Jayson Werth and Feliz. Takashi Saito followed and plunked Rollins, then walked Shane Victorino with the bases loaded for an 11-5 lead.

Park allowed only one unearned run in 2 1-3 innings and Ryan Madson worked the ninth in another busy day for the Phillies bullpen.

J.A. Happ failed to pitch out of the sixth and threw 108 pitches before yielding to Park in a game where the Phillies could have used a long outing from the lefty.

Phillies relievers pitched a combined 16 innings over three straight extra-inning games last week, then tossed another eight on Saturday.

A day off on Monday should give the bullpen a needed break. They can celebrate later Sunday night when the reality TV show "The Pen" debuts on the MLB Network. The show gives an inside look at the Phillies bullpen since spring training.

Happ appeared to catch a break when Red Sox manager Terry Francona shuffled the lineup and kept out some of his regulars. Because of slumps, the National League park or needed rest, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Varitek, J.D. Drew and David Ortiz all were absent from the starting lineup.

Ortiz drew a pinch-hit walk in the eighth and Pedroia was on deck when the game ended.

Raul Ibanez had the day off for the Phillies.

Staked to a 4-1 lead in the fifth, Beckett faltered and the Phillies took the lead. Ryan Howard did the most damage when he ripped a two-RBI double into the right-field corner that made it 5-4.

Beckett tied the game at 5 when he lined his third career homer in the sixth into the left field seats. Beckett's last home run also came at Citizens Bank Park — he homered off righty Brett Myers on May 20, 2006.

Happ had trouble keeping the ball inside the cozy park. Baldelli and Green hit consecutive homers into the left field seats, their third for each, in the second inning for a 2-1 lead. Jacoby Ellsbury added a sacrifice fly later in the innings and Jason Bay drove in AL-best 61st run on a single to center that put the Red Sox ahead 4-1.

The Red Sox left the bases loaded against Happ in third and continued to make the lefty labor through his fifth start of the season.

Park, who opened the season as the Phillies No. 5 starter, kept the Red Sox in check and allowed only an unearned run in the eighth that made it 11-6.

NOTES: Francona said he is close to making a decision on where to pitch RHP John Smoltz. Smoltz, making his way back from shoulder surgery, will pitch Thursday against the Florida Marlins or make another rehabilitation assignment for Triple-A Pawtucket. ... The Phillies optioned LHP Sergio Escalona to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and recalled RHP Tyler Walker.

by the associated press

Houston Astros beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 8-3

PHOENIX (AP) — Hunter Pence ended a slump with a homer and Lance Berkman also homered to help the Houston Astros beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 8-3 on Sunday.

Brian Moehler (3-4) scattered six hits over six innings for the Astros, who won for the fourth time in five games. The right-hander allowed three runs, struck out two and walked two for his third win in four starts.

Stephen Drew and Mark Reynolds homered for the Diamondbacks, who have lost five of seven. Arizona is 0-5-1 in six homestands under A.J. Hinch, who took over for the fired Bob Melvin on May 8.

The Astros wasted little time against Diamondbacks starter Billy Buckner (2-3).

Pence was hitless in his last 12 at-bats before homering.

Michael Bourn walked to lead off the game and scored when Miguel Tejada's looping liner into right field skipped under Justin Upton's glove and rolled to the wall for a double. Buckner struck out Pence before Berkman homered onto the porch overhanging center field to make it 3-0.

Drew's two-out, two-run homer off Moehler in the bottom of the first cut the lead to 3-2. Pence hit a two-out home run in the third to extend Houston's lead to 4-2.

Reynolds led off the fourth with his 17th home run to pull the Diamondbacks within 4-3.

But Buckner loaded the bases to start the sixth and the Astros scored twice on a sacrifice fly by Ivan Rodriguez and a slow single up the middle from Jason Michaels to open a 6-3 lead.

Buckner allowed six runs and five hits over five-plus innings with three walks and five strikeouts.

NOTES: Michaels started in place of Carlos Lee, who left Saturday's game with cramping in his left leg and was given the extra day off. ... Rodriguez started for the Astros and tied Bob Boone for second all-time in games played as a catcher with 2,225. Rodriguez needs two games behind the plate to pass Carlton Fisk for the all-time mark. ... Bourn stole his team-leading 21st and 22nd bases before scoring in the seventh. ... Buckner's double was his first career hit. ... Tejada added his major-league leading 23rd double leading off the sixth.

by the associated press

2-1 win over Chivas

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Guillermo Barros Schelotto scored two second-half goals as the Columbus Crew rallied past Chivas USA 2-1 on Sunday to extend their unbeaten streak to nine matches.

Schelotto, who tied the match in the 61st minute, scored the game-winner in the 87th minute for the defending MLS Cup champions. The Argentine forward took a pass from Gino Padula inside the penalty area and slotted a shot past Chivas goalkeeper Zach Thornton for his league-leading 10th goal.

Columbus (4-2-7), which has won three straight at home, is 4-0-5 since starting the season with two draws and two losses. The Crew also moved into a three-way tie for third in the Eastern Conference with Kansas City and Toronto FC.

Eduardo Lillingston scored in the 39th minute for Chivas (8-4-3), which has lost three of its last four and remained tied with Houston for the Western Conference lead.

by the associated press