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Florida State, Baylor and Missouri took big steps forward as The Associated Press college football poll got extensive makeover following losses by five top-10 teams.

Alabama is still No. 1, Oregon still two and Ohio State fourth, but otherwise there was much movement.

Florida State moved up two spots to No. 3 after its 51-14 win at Clemson.

The Crimson Tide received 55 first-place votes from the media panel. Oregon got three first-place votes and Florida State received two. The Seminoles received first-place votes for the first time since Sept. 2, 2002.

Missouri went from 14 to fifth, its best ranking since 2008. No. 6 Baylor jumped to its highest ranking since 1980.

Miami is No. 7, followed by Stanford, Clemson and Texas Tech at No. 10.

No. 21 UCF is ranked for the first time since the final 2010 poll after handing Louisville its first loss of the season.

Louisville, one of those five top-10 teams to lose, along with Clemson, UCLA, LSU and Texas A&M, slipped to 10 spots to No. 18.

A week after the Southeastern Conference set a record with eight ranked teams, five ranked SEC teams lost, knocking two out of the rankings. Florida and Georgia dropped out for the first time this season after each lost for the third time.

Auburn made the biggest move up this week, jumping 13 spots to No. 24 after beating Texas A&M 45-41 at College Station, Texas. The Tigers have their best ranking since winning the 2010 national title.

No. 24 Michigan and No. 25 Nebraska moved back into the rankings this week.

Sunday, 20 October 2013 22:30
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith said Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins taunted him during Sunday's NFL game by making derogatory comments about his wife.

Smith said that's why he spent extra time celebrating in the end zone — he even pointed at Jenkins — after beating him for a 19-yard touchdown reception in Carolina's 30-15 win.

"When you embarrass people you rub it in their face," Smith said.

The wide receiver went further using profanity.

"I don't play them games. And if I see him on the street, I'm going to bust him in the mouth," he said with an expletive.

Smith had five catches for 69 yards.

 
Sunday, 20 October 2013 22:28
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers appear to have found their stride.

While the St. Louis Rams' season is suddenly in a state of flux following a knee injury to Sam Bradford.

Newton turned in his second straight quality start, completing 15 of 17 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown and the Panthers defeated Rams 30-15 in a heated game Sunday that included several fights and personal foul penalties.

In the past two games, Newton is 35 of 43 for 464 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions as the Panthers (3-3) have won back-to-back games for the first time this season.

"I feel like I am progressing," said Newton, who is 16-22 as an NFL starter.

Newton said he believes he's making better decisions, although he chided himself for taking sacks on two plays that essentially ended drives.

"I've got to throw the ball away," Newton said. "Just give my guys a chance and when we do that, it's exciting to watch. Anytime I have got an opportunity to give a dink or dunk to these guys, they make the big plays."

Steve Smith caught five passes for 69 yards and a touchdown and Mike Tolbert scored his third touchdown rushing of the season.

The Rams, meanwhile, are concerned about their franchise quarterback.

Bradford was scheduled to have an MRI on his left knee after the team landed in St. Louis. He was injured in the fourth quarter when he landed on it after being shoved out of bounds by Panthers safety Mike Mitchell.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Bradford "was in significant pain on the sideline" but the team wouldn't speculate on how long he'll be out.

"I'm not going to deal with hypotheticals until I find out what's going on with him," Fisher said.

Before losing their quarterback, the Rams (3-4) lost their cool.

They were flagged for five personal foul penalties and defensive end Chris Long was ejected from the game for throwing a punch after one fracas involving more than a dozen players.

Long admitted after the game he lost control of his emotions and said he apologized to his teammates.

"Having to watch the rest of the game in the locker room was probably one of the low points of my career," Long said. "I can't let that happen again. ... I need to be stronger than that. I play this game with a lot of emotion. I won't change that. I can't let people provoke me."

Mitchell, a free agent pickup, was instrumental in the Carolina win.

He not only had eight tackles and two forced fumbles, but also goaded offensive lineman Harvey Dahl and wide receiver Brian Quick into unnecessary roughness penalties.

"We wanted to do a better job of being more mature, being the more composed team," Mitchell said. "We had the game in hand and we could tell by the way they were playing that they wanted to get somebody cheap, try to get us a penalty, something like that. We weren't going to give it to them. We just needed to stay disciplined."

The Panthers were flagged for two personal fouls.

It was a rough day all around for Bradford.

Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn intercepted the former No. 1 draft pick on the game's first play and returned it 45 yards for a score. Bradford also had a long TD pass to Tavon Austin called back on a penalty, and Quick dropped a pass in the end zone.

The Panthers' third-ranked defense forced three turnovers and had four sacks.

The Rams threatened to tie the game early, but failed to convert on fourth-and-goal from the 1 when Bradford was pressured into an incompletion.

The Rams scored on the next play when Eugene Sims tackled Mike Tolbert in the end zone for a safety — the first points surrendered by the Panthers in the opening quarter all season.

After the teams traded field goals, the Panthers took a 17-5 lead just before halftime on a 1-yard plunge by Tolbert.

Down 20-5, Bradford connected with Quick on a 73-yard completion, setting up a short TD pass to Zac Stacy to trim Carolina's lead to eight.

But Carolina came right back as Newton drove Carolina 72 yards, hitting Steve Smith for his 800th career reception, a 19-yard touchdown for a 27-12 lead.

The Panthers have a chance to get above .500 for the first time since the end of the 2008 season when they travel to Tampa Bay on Thursday night.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Newton's steady play is a big reason for the team's optimism moving forward.

"He has done a great job," Rivera said. "You talk about things that he does and his reads and learning to go through his progressions the right way. ... When you see him doing those types of things to give us a chance to win, you know that he has matured."

Sunday, 20 October 2013 22:25
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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — No James Franklin, no problem for Missouri.

Maty Mauk threw for 295 yards in his first career start and Andrew Baggett converted five field goals to help the No. 14 Tigers defeat No. 22 Florida 36-17 on Saturday and open a two-game lead in the Southeastern Conference East Division.

With Franklin watching on the sideline in street clothes, Mauk put any doubts to rest about whether he was ready on the first play of the game with a 41-yard pass to L'Damian Washington and then a 20-yard toss to Bud Sasser for a 7-0 lead just 22 seconds in.

Coach Gary Pinkel said Saturday was the toughest situation he's ever had to put in a quarterback, especially against a defense only allowing 235.3 yards per game. But the opening drive helped ease the stress on Mauk, who said he was determined to throw the ball downfield on the opening play.

"He looked like a seasoned veteran out there," Pinkel said.

Missouri (7-0, 3-0) outgained the Gators 500-151 and became the first conference opponent in 14 games to score at least 21 points against them. The Tigers bullied Florida (4-3, 3-2) at the line of scrimmage, sacking quarterback Tyler Murphy six times and flushing him out of the pocket throughout the game.

The Tigers knocked off their second consecutive ranked opponent for the first time since 1973 and will face No. 11 South Carolina next week at home. The Gamecocks lost at Tennessee 23-21 on Saturday.

"This team is resilient, coming back from where we were last year," Washington said. "I told Coach Pinkel, 'We've got to stop talking bowl games around here. Let's talk BCS, let's talk national championships.'"

Florida is off before facing Georgia on Nov. 2 in Jacksonville.

Mauk entered the game having only thrown six passes this season, but three of those came in the final quarter of a 41-26 win at Georgia last week after Franklin suffered a shoulder injury that will keep him out at least two more games. Mauk completed 18 of 36 passes Saturday, including three for 37 yards or more down the sideline.

The 6-foot, 200-pound redshirt freshman capped the scoring with 6:30 remaining on a 17-yard scramble, prompting the 67,124 in attendance to perform the "Gator Chomp."

"Backup quarterback?," center Evan Boehm asked. "Maty would be starting anywhere else."

Mauk also made a few ill-advised throws, as Brian Poole intercepted a pass with 3:34 left in the first half and almost had another in the same quarter but dropped it.

Murphy completed 15-of-29 passes for 92 yards and an interception for the Gators as he tried to escape Missouri's defensive line all game. Freshman Kelvin Taylor, son of former National Football League running back Fred Taylor, ran for 74 yards on 12 carries in his fifth career game.

Murphy thought he had time on some of his missed throws despite absorbing three sacks from SEC-leader Michael Sam and one apiece from Kony Ealy, Matt Hoch and Shane Ray.

"They did a good job covering, but we're got to find ways to make plays," Murphy said. "I have to find ways to get guys the ball."

The Gators only gained 61 yards in the first half — including nine rushing — but used six runs to drive 70 yards and pull within 23-17 with 46 seconds left in the third quarter. Missouri answered with a 33-yard field goal by Baggett following a 50-yard run by Henry Josey, who ran for 136 yards on 18 carries.

Baggett also converted from 19, 28, 39 and 43 yards to tie the school record in makes in a single game, as Missouri far exceeded the 13 points per game Florida allowed this season entering the matchup, the second-fewest in the SEC. In addition to Mauk's 295 passing yards, the Tigers added 205 on the ground and had 24 first downs.

"This is not a very good football team, and certainly not today," Gators' coach Will Muschamp said. "I am pretty disappointed that we have not made more positive strides offensively at this point of the season."

Florida earlier narrowed its deficit to three on a 100-yard kickoff return by receiver Solomon Patton on the first play of the second half, but the Tigers responded with a 75-yard drive finished by a 6-yard scamper by Josey for a 20-10 advantage.

Florida drove 22 yards to the Missouri 28-yard line with 58 seconds left in the second quarter on its longest drive of the first half before Ealy burst through the line and forced Murphy to fumble on a sack. Missouri recovered to squelch the threat and end the half up 13-3.

Saturday, 19 October 2013 19:44
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Carlos Beltran, Michael Wacha and the St. Louis Cardinals are going to the World Series - not even Clayton Kershaw could stop them this year.

Beltran and the Cardinals stunned the Dodgers' ace with a four-run third inning, Wacha was again magnificent on the mound and St. Louis advanced to its second World Series in three seasons by roughing up the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-0 in Game 6 of the NL championship series Friday night.

Wacha, a rookie, was selected MVP of the series after throwing 13 2-3 scoreless innings and beating Kershaw twice in the NLCS.

Matt Carpenter sparked St. Louis' big third inning with a one-out double on the 11th pitch of his at-bat. Beltran singled him home and the Cardinals quickly removed all the suspense surrounding a team that squandered a 3-1 series lead in the NLCS last fall against San Francisco.

"I'm so happy right now. We did it as a team," Beltran said. "We fought hard, we worked hard all season long and thank god we're here."

Game 1 of the World Series is Wednesday at the winner of the ALCS between the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers. The Cardinals won their 19th NL pennant and will be trying for their third title since 2006, last winning in 2011.

The glamorous Dodgers, with the second-highest payroll in baseball at $220 million, failed to reach the World Series for the first time since winning it all in 1988.

After losing Game 5 in Los Angeles, the Cardinals turned to Wacha once again. The right-hander was even better in outpitching Kershaw for the second time this series.

It was 52 degrees at game time, a 23-degree drop from the Kershaw-Wacha matchup in Game 2 six days earlier, and Kershaw never warmed up.

The top NL CY Young Award candidate was knocked out of a start for the first time this season without finishing the fifth.

Beltran had three hits and drove in two runs while facing Kershaw and made a spectacular catch in right field, helping him advance to the World Series for the first time in his 16-year career.

Perhaps showing the Cardinals weren't stressed by the possibility of a second straight postseason meltdown, Games 1 and 5 starter Joe Kelly had a post-national anthem staredown against Dodgers reserve outfielder Scott Van Slyke that was broken up by a fed-up home plate umpire Greg Gibson after several minutes.

Kelly blinked first, all in good fun but, when it counted, St. Louis wouldn't budge.

The Cardinals jumped on Kershaw in the third, batting around. After Wacha grounded out, Carpenter doubled in a gritty at-bat. Beltran singled him home for the game's first run. With two outs, Yadier Molina added an RBI single, Shane Robinson drove in two runs with a single in his first career postseason start after replacing slumping Jon Jay - and advanced to second base on Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig's first of two errors in the Cardinals' big innings.

The Cuban defector also struck out twice and was booed heartily. Hanley Ramirez, a last-minute addition to the Dodgers' lineup, went 0 for 3 while playing with a broken rib.

Kershaw needed 48 pitches, the most pitches of his career in one inning, in the third. He took exception one pitch in particular, complaining to plate umpire Greg Gibson after Matt Adams' full-count walk loaded the bases.

The Dodgers bench also was vocal after the call on a pitch that may have been an inch or two low of the strike zone.

The Cardinals knocked Kershaw out in a five-run fifth. Adams doubled in a run to chase Kershaw. Wacha drove in one with a fielder's choice grounder and Carpenter had a sacrifice fly

Wacha has a minuscule 0.43 ERA in three postseason starts, one of the gems in Game 4 of the division series to keep the Cardinals alive. In his last regular season start and the NL Central up for grabs, he no-hit the Nationals for 8 2-3 innings.

"There's not anything you can't say about him," Kelly said of Wacha. "He's just going out there and pitching his butt off right now and as you can see he's just a pretty damn good pitcher."

Beltran was the star of the Cardinals' 3-2, 13-inning Game 1 victory, driving in all three runs plus making a throw to keep it tied in extra innings.

Kershaw was charged with seven runs on 10 hits in four-plus innings. The lefty led the majors in ERA the last three years but has lost five straight starts against St. Louis.

None of his starts this year were shorter than five innings and the most runs he allowed was five, on two occasions. The four-run fourth was his worst since July 24, 2012, at St. Louis, when Kershaw yielded eight runs in 5 2-3 innings.

The Dodgers didn't have much of a chance again Wacha.

Carl Crawford led off the game with an infield hit but was erased on Mark Elllis' double-play ball. A.J. Ellis doubled to start the sixth and didn't advance.

 

NOTES: Cardinals Hall of Fame SS Ozzie Smith threw the first pitch. ... Beltran has a .331 career postseason average.

Friday, 18 October 2013 23:18
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Rams ran only 41 plays last week while riding a wave of turnovers to an easy win at Houston.

Still, Sam Bradford found a way to get almost everyone involved, with nine players combining for 12 receptions and three running backs getting touches.

Bradford is off to his best start of his career. Through six games, he is sixth in the NFC in completions (126) and tied for fourth in the NFL with 13 touchdown passes.

After a humbling 35-11 loss to San Francisco, the Rams were 1-3. In the last two weeks, Bradford has thrown three touchdown passes in each game, both wins. The Rams have outscored their last two opponents 72-33 to improve to 3-3.

Coach Jeff Fisher is happy with Bradford's play.

"Been great. No mistakes," Fisher said. "There's only two quarterbacks, I think, in the NFC that have more touchdown passes than he and one is (Cowboys QB Tony) Romo and the other's (Saints QB Drew) Brees. He's got 13 and they've got 14, so he's coming on. He enjoys what he's doing. He's managing the thing and practicing well. His feet are excellent right now in the pocket, so he's playing well."

Against Houston, the Rams scored 38 points while running just 42 offensive plays. Bradford threw just 16 passes with no interceptions against the Texans. He finished with a 134.6 passer rating, the highest of his career for a single game.

There's more to it than Bradford: The Rams have been using multiple tight end sets and the running game has benefited. Rookie running back Zac Stacy started for the second consecutive game. Against Jacksonville, Stacy gained 78 yards on 14 carriers. He followed that with 79 yards on 18 carries against Houston.

The balanced attack is a welcome one for the Rams, who missed departed Steven Jackson early this season.

"You've seen the past two weeks just having some balance between the run game and the pass game, I think it's led us to be more efficient," Bradford said. "We've kept defenses off balance with what we're doing. I think it's been really good for all aspects of our game."

Distributing the ball to different receivers shows growth for Bradford, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. Bradford has been sacked just 13 times, none by Houston.

Throwing to multiple receivers also shows the Rams have depth, Schottenheimer said.

"We have a lot of weapons. We use a lot of different personnel groupings. We mix and match the pieces pretty well," Schottenheimer said. "Again, he just shows his ability to go through progressions. He's willing to take what the defense gives him."

The receivers know that. The ball can come at any time to any one depending on what the defense does.

"I think that shows how much Sam knows and that he can read the defense," Austin Pettis said. "I think he is playing really well, absolutely. You wouldn't really know that because of his demeanor."

There are six receivers who have caught 12 or more passes. Twelve different players have caught a pass this season. Six receivers have caught touchdown passes. Tavon Austin leads the receivers with 24 catches. Pettis has 23 receptions and a team-high four touchdowns. Tight end Jared Cook has 22 catches.

"Sam is doing a good job spreading it around," Cook said. "Everybody is getting some balls which is a good thing and making plays when needed."

Notes: RB Stacy (chest) and DE Chris Long (thigh) both returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday's workout.

Thursday, 17 October 2013 23:15
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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Growing up in Ohio, Maty Mauk stood on the sideline at Kenton High School watching older brother Ben star at quarterback while father Mike coached the Wildcats to consecutive state championships in 2001 and 2002.

Football ran in the family, and Maty jumped right in. At Kenton with his dad still the coach, he broke national prep records in passing yards (18,932), touchdown passes (219), completions (1,353) and total offense (22,681).

The gaudy numbers led to a scholarship to play quarterback at Missouri, where Mauk hoped he would have the opportunity to play in pressure situations. Last Saturday would probably qualify as one, when the redshirt freshman trotted unexpectedly onto the field with a two-point lead in the fourth quarter at Georgia.

Mike Mauk says he wasn't nervous as he watched from the stands of Sanford Stadium with his wife, Gwyn, and nearly 93,000 others. He wasn't surprised, either, when his son and protege led two touchdown drives to stave off the Bulldogs' comeback and win 41-26.

"It's something that ever since he's been a young kid starting to play athletics — you enjoy competition, you enjoy playing against the best," said Mike Mauk, who with his wife travels to all of the Tigers' games. "That's what competitors enjoy doing."

Maty Mauk figures to be involved in more of these situations as he leads No. 14 Missouri (6-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) into its game Saturday against No. 22 Florida (4-2, 3-1) in place of James Franklin, who sprained his right shoulder at Georgia and is out for at least three weeks. At 6 feet and 200 pounds, Mauk gives up 2 inches and 30 pounds to Franklin, but he likes to run, so he says don't expect anything different in the team's play calling.

"Last year, I kind of struggled," Mauk said. "I didn't know as much. But now I know that playbook like the back of my hand, man."

He'll be surrounded by a physically and statistically healthy offense, one that's producing 45.7 points and 515.7 yards per game. Mauk started practicing with the first string this week after taking "mental reps" with it all season.

Teammates told him to just be confident in himself and to not try to do too much. Even former Missouri quarterback and current Kansas City Chiefs backup Chase Daniel requested Mauk's phone number to pass along some advice.

"He's probably going to make some mistakes like all kids do," coach Gary Pinkel said. "But the big thing is you don't want him to be a robot out there. You want him to do what he does and play quarterback the way he plays quarterback."

Quarterbacks coach Andy Hill said not much fazes Mauk, who has a "cool demeanor" that likely arose out of the trials and successes he went through in high school. Occasionally, however, that attitude can lead him astray.

In just his first few weeks on campus in August 2012, police arrested Mauk on suspicion of leaving the scene of an accident on a scooter. Mike Mauk said that incident turned into a growing opportunity for his son, who communicates with his parents almost daily.

Regardless, the elder Mauk says he's proud of Maty and everything he's been able to accomplish since the day he was born. That's why the quarterback's parents still make every effort to watch their son play, and will do so again — this time with older brother Ben — Saturday in Columbia.

"He likes people, enjoys being around people," Mike Mauk said. "And sometimes, maybe he's got his guard down too much. But at the same time, I think he's learned some things and situations that have occurred that have helped make him a better person. That's what most of us go through in our lives."

Thursday, 17 October 2013 23:13
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CHICAGO (AP) -- T.J. Oshie scored the lone goal in the shootout, Jaroslav Halak stopped all three Chicago shooters in the extra session and the St. Louis Blues defeated the Blackhawks 3-2 on Thursday night.

David Backes scored a power-play goal for St. Louis, while Alexander Steen was credited with an even-strength score in regulation in the Blues' first road game.

Chicago's Marian Hossa scored on a breakaway and set up Brandon Pirri's first NHL goal in regulation. All but one of the Blackhawks' (4-1-2) first seven games have been decided by one goal.

The Blues (5-1-0) started the season with five straight home games, and won the first four before losing 6-2 to San Jose on Tuesday.

Chicago's Corey Crawford made 26 saves and Halak had 27.

Both goalies made a handful of tough stops early before Pirri opened the scoring at 7:42 of the first.

After taking Hossa's perfect pass, Pirri sent a one-timer from the left circle that ticked off the post and into the upper left corner of the net.

Backes' power-play goal at 10:14 of the first tied it at 1. He was parked in front of Crawford and deflected in Jay Bouwmeester's wrist shot from the left point.

The Blues dominated early in the second period. Any momentum was broken when St. Louis' Barret Jackman hit Chicago star Patrick Kane hard from behind and was sent off for boarding at 7:18.

Hossa put Chicago ahead 2-1 with 2:38 left in the second on a breakaway. After the puck slipped past the Blues' defense, both Hossa and Patrick Sharp skated in alone, and Hossa fired a shot past Halak on the stick side.

Steen was credited with a goal 51 seconds later that was inadvertently knocked in by Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith and tied it at 2.

Steen was 30 feet out in the slot, and deflected Bouwmeester's shot from the point. The puck slid to the right side of the crease where Keith was trying to tie up Backes, but Keith swept the puck on goal and past Crawford.

The Blackhawks and Blues are expected to battle at the top of the Central Division, and the rivalry was reflected in increasingly physical, sometimes chippy play on Thursday. Chicago enforcer Brandon Bollig and St. Louis' Roman Polak fought midway through the third.

Crawford made a tough close-in save on Alex Pietrangelo with just over seven minutes left to keep it tied.

Halak made an alert save on Brandon Saad 33 seconds into overtime with Jonathan Toews closing in for a rebound. Jackman's shot hit the post 3:17 into the extra period.

Notes: Pirri, who played in his ninth NHL game, led the AHL with 75 points in 76 games last season while with Rockford. ... Backes played his 500th game and Jackman played his 650th. ... The Blues have played the Blackhawks 288 times, more than any other team. ... St. Louis F Maxim Lapierre, who knocked San Jose D Dan Boyle out a game on Tuesday with a blow to the head, did not dress. Lapierre is scheduled for a hearing with the NHL on Friday. ... The Blackhawks had the NHL's third-best penalty killing last season en route to winning the Stanley Cup, but have allowed six power-play goals in 21 chances so far.

Thursday, 17 October 2013 23:10
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LOS ANGELES (AP) -- It took the Dodgers five games to hit a home run in the NL championship series. Once Adrian Gonzalez powered up for the first one, their dormant offense broke loose.

Gonzalez homered twice and Zack Greinke came through with the clutch performance Los Angeles needed in a 6-4 victory over the Cardinals on Wednesday that trimmed St. Louis' lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven playoff.

"Guys weren't ready to lose today," said Carl Crawford, who also went deep to help the Dodgers save their season.

Los Angeles held on in the ninth, when St. Louis scored twice off closer Kenley Jansen before he struck out pinch-hitter Adron Chambers with two on to end it.

The series shifts back to St. Louis for Game 6 on Friday night, with ace Clayton Kershaw scheduled to start for Los Angeles against rookie Michael Wacha.

When those two squared off in Game 2, the Cardinals won 1-0 on an unearned run.

"We've kind of become America's team because everyone wants to see a seventh game," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Probably even the fans in St. Louis would like to see a seventh game, so I figure that everybody's for us to win on Friday night."

The Cardinals also led last year's NLCS 3-1 before losing three straight games to the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

"We're looking to do the same thing," Gonzalez said.

Desperate to avoid elimination, the Dodgers brought in some Hollywood star power for pregame introductions. Will Ferrell announced their lineup and lent a comic spin to each player's name, capping it by introducing Greinke as "today's winning pitcher."

Ferrell knew what he was talking about.

Greinke got into a bases-loaded jam with none out in the first but escaped with no damage. From there, he pitched seven strong innings and even delivered an RBI single.

"That was big. I was real nervous out there with that situation," Greinke said.

A.J. Ellis also homered at Dodger Stadium, where it is tougher to clear the fences in the heavy night air.

Helped by playing in 82-degree heat on a sunny afternoon, the Dodgers rediscovered their power stroke just in time to extend the series. They hit .274 in three games at home after batting .184 during the first two games in St. Louis.

"It was just one of those days that we were a little better, got some runs, good feeling," Mattingly said.

The Dodgers regrouped after Greinke squandered an early 2-0 lead just as he did in Game 1, which Los Angeles lost 3-2 in 13 innings on the road.

After neither team homered in the first three games for the first time in NLCS history, the big bats came out. The Cardinals used a two-run homer by Matt Holliday and a solo shot from pinch-hitter Shane Robinson to win 4-2 on Tuesday night.

This time, Gonzalez went 3 for 4 with two solo homers and three runs scored. His two-out shot in the eighth made it 6-2.

"We have a team that can bounce back and do some pretty incredible things out there," he said.

The Cardinals tied it at 2 in the third on Carlos Beltran's RBI triple and Holliday's run-scoring double before Yadier Molina grounded into his second inning-ending double play against Greinke.

"He wasn't as sharp as he was the first time we faced him," Beltran said. "But guys like that, the best guys in the game, they're able to regroup and find a way to help their team win."

Los Angeles answered in the bottom of the third. Mark Ellis singled leading off but was erased when Hanley Ramirez grounded into a double play.

Gonzalez followed with the Dodgers' first homer of the NLCS, slugging the ball an estimated 428 feet into the right-field pavilion for a 3-2 lead.

As he headed toward the dugout, Gonzalez cupped his hands to his ears and wiggled them in a gesture resembling mouse ears. It was an apparent jab at Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright, who said Gonzalez had done "some Mickey Mouse stuff" in celebrating a double on Monday night.

"It's just having fun," Gonzalez said. "I'm going to retire them so they're not talked about once again."

Crawford egged Gonzalez on.

"I'm pretty sure it rubbed them the wrong way and they're going to use that as some kind of fuel, so you might as well keep doing it," Crawford said, laughing.

Gonzalez replied: "Hey, if Carl wants them. It's for him, not for anybody else."

After wriggling out of big trouble in the first when Molina bounced into a double play, Greinke allowed two runs and six hits. He struck out four and walked one.

"He made his pitches, we made the plays, got out of it," Gonzalez said. "We were able to get run support for him. All he needed was a few runs."

Jansen gave up RBI singles to Matt Adams and Pete Kozma in the ninth.

A.J. Ellis homered in seventh, sending an 0-2 pitch from Edward Mujica into the left-field pavilion to make it 5-2.

Crawford homered with one out in the fifth, extending the Dodgers' lead to 4-2. He walloped a 3-2 pitch from starter Joe Kelly an estimated 447 feet into the right-field pavilion.

Kelly gave up four runs and seven hits in five innings. He struck out three and walked none.

"I made a few bad pitches on heaters and didn't locate that well, and they turned into home runs," he said. "With guys on base, I was going after them and attacking them with the fastball, but they're good hitters and they put good swings on them and hit them out of the park."

Beltran's triple went over the head of Andre Ethier and to the wall in center, scoring Matt Carpenter, who singled. Holliday followed with a double to deep center, but that was it for St. Louis until the ninth.

"We had a couple of opportunities to do something, and we just couldn't make it happen," manager Mike Matheny said. "These guys have done a tremendous job in those exact same situations all season long. You're going to have games where you just can't make it happen, and we've got to figure out a way to get it done the next time we get a chance."

NOTES: Molina went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. ... Greinke's hit in the second was the third of his postseason career. ... Ramirez, playing with a broken left rib, left after six innings. ... In the three games Ramirez has started with the injury, only two grounders have been hit to him at shortstop. ... The homers by Gonzalez and Crawford were the first given up by Kelly in 24 career postseason innings. He allowed two homers in a game twice during the regular season. ... The Dodgers are trying to become the 12th team to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. ... Beltran's triple was his first ever in the postseason. ... Former Dodgers star Orel Hershiser tossed out the first pitch on the 25th anniversary of his three-hit shutout against Oakland in Game 2 of the 1988 World Series.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013 23:28
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LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Thanks to two big swings and some excellent defense, the St. Louis Cardinals are one win from the World Series.

Just like last year.

Matt Holliday and pinch-hitter Shane Robinson connected for the first home runs of the NL championship series, and St. Louis beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 Tuesday night to take a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven playoff.

"We can't get ahead of ourselves," Holliday said.

In a series starved for offense, the Cardinals scored as many runs as they did in the first three games combined, when the teams totaled nine runs.

Game 5 is Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, with the Cardinals one win from the World Series. Zack Greinke is set to start for Los Angeles against Joe Kelly.

Of course, St. Louis had a 3-1 lead in last year's NLCS before dropping three straight to San Francisco, the eventual World Series champion.

"Hopefully, we can throw some offense together like we were today a little bit and keep some positive thoughts going," manager Mike Matheny said. "When we start talking about where the series is, I think it's a distraction. What we've got to do is play a game."

It was a painful defeat for the Dodgers - in more ways than one. Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, playing with a broken left rib, left in the middle of the sixth after striking out three times.

"It got worse as we went along," manager Don Mattingly said.

St. Louis third baseman David Freese came out after six innings. He left Monday's game with a cramp in his right calf.

Hitless in his previous 22 at-bats at Dodger Stadium, Holliday sent a two-run shot off Ricky Nolasco an estimated 426 feet to left field, capping a three-run third that gave the Cardinals a 3-0 lead.

"That's about as good as I can hit one," said Holliday, who was 0 for 13 in the series before connecting.

"I wasn't really doubting my swing at all. I felt actually really good with my at-bats. Sometimes in this game you don't always get the results that you want even if you feel like you're having good at-bats, so I just wanted to stay with it," he said.

Seeking a second World Series title in three years, St. Louis turned three important double plays and picked off a runner at second base in the seventh. Defensive standout Pete Kozma, inserted at shortstop in the sixth, started a difficult double play and darted in to complete the pickoff.

Second baseman Matt Carpenter also keyed St. Louis' sharp work with the gloves, one night after some sloppy play was costly in a 3-0 defeat.

Carpenter had an RBI double in the third that scored Daniel Descalso, who hit a leadoff single. Carpenter came around on Holliday's homer after there were none in the first three games for the first time in NLCS history.

Carlos Martinez pitched two scoreless innings in relief of winner Lance Lynn. Trevor Rosenthal got three outs for his second save in the series.

After a leadoff single by Andre Ethier in the ninth, Yasiel Puig grounded into a double play. Juan Uribe struck out to end it, leaving the Dodgers on the brink of elimination.

Now, they'll count on Greinke and ace Clayton Kershaw to pitch them back into the series.

"Kind of the best thought I have is, I've got one of the best pitchers in baseball pitching tomorrow," Mattingly said. "If we come out here and play well tomorrow and get a win, I've probably got the best pitcher in baseball pitching the next day."

Robinson's home run bounced off the top of the wall in left field on a 1-0 pitch from J.P. Howell with one out in the seventh, extending the Cardinals' lead to 4-2.

"For a little guy, he's got surprising power," Holliday said. "I mean, honestly, he's got some thump."

Lynn allowed two runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings. He struck out five and walked three.

The right-hander lost his only other start this postseason, giving up five runs over 4 1-3 innings in Game 2 of the division series against Pittsburgh.

The Dodgers were down 4-2 in the seventh when Nick Punto doubled with one out. Martinez, however, picked off Punto before throwing another pitch and then retired Carl Crawford on an inning-ending groundout.

Trailing 3-2, the Dodgers put the potential tying run on base in the sixth when Puig singled to chase Lynn. Uribe grounded into a double play against Seth Maness to end the inning.

The Dodgers stuck with Nolasco as their starter even though he hadn't pitched since Sept. 29. He struggled in his last three starts in September, giving up at least five earned runs in each.

Nolasco was passed over for his scheduled assignment in Game 4 of the division series, when the Dodgers chose to use Kershaw on three days' rest for the first time in his career. Kershaw pitched well and took a no-decision in a 4-3 victory over Atlanta that clinched the series.

Before this one, Mattingly had said Nolasco was being put in a difficult position after not pitching for so long. Mattingly said Kershaw and Greinke both offered to start on short rest at Dodger Stadium.

Nolasco allowed three runs and three hits in four innings. He struck out four and walked one.

Los Angeles scored twice in the fourth to cut it to 3-2. Adrian Gonzalez hit a leadoff double and scored on Puig's single. A.J. Ellis singled to drive in Andre Ethier, who walked.

But just when it appeared the Dodgers had grabbed the momentum, pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker bounced into an inning-ending double play.

NOTES: St. Louis won a Game 4 on the road for the first time in NLCS play. ... Nolasco, who is from nearby Corona and grew up a Dodgers fan, made the first postseason start of his career. ... Schumaker was 3 for 21 with no RBIs as a pinch-hitter during the regular season, and struck out in his only other at-bat as a pinch-hitter in the postseason. ... There was a pregame moment of silence for MLB umpire Wally Bell, who died Monday at 48. ... Tuesday marked the 25th anniversary of Kirk Gibson's famous pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the ninth at Dodger Stadium, giving Los Angeles a 5-4 win over Oakland in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. ... Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda, who at 86 is special adviser to the team chairman, tossed out a first pitch from midway between the mound and home plate that missed the target. Mattingly, who was catching, gave him a mulligan. Lasorda managed that 1988 team, the Dodgers' last appearance in the World Series. ... With the government partially shut down, there was a pregame flyover of vintage aircraft by a nonprofit organization founded by a group of World War II fighter pilots. ... Among the famous faces in the crowd were Tom Cruise and Bryan Cranston of "Breaking Bad."

Tuesday, 15 October 2013 23:16
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