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ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Rams re-signed outside linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, who was waived at the beginning of a four-game suspension to start the season.

Dunbar was the team's second-leading tackler last year and coach Jeff Fisher had said there might be a chance of re-signing him.

The Rams (1-3) began preparations Tuesday for Sunday's home game against the Jaguars after players had four days off following a loss to the 49ers.

Offensive tackle Max Starks was released to make room for Dunbar. The Rams also signed cornerback Darren Woodard to the practice squad and released fullback Eric Stevens.

Tuesday, 01 October 2013 23:17
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PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Pirates went 21 years between playoff games. The wait will be significantly shorter this time around.

Russell Martin homered twice, Francisco Liriano was dominant for seven innings and the Pittsburgh Pirates roared past Cincinnati for a 6-2 victory in the NL wild-card game Tuesday night.

In front of a black-clad crowd savoring its first postseason game since 1992, Marlon Byrd also connected and Andrew McCutchen had two hits and reached base four times for Pittsburgh.

"We're for real," McCutchen said. "We're definitely for real."

Liriano scattered four hits for the Pirates, who will face St. Louis in Game 1 of the NL division series Thursday. Liriano struck out five and walked one to win the first playoff game of his career.

"We didn't talk about one and done, we talked about one and run," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Win one and run to St. Louis."

Cincinnati starter Johnny Cueto struggled in his third start since coming off the disabled list last month. Cueto gave up four runs in 3 1-3 innings and appeared rattled by a raucous ballpark that taunted him by chanting his name.

The 36-year-old Byrd, acquired by the Pirates in late August from the New York Mets, celebrated the first postseason at bat of his 12-year career - 1,250 games - by sending Cueto's fastball into the seats to give the Pirates the lead. The shot sent another jolt through an already electric crowd, which began singing "Cue-to, Cue-to" in unison when Martin stepped in.

"This is 20 years of waiting. You're seeing it all come out in one night," Martin said. "Hopefully we can keep this atmosphere till late October."

Martin sent a drive into the bleachers in left field. The Reds never recovered, ending a 90-win season with a six-game losing streak.

Three of those losses came against Pittsburgh at Cincinnati in the final series of the season that determined the site of the win-or-die game.

Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker backed Cueto before the game, saying his ace "thrives on this environment." Maybe, but the right-hander never looked comfortable in front of the largest crowd in PNC Park history, a place where Cueto has dominated.

Cueto, who came in 8-2 at the ballpark by the Allegheny River, even lost his grip on the ball while standing on the mound.

A moment later, he lost his grip on the game.

Martin's 405-foot shot to left-center gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead and all the momentum Liriano would require.

Signed on the cheap in the offseason after a mediocre 2012 split between the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox, Liriano has been reborn in Pittsburgh. He went 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA during the regular season, his devastating slider nearly unhittable against left-handers.

The Reds proved no match. Joey Votto went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. Jay Bruce produced an RBI single in the fourth but Cincinnati never really threatened on a night baseball officially returned to Pittsburgh after a 20-year trek through purgatory.

Shin-Soo Choo homered in the eighth, a drive to right field that was upheld by video review.

Pittsburgh's 94-win regular season reignited a relationship sullied by years of mismanagement and miserable play. When the gates opened two hours before the first pitch, fans - most of them dressed in black at the urging of MVP candidate McCutchen - sprinted to their seats in anticipation of the club's first postseason game since Atlanta's Sid Bream slid into home ahead of Barry Bonds' throw in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 of the 1992 National League championship series.

The victory sent the Braves to the World Series and the Pirates into an abyss it took an entire generation to escape.

The first step came with victory No. 82 on Sept. 9. The next came two weeks later when a win over the Chicago Cubs assured a wild-card spot. The most thrilling yet lifted the team with the 26th-highest payroll in the majors ($73.6 million) into a showdown with baseball royalty.

The Reds, meanwhile, head into an offseason that could be eventful. Baker has led Cincinnati to the playoffs in three of the last four years but the Reds failed to advance each time. They fell to the San Francisco Giants in five games - after leading 2-0 - in the division series in 2012 and were swept in the same round by Philadelphia in 2010.

This time, they didn't even make it that far. Cincinnati spent most of the season as the third team in a three-way race with the Pirates and the Cardinals for the NL Central title.

Cueto, who made three different trips to the disabled list this season with a strained lat, was pressed into service when projected starter Mat Latos discovered bone chips in his right (throwing) elbow.

At the time, it seemed like an upgrade. It wasn't. The Pirates made it 3-0 on sacrifice fly in the third by Pedro Alvarez and Cueto was pulled when Starling Marte doubled with one out in the fourth. Marte sprinted home on local boy Neil Walker's double off reliever Sean Marshall and Walker scored on a fielder's choice by Byrd to make it 5-1.

When Martin hit a drive to left off Logan Ondrusek in the seventh, the party seemingly unthinkable for a team that lost 105 games in 2010 began. Martin's long ball marked only the second multihomer playoff game in team history. Bob Robertson hit three in Game 2 of the 1971 NLCS.

NOTES: Martin is the first catcher to homer for three different teams in the postseason. He previously hit playoff homers for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008 and the New York Yankees in 2012 ... Liriano is the first Pittsburgh left-hander to win a playoff game since John Candelaria in Game 3 of the 1979 World Series ... The Reds have lost four straight playoff games and 11 of their last 13 ... Pittsburgh is the first home team to win since the new wild-card format was introduced last season ... The Pirates went 10-9 this year against St. Louis. ... Byrd is the oldest player to homer in his first postseason at-bat, according to STATS.

Tuesday, 01 October 2013 23:15
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Matt Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals clinched home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs when they beat the Chicago Cubs 4-0 Sunday for their sixth straight win.

With the top seed, the NL Central champions will host the wild-card winner in Game 1 of an NL division series on Thursday.

Joe Kelly (10-5) pitched 5 1-3 innings of three-hit ball in relief of Jake Westbrook as the Cardinals matched a season high winning streak to finish 97-65, their most since reaching 100 in 2005. St. Louis also won six straight from April 30-May 5.

Jon Jay, Daniel Descalso, Shane Robinson and Tony Cruz drove in runs for St. Louis.

The Cubs finish last in the Central at 66-96.

St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook pitched one inning before Kelly came on in relief. Westbrook is not likely to be on the postseason roster and the Cardinals are not expected to pick up his option for next season.

Kelly struck out five in his first relief appearance since joining the starting rotation on July 6.

Randy Choate, Carlos Martinez and Kevin Siegrist contributed to the five-man shutout.

Second baseman Matt Carpenter went 0 for 4 and finished with a league-leading in 199 hits.

The Cardinals scored twice in the fourth off Chicago starter Jeff Samardzija (8-13) to take a 3-0 lead. Matt Adams and Descalso hit back-to-back doubles to push the advantage to 2-0. Robinson followed with a run-scoring single.

Samardzija gave up three runs on eight hits in six innings.

Jay, who drove in a run with a single in the third, extended his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games with a single in the first.

St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina took the field to start the game, but was removed before the first pitch. Molina received a standing ovation as he walked to the dugout. Right fielder Carlos Beltran was taken out at the start of the fifth inning and also left to a loud applause.

NOTES: St. Louis recognized the 50th anniversary of Stan Musial's last game as a Cardinal with commemorative patches on their uniforms. Musial went 2 for 3 and singled in his final at-bat of a 3-2 win over Cincinnati. ... St. Louis manager Mike Matheny indicated that Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94) will start the first game of the NL division series. The Cubs closed the season losing 41 of their last 59. ...A crowd of 44,808 gave the Cardinals their 25th sellout of the season.

Sunday, 29 September 2013 19:26
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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — James Franklin orchestrated two lengthy touchdown drives and added another score on the ground in the second half to help Missouri break open a 41-19 win over Arkansas State in wet conditions Saturday night.

Missouri scored 21 points in the final quarter to finish their nonconference schedule with a 4-0 record, playing their remaining eight games in the Southeastern Conference where they went 2-6 in their inaugural season a year ago.

Franklin led drives of 94 and 87 yards after his team trailed 16-14 with 11:31 remaining in the third quarter. The Tigers failed to convert any of their four third-down opportunities and only possessed the ball for 9:12 in the first half.

Adam Kennedy tied a school record with 37 completions for 308 yards and J.D. McKissic caught a school-record 15 receptions for 117 yards for Arkansas State (2-3). Julian Jones added 136 receiving yards on 10 catches for the Red Wolves, who lost consecutive games in the same season for the first time since 2010 despite gaining 425 yards.

Bryan Davis kicked a 33-yard field goal with 7:31 left in the game to pull his team within 27-19 but it couldn't get closer. He also converted from 41, 21 and 44 yards and has made all seven of his attempts this season.

Missouri looked sluggish in the first half after running 97 plays in a 45-28 win at Indiana last week. The team only ran 25 in the opening 30 minutes Saturday, but Franklin got things going in the third with a 13-yard pass to L'Damian Washington on a third down at Missouri's 36-yard-line to keep the team on the field. After Franklin ran for 18 yards to the Arkansas State's 17-yard-line, he found Washington in the corner of the end zone from five yards out for a 20-16 lead.

Missouri held the Red Wolves to a 3-and-out on their subsequent possession before Franklin flipped the ball to Henry Josey for a 1-yard touchdown run with 13:25 remaining for a 27-16 advantage.

Franklin then scampered for a 9-yard score and Marcus Murphy added a 3-yard run after an E.J. Gaines interception to finish the scoring. The Tigers finished with 495 yards of offense, including 239 rushing yards and 256 through the air.

Missouri played most of the game without senior cornerback Randy Ponder, who became the second Tiger this season to be ejected for targeting with 5:50 remaining in the first quarter. Ponder led with his helmet in a tackle on McKissic, resulting in a 15-yard penalty that gave the Red Wolves the ball at the Missouri 39-yard-line and set up a 21-yard field goal by Davis for a 6-0 lead.

Arkansas State looked like it would take the halftime lead when it drove 95 yards to the Missouri 2-yard-line within the final minute. But the Tigers stuffed David Oku twice, setting up a 3rd-and-1 situation. With no timeouts and 14 seconds remaining, Kennedy threw to Oku well behind the line of scrimmage for a 22-yard loss after being pressured by Markus Golden. Time elapsed, and Missouri escaped with a 14-13 lead.

Saturday, 28 September 2013 23:07
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Edwin Jackson would like to throw 2013 out, please, and prove he's worth it to the Chicago Cubs for the next three years.

Jackson leads the majors with 18 losses after making an early exit due to mild side discomfort in a 6-2 setback to the NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.

"It's just a crazy year, man," Jackson said. "If I had the answer I would have changed it a long time ago.

"It's just one of those years, you just forget it, but you still learn from it."

Jackson (8-18) was tagged for six runs on eight hits in 2 2-3 innings and finished with a 4.98 ERA. He said tightness kept him from full extension on his pitches.

The Cubs signed Jackson, who has a career record of 78-89, to a four-year, $52 million free agent deal last winter. This season ended a run of five consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins.

"A lot of people want to throw one season away in their career," manage Dale Sveum said. "It's over and it's just time to start from scratch in spring training."

Adam Wainwright earned his 19th victory in a tuneup for the NL division series opener and the Cardinals showed no letup a day after clinching the divison with their fifth straight win.

Matt Holliday homered for the second day in a row and Yadier Molina drove in two runs for St. Louis (96-65), which entered the day tied with Atlanta for the NL lead in wins.

The start time was moved up three hours to avoid a forecast of later storms. The Cardinals mailed vouchers to all ticket holders, whether they attended or not, for a game in 2014. The crowd of 42,520 was a few thousand shy of a sellout.

Wainwright (19-9) allowed two hits in shutout 5 1-3 innings and tied for the league lead in victories with Washington's Jordan Zimmermann, who lost his last scheduled start Wednesday in St. Louis.

According to STATS, Wainwright is the third Cardinals pitcher to lead the league in victories twice, also doing it with 19 wins in 2009.

Dizzy Dean (1934-35) and Mort Cooper (1942-43) are the other Cardinals pitchers to twice lead the league in wins. Bob Gibson did it once.

The Cubs averted a second straight shutout loss by scoring twice in the ninth against former St. Louis closer Edward Mujica.

Anthony Rizzo led off with a homer and Donnie Murphy had an RBI double against Mujica, who has allowed 18 hits in 7 1-3 innings with two blown saves this month and lost his job to rookie Trevor Rosenthal.

Seth Maness earned his first career save by getting Darwin Barney on a double-play ball.

The Cubs have lost 11 of 14, scoring two or fewer runs nine times in that stretch.

Wainwright got his sixth RBI of the season with a single off third baseman Donnie Murphy's glove in a four-run third.

Wainwright entered 1-6 with a 5.16 ERA at home against the Cubs. He's 6-0 with a 3.72 ERA at Wrigley Field.

Holliday hit his 22nd homer, a two-run drive in the first. The Cardinals broke away in the third when Holliday and Matt Adams drew one-out walks ahead of Molina's two-run double, and Pete Kozma had an RBI single.

NOTES: The Cardinals are giving Jake Westbrook (7-8, 4.67) a spot start in the finale and Joe Kelly will follow in relief in a postseason tuneup. The Cubs' Jeff Samardzija (8-12, 4.33) is 0-1 in his last five starts but has had strong performances with no decision his last two times out. ... According to STATS, Jackson is among five pitchers since 2000 to throw a no-hitter and later lose 17 or more games. Also on the list are Ubaldo Jimenez last year, Derek Lowe in 2011 and Justin Verlander in 2008, all with 17 losses.

Saturday, 28 September 2013 21:59
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Just over 16 hours after a 35-11 loss to San Francisco, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher was finally able to come to grips with the setback.

Fisher angrily stormed out of Thursday's post-game news conference after just two questions. The 1-minute, 32-second briefing provided little insight into the team's dismal performance,

On Friday afternoon, after a night of sleep, Fisher was able to reflect on the sluggish effort that he called "frustrating."

"But we found out where our team is and what we need to do and where we need improve on," he said. "We've got a lot of work to do as a staff. Fortunately, we have some extra time, some extra days to get focused."

Fisher's club has dropped the last two games by a combined 66-18, marking the second-worst consecutive defeats in his 19-year head coaching career. Under Fisher in 2009, the Tennessee Titans lost to Indianapolis 31-9 and New England 59-0 in Weeks 5 and 6.

St. Louis (1-3) hosts Jacksonville on Oct. 6.

Thursday's loss to the 49ers took a physical toll as well. Safety T.J. McDonald broke his right leg and has been placed on the designated injured reserve list. He will be out at least six weeks, but could return to the team.

"We're fortunate that it will not have to be surgically repaired," Fisher said. "It is not season-ending."

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan and linebacker Will Witherspoon suffered hamstring injuries and are considered day to day.

Fisher felt the lack of a running game and the inability to stop the 49ers' rushing attack played major roles in the loss. Frank Gore tore through the St. Louis defense for 153 yards. Offensively, the Rams rushed 19 times for 18 yards.

"We'll get it fixed," Fisher said. "We've got to adjust our offensive philosophy to what's better suited for us right now, and that's to hand it off. And then everything else spins off of that."

Despite the rough start to the season, Fisher said his players are handling the adversity well.

"They're really good, they're going to be fine," he said. "They're better than (just) hanging in there."

Quarterback Sam Bradford hit on 19 of 41 passes for 202 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

"I thought he did the best he could considering the circumstances," Fisher said.

Bradford connected with Lance Kendricks on a 6-yard scoring toss with 5:44 left.

The Rams will get four days off and return to practice Tuesday. Fisher is hoping the time off will help his players get things turned around

"I know they're excited to get away and come back and prepare for our next opponent," he said.

Friday, 27 September 2013 22:51
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals clinched their first NL Central title in four years, beating the Chicago Cubs 7-0 Friday night behind the strong pitching of Lance Lynn and home runs by David Freese and Matt Holliday.

St. Louis (95-65) has won six of seven and is tied with Atlanta for the best record in the NL. They are assured of home-field advantage when the NL division series starts Thursday.

Adam Wainwright (18-9) was moved up to start Saturday, putting the St. Louis ace on track to start his team's postseason opener against Cincinnati, Pittsburgh or the Los Angeles Dodgers.

(backslash)A near-sellout crowd of 44,030 was on its feet, roaring and clapping in unison the final half-inning, then snapping pictures and applauding while the team celebrated near the mound. After the final out, Cardinals players put on T-shirts that read: "We Own The Central."

The Cubs have lost 12 of 16 and watched an opponent clinch for the third time within a week. The Braves wrapped up the NL East on Sunday at Wrigley Field and the Pirates secured a playoff spot in Chicago the following day.

Lynn (15-10) struck out six in a row, starting with Dioner Navarro to end the first. He fanned seven his first time through the order and allowed just four hits over six innings with nine strikeouts and no walks. Lynn has won consecutive starts after a skid in which he was 0-5 with a 5.44 ERA in eight outings.

Leadoff man Starlin Castro had three hits, including a third-inning single that stopped Lynn strikeout streak,

Yadier Molina had two hits and three RBIs to set a single-season best with 78, Jon Jay had two hits and an RBI and leadoff man Matt Carpenter had a single that left him one hit shy of 200.

Travis Wood (9-12) gave up three runs and four hits, leaving after just one inning - when he reached 200 in a season for the first time.

Six batters reached safely with two out: Molina had a two-run double off the left-field wall and Jay extended his hitting streak to 12 with an RBI single.

Holliday hit his 250th career homer and 21st this season leading off the sixth off Blake Parker.

NOTES: Both benches were warned in the sixth after Lynn's high fastball struck Navarro on an arm. ... Lynn's strikeout run was the Cardinals' longest since 2009, when John Smoltz fanned seven Padres in a row in his St. Louis debut. ... Edwin Jackson (8-17, 4.74) is the Cubs starter Saturday. ... Cardinals cleanup man Allen Craig (left mid-foot sprain) was ruled out for the NL division series. ... Wood and Jeff Samardzija are among three NL duos with 200 innings apiece and are the Cubs' first since Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly in 2008. ... Molina is batting .437 against the Cubs (21 for 48) with a team-high 13 RBIs. ... The Cubs are 12-74 when allowing four runs or more.

Friday, 27 September 2013 22:48
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund scored 51 seconds apart during St. Louis' four-goal third period, leading the Blues to a 4-1 exhibition victory over the Minnesota Wild on Friday night.

David Backes and Chris Stewart also scored for St. Louis, which finished the preseason with a 3-2-1 record. Alex Pietrangelo had two assists and Jaroslav Halak stopped 18 shots.

Jared Spurgeon scored for the Wild, who went 4-2-0 in the preseason. Josh Harding stopped all 15 shots he faced, and Johan Gustafsson allowed four goals on 11 shots.

Both teams will open the regular season Thursday at home. The Blues host the Nashville Predators, while the Wild plays host to the Los Angeles Kings.

 
Friday, 27 September 2013 22:47
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals clinched their first NL Central title in four years, beating the Chicago Cubs 7-0 Friday night behind the strong pitching of Lance Lynn and home runs by David Freese and Matt Holliday.

St. Louis (95-65) has won six of seven and is tied with Atlanta for the best record in the NL. They are assured of home-field advantage when the NL division series starts Thursday.

Adam Wainwright (18-9) was moved up to start Saturday, putting the St. Louis ace on track to start his team's postseason opener against Cincinnati, Pittsburgh or the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Friday, 27 September 2013 22:16
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Colin Kaepernick threw two touchdown passes, Frank Gore had his first 100-yard game of the season and the San Francisco 49ers' defense stepped up without some of their stars in a 35-11 rout over the St. Louis Rams on Thursday night.

Anquan Boldin had five catches for 90 yards and a touchdown, and Gore had 153 yards on 20 carries and a 34-yard score for San Francisco (2-2), which was outscored 46-10 the previous two games. Navarro Bowman had two of the 49ers' five sacks with a strip leading to a fourth-quarter scoring run by Anthony Dixon.

The Rams (1-3) had an overtime win and tie against San Francisco last year, and took the early lead Thursday before falling flat. Greg Zuerlein banged in a 40-yard field goal off the right upright to end a nine-game scoring drought in the first quarter, but the 49ers answered with 28 straight points.

The 49ers came close to a Super Bowl title in February and regained their footing against the team that gave them the most trouble last season. Minus cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and linebackers Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith, they quieted a raucous, hopeful crowd, sending all but a few thousand home early.

Kaepernick had no touchdown passes and four interceptions the previous two weeks and completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes. He was 15 for 23 for 167 yards.

Boldin had a monster debut with the 49ers after helping the Ravens beat San Francisco in the Super Bowl, but had been quiet along with the rest of the offense the previous two weeks. He had two highlight catches in the second quarter, a 42-yarder despite Cortland Finnegan getting flagged for holding, and a 20-yard score capped by a dive into the end zone after barely avoiding the sideline.

Gore more than doubled his output from the first three weeks and got a lot more work, too, after totaling just 11 carries last week. Four days earlier, DeMarco Murray burned them for 175 yards in Dallas' 31-7 win.

The Rams have trailed by double digits in every game, making up an 11-point deficit against Arizona in the opener but not gaps of 21 and 24 points against Atlanta and Dallas, and were down by 25 in the fourth quarter against San Francisco.

They got hit by injuries, too, the worst of them when rookie safety T.J. McDonald was carted off with a leg injury in the second half.

After mustering just 25 yards in the first quarter, the 49ers took a noisy crowd out of it in the second, averaging more than 11 yards per snap while piling up 176 yards and two touchdowns. Kaepernick was 8 for 12 for 104 yards in the half, all but 11 of those yards in the second quarter.

The Rams went for it on 3rd-and-1 from the 49ers 34 and Donte Whitner's diving interception in the end zone set up an eight-play, 80-yard drive capped by Gore's 34-yard run on third-and-1 in the final minute that made it 14-3.

The San Francisco defense took Gore off the hook for getting stripped by rookie Alec Ogletree and a turnover, forcing St. Louis into a three-and-out. Davis, who had been questionable with a because of a hamstring injury, broke open for an easy catch in the left side of the end zone to push the lead to 21-3.

Boldin entered with 83 career receptions against the Rams, the most of any opponent he has faced.

 
Thursday, 26 September 2013 23:39
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