PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neal Huntington spent the hours leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline searching for a way to upgrade the team with the best record in baseball.
The typically buttoned down Huntington even considered taking leave of his senses to do it.
"We talk a lot about, we don't want to do something stupid," Huntington said Wednesday after the deadline passed. "We were willing to do something stupid. We just didn't want to do anything insane."
At the moment, insanity might be defined as breaking up the chemistry the Pirates have spent the last four months cultivating.
Russell Martin drove home Neal Walker with the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and the Pirates rallied past the St. Louis Cardinals 5-4 to extend their lead in the NL Central to 2½ games.
Martin's sharp grounder off Trevor Rosenthal (1-2) rolled into left field, giving Walker time to score from second and propel Pittsburgh to its 25th comeback win in an increasingly special season. Pittsburgh is 23 games over .500 for the first time since 1992.
"We can win just about every way possible," manager Clint Hurdle said.
The Cardinals appeared in firm control of the division race two weeks ago but now find themselves staring up at the Pirates, who have taken the first four games of a five-game series.
St. Louis broke out of a slump to put together 13 hits, but the Cardinals left 11 runners on base and dropped their seventh straight. The Cardinals led 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2 but couldn't hold on.
"You always at some point during the season, every year, no matter what, go through a rough patch," St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright said after failing to earn his 14th victory. "The good teams find a way to get out of that rough patch and find a way to get back to playing good quality baseball, and that's what we're going to do."
Tony Watson (3-1) worked two shutout innings in relief of starter Jeff Locke. Mark Melancon pitched a perfect ninth for his fifth save. Melancon is 3 for 3 in save opportunities since All-Star closer Jason Grilli went down with a right forearm injury last week.
Matt Holliday had three hits and drove in two runs but St. Louis failed to score over the final five innings against Pittsburgh's bullpen.
"There's something we're not doing, and we know we're not doing it and fixing it," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Walker hit his seventh homer of the season off Wainwright in the first inning, starting a pattern that repeated itself throughout the night. The Cardinals found ways to score off starter Jeff Locke, but Pittsburgh kept chipping away.
"It's things we've done throughout the course of the season," Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. "If we're down early, we just keep working."
The teams with the two best records in the National League were mostly spectators before Wednesday's non-waiver trade deadline, though the Pirates acquired minor leaguer Robert Andino from Seattle.
The past two seasons, the Pirates made somewhat aggressive moves meant to bolster their playoff chances, but instead contributed in part to a second-half swoon.
This time, Huntington is keeping the group he called "one of the tightest" he's been around intact. When the 4 p.m. deadline passed, the Pirates were huddled around a TV in the clubhouse. They weren't anxiously waiting for news. Instead, they were watching Martin and first baseman Garrett Jones play video games.
"The trade deadline is like a gossip magazine," Watson said. "You take it for what it's worth but it's in one ear and out the other."
Pittsburgh needed to find a way after a rare off-night by Locke, whose rapid ascension from fifth starter to All-Star has fueled Pittsburgh's relentless pursuit of the Cardinals. But St. Louis spent four innings pecking away at the left-hander's usually deft mix of breaking balls.
The Cardinals came in hitting just .155 (30-194) during their late-July swoon but peppered Locke for 10 hits, the most he has given up in 31 career starts.
They came in various ways, from a hard-hit double by Beltran in the fourth to a swinging bunt by David Descalso that traveled 20 feet. Locke tied a season high by giving up four runs. He struck out six and walked one as his ERA rose from 2.15 to 2.36.
"He was fighting uphill all night," Hurdle said.
Wainwright, however, couldn't take advantage of the first signs of life by the St. Louis offense in a week. Every time the Cardinals would push in front, the Pirates would respond, eventually tying it on a sacrifice fly by McCutchen in the fifth. Wainwright left after seven innings, allowing four runs on eight hits, striking out six and walking one.
"(They) gave me the lead three times and I blew the save three times," Wainwright said. "I can be better than that, I will be better than that."
NOTES: The Pirates placed reserve C Mike McKenry on the 15-day disabled after he underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Rookie Tony Sanchez, Pittsburgh's top pick in the 2009 draft, will serve as the primary backup to Martin for the rest of the season ... The series concludes Thursday with Pittsburgh's Charlie Morton (3-2, 3.59 ERA) facing Joe Kelly (1-3 3.44). The Pirates are 5-1 in Morton's last six starts.
NEW YORK (AP) - Major League Baseball is threatening to kick Alex Rodriguez out of the game for life unless the New York Yankees star agrees not to fight a lengthy suspension for his role in the sport's latest drug scandal, according to a person familiar with the discussions.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.
Whether Commissioner Bud Selig would actually issue a lifetime suspension was unclear and a permanent ban could be shortened by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz to about 200 games, the person said.
The number of players likely to be disciplined stood at 14 Wednesday.
Front and center is Rodriguez, baseball's highest-paid player and the most prominent one linked in media reports over the past seven months to Biogenesis of America, a closed Florida anti-aging clinic that allegedly distributed banned performance-enhancing drugs.
The Yankees expected Rodriguez to be accused of recruiting other athletes for the clinic, attempting to obstruct MLB's investigation, and not being truthful with MLB in the past. Baseball has considered suspending him for violations of its labor contract and drug agreement.
Even if he is banned from baseball, there is precedent for a shortened penalty: When pitcher Steve Howe was given a lifetime ban in 1992 in his seventh suspension for drug or alcohol use, an arbitrator reduced the penalty to 119 days.
A three-time MVP, Rodriguez acknowledged four years ago that he used performance-enhancing substances while with Texas from 2001-03 but repeatedly has denied using them since.
He's been sidelined all season since hip surgery in January and then a quadriceps strain during a minor league rehabilitation assignment in July. The Yankees say he'll start another rehab Friday - Double-A Trenton appeared to be the likely destination.
"Hopefully Alex will be back shortly thereafter," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.
Rodriguez didn't stop to talk with reporters after his workout Wednesday at the team's minor league complex in Tampa, Fla.
At first, MLB and the union thought talks on the Biogenesis probe could be completed by Friday, but negotiations to avoid grievances are likely to push back announcements until at least Saturday or Sunday.
Others accused in media reports of receiving performance-enhancing drugs from Biogenesis include a trio of 2013 All-Stars: Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz, San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera and Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
Most of the players face 50-game bans as first offenders. Both sides felt urgency to complete the process because by the middle of next week, teams will have fewer than 50 games left. And that would force players to complete suspensions during the playoffs or at the start of next season.
Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski protected against a possible suspension of Peralta by acquiring slick-fielding infielder Jose Iglesias from Boston in a three-team trade Tuesday night.
"If it were a 15-day thing, like a typical injury, I think we could have comfortably dealt with it with the players we already have," Dombrowski said Wednesday. "But when you start to talk about 50 days and a possible playoff run, we feel better going ahead with Jose."
While MLB told the union which players it intends to suspend, it hasn't issued formal notices of discipline. Because of that, the countdown hasn't started under baseball's Joint Drug Agreement, which says the suspensions are effective on the third business day after the notice is issued.
The sides also haven't decided whether suspensions for first-time offenders who challenge the penalty can be announced before an arbitration decision.
If some stars knew their seasons were about to be cut short, they weren't letting on Wednesday, at least publicly.
"I can't talk about nothing right now. Just wait for the news," Cabrera said Wednesday before playing against Cincinnati.
Peralta thinks he shouldn't be on the list of players linked to Biogenesis.
"It's wrong," he said. "But whatever happens, I need to fight and try to move on."
Toronto outfielder Melky Cabrera, Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon and San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal were all suspended for 50 games last year for positive tests for elevated testosterone. MLB informed the union they won't receive additional discipline for that violation, two people familiar with the probe said. They also spoke on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.
"Nothing's been told to me," Melky Cabrera said. "I served my suspension last year, but MLB has never told me that it's OK now. I'm seeing it in the press, but I don't know."
Texas was unable to find a replacement bat to fill a void a suspension of Cruz would create.
"I don't think anybody's comfortable losing a significant part of your club, but it's out of our control," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We explored some deal like that. They just didn't come to a head. It wasn't for lack of interest or lack of effort. It was more lack of supply and lack of fit, really."
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Andrew McCutchen clubbed his 15th homer of the season and the Pittsburgh Pirates completed a doubleheader sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals with 6-0 victory on Tuesday night.
Brandon Cumpton (1-1) allowed three hits over seven innings to pick up his first major league win. The sweep propelled the Pirates into first place in the NL Central. Pittsburgh is a season-high 22 games over .500 (64-42).
Tyler Lyons (2-4) gave up four runs, three earned, in six innings. The rookie struck out five and walked one but received no help from a reeling offense. The Cardinals have dropped six straight and have scored five runs in their last 56 innings.
St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina left in the fourth inning with a right knee strain.
The Pirates took the opener 2-1 in 11 innings when Alex Presley's sharp grounder deflected off the glove of pitcher Kevin Siegrist and rolled into shallow left field, allowing Pittsburgh's Russell Martin to score from second.
The fortuitous bounces kept coming a couple hours later. The Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the second when a rare passed ball by Molina let Jose Tabata sprint across the plate. Molina was done for the night in the top of the fourth when the right knee pain he's been battling for the better part of a month flared up again. He was replaced by Rob Johnson.
The absence of their leader further weakened the Cardinals, and things quickly fell apart.
While Cumpton kept the NL's top offense in check, Pittsburgh poured it on with a little help from St. Louis left fielder Matt Holliday. The Pirates took a 2-0 lead on Jordy Mercer's RBI single before McCutchen stepped in. He drilled Lyons' pitch deep to left but Holliday appeared ready to track it down at the wall. Instead, the ball caromed into the stands.
Lyons placed both hands on his head in shock while the packed bleachers let Holliday have it. Holliday's night didn't get any better an inning later when he overran Josh Harrison's flyball to the wall, allowing Harrison to make it all the way to third.
Harrison never made it home, but by then Cumpton had all the backing he would require.
The rookie, who made a couple of spot starts earlier this season, needed just 87 pitches to get 21 outs. He received a loud ovation as he headed to the dugout, the latest in a series of unheralded Pirates pitchers to rise from obscurity and help propel the franchise into the midst of a pennant race.
The staff takes its cue from ace A.J. Burnett, who worked seven emotional innings in the opener. Burnett struck out nine and walked three while allowing one run on three hits. He was long gone, however, by the time Presley stepped in with Martin on in the 11th.
"It's a battle, it's fun," Burnett said. "Let's roll from here. Let's keep going."
NOTES: The series continues on Thursday. Adam Wainright (13-6, 2.51 ERA) starts for the Cardinals against Jeff Locke (9-3, 2.15) ... St. Louis sent struggling reliever Marc Rzepczynski to Cleveland on Tuesday in exchange for minor league infielder Juan Herrera. Rzepczynski had a 7.84 ERA in 10 1-3 innings this season with the Cardinals ... Pirates 2009 first-round pick Tony Sanchez went 0 for 3 with an RBI in his first major league start at catcher.
ATLANTA (AP) - Jason Heyward homered and drove in two runs to help the Atlanta Braves beat St. Louis 5-2 on Sunday night, capping their first three-game sweep of the Cardinals at home in 10 years.
The Braves broke a 2-all tie with two runs in the sixth inning off rookie Shelby Miller (10-7) and two relievers. Pinch-hitter Joey Terdoslavich drove in Chris Johnson with the go-ahead run. Heyward added another run-scoring single.
Heyward has nine homers this season, including two in the series between NL division leaders.
Kris Medlen (7-10) allowed two runs on eight hits and a walk in six innings to snap his three-game losing streak.
Miller allowed three runs, two earned, on six hits and two walks in 5 2-3 innings.
The Braves finished their first three-game sweep of the Cardinals at Turner Field since April 22-24, 2003.
Atlanta relievers Luis Avilan, Jordan Walden and Craig Kimbrel combined for three scoreless innings. Kimbrel pitched a perfect ninth to take the NL lead with his 31st save.
The Cardinals, who lead the NL in batting average and runs, were held to three runs in the series.
Johnson singled with two outs in the second, moved to third when the ball bounced past Carlos Beltran in right field for an error, and scored on a single by Andrelton Simmons. Heyward's line-drive homer to the front row in right field pushed the lead to 2-0 in the third.
Heyward hit leadoff for the second straight night.
The Cardinals pulled even with two runs in the fifth. Back-to-back doubles by Pete Kozma and Miller produced the first run.
With two outs, Beltran hit a fly ball to left field that fell between Evan Gattis and Simmons, who sprinted into the outfield from his shortstop position. Gattis, a natural catcher, was playing deep for the power-hitting Beltran and was slow to break on the ball.
The Braves' two-run sixth began with two outs. Johnson, who entered the night tied with Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina for the NL lead with a .332 batting average, singled for his second hit and moved to third on Simmons' second single. Terdoslavich and Heyward followed with run-scoring hits.
Johnson added his third hit, a double, off Fernando Salas in the eighth to push his average to .338. Johnson scored on an infield hit by Reed Johnson and a throwing error by Kozma from shortstop.
Reed Johnson pulled up with an apparent injury after running to first and was replaced by pinch-runner Jose Constanza.
The Braves made two strong defensive plays. Simmons went to his right, falling to his knees, to snag a grounder by David Freese before throwing to second to start a double play in the second. Freddie Freeman leaned over the railing in front of the Atlanta dugout to catch a foul popup by Matt Holliday to end the eighth.
NOTES: Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said the team is "not close to doing anything" before Wednesday's trade deadline. Mozeliak said he is reluctant to trade prospects "for short-term gain." ... The Cardinals were swept in a road series for the first time this season. ... Molina had two hits, leaving his average at .334. ... The Braves' last three-game sweep of the Cardinals was May 11-13, 2012, at St. Louis. ... Braves RHP Brandon Beachy, returning from Tommy John surgery, will make his first start of the season Monday night when he faces Colorado's Jorge De La Rosa. The Cardinals open an important NL Central series at Pittsburgh when Jake Westbrook faces Francisco Liriano.
CHICAGO (AP) - Brek Shea sure knows how to make an entrance.
Just 42 seconds after coming into the game as a substitute Sunday, Shea pounced after Landon Donovan whiffed a shot and poked the ball into the net. His goal in the 69th minute gave the United States a 1-0 victory over Panama and the CONCACAF Gold Cup title. It is the fifth Gold Cup title for the Americans, but their first since 2007. It also is the first international title as a coach for Jurgen Klinsmann, who won the 1990 World Cup and 1996 European Championship with Germany.
"It doesn't matter who scored today," Shea said. "We won."
The U.S. is doing a lot of that lately.
This was the 11th straight victory for the Americans, four more than their previous record, and they likely will leapfrog Mexico as the best team from the North and Central America and Caribbean region when the next FIFA rankings come out Aug. 8.
When the final whistle sounded, the Americans on the field began celebrating while the rest of the team raced off the bench. Several players jumped up and down, and hugs and high-fives were exchanged. Klinsmann, who watched the game from a luxury box after being suspended for his tirade over the officiating in the semifinal, quickly made his way down to the field, pumping his fists in the air as he walked.
"They wanted to send out a signal that they are the best group in CONCACAF, and they are," Klinsmann said. "For today."
But their performance in this tournament is likely to stay with the Americans for a while. At least until the next round of World Cup qualifying in September. Not only did they outscore opponents 20-4 in the tournament - no other team had more than 11 goals - but they showed they are deeper than they've ever been, with one young player after another stepping up.
And one veteran, too.
Despite his big whiff, Donovan was selected the tournament MVP. He finished with five goals and seven assists, a particularly impressive performance considering it followed a four-month sabbatical over the winter that cost him his place on the national team.
"In terms of just having fun, it's up there," Donovan said. "I'm just enjoying being part of it, I really am."
Though Klinsmann picks his roster based on form, not reputation, he acknowledged it would be almost impossible to leave Donovan off the roster for the next round of qualifying.
"He deserves every compliment for this tournament," Klinsmann said.
The only disappointment for the Americans was the loss of Stuart Holden with another right knee injury. Holden sprained his knee early in the first half, and while he will have further tests, Klinsmann said after the game that "it's not looking good."
"We are very, very sad for him," Klinsmann said. "We are very concerned about Stuey's situation. It looks like a very serious knee injury."
While most expected a Mexico-US final, Panama had other ideas, upsetting El Tri twice on the strength of its stingy defense. Panama was just as dogged against the Americans early, crowding Donovan and Eddie Johnson and not giving the U.S. any space.
But rather than taking wild shots or trying to force things, the Americans stayed patient.
"At times it may have been a little slow or been going back and forth, but we stuck to the game plan," Besler said.
And as the game went on, the Americans began to break Panama down. They finished with three shots on goal and another eight that were off target - six in the second half alone. Their best chance came in the 56th minute, DaMarcus Beasley chipped a ball into Donovan, who was in front of the goal at the near post. Donovan got his head on the ball, but not at the angle he wanted and it flew wide of the net. As the crowd groaned, Donovan threw back his head and Beasley swatted the red flag in the corner.
"We were all hopeful, we all wanted to win," Panama coach Julio Dely Valdez said. "But we all go away feeling we gave it our all. I said I wanted to walk away from the Gold Cup feeling good, and I do."
Shea replaced Joe Corona in the 68th minute, just as the Americans were pressing forward again. Alejandro Bedoya got the ball on his left foot and crossed to Donovan, who took a mighty swing - and missed. But it was enough to throw goalkeeper Jaime Pendeo off, and when the ball rolled past Panama's Roberto Chen and on toward the net, Shea was ready. Parked inches from the goal line, Shea stuck out his left foot and tapped the ball into the net for his second international goal.
"I was there just to put it away," he said.
Asked if it was the quickest goal he'd ever had or the closest, Shea replied, "Easiest."
The Americans had a chance to double the lead in the 84th minute when Shea fed a wide-open Eddie Johnson 2 yards from the goal. But Johnson couldn't finish it, sending the ball flying over the cross bar.
But it didn't matter as Panama never threatened.
"I think they were rewarded today for the fantastic Gold Cup they played," Klinsmann said. "They put all their energy in that they had. They should be very, very proud of themselves."
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Angels slugger Albert Pujols returned to Los Angeles on Saturday morning for further testing on his ailing left foot.
"This is sorer than anything he's dealt with," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We'll just see what happens."
Scioscia would not address if Pujols could miss the rest of the season, or at the least, go on the disabled list.
"He's sore," Scioscia said. "We'll see what's going on."
Pujols has been dealing with plantar fasciitis all season. He re-injured his foot running to first base after singling in the ninth inning on Friday night.
Pujols has served as the Angels' designated hitter for most of the year. He is hitting .258 with 17 home runs and 64 RBIs.
ATLANTA (AP) - Andrelton Simmons hit a two-run double in the eighth inning and the Atlanta Braves, boosted by Julio Teheran's sharp outing, beat the St. Louis Cardinals 2-0 Saturday in a matchup of NL division leaders.
Teheran allowed two hits in seven innings, striking out six and walking one.
Simmons' bases-loaded, two-out double came on a 99 mph fastball from Trevor Rosenthal.
Randy Choate (1-1) walked Freddie Freeman to open the eighth. Evan Gattis struck out and Brian McCann singled. Rosenthal relieved and struck out Dan Uggla before walking Chris Johnson to load the bases.
Luis Avilan (3-0) pitched a perfect eighth and Craig Kimbrel recorded three outs to earn his 30th save.
Cardinals starter Joe Kelly pitched 6 1-3 scoreless innings, allowing seven hits and walking three.
Kelly, making only his fourth start of the season and first appearance since July 12, matched Teheran through the sixth before finding trouble in the seventh.
With one out, Simmons singled and moved to third on pinch-hitter Joey Terdoslavich's soft double to the left-center gap.
Kelly issued an intentional walk to Jason Heyward to load the bases. Right-hander Michael Maness replaced Kelly and got Justin Upton to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Teheran allowed a two-out double to Matt Holliday in the first and then walked Allen Craig. The right-hander permitted only one baserunner - Jon Jay doubled in the fifth - through the next six innings.
Holliday was activated off the 15-day disabled list before the game. He had been out since July 12 with a strained right hamstring.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez juggled his lineup. Heyward hit leadoff for only the second game this season. Upton, normally the No. 3 hitter, batted second for the first time in 2013.
Gonzalez said he wanted Freeman, his most consistent hitter, to hit third so he would be certain of having an at-bat in the first inning. Gattis hit cleanup for the second straight game.
"I'm just kind of tinkering," Gonzalez said. "I haven't tinkered in a while."
NOTES: The Cardinals optioned OF-1B Brock Peterson to Triple-A Memphis to clear a roster spot for Holliday. ... Gonzalez said he is 95 percent certain RHP Brandon Beachy, returning from elbow ligament-replacement surgery in June 2012, will come off the DL to start Monday night's game against Colorado. ... The three-game series ends Sunday night when Atlanta RHP Kris Medlen faces St. Louis rookie RHP Shelby Miller.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin tore the ACL in his right knee during practice Saturday and could miss the season.
Maclin went down at the end of a non-contact drill and appeared to be in pain while he was on the ground for several minutes. He was helped onto the cart and needed assistance getting off it and going into the team's practice facility.
"Appreciate all the love and support twitter fam....sad day but I have setbacks my entire life. Minor setback for a MAJOR comeback! #birdgang," he wrote on Twitter.
Philadelphia is in its second full practice under new coach Chip Kelly. The first practice with pads is Sunday.
The Eagles signed wide receiver David Ball to the 90-man roster. The 29-year-old Ball played for Kelly at New Hampshire, and broke Jerry Rice's Division I-AA record for touchdown receptions. Ball spent time in training camp with Chicago and the New York Jets in 2007-08.
Maclin is headed into his fifth season with the Eagles. He led the team with 69 catches for 857 yards and seven touchdowns last season, and the former first-round pick is in the final year of his rookie contract.
Two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson is Philadelphia's other starter. The team has veterans Jason Avant and Riley Cooper, along with several younger wideouts in camp.
Maclin has averaged 64 catches, 863 yards and six TDs in his first four seasons. His best year was in 2011 when he had 70 receptions for 964 yards and 10 TDs.
CHICAGO (AP) - The U.S. soccer team will be missing a key figure for the Gold Cup final against Panama on Sunday: their coach.
Jurgen Klinsmann was suspended for one game Friday by CONCACAF's disciplinary committee, the result of his ejection in the 87th minute of a 3-1 victory over Honduras in the semifinals Wednesday. FIFA rules call for anyone ejected from a match to be suspended for the following game, the disciplinary committee decided.
"I don't think it changes too much," U.S. captain DaMarcus Beasley said Friday. "It's always good to have him on the bench, but he'll give his wisdom before the game ... make sure we get off on the right foot. But it's not going to be the same not seeing his face on the sideline, giving us instructions when we need it and being the enthusiastic person that he is on the bench. Especially, when we score or he needs to tell us something if we need to change something."
Klinsmann was irate Wednesday after the referee failed to issue cards on a series of hard fouls against the Americans. He could be seen yelling and gesturing angrily in the direction of the referee, and was told to leave the field after he slammed a ball into the ground.
Klinsmann later apologized, saying he acted out of frustration.
"I was talking to the ref as well. There weren't any cards," Beasley said. "I got hit three, four times in somewhat the same sequence, and they didn't call anything but a foul. So I could understand his frustration. I was frustrated."
The Americans are seeking their fifth Gold Cup title. They also are looking to extend their record 10-game winning streak in all matches.
"This is what he lives and dies for," Eddie Johnson said. "This is the opportunity that American soccer has been wanting, to have a coach with such experience, who's played at the highest level and played on big teams and managed big players, to be in this position to help us get to where we're trying to go in American soccer."