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PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Joe Kelly began the season in the St. Louis Cardinals' bullpen with an electric fastball and an identity crisis.

Consider the crisis solved.

At the moment, Kelly has become The Stopper.

The right-hander allowed four hits over six solid innings to win his fourth straight start and the Cardinals moved back into a tie for first place in the NL Central with a 7-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.

Kelly (7-3) walked two and struck out five while remaining unbeaten since being moved to the starting rotation full-time in July.

"He's kind of figured himself out," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "Early in the season, he was confused. He thought he should be a strikeout guy at 97 (mph), but with the movement on his fastball he'd be crazy not to use that movement to try to command the bottom of the zone and get ground balls, too."

Kelly received plenty of help from an offense that snapped out of a three-game funk by tagging Pittsburgh spot starter Kris Johnson (0-2).

Matt Holliday and David Freese drove in two runs apiece while Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina and Shane Robinson added two hits each for St. Louis.

The Cardinals managed all of one run over the first 18 innings of the series, losses that came at the hands of proven veterans Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett. On Sunday they faced a 28-year-old making his first major league start who was nearly out of baseball two years ago.

"For us to come back out in a day game after scoring one run the first two nights was really big," Freese said. "It finally gave us a little momentum."

Pittsburgh's push for an NL Central title could go down to the wire. The Pirates reclaimed first place with a 7-1 victory Saturday night but St. Louis responded by knocking around Johnson, who took the hill after Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle decided to give struggling All-Star Jeff Locke a much-needed breather.

Locke is 1-2 with a 6.88 ERA in the second half, and Hurdle thought a few days off would allow the left-hander to work on his mechanics and get some rest.

Locke won't pitch again until next weekend at the earliest. If Pittsburgh decides he needs even more time off, it will likely have to look elsewhere for help after the Cardinals took it to Johnson.

Carpenter doubled to open the game and Robinson followed with a walk. Craig and Molina provided consecutive RBI singles, and Jon Jay added a sacrifice fly to stake Kelly to a 3-0 lead before he threw his first pitch.

The advantage grew in the third when Freese doubled to score Craig and Molina and end Johnson's day. Two weeks after limiting Arizona to one run in six innings of relief in his first major league appearance, Johnson gave up five runs on seven hits in two-plus innings.

"These are the kind of situations you want to be put in, I just didn't take advantage of them when I had the chance," Johnson said. "I worked all my life to get here and to fall short today, just going to have to get back on the field, get back on the throwing program and get back to where we were before."

Justin Morneau went 1 for 3 in his debut with the Pirates a day after Pittsburgh acquired the first baseman from Minnesota to bolster the franchise's bid for its first playoff appearance in 21 years.

Kelly has been a pleasant surprise since moving into the rotation. He never let the Pirates in the game, allowing only an RBI single by Marlon Byrd in the sixth.

By then the Cardinals had things well in hand as baseball's tightest division race once again drew even.

"My velocity was a lot better than in my last start, my sinker was really working and I was able to pitch to both sides of the plate," Kelly said.

The Pirates, whose 79 wins are tied for the franchise's high-water mark since 1992, made two bold moves last week in hopes of drawing ahead. They brought in Byrd and catcher John Buck from the New York Mets on Tuesday, then made an even bigger splash Saturday when they convinced Morneau to leave Minnesota after 11 seasons.

Morneau arrived at PNC Park midway through Saturday night's blowout and watched the remainder of the game from the dugout. He got a better view on Sunday, playing first base and batting sixth.

The 2006 AL MVP grounded out in his first plate appearance, walked in his second and then lined a single to right field his third time up. He ended his first game for Pittsburgh with a deep fly to the warning track in the ninth.

NOTES: Pittsburgh LHP Wandy Rodriguez is dealing with arthritis in his pitching arm. Rodriguez, who has been on the disabled list since July with forearm tightness, is expected to resume his throwing program this week after a visit with Dr. James Andrews revealed no structural damage to the arm. Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said the team remains hopeful Rodriguez can return in some capacity down the stretch. ... The Cardinals activated C Tony Cruz from the 15-day disabled list even though Cruz hasn't been cleared to swing a bat as he recovers from a broken forearm. Cruz would be used only in an emergency. ... The Pirates begin a three-game series in Milwaukee on Monday. Charlie Morton (6-3, 2.14 ERA) faces Tyler Thornburg (1-0, 1.94). ... St. Louis travels to Cincinnati on Monday to begin a four-game set with the Reds. Adam Wainwright (15-8, 2.96) starts for the Cardinals against Mat Latos (13-5, 3.03). ... The Cardinals sent reliever Michael Blazek to Milwaukee to complete the trade they made Friday for RHP John Axford.

Sunday, 01 September 2013 22:40
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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — James Franklin threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns before coming out early in the third quarter, helping Missouri take command after early struggles and whip Murray State 58-14 Saturday night in an opener that began in 98-degree heat.

Henry Josey had 113 yards on 13 carries with a 68-yard score in his first game back from a left knee injury that required two surgeries and sidelined him all last season. Russell Hansbrough had 104 yards on eight attempts with a pair of scores for Missouri, coming off a disappointing 5-7 record in its first SEC season.

Maikhail Miller threw three interceptions, two by E.J. Gaines, against a defense that stiffened after allowing two early touchdowns. Murray State faded quickly against its first SEC opponent since 2005.

Miller, who transferred from Mississippi last month, threw a touchdown pass and caught one on a flea-flicker for a 14-13 lead with 3:58 to go in the first.

Missouri scored the last 17 points of the first half, recovering from a rough start on both sides of the ball against a school picked to finish tied for sixth in the FCS-level Ohio Valley Conference. Franklin was done for the evening after throwing two touchdown passes the first 5:09 after the break, a 37-yarder to Darius White and 4-yarder to L'Damian Washington to make it 44-14.

It's the third career 300-yard game for Franklin, who was 26 for 38 and ended up 7 yards shy of his career best against Baylor in 2011. Missouri lost Franklin's other two 300-yard efforts.

Josey outran a pair of defenders who had the angle on his burst down the sideline in the third quarter. He received a prolonged ovation during pre-game introductions and again after a 20-yard gain on his first carry.

Hansbrough had 101 yards on seven carries and two scores in the rocky first quarter. A turnover ended the opening drive when Bud Sasser fumbled after a catch and kicker Andrew Baggett had an extra-point kick blocked and missed a 30-yard field-goal attempt.

Murray State had 196 total yards and 11 first downs in the first quarter, needing 1:15 to go 59 yards on its opening drive capped by Miller's 17-yard pass to Walter Powell. Miller spun away from Kony Ealy and strutted into the end zone on a 5-yard flea-flicker pass from wide receiver Jeremy Harness, a play that opened with a lateral pass, for a 14-13 lead late in the first quarter.

Missouri is 10-0 against FCS teams under coach Gary Pinkel, entering with an average score of 50-7, and beat Murray State 47-7 in 2006 in the only other game between the schools. Kansas City Chiefs backup quarterback Chase Daniel made his Missouri debut in that game with five touchdown passes, and attended Saturday night's game.

Saturday, 31 August 2013 23:20
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PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Lance Lynn can't get anybody out. St. Louis can't score any runs. And with a month to go in an increasingly unpredictable season, the Cardinals find themselves trailing the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central.

Pittsburgh ace A.J. Burnett held the punchless Cardinals to four hits over seven innings and the Pirates rolled to a 7-1 victory Saturday night to move back in front of the tightest division race in baseball.

Lynn (13-9) gave up seven runs and 10 hits in four erratic innings to lose his fourth straight decision.

"I've got to do better than I did tonight," he said. "It was unacceptable. I didn't get the job done. I've got to make better pitches in big situations and not let the big innings happen. I've just got to get better and I will."

Lynn received little help from the typically potent St. Louis offense. The Cardinals have scored just one run during their three-game losing streak.

"We've had a few balls hit hard, but not a lot," manager Mike Matheny said. "I like what our offense has done over the majority of the season. You don't want to take a couple of games and start making conclusions. We're just going to keep going about it."

The Cardinals still lead the National League in batting average and runs but are 5-10 against the Pirates this season. Pittsburgh received another jolt early Saturday afternoon when first baseman Justin Morneau was acquired from the Minnesota Twins.

Matheny and Lynn both believe the current slide is nothing more than a hiccup.

"I'm not happy with way I'm throwing the ball, but I'm going to fix it and I'm looking forward to the next month because it's going to be better," Lynn said.

It can't get much worse for Lynn after the Pirates jumped on him early.

Pittsburgh went in front 2-0 in the second inning on RBI singles by Burnett and Jose Tabata. Marlon Byrd drove in Pedro Alvarez to spark the third, and Russell Martin followed with a three-run homer to give Burnett all the support he needed.

"You could really feel the momentum shift there," Matheny said. "You don't want that to happen. You want your team to keep grinding, but you could feel things shift. Our guys kept fighting and our bullpen did a great job of holding them, but we never got much going."

Burnett's command had something to do with it. Mixing in a newly mastered changeup, Burnett (7-9) struck out six and walked one as the Pirates improved to 79-56 and moved within three victories of their first winning season since 1992.

"It's a great feat," Burnett said. "It's been a long time, but our goals have been higher than that."

That's certainly evident after the Pirates put together their second big trade in five days. Pittsburgh brought in Marlon Byrd and John Buck from the New York Mets on Tuesday.

Byrd homered in his Pirates debut on Wednesday. Morneau won't get a chance until Sunday at the earliest. Manager Clint Hurdle hoped Morneau would be available on Saturday night if needed. Instead, the Pirates were already up by six runs when Morneau popped into the dugout. He spent the next hour joking around with his new teammates.

"You try to get here as quick as you can because you want to be a part of this," Morneau said.

Important baseball as the calendar flips to September is an annual rite of summer in St. Louis, but the pitching staff has begun to fray after five months of dominance.

Lynn appeared on his way to a career year after winning his 13th game of the season in a romp over Cincinnati four weeks ago. His ERA over his last four starts is 7.66.

Pittsburgh ranks 10th in the NL in runs scored, one of the main reasons general manager Neal Huntington aggressively pursued Morneau. But the Pirates are averaging 5.2 runs per game during their current six-game homestand, and Morneau's addition gives Pittsburgh another proven bat to join MVP contender Andrew McCutchen and slugging third baseman Pedro Alvarez.

NOTES: Reliever John Axford, acquired on Friday from Milwaukee, pitched a perfect seventh in his Cardinals debut. ... The Pirates have outhomered St. Louis 18-3 in 15 meetings this season. ... St. Louis SS Pete Kozma grounded out while pinch-hitting for Lynn and is hitless in his last 29 at-bats. ... The series concludes Sunday. Joe Kelly (6-3, 2.91 ERA) starts for St. Louis against Kris Johnson (0-1, 3.00). ... The Cardinals have not settled on a starter for Tuesday in Cincinnati. Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Tyler Lyons are all under consideration.

Saturday, 31 August 2013 23:18
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ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Rams made 22 transactions Saturday to reach the NFL-mandated 53-man roster limit.
 
The Rams waived the following 19 players: WR Emory Blake; DE Mason Brodine; LB/DE Sammy Brown; QB Austin Davis; S Cody Davis; DT Garrett Goebel; S Rashard Hall; T Sean Hooey; LB Josh Hull; WR Nick Johnson; TE Philip Lutzenkirchen; CB Andre Martin; TE Zach Potter; FB Eric Stevens; CB Drew Thomas; WR Justin Veltung; T D.J. Young; DE R.J. Washington and CB Darren Woodard.
 
In addition, T Ty Nsekhe was waived/injured, and the team placed LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar and RB Isaiah Pead on Reserve-Suspended. Also Saturday, the team reached an injury settlement with OL Ryan Lee, who was waived/injured earlier in the week.
Saturday, 31 August 2013 17:16
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PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Minnesota Twins have traded Justin Morneau to the Pittsburgh Pirates, sending the veteran first baseman to a playoff-contending team for the final month of the season.

The deal was done on Saturday before the deadline. The Twins obtained outfielder Alex Presley and either a player to be named or cash.

Morneau is in the final year of his contract, making $14 million. He has been with the Twins for 11 seasons, winning the American League MVP award in 2006 and becoming one of the best hitters in the game until a concussion knocked him out of action in 2010. His production hasn't been the same since.

Morneau batted .259 with 32 doubles, 17 home runs and 74 RBIs for the Twins this year in 495 at-bats.

 
Saturday, 31 August 2013 14:44
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher doesn't let glaring problems such as third down conversions during the preseason bother him all that much.

After all, it's just the preseason.

But does it not concern him that his offense converted just 15 of 56 third downs in four exhibition games?

"They don't," he said Friday. "You're doing so much more on the practice field. We're intentionally not doing things on the field from a scheme standpoint, so that would naturally create some problems for you on third down."

The Rams finished their preseason schedule Thursday with a 24-21 victory against the Baltimore Ravens. St. Louis converted six of 16 third downs against Baltimore, not bad considering starting quarterback Sam Bradford didn't play.

But in its four games, St. Louis lost four of five fumbles — including two against Baltimore — and committed 43 penalties for 294 yards. Fisher said he made it clear to his team at halftime Thursday that the penalties were unacceptable. The Rams were flagged 17 times for 123 yards against the Ravens.

The halftime rant might have been out of mere frustration, though. Fisher told news media both Thursday and Friday that many of the penalties came against players who would not make the final roster. He said, looking over the four preseason games, he could say the same about most of the penalties his team took.

As for the fumbles and third-down efficiency, Fisher sees a difference between what his players had available to them in the preseason and how things will look when the Rams open the regular season Sept. 8 against the Arizona Cardinals.

"We'd like to think we'd be carrying more things into the regular season," he said. "We'll be game-planning, we really haven't game-planned much. We're just kind of keeping things basic."

Bradford wasn't thrilled about the penalties and he didn't want to excuse them because of players' inexperience, a lack of focus or trying too hard to make a good impression. However, he said while the preseason provided some good work, nobody should put much stock in it.

The real work begins Sunday when the team starts its preparation for the season opener.

"Yeah, absolutely," he said. "I thought we had a really good training camp. I thought we did some really good things during the preseason when we were on the field, and now it's full steam ahead getting ready for Arizona next week."

Fisher gave the players Friday and Saturday off to rest and get treatment in preparation for Sunday's practice. In the meantime, the coaching staff will continue planning for the Cardinals and informing those who didn't make the team.

That includes many of the players who contributed Thursday. That game served mostly as a scrimmage for backups and players who were on the verge of being cut ahead of Saturday's deadline to reach a 53-man roster.

Fisher believes the final group of players won't be making the same mistakes the Rams dealt with this preseason.

"We'll get three or four weeks into the season," he said, "and we'll have to identify some areas which we'll have to emphasis."

Saturday, 31 August 2013 00:36
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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Gary Pinkel typically begins his weekly news conference with the injury report. The Missouri coach was most pleased to say everyone available for the season opener.

It's a huge plus for a school entering Year 2 in the SEC and trying to show that it really belongs. The players they tried to do without too often contributed to a 5-7 belly flop that ended a string of seven consecutive bowl trips.

The Tigers open against heavy underdog Murray State on Saturday night, and they're all ready to go.

Pinkel said the most exciting development of fall camp was not an emerging player or a unit that made strides.

"We stayed healthy," the coach said. "That's the No. 1 thing."

This time last year, all-Big 12 running back Henry Josey was in a long-term rehab program from a knee injury, the offensive line was a mess and both backup quarterbacks were coming off brushes with the law. Quarterback James Franklin was working back from shoulder surgery and hoping to make it through the year unscathed, but instead was dogged by an assortment of ailments that sidelined him for four games.

Depth was tested again and again, especially on the offensive line, and often was found wanting.

"I've been in this a long time and we all know the healthier you are, the more success you have," Pinkel said. "There's a quiet confidence having the same guy lining up next to you."

New offensive coordinator Josh Henson was the co-offensive line coach last year and thought he had enough bodies to compete. Based on the preseason pecking order, five of the top seven were hurt at one point.

That increased the challenge for Franklin, and for redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser when he was thrown into the mix when Franklin was out with assorted injuries.

"There's fallout when you lose your starting quarterback, there's fallout when you lose five offensive linemen," Pinkel said. "You don't distribute the ball efficiently. We're sitting there fighting to get first downs."

Linemen thrown into duty have valuable experience in an offense that's undergone a few alterations but probably won't look too much different. Coaches have said there'll be more straight-ahead plays, and Franklin could have company in the backfield at times.

"I don't think it'll be radically different," Henson said. "We still are what we are, a spread team that has really good receivers."

Running back was in capable hands with 1,000-yard rusher Kendial Lawrence last year, but the shifty Josey can be more of a handful. He was all-Big 12 in 2011 though he missed the end of the season after blowing out the knee making a cut on the sideline, and since the start of camp coaches have said he's all the way back.

"The excitement level is very, very unexplainable," Josey said. "I mean, I've been excited for a long time for this moment to come, and finally it's here."

Franklin is one of four team captains and he plans on leading the way. Injuries or not, he accepts his share of responsibility for last season and points out the quarterback must be a difference-maker.

"If a game ever did go bad, even though it's not just one player's fault, I'd rather them blame me than somebody else," Franklin said. "So that's something that really motivates, not letting my teammates down."

Top players on defense are linebacker Andrew Wilson and cornerback E.J. Gaines. The Tigers have produced a turnover in 30 consecutive games dating to October 2010.

Murray State is also coming off a sub-.500 season, going 5-6, among the setbacks a 69-3 spanking at Florida State. Missouri is the lone name opponent on the schedule for the Racers, members of the Ohio Valley Conference.

This is their first game against an SEC school since 2005, although sophomore quarterback Maikhail Miller is a recent transfer from Mississippi.

"It's always an exciting time to open a new season even though you're playing an opponent that's a little tougher than most," coach Chris Hatcher said. "It's a fun week. There's really not a whole lot of pressure on us."

Under Pinkel, Missouri is 9-0 with an average score of 50-7 against FCS teams and nearly hit those numbers its only other meeting against Murray State with a 47-7 win to open 2006 that featured a school-record five touchdown passes from future NFL quarterback Chase Daniel in his first career start.

Saturday, 31 August 2013 00:34
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PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Shelby Miller's confidence remains intact.

Unfortunately for the St. Louis Cardinals rookie pitcher, so do his struggles against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Slumping Garrett Jones hit his 100th career homer and drove in four runs and the Pirates beat St. Louis 5-0 on Friday night to move into a tie with the Cardinals for the NL Central lead.

"We have an offense that is electric and we've got good pitching," Miller said. "I know this team is going to turn it on. It might not have looked like it tonight but it was a bad night."

It tends to be whenever Miller (12-9) faces the Pirates. He fell to 0-4 against Pittsburgh after 4 1-3 erratic innings, giving up five runs on eight hits, striking out three and walking three.

"I made some mistakes with some pitches and they put good swings on them," Miller said. "At the end of the day, they were better than us."

While blaming himself for not keeping the Cardinals in the game, Miller received little help from an offense that has managed all of one run in Miller's four starts versus the Pirates. St. Louis never even got a runner to third on a night they were no match for revitalized Francisco Liriano.

Two weeks after pitching a complete game in a 5-1 win over the Cardinals, Liriano (15-6) might have been even better. He allowed just two hits while walking two and striking out two.

"They're waiting for him to make a mistake out of over the plate but he's not making many mistakes then you don't have too many options," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "We hit some balls hard but not enough of them in a row then we gave him the lead and that made it even tougher for us."

A rejuvenated Jones certainly helped. The first baseman came in hitting just .119 in August but broke loose after Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle gave him some time off earlier this week to figure things out.

For a night, the tinkering worked.

Jones hit a two-run double in the first inning to give Pittsburgh the lead, added a moon shot to the seats in right field off Miller in the fourth and followed it up with an RBI single in the fifth.

That was plenty for Liriano. The left-hander is in the midst of a mid-career revival with the Pirates and he had little trouble improving to 4-0 against the Cardinals, bouncing back from a rough start in San Francisco last weekend to retire 18 of the last 19 batters he faced.

"Anybody with his experience and his determination, when you get a little setback you want to come back and get things right," Hurdle said.

Behind Liriano and Jones, Pittsburgh righted itself following a bumpy three-game set against Milwaukee earlier in the week.

An early boost from Jones certainly helped. Jose Tabata led off with a single and Neil Walker doubled to put runners in scoring position two batters into the game. Miller hit Pedro Alvarez to load the bases and Jones ended a month's worth of frustration by slashing a ball down the right-field line.

Jones kept it going in the fourth, golfing Miller's fastball into the stands. Martin followed with a shot over the wall in center on the next pitch to give Pittsburgh a 4-0 lead.

Jones drove in newly acquired outfielder Marlon Byrd in the fifth, making his entire RBI total this month (four) with three swings of the bat.

Matheny replaced Miller one batter later after a particularly baffling night in which Miller twice walked Liriano - who came in hitting just .075 - on four pitches.

"He never had a real good feel for anything today," Matheny said of Miller. "He threw some good secondary pitches because his fastball wasn't working but they also fouled off a lot of tough pitches and he couldn't command much in the zone."

NOTES: The Cardinals bolstered their bullpen on Friday when they acquired reliever John Axford from Milwaukee. "There's a lot of experience there, a lot of upside," Matheny said. "It's hard to forget that two years ago this guy was one of the top relievers in the game." ... Lance Lynn (13-8, 4.02 ERA) starts for the Cardinals on Saturday against A.J. Burnett (6-9, 3.18).

Saturday, 31 August 2013 00:32
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On Thursday, the Cardinals optioned pitchers Michael Wacha and Michael Blazek while recalling left handed reliever Sam Freeman to add a fresh arm to the bullpen for their weekend series in Pittsburgh. Friday the Cardinals acquired right handed reliever Jon Axford from the Milwaukee Brewers for a player to be named later.  Axford lost the closer role in Milwaukee this season.  He accumulated a 6-7 mark with a 4.45 ERA.  Last season Axford had 35 saves for Milwaukee and lead the National League with 46 saves in 2011.

Friday, 30 August 2013 11:02
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Bobby Rainey scored his first two touchdowns of the preseason, leading a cluster of backups fighting for jobs on both sides in the St. Louis Rams' 24-21 victory to close the preseason on Thursday night.

Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice watched from home, as did Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco.

The Rams (1-3) avoided their first winless preseason since 2002 on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Austin Davis to Chase Reynolds with 2:40 to go. They clinched it when Drew Thomas intercepted third-stringer Caleb Hanie at the 4 in the final minute.

The Ravens (2-2) open the NFL season next Thursday night at Denver. Coach John Harbaugh typically sits all of his regulars for the final preseason game and Hanie went the distance with second-stringer Tyrod Taylor held out.

The ultimate goal for both teams, besides deciding some jobs, was to get out of the finale unscathed.

Attendance was announced at 53,364, although the 67,000-seat Edward Jones Dome appeared about one-third full for a sloppy show marred by six total turnovers. The Rams were whistled for 113 yards in penalties.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher opened with a handful of starters, including both first-round draft picks. Tavon Austin's outing was damaged by one of the team's three fumbles, and linebacker Alec Ogletree had two tackles.

Davis and Kellen Clemens both had strong games competing to be Sam Bradford's backup.

Safety Matt Elam, the Ravens' first-round pick, had a strong first half with a forced fumble and four tackles.

St. Louis took its first lead on Nick Johnson's 4-yard catch early in the fourth quarter, and the Ravens answered 2:21 later on Marlon Brown's 50-yard catch and run for a 21-17 lead.

Rainey had opened the scoring with a 1-yard run in the first quarter and had an 8-yard run in the second.

Thursday, 29 August 2013 23:19
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