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MIAMI (AP) - One by one, Tony Parker was confronted by Miami's Big Three, surrounded even as the shot clock ticked toward zero and his San Antonio Spurs clung to a two-point lead.

And just when Parker appeared to have nowhere to go, when everything was going wrong for the speedy French point guard, he did what he's done these entire playoffs, and his entire career for that matter. He found a way.

Parker's leaning, twisting, step-through bank shot with 5.2 seconds left lifted the Spurs to a 92-88 victory over the Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night, a massive first step toward the franchise's fifth championship.

"It was a crazy play," said Parker, who finished with 21 points and six assists. "I thought I lost the ball three or four times. And it didn't work out like I wanted it to. At the end, I was just trying to get a shot up. It felt good when it left my hand. I was happy it went in."

The shot punctuated a triumphant return to the finals for the Spurs, who haven't been here since 2007. Capturing title No. 5 may be the most difficult task yet for these ageless Spurs, who handed the star-studded Heat just their fifth loss at home this season.

James and the Heat had slashed a seven-point, fourth-quarter deficit to two with 30 seconds remaining, and that's when Parker pulled out practically every trick in a bag stuffed full of them over a 12-year career to clinch Game 1.

The 31-year-old engine of the Spurs was face-to-face with Chris Bosh after a screen near the top of the key to start the possession. Parker immediately scooted past him to the right, leaving one Heat All-Star in the dust. He then avoided a swipe at the ball from Dwyane Wade as he headed toward the baseline.

Nice try, All-Star No. 2.

When he got close to the baseline, Parker was met by James, the reigning MVP. He lost the handle when James came to help, but was able to pull the ball back in and maintain possession as he turned his back to the basket and frantically searched for space.

When Parker tried to turn the corner on James and face the basket, he slipped and fell down to his knee, the precious seconds on the shot clock disappearing far too slowly for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra's liking.

"That seemed like a 26-second possession," Spoelstra said. "But we played it all the way through. That's probably what this series is about. It's going to go down to the last tenth of a second. Every single play you have to push through all the way to the end, and we didn't."

And Parker did.

"It seemed like forever, too," he said.

Somehow he gathered himself, stood up, pivoted twice and stepped through an outstretched James' arm. He let the shot fly a split-second before the shot-clock buzzer went off and the ball hit high off the glass, bounced twice on the rim and dropped through the net.

Au revoir, All-Star No. 3.

"Tony did everything wrong and did everything right in the same possession," James said. "He stumbled two or three times. He fell over. And when he fell over, I was like, 'OK, I'm going to have to tie this ball up. ... That was the longest 24 seconds that I've been a part of."

Just the way coach Gregg Popovich drew it up.

"We were very fortunate," Popovich said. "It looked like he lost it two or three times. But he stuck with it. He kept competing. He gained control of it again. He got it up there on the rim. Great effort by Tony, and as I said, we were fortunate."

In some ways, that play represented the entirety of the Spurs' effort in Game 1. The Heat led for most of the first three quarters, shooting 50 percent from the field and threatening to blow the game open on several occasions. But Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili have all been here before.

They didn't get rattled by the white-clad crowd's roar. They didn't back down when James and Wade barreled toward the rim. They kept their cool, remained focused and never lost hope, even when it seemed to be evaporating all around them.

As Parker dropped to one knee on San Antonio's final possession, Duncan said he had no idea what to think. The seconds were disappearing and James and the Heat were charging, and all Duncan could do was hope his unflappable teammate would find a way.

"I see him go down and I'm just praying he gets a shot off," said Duncan, who had 20 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. "Obviously, Tony makes an unbelievable play. He does just about everything in the book that he had. He fell to the ground, pump-faked, stepped through, and still got it off the ground. It was just amazing."

Friday, 07 June 2013 11:03
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NEW YORK (AP) -- Don't count on Alex Rodriguez giving up his Yankees pinstripes any time soon.

Vilified by fans for his poor performance in the playoffs. Pursued by Major League Baseball in yet another case involving performance-enhancing drugs. Called out by his employer for not behaving like a Yankee should.

A Lightning Rod for all the wrong reasons, none of the off-field distractions - and there have been plenty - have seemed to have had any effect on A-Rod in the past.

It shouldn't be any different this time.

As MLB ramps up its investigation into the Florida anti-aging clinic linked to the sale of performance-enhancing drugs to Rodriguez and more than a dozen major league players, the three-time AL MVP quietly rehabs his surgically repaired hip at the Yankees' minor league facility in Tampa, Fla., with plans to return in the second half of the season with "a lot of unfinished business."

Even as a solitary figure on a field in Florida, Rodriguez is a bother in the Bronx.

Earlier this week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told ESPN he didn't think the 14-time All-Star third basemen could live up to his record $275 million, 10-year contract that runs through 2017. A day later managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner piled on, saying "there have no doubt been times when we've been disappointed in him and we've conveyed that to him and he understands that."

There's been plenty to be disappointed about.

After winning his second MVP and earning his fourth of seven All-Star nods with the Yankees in 2007, Rodriguez opted out of his contract during the World Series, rankling baseball executives. Two years later he admitted using steroids while with the Texas Rangers from 2001-03. He's also been investigated for participating in illegal poker games.

Rodriguez is as careless as Yankees captain Derek Jeter is discreet. A-Rod has been repeatedly splashed on the gossip pages with Madonna, Kate Hudson, Cameron Diaz and Torrie Wilson. He caused a stir when he was seen with a stripper in Toronto and at a swingers' club in Dallas. For a magazine spread, he was photographed kissing his reflection in a full-length mirror - no one loves Alex more than Alex.

And that's just off the field.

Last October, he was benched in three of nine games and pinch-hit for in three others - after being removed from Game 1 of the AL championship series, he was caught flirting with fans in the stands. His next hit against a right-handed pitcher will be his first in 19 at-bats. He was 0 for 18 in the postseason against righties. With each of his outs, fans booed more loudly and were more decisively convinced that he was done as a player.

But there is no end with A-Rod.

And there's little the Yankees can do about it - and the remaining $104 million of Rodriguez's contract.

There was a time when Rodriguez was touted as the star who would restore credibility to the record book. Now MLB wants to throw the book at him.

And the Yankees might prefer it if he just goes away.

Even if MLB suspends Rodriguez for 50 or 100 games for his connection to Biogenesis of America and its founder Anthony Bosch, the Yankees can't use that to void his contract because of language in baseball's drug agreement.

Yankees ace CC Sabathia said he and his teammates are behind Rodriguez no matter what comes out of the investigation.

"There'll be nothing but love and support in here," he said.

But the drug agreement does allow for a team to void a contract if it is proven that a player's injury was a direct result of his use of performance enhancers.

The physician who performed Rodriguez's surgery in January, Dr. Bryan Kelly of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, debunked that theory. He said the condition, known as femoral acetabular impingement, was caused by genes, not by steroids.

"This is a developmental, genetic predisposition to a certain shape of the hip joint that occurs during the first 15 years of development," Kelly said. "Steroids don't change the shape of your bones, of your hip joint."

That leaves the Yankees in the position of hoping the soon-to-be 38-year-old Rodriguez will retire - a big money saver for the team - or can have a resurgence similar to the one he had in 2009, when he returned from his first hip surgery and nearly single-handedly led the team to its first World Series title since 2000.

Of course, that New York love-in for Rodriguez didn't last long. The following spring he was tied to Anthony Galea, the Canadian doctor who was indicted in part for illegal possession of human growth hormone with intent to distribute. The team made it known they never authorized Rodriguez to be treated by Galea.

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
Thursday, 06 June 2013 12:04
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MIAMI (AP) -- Before reaching the top of basketball, LeBron James was run over by the San Antonio Spurs.

The Spurs swept James' Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2007 NBA Finals, so long ago that the winning game plan focused on exploiting James' weaknesses. Those are nearly impossible to find now, and James essentially warned the Spurs that they shouldn't bother looking.

The Spurs already know.

"He'll be a lot more of a problem than he was in `07, that's for sure," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Wednesday.

Tim Duncan told the beaten James minutes after that series that the league would someday belong to him, and he was right. The NBA's MVP guided Miami to last year's championship and the league's best record this season.

Now the Spurs will try to take it back.

But James is now the best player in the game, is surrounded by more talent in Miami than he ever had in Cleveland, and still carries the memory of the beating the Spurs laid on him six years ago.

"I have something in me that they took in `07. Beat us on our home floor, celebrated on our home floor. I won't forget that. You shouldn't as a competitor. You should never forget that," James said.

He joined the Heat in 2010, experienced more finals failure a year later, then was finals MVP last year when Miami beat Oklahoma City in five games. Another title now would put him halfway to the four that Duncan and Popovich have won together.

"That's what I'm here for," James said. "I'm here to win championships, and you're not always going to be on the successful side. I've seen it twice, not being on the successful side."

He was just 22 at the end of his fourth year in the league when he carried to the Cavs to their first finals appearance. But there were holes in his game, from an unreliable jump shot to an undeveloped post game, and the Spurs took advantage of every one of them.

James shot 36 percent in the series, including a ghastly 10 for 30 in Game 4, and committed 23 turnovers.

"Well, LeBron is a different player than he was in `07," Popovich said. "That was like ancient history. He was basically a neophyte at the time, wondering how all this stuff worked and how it's put together. We were very fortunate at that time to get him so early. But at this point he's grown."

James wasn't interested in discussing much of that series, but he recalled the way the Spurs' strategy kept him from getting into the paint and dared him to shoot jumpers.

There's no blueprint now that would encourage a guy who made 56.5 percent of his shots this season to shoot the ball.

"If you go under my pick-and-roll now, I'm going to shoot. And I'm confident I'm going to make every last one of them," James said. "I'm just more confident in my ability to shoot the ball.

"But at the same time, I also have a lot more weapons this time around going against this team, where in `07 they loaded three guys to me a lot on the strong side of the floor. So like I said, I'm a better player, and you can't dare me to do anything I don't want to do in 2013."

Duncan and James probably wouldn't have thought it would take so long to see each other in the finals again after their meeting in the hallway of Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena. San Antonio had built a quiet dynasty, winning four titles in nine years, and the core of Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili would keep giving the Spurs chances.

But they couldn't get out of the West even while finishing with the best record in the conference the last two years, just as Cleveland couldn't in the East during James' last two seasons there.

"I hoped to be back here. Whether he would he here or not, I couldn't predict that," the 37-year-old Duncan said. "Knowing the player that he was then and the trajectory he was on, I had no doubt he would be back here. I had no doubt he would be tops in this league at some point. And I'm glad and honored to be back here playing against him."

The Spurs have been off since finishing a sweep of Memphis on May 27. The Heat were forced to overcome a rugged Indiana team and the struggles of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in a seven-game series that wrapped up Monday.

That set up a finals between teams built in decidedly different ways but with mutual respect. While others around the league seethed, Popovich even called Pat Riley to offer congratulations after the Heat architect signed James and Bosh in 2010.

It gives James a chance to pay the Spurs back for their 2007 romp, when they forced the Cavaliers into the worst offensive performance in finals history.

"I believe that after that finals he probably always obviously wanted to get back again. But I think he probably always wanted to get back and play them," Wade said. "So obviously having this opportunity right now is probably something he always dreamed of, of getting back to the finals and playing the Spurs again."

The Spurs' Big Three didn't have to endure the same wait to win. Duncan won a title in just his second season, and Parker was only 21 when he earned his first. Yet eventually they stalled, so they're as eager for this opportunity as James.

"When I was 21 and I won my first one, it was kind of fast and we think it's going to happen every year. We think it's easy. But after a lot of years in the league, you realize it's really hard to go to the finals," Parker said. "Now we take nothing for granted. We appreciate every moment, and we'll see what happens." ---

Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: HTTP://WWW.TWITTER.COM/BRIANCMAHONEY © 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
Thursday, 06 June 2013 12:01
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Joe Kelly gave the St. Louis Cardinals exactly what they needed in a spot start on Wednesday. The bullpen had a much more difficult night.

Kelly pitched into the sixth inning, but Maikel Cleto surrendered a grand slam to Paul Goldschmidt in the seventh and the Cardinals lost 10-3 to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

"I was just trying to go out there and give the team everything I could," Kelly said. "I was happy with it."

Kelly yielded two runs, one earned, and four hits in 5 2-3 innings. The right-hander struck out two and walked one.

"We really needed that," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "His sinker was good and that was probably the best changeup I've seen him throw."

The Cardinals used five relievers in a 7-6 loss in 14 innings against Arizona on Tuesday. Kelly, who was starting because of a hole in the rotation caused by a day-night doubleheader Saturday, needed to go as deep as possible into Wednesday's game.

After making 16 consecutive relief appearances to begin the year, Kelly threw a season-high 80 pitches against the Diamondbacks and left with the game tied at 1.

Goldschmidt hit his second slam in five days and Wade Miley bounced back from his two worst outings of the season to lead Arizona to its fourth win in six tries against St. Louis this season.

Arizona has won four of five. St. Louis, with the best record in the majors, dropped back-to-back games for the first time since April 28-29.

Goldschmidt became the first Arizona player with two slams on the same road trip. He also hit one in a 12-4 win at the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.

"Sometimes you come through and sometimes you don't," he said. "I just show up and try to take a good at-bat."

Goldschmidt also had a go-ahead single in the 14th inning to beat St. Louis on Tuesday night. He has a team-best 14 homers and leads the NL with 53 RBIs, including 12 in his last five games.

"I feel like every time I come up there I have men on base," said Goldschmidt, who went 2 for 5 to raise his batting average to .336. "I've had a lot of opportunities."

Although Goldschmidt is uncomfortable talking about his exploits, Arizona manager Kirk Gibson is happy to sing his praises.

"He's on a roll and he's really carrying us," Gibson said. "He's got a great approach up there. He's a huge cog for us and he's getting better."

Goldschmidt's offense helped Miley (4-5) get back on track. He gave up three runs and 11 hits over 6 2-3 innings after allowing seven earned runs in each of his previous two starts.

"I just went out and pitched and tried not to think about anything," Miley said. "Go right at the guys and get ahead. I wanted to get as deep into the game as I could."

Martin Prado had two doubles and scored twice for the Diamondbacks. Willie Bloomquist added two hits.

The Diamondbacks' 10-run outburst is their most in St. Louis since scoring 17 runs on April 17, 2001.

Matt Carpenter had four hits for the Cardinals, running his career-best hitting streak to 14 games.

The Diamondbacks erupted for five runs in the seventh to make it 7-1. Wil Nieves had an RBI single before Goldschmidt hit his 421-foot slam.

Gerardo Parra keyed Arizona's three-run eighth with a two-run single.

David Freese extended his hitting streak to a career-best 15 games with a single in the St. Louis sixth. It's the longest current run in the majors.

NOTES: The start of the game was delayed 46 minutes by rain. ....St. Louis C Yadier Molina served a one-game suspension Wednesday. He was ejected for bumping umpire Mike Everitt on Sunday. Molina, who was originally going to appeal the decision, caught all 14 innings in a 7-6 loss to Arizona on Tuesday. ... St. Louis rookie RHP Shelby Miller (6-3, 1.82 ERA) will face Ian Kennedy (3-3, 4.74 ERA) on Thursday in the final game of the four-game series.

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Thursday, 06 June 2013 11:56
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David "Deacon" Jones, the original sackmaster, has died.

 

The Hall of Fame defensive end credited with terming the word sack for how he knocked down quarterbacks, was 74. The Washington Redskins said that Jones died of natural causes at his home in Southern California on Monday night.

 

"Deacon Jones was one of the greatest players in NFL history. Off the field, he was a true giant," said Redskins general manager Bruce Allen, whose father, George, coached Jones with the Los Angeles Rams. "His passion and spirit will continue to inspire those who knew him. He was a cherished member of the Allen family and I will always consider him my big brother."

 

Because sacks didn't become an official statistic until 1982, Jones' total is uncertain. His impact as a premier pass rusher and team leader is not.

 

Jones was the leader of the Rams' Fearsome Foursome unit from 1961-71 and then played for San Diego for two seasons before finishing his career with the Redskins in 1974. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980 and made the league's 75th anniversary all-time squad.

 

"Deacon Jones has been the most inspirational person in my football career," said former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Jack Youngblood.

 Jones made the Pro Bowl every year from 1964-70 and played in eight overall. He combined with fellow Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy on a defensive line that at times was unblockable.

 

Olsen died in March 2010 at age 69 and Lundy died in February 2007 at 71. Grier, who is 80, is the only surviving member of the Fearsome Foursome.

 

George Allen, who coached the Fearsome Foursome, called Jones the "greatest defensive end of modern football." The Allen family had Jones present George Allen for his Hall of Fame induction in 2002.

 

The Rams' stats show Jones with 159 1/2 sacks for them and 173 1/2 for his career — all unofficial, of course. Jones also was one of the most durable players, missing just five games in his 14 pro seasons.

 

A 14th-round draft pick in 1961 out of Mississippi Valley State, which later produced Jerry Rice, Jones was the first defensive lineman with 100 solo tackles, reaching that mark in 1967.

 

"The thing we've got to remember being players in this era is to really respect the game 'back when,' because those guys could really play," said Chris Long of the Rams, whose father, Howie, also is in the Hall of Fame. "Deacon Jones is a perfect example. This whole league and everybody in this game should honor the past and the players who played in that era. Those guys paved the way for us."

 

Jones also had several small acting roles both during and after his playing career. He was a guest star on a handful of television shows — including episodes of "Bewitched," ''The Brady Bunch" and "The Odd Couple" — and appeared in the 1978 Warren Beatty film "Heaven Can Wait."

 

Most recently, Jones was the CEO of his own foundation, which he began in 1997. He also made several trips to visit troops on active duty in the Middle East.

 
Tuesday, 04 June 2013 17:09
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Lance Lynn pitched seven solid innings and the St. Louis Cardinals got home runs from Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran in a 7-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night.

Lynn allowed one run and five hits, struck out six and walked one. He improved to 8-1 for the second consecutive season while becoming the third National League pitcher to reach eight wins, trailing Patrick Corbin's league-leading nine for Arizona.

Molina hit a leadoff drive in the fifth on the same day he received a one-game suspension from Major League Baseball for making contact with umpire Mike Everitt during an argument on Sunday. The All-Star catcher appealed the decision.

Molina's fourth homer lifted St. Louis to a 5-0 lead. He finished with two hits and two RBIs.

Arizona starter Trevor Cahill was charged with five runs and nine hits in five innings. He walked three and had no strikeouts for the first time this season.

Cahill (3-6) had allowed four earned runs or less in 29 consecutive starts.

The Diamondbacks got their only run in the sixth. Gerardo Parra had a leadoff double, moved up on Martin Prado's flyout and came home on Paul Goldschmidt's groundout.

Beltran and Matt Carpenter had three hits apiece for the Cardinals. Beltran's 13th homer drove in Carpenter and made it 7-1 in the sixth. He also drove in Carpenter in the fourth with a single.

The Cardinals went 5 for 8 with runners in scoring position against the usually stout Cahill. Entering the game, batters had just a .111 average against him in that situation.

David Freese singled in Molina in the third, making it 3-0 and extending his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games. Molina singled in Matt Holliday, before taking second on the throw home and third on a wild pitch.

NOTES: Carpenter extended his hitting streak to 12 with a single in the first, tying his career high set from September 12-24, 2012. ... Tyler Skaggs makes his second start of the year Tuesday for the Diamondbacks in place of Brandon McCarthy, who is on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder issues. Arizona has not yet made a roster move to accommodate Skaggs' return from Triple-A Reno. ... St. Louis' Joe Kelly will make his first start of 2013 on Wednesday. He made 16 starts in 2012 with a 4-6 record, but has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen this year with 16 appearances. ... Corbin was named the National League's pitcher of the month for May during which he went 5-0 with a 1.53 ERA.

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Tuesday, 04 June 2013 11:26
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Chad Gaudin picked up a win in his first start in over three years and Brandon Belt broke a tie with a two-run pinch-hit double to lead San Francisco to a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday, ending the Giants' seven-game road skid.

Gaudin (1-1) went six innings in his first start since Sept. 28, 2009 as a member of the New York Yankees. He allowed four hits and two runs, both coming on a two-run homer by David Freese in the fourth. Gaudin is temporarily replacing Ryan Vogelsong in the rotation. Vogelsong broke several bones in his right hand May 20.

Pinch-hitter Belt slammed the first pitch from reliever Randy Choate into the gap in left-center to bring in Brandon Crawford and Gregor Blanco for a 4-2 lead in the seventh inning. Crawford began the rally with a single off St. Louis rookie Tyler Lyons (2-1).

Buster Posey, who entered the game in a 2 for20 skid, had four hits for the Giants.

Closer Sergio Romo recorded four outs for his 15th save in 17 opportunities. He got Freese to ground out with Allen Craig on first to end the game.

San Francisco scored single runs in the second and third off Lyons. Posey and Hunter Pence hit back-to-back doubles in the third.

Freese tied the game with his third homer of the season in fourth. He has hit safely in a career-high 12 successive games.

Lyons allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings in his third start. He allowed one run over seven innings in each of his previous two starts.

The Giants had lost their previous four games against Cardinals.

St. Louis manager Mike Matheny and catcher Yadier Molina were ejected in the third inning by first base umpire Clint Fagan after Molina was called out on a close play at first. Molina slammed his helmet to the ground after the call and was immediately thrown out for the third time in his career. Matheny came out to protect Molina and was ejected for the third time as a manager.

NOTES: St. Louis has used eight pitchers age 25 and younger this season including Lyons, 25. .... The Cardinals host Arizona in a four-game series beginning Monday. Lance Lynn (7-1, 2.91) will face Trevor Cahill (3-5, 2.88). The Giants have an off day Monday before hosting Toronto in a two-game set starting Tuesday. Tim Lincecum (3-5, 5.12) goes against Josh Johnson (0-1, 6.86). San Francisco OF Angel Pagan missed his eighth successive game with a strained left hamstring. ... Giants IF Pablo Sandoval, who last played on Thursday, could be out as much as a week with a strain in his left foot. ... St. Louis OF Jon Jay broke out of a 1-for-27 skid with a third-inning single.

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
Monday, 03 June 2013 11:13
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CHICAGO (AP) -- There's a sign in the hallway that runs from the home locker room to the ice at the United Center. It says "EARN IT," and it was sure hard to argue that the Chicago Blackhawks haven't done just that during an impressive start to the Western Conference finals.

Bryan Bickell and Michal Handzus scored on consecutive shots in the second period, and Chicago chased goalie Jonathan Quick on its way to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 2 on Sunday night.

Andrew Shaw and Brent Seabrook also scored as the rolling Blackhawks grabbed a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series with their fifth consecutive victory. Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad had two assists apiece, and Corey Crawford made 29 saves in another solid performance.

"It's a high-speed game. If we use our speed, we'll be all right," Shaw said. "We played our game. That's the difference. The guys played good. We all competed for each other. We did everything we needed to do, keeping it deep in the zone."

Game 3 is Tuesday night at Los Angeles, where the Kings have won 14 consecutive games dating to the regular season. The Kings also lost their first two games of the playoffs at St. Louis before winning four straight to eliminate the Blues in the first round.

Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli had goals for Los Angeles, but the Kings struggled to score without Mike Richards, who was scratched because of an undisclosed upper body injury. The defending Stanley Cup champions have 29 goals in 15 postseason games.

"We've just got to do a better job of playing our game," Los Angeles defenseman Robyn Regehr said. "First of all, we've got to be really clean coming out of our zone, make good short little plays and support one another. Once we do that, we'll do a better job coming out of the neutral zone, because these guys really rely on turnovers."

Richards, who leads the Kings with 10 playoff points, was sidelined after taking a big hit from Dave Bolland in the final minutes of the Blackhawks' 2-1 victory on Saturday.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter said Richards was "fine" a couple of hours before the game, but the center was scratched from the lineup after participating in pregame warm-ups.

"I think just once his blood got pumping tonight, the adrenaline got going, there were symptoms," Sutter said. "I went in right after warm-up, he was sitting there and I said, `Unless you're 100 percent, you're not playing.'"

The series took on a more physical tone in the second game in two days - a playoff rarity brought on by The Rolling Stones' tour.

The top-seeded Blackhawks also won the series opener in each of the first two rounds, but they dropped three in a row following their Game 1 victory against Detroit in the conference semifinals.

There was no such letdown this time.

"This time of year you try to carry momentum as long as you can," Sharp said. "Every game presents different challenges. We felt great about coming back in that Detroit series. Game 7 was a huge high for us. That seems like a long time ago now. We're past that and we're focused on the Kings."

Shaw got Chicago off to a fast start, taking a nifty pass from Viktor Stalberg and beating Quick on the glove side just 1:56 into the game. Marian Hossa set up Seabrook in the final minute of the period for a low liner into the left corner of the net. The defenseman put the Blackhawks into this round with an overtime goal against Detroit on Wednesday.

The Blackhawks added two more in the second, separated by just 2:09. Bickell scored a power-play goal on a rebound in front, and Handzus skated in and beat Quick to make it 4-0 at 9:20.

"We gave them too many Grade-A scoring chances, and they capitalized," Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "You can't give up those opportunities and expect your goalie to bail you out every single time."

The crowd of 21,824 roared after Handzus' second goal of the postseason, and cheered even louder when Quick skated off and was replaced by Jonathan Bernier. Quick, last year's playoff MVP had played every minute of this year's playoffs. He finished with 13 saves.

Carter converted a one-timer at 18:57 of the second, and Toffoli netted a power-play goal with 1:02 left in the game, but that was it for Los Angeles.

"You've got to find a way," Quick said. "They did their job at home. We've got to go home and do our job now."

The Blackhawks killed three other power plays and have allowed just two goals in 47 attempts in the playoffs.

Crawford heard chants of "Co-rey! Co-rey!" after he stopped Dustin Penner on a quality opportunity late in the second, and the salute resumed when he pulled Kings forward Kyle Clifford off Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews during a scrum with 8:45 left.

"The guy grabbed him, got a couple free shots. I figured it was enough," Crawford said. "I just decided to go in there and grab his head."

Crawford was one of the top goalies in the NHL during the lockout-shortened regular season, and he has carried that into the playoffs. He has allowed just one goal in four of his last six games.

"He's the guy we want in net back there," Sharp said. "He's proven it in the past. It's nice to see him finally get the credit that he deserves."

NOTES: Kings rookie D Jake Muzzin was scratched after playing in the first 14 postseason games. ... Crawford was 1-1 with a 3.54 goals-against average against Los Angeles during the regular season. ... Regehr was hit by a puck during warm-ups and had to get several stitches on his head. ---

Jay Cohen can be reached at HTTP://WWW.TWITTER.COM/JCOHENAP

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
Monday, 03 June 2013 11:07
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DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) -- Matt Kuchar crossed the Memorial Tournament off his wish list and then set his sights on a couple of other items - grabbing a major championship and winning again at Muirfield Village later this year.

Kuchar made a clutch 5-foot, par-saving putt on the 17th hole and then closed out a two-stroke win over Kevin Chappell by holing a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole Sunday. It gave Kuchar one of the biggest wins of his career and assurance that he can start checking off other items on his to-do list.

"There are a couple of things I thought were missing from my pedigree, my golf history," he said after a 4-under 68 left him at 12-under 276. "A major championship is on the list, and a multiple-win season was on the list. That's something that at the beginning of the year when I set goals. And making the Presidents Cup team was on the list."

Coming up on his 35th birthday later this month, Kuchar, who won earlier this year in the Match Play, has a clear shot at hitting those goals.

He'll be among the handful of top names bandied about at the U.S. Open the week after next at Merion.

"I'll have a lot of confidence," Kuchar said. "I'd love it if I could show up and play good enough golf to win a major. It's something that is up there, No. 1 on the list. I want to do it and feel like I'm ready to do it. But I can only control so much of that equation."

Later this year, he's almost a lock to return to Muirfield Village as a part of the U.S. side in the Presidents Cup matches in October.

"To have kind of sealed the deal with winning this tournament feels really good, to make the team," he said. "Team championships are so much fun. The crowds here are spectacular. I can't wait to see what a Presidents Cup will be like."

Kuchar is known as a steady, if unspectacular player, an optimist with few holes in his swing or his mental approach. Those strengths loomed large in a week during which gusting winds and three weather delays on Thursday seemed to completely frustrate others.

Tiger Woods, the defending champion and a five-time winner at the Memorial, opened with rounds of 71 and 74 but then watched things fall apart. He suffered through 8-over 44 - his worst nine-hole score as a pro - in the swirling gusts on Friday. His round of 79 - matching his second-worst score since turning pro - included two double-bogeys and a triple-bogey.

On Sunday, Woods was already 16 shots behind third-round leader Kuchar going into the round and then had a triple-bogey on his third hole.

He will head to the U.S. Open with several major questions as a result of his erratic iron play and errant putting.

Asked what he'll work on back home in Orlando, Fla., before heading to Merion, Woods didn't narrow it down much.

"Everything," he said. "You want everything clicking on all cylinders, especially at the U.S. Open. Because everything is tested in the U.S. Open."

Rory McIlroy, the 2012 PGA Championship winner and the 2011 U.S. Open champion, like Woods was never a factor in the Memorial. But he felt as if he ironed out some problems after shooting a 72 that left him two shots ahead of Woods at 294.

"I hit the ball much better today. I actually putted a little better, too. It feels pretty good," he said. "I get to see Merion a couple of days next week, too, so that will be beneficial. It's not that far away."

Chappell, who birdied the final two holes to put some pressure on Kuchar, said he never really felt like he could overcome a player who's so steady.

"I wasn't part of the conversation all day," he said. "I played a solid back nine to get close. I hit a good iron shot on 17 and then made the putt. I kind of figured Matt would make his putt. He's world class with that putter and I figured it was over with."

Kuchar conceded that his margin of victory was a little misleading. He felt as if Chappell was right on his heels - particularly as he stood over that testy 5-foot par putt on the next-to-last hole. A miss and his lead would be down to a stroke.

"The putt on 17, I'd say that one I knew I had to make," Kuchar said. "That was the one point where I felt like if I don't, I could lose this."

After he dropped in that putt, he followed by hitting his drive into the fairway on the difficult, uphill closing hole. From there his second shot ended up 21 feet from the hole. With a mammoth gallery surrounding the green and watching from the newly reconstructed clubhouse, he then curled in the birdie putt to double his margin.

Kyle Stanley shot a 71 and was at 281, alone in third and three shots back of Chappell. Tied for fourth were Scott Stallings, who matched James Driscoll for the low round of the day with a 67, and second-round leader Bill Haas (71). Russell Henley (69) and Matt Jones (72) were at 283. First-round leader Charl Schwartzel shot a 72 and led a group another shot back.

After Kuchar, who climbed to a career-best No. 4 in the world rankings, hit his clinching putt on the final hole, he was met by a happy greeting party: wife Sybi, sons Cameron and Carson. They smiled, kissed and hugged to celebrate his sixth career PGA Tour victory.

Also there was Memorial Tournament founder and host Jack Nicklaus, shaking Kuchar's hand after high-fiving Carson.

"We're delighted that he is our champion," Nicklaus said. "I know that this will probably not be his last win here or elsewhere."

If that's true, Kuchar's wish list will be getting even shorter.

---

Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: HTTP://WWW.TWITTER.COM/RUSTYMILLERAP

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
Monday, 03 June 2013 11:04
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Anticipation was the toughest part of the game-day experience for Michael Wacha.

Before making his major league debut, the St. Louis Cardinals pitcher had to wait out an hour-long rain delay.

"I think the worst part was just sitting around all day," Wacha said. "Once I threw the first pitch for a strike I really calmed down and was able to execute my pitches pretty well."

The end was pretty rocky for a bullpen minus closer Edward Mujica, victimized for a three-run ninth that spoiled Wacha's almost spotless showing in a soggy 4-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night.

"I'll never forget this day, that's for sure," Wacha said. "Even if I wasn't pitching. I'm not used to playing too many games at 2:30 in the morning."

Manager Mike Matheny said it was a shame Wacha's outing "was kind of going to fall on the back page."

Hall of Famer George Brett's debut as interim batting coach was a success and the Royals avoided a four-game sweep despite totaling just four hits in a marathon delayed an hour before the first pitch and another 4 hours, 32 minutes not long after the Royals took the lead with the bases loaded and none out in the top of the ninth.

It took 12 minutes to get the last six outs of a game that would have been a snappy 2 hours, 27 minutes without the rain.

From a near capacity crowd of 43,916, a couple hundred fans at most were around when the game scheduled to start at 7:15 p.m. CDT ended at 3:14 a.m.

Umpire crew chief Joe West opted for patience and declined to invoke a rule clause in the final season meeting between teams that would have wiped out the top of the ninth and declared the Cardinals 2-1 winners. Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak both lobbied on the field while crews got the field ready.

Matheny said the Cardinals had been in "constant contact with the league, and there's no real protest to file." He judged the playing conditions "bad."

"This comes down to one of my guys getting hurt, it's a big deal," the manager said.

The lengthy delay created a bit of a hardship for that crew, set to work a Cubs day game on Friday.

"We worry about that game when we get to that one," West said to a pool reporter. "We had to worry about this game tonight."

The Royals traveled to Texas to start a weekend series Friday night and the Cardinals begin a three-game series at home against the Giants.

"They've got to travel to Texas, we get to go home and go to bed," Matheny said.

Matheny paid a hefty price for giving Mujica a day off after earning four saves in four days. Jeff Francoeur homered on the second pitch from Mitchell Boggs, a curious choice to get the ball in the ninth given season-long woes that left him with a double-digit ERA and included a stint in the minors.

Boggs (0-3) faced two batters, retired neither and was loudly booed by a near-sellout crowd forced into a second rain delay. He was demoted May 3 after a 12.66 ERA and 12 walks in 10 2-3 innings. He has allowed a run in three of four appearances since returning on May 19, and none of the first three outings came with the game on the line.

Matheny said after the game that set-up man Trevor Rosenthal also had been unavailable because of a heavy workload.

"He's been up five days in a row," Matheny said. "He hasn't been in all five but he was ready to go. We've got to take care of you. You hate to sacrifice anything to do it, we needed the other guys to come in and pick up the slack."

Eric Hosmer, who had one RBI the previous 10 games, bounced a bases-loaded double over a drawn-in infield off Victor Marte.

The 21-year-old Wacha, who allowed a run on two hits in seven innings, was the third rookie to debut as a starter for the Cardinals and came close to matching John Gast and Tyler Lyons as first-game winners. Wacha retired the first 13 batters and set down the side in order every inning except the fifth, when Lorenzo Cain doubled with one out and scored on Elliott Johnson's single.

Wacha made the Cardinals' fastest jump from draft day to the majors in 25 years after getting picked in the first round last June.

Louis Coleman (1-0) allowed a walk in 1 1-3 innings and Greg Holland finished for his eighth save in 10 chances and first since May 1. Holland's blown save on May 6 against the White Sox was his only other chance this month.

Francoeur had been batting .156 in May and didn't start for the second straight game, entering in a double switch in the seventh. He ended the Royals' 59-inning slump without a homer with his second of the season and first since April 10.

Allen Craig and David Freese had two-out RBI singles in the first off Jeremy Guthrie to give the Cardinals the lead. They left the bases loaded in the second, wasting a single by Wacha in his first career at-bat, and stranded two in the fourth.

Wacha had a chance to score from second on Carlos Beltran's hit, but the Cardinals didn't risk a play at the plate with the bases loaded, one out and the heart of the order coming up. Matt Holliday grounded into a force play at the plate and Craig grounded out to end the inning.

NOTES: Wacha is the eighth rookie pitcher to suit up for St. Louis this year and seventh to play. Reliever Michael Blazek was optioned to the minors earlier in the day without appearing in a game. ... Shelby Miller (5-3, 2.02) opposes the Giants' Matt Cain (4-2, 5.00) in the opener of a three-game series Friday. The Royals begin a three-game set at Texas with Wade Davis (3-4, 5.71) opposing Derek Holland (4-2, 2.97). ... Cardinals reliever Randy Choate was the winner Wednesday for his first decision since July 24, 2011, a span of 103 appearances. It's the third-longest streak in major league history.

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
Friday, 31 May 2013 07:09
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