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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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The Cardinals have announced that rookie right-hander Michael Wacha will get the start on Thursday against the Royals. He'll be promoted from AAA Memphis. The 21-year-old was the Cardinals #1 draft selection out of Texas A&M. Wacha is currently 4-0 and leading the Pacific Coast League with a 2.05 ERA. The Cardinals will announce a corresponding player move prior to Wacha's start Thursday night. 

 
Tuesday, 28 May 2013 10:31
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CLEVELAND (AP) - Midfielder Maurice Edu has dropped out of the U.S. men's training camp ahead of the next World Cup qualifiers because of a sports hernia.

   Edu, fellow midfielder Brek Shea and defender Corey Ashe all withdrew Monday. No replacements were added to the roster, which now stands at 28 players. Shea, who has a lingering calf strain, is returning to Dallas for treatment and could rejoin the U.S. team at a later date.

   The Americans play Belgium here Wednesday in an exhibition. They also have an exhibition against Germany on June 2 before resuming World Cup qualifying. Seeking its seventh straight World Cup berth, the U.S. travels to Jamaica on June 7, plays Panama four days later in Seattle, and then faces Honduras in Salt Lake City on June 18.

Monday, 27 May 2013 17:49
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 KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Yadier Molina homered and drove in four runs to help the St. Louis Cardinals beat the slumping Kansas City Royals 6-3 on Monday.

 

   Molina hit a two-run homer in the first, doubled home a run in the third and his sacrifice fly in the fourth scored Pete Kozma.

 

   While the Cardinals own the best road record, 19-9, in the majors, the Royals dropped their ninth straight home game - one shy of the franchise record set last year.

 

   The anticipated pitcher's duel between Adam Wanwright and James Shields failed to materialize.

 

   Wainwright (7-3), who had given up 12 hits in 22 1-3 innings in his previous three starts, allowed 12 hits, the most he has allowed in a game since Sept. 14, 2010 against the Chicago Cubs.

 

   Shields (2-6) yielded nine hits and season-highs of six runs and five walks in six innings to lose his fourth straight start.

Monday, 27 May 2013 17:45
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Matt Carpenter drove in the go-ahead run with an infield single and Pete Kozma hit a three-run double against Clayton Kershaw, leading the St. Louis Cardinals to a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday in the rubber game of their series.

The Cardinals improved the major league's best record to 32-17 and increased their NL Central lead over Cincinnati to 1 1/2 games.

Kozma led off the seventh with a bloop double off the glove of shortstop Dee Gordon as he dived for the ball in short center field. One out later, Carpenter grounded a single off the glove of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, allowing Kozma to score. Pinch-hitter Matt Adams added an RBI single in the ninth.

Seth Maness (4-1) got credit for the victory in relief of starter Shelby Miller despite retiring only two of the six batters he faced.

Monday, 27 May 2013 08:16
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CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Harvick has won the Coca-Cola 600 for the second time in three years, pulling away from runner-up Kasey Kahne on a restart with 11 laps left.

Kahne led 156 laps and appeared to have the strongest machine in NASCAR's longest race. But Harvick took the low line following the last of 11 cautions and slowly pulled away.

Kurt Busch finished third, and polesitter Denny Hamlin was fourth in his second full race since returning from a back injury.

Speedway officials say 10 fans were injured when a nylon rope supporting a Fox Sports overhead television camera fell from the grandstands and landed on the track surface. A track spokeswoman says the three people taken to the hospital had "minor injuries that are not life threatening."

The incident occurred on lap 121 of the 400-lap Cup race and caused a 27-minute delay. Kyle Busch, Marco Ambrose and Mark Martin reported damage to their vehicles.

Monday, 27 May 2013 08:15
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Miami Heat are back in control of the NBA's Eastern Conference finals.

LeBron James scored 22 points and the Heat shot 55 percent in a 114-96 win over the Pacers at Indiana, giving Miami a 2-1 series lead. Udonis Hsalem shot 8-for-9 and finished with 17 points and seven rebounds as the Heat bounced back from Friday's 97-93 loss to the Pacers. Dwyane Wade chipped in 18 points, eight assists and four rebounds for Miami, which took command by outscoring Indiana 36-26 to grab a 14-point halftime lead.

The Heat broke a team playoff record by scoring 70 points in the opening half, and tied a team playoff mark with just one first-half turnover.

David West had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Pacers, while Roy Hibbert added 20 points and a game-high 17 boards. Indiana also shot 8-for-14 from three-point range but just 40 percent from the field overall.

The series stays in Indianapolis for Game 4 on Tuesday.

Monday, 27 May 2013 08:12
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Adrian Gonzalez homered and drove in three runs, Mark Ellis lined a go-ahead double in the sixth inning and the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated St. Louis 5-3 on Saturday to snap the Cardinals' three-game winning streak.

The last-place Dodgers, who had lost five of seven, blew a two-run lead before Ellis' two-out hit off Seth Maness (3-1) scored Carl Crawford from first base to make it 4-3.

Paco Rodriguez (1-2) earned his first major league victory, getting three outs on 10 pitches. Brandon League worked the ninth to earn his 10th save in 12 chances.

The NL Central-leading Cardinals tied the game at 3 on David Freese's broken-bat RBI double and Pete Kozma's infield single in the sixth. Nick Punto made a diving stop behind third base, but he couldn't throw out Kozma.

Sunday, 26 May 2013 08:15
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