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ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Rams had 10 days to mull over a dispiriting blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the third straight time they were so far behind there was no coming back.

Sure, it was winless Jacksonville on the other side of the ball.

At this point, it didn't matter.

"It just takes a snowflake to start an avalanche," said safety Matt Giordano.

His 82-yard interception return for a touchdown was one of several big plays from the defense in a 34-20 victory over the Jaguars on Sunday that ended a three-game losing streak.

"We needed to get a spark and I'm thankful that I'm the one to spark it off," he said.

Sam Bradford threw three touchdown passes, two of them to Austin Pettis, with no interceptions. Bradford was sacked just once after the 49ers and Cowboys combined for 11 the previous two games.

The running game finally clicked with rookie Zac Stacy rushing for 78 yards on 14 carries in his first start.

"It never gets old getting into the end zone," Pettis said. "We played a pretty complete game, and we got a win."

The matchup met NFL qualifications for a sellout, but attendance of 54,266 was about 12,000 shy of capacity.

Pettis' 31-yard TD catch with 5:45 to go put the Rams (2-3) up by two scores. St. Louis, which had trailed by double digits in every game, established control with a 17-point second quarter after Jacksonville (0-5) had a pair of early leads.

Jaguars rookie left tackle Luke Joeckel was carted off with a broken right ankle in the first quarter and is out for the season. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert injured his left hamstring in the third quarter and didn't return.

"He had a lot of up-side and was getting better each and every game," coach Gus Bradley said of Joeckel. "It's sad to see him go down like that."

The NFL's lowest-scoring team had to settle for its best offensive day of the season. Justin Blackmon had a big debut, Maurice Jones-Drew topped 10,000 total yards for his career and Gabbert threw his first TD pass of the year.

Bradley said Gabbert is still the starter next week at Denver if he's healthy.

"That's a glimpse of what we can do," Blackmon said. "We've got playmakers here. We know it. We've just got to go out there and finish games."

Blackmon caught his first pass of the year for a 67-yard score after serving a four-game suspension. He had five receptions for 136 yards.

Cecil Shorts III caught a 4-yarder from Chad Henne early in the fourth that cut the gap to a touchdown.

Pettis got away from Will Blackmon on the clinching score to cap an 80-yard drive. His 4-yard TD catch at the end of the first half finished a 12-play, 90-yard march to make it 24-10.

Chris Stewart set up a touchdown with a forced fumble and fumble recovery in the second quarter. James Laurinaitis intercepted Gabbert in the end zone in the third quarter to keep the Rams up by 14.

Joeckel was hurt when a Rams lineman rolled under him on a run. Joeckel was the second pick in this year's draft and started at left tackle after Eugene Monroe was traded to Baltimore for multiple draft picks.

Robert Quinn helped set up Giordano's interception when he got a piece of Gabbert on the pass rush. Gabbert stepped up but overthrew Blackmon, and Giordano threaded his way across the field to tie it at 7 late in the first quarter.

Gabbert was 2-0 at the Edward Jones Dome in college, helping Missouri beat Illinois twice in his hometown. He's 5-22 as the Jaguars' starter.

In a span of four plays early in the second quarter, the Rams tied it on a short field goal by Greg Zuerlein and capitalized on a turnover to take their first lead. Darian Stewart stripped Clay Harbor after a short reception and returned the fumble 19 yards to the Jacksonville 16, and Lance Kendricks stretched for the pylon on the next snap.

The Jaguars totaled eight points in the first half all season before busting out with 10 in the first quarter. Blackmon's TD was their longest play of the year.

Jones-Drew had 70 yards on 17 carries and is the third Jaguars player to top 10,000 yards.

Notes: The Jaguars' Sen'Derrrick Marks got his first sack of the year plus a pass deflection in the first quarter. ... Jacksonville's last TD in the first quarter was a 5-yard reception by Jordan Shipley from Chad Henne against Tennessee in the 2012 finale. ... Giordano has two career interception returns for touchdowns, also doing it for the Colts in 2007.

Sunday, 06 October 2013 16:58
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — James Franklin threw for four touchdowns and Missouri squashed any doubts about its early season schedule with a 51-28 victory at Vanderbilt Saturday.

The Tigers moved to 5-0 and opened conference play without missing a beat in the program's first trip to Nashville as a member of the SEC.

Franklin guided Missouri on scoring drives on the first six possessions and finished 19-for-28 for 278 yards.

Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-3 SEC) managed to move the ball in the third quarter, the Tigers answered each score.

Henry Josey added two touchdown runs for the Tigers, who recorded 523 yards of total offense.

Vanderbilt wideout Jordan Matthews was held to two catches and eight yards in the first half, but finished with 123 yards receiving and a touchdown to set a school record in both categories.

The 51 points was the most scored against a Vanderbilt team since Florida scored 55 in 2010.

Saturday, 05 October 2013 22:41
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Gerrit Cole and the Pittsburgh Pirates played a game of role reversal, and pulled even with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The hard-throwing rookie gave up two hits in six dominant innings and also had an RBI in his postseason debut, Pedro Alvarez homered for the second straight day and the Pirates beat the Cardinals 7-1 Friday to even their NL division series at one game apiece.

"Just what we've been seeing all year," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "You saw a focused man that was ready to go."

A day after St. Louis got a strong effort from its starter and took advantage of mistakes to romp 9-1 in the opener, the Pirates showed poise for their first playoff win since 1992 while the Cardinals looked tentative in the field.

The Pirates now head home for Game 3 Sunday in the best-of-five series. Wild-card game winner Francisco Liriano faces Cardinals right-hander Joe Kelly.

Cole faced the Cardinals for the first time and left most of them shaking their heads, striking out five and walking one. After allowing Carlos Beltran's double with one out in the first, the 22-year-old retired 11 straight before Yadier Molina led off the fifth with his third career postseason homer.

Relying on a fastball that peaked at 99 mph on the stadium radar gun and one that TBS had at 100, Cole had hitters helpless at times even without shadows that benefited pitchers early in Game 1.

"I just trusted myself and tried to keep it as simple as I could," Cole said. "You just try and clear you mind after every pitch and just look forward."

When he got in the least bit of trouble, Cole ignored chants from a second straight sellout crowd at Busch Stadium.

"You just have to take a deep breath," Cole said. "Rip off the rear-view mirror on the car."

Cardinals starter Lance Lynn needed some help. He hasn't lasted long enough to qualify for the victory in any of his three career postseason starts and yielded five runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings.

"It was a bad game," Lynn said. "I made four bad pitches for four extra-base hits. When I made a mistake with the fastball, they were ready for it."

Lynn was manager Matheny's choice for Game 2 ahead of rookies Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha, the decision based on the right-hander's strong September and 9-3 record at home.

Wacha (4-1, 2.78) will oppose Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.26) in Game 4 Monday.

Alvarez doubled and scored on Cole's single in the second to put the Pirates ahead - eighth-place hitter Jordy Mercer was walked intentionally ahead of Cole.

Center fielder Jon Jay said he should have tracked down the double by Alvarez.

"That's a play I've got to make and I didn't," Jay said. "That's on me."

Alvarez then hit a 418-foot, two-run homer in the third.

Pirates pitchers totaled 10 RBIs during the season and Cole had five of them, including two in his final start.

Third baseman David Freese dropped Marlon Byrd's pop fly for an error in gusting wind in the seventh inning, leading to a run.

Lynn made it to the fifth for the first time, but just barely. Miller warmed up in the third and Lynn was yanked with one out after back-to-back doubles by Justin Morneau and Byrd that put the Pirates up 5-0, followed by a four-pitch walk to Alvarez that gave reliever Seth Maness a little more time to warm up.

Miller worked the eighth and gave up a homer to Starling Marte.

Liriano is 4-0 with a 1.16 career ERA in four starts against the Cardinals. He dominated in three starts this year, including a complete game in St. Louis, and allowed 10 hits in 22 innings with 20 strikeouts. He was the winner Tuesday night against Cincinnati in front of a raucous crowd in Pittsburgh that was celebrating the Pirates' return to the postseason.

Kelly (10-5, 2.69) thrived as a fill-in starter for the second straight season and won eight straight decisions.

NOTES: Injured Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter threw the first pitch to his son, Sam, and was accompanied to the mound by his daughter, Ava. ... Daniel Descalso made the last out in the second inning and the first out in the Cardinals' NL division series-record seven-run third in Game 1. ... Molina's last postseason homer came in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS against the Mets.

Friday, 04 October 2013 22:04
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- David Backes had a goal and assist in the first period to lead the St. Louis Blues to a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Thursday in the season opener for both teams.

The Blues scored three times in the first 9:45 to jump in front 3-0 and chase Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.

Jaroslav Halak made 28 saves for the Blues and improved to 9-3-3 against the Predators.

Backes, Vladimir Sobotka, T.J. Oshie and Alex Steen scored for St. Louis, which was 2 of 4 on the power play.

St. Louis has won four of its past five home openers.

Nashville, which missed the playoffs last season, is 7-7-1 in season openers.

Backes scored from close range at 2:05, just three seconds after Matt Cullen was sent off for tripping. Backes pounced on a shot from the blue line by Alex Pietrangelo, who added two first-period assists.

Sobotka tallied on a break along the left wing to make it 2-0. He went by Kevin Klein and sent a backhand behind Rinne.

Oshie converted on a pass from Steen to push the lead to 3-0. Rinne was pulled after giving up three goals on six shots.

Nashville climbed within 3-2 on goals by Mike Fisher and David Legwand.

Steen scored a power-play goal at 11:16 of the second period to stretch the lead to 4-2.

NOTES: The game began at 7:48 p.m. local time, 43 minutes after the final out of the Cardinals' 9-1 win over Pittsburgh in the opening game of the NL Division Series. The Blues moved the start time back 30 minutes to allow fans to make the five-block trip from Busch Stadium. ... St. Louis has made the playoffs in 37 of its 46 seasons. ... Nashville coach Barry Trotz is the longest-tenured head coach with the same team with 1,115 games. ... St. Louis LW Brenden Morrow fixed his work-visa problems earlier in the day and was able to play. ... Blues coach Ken Hitchcock improved to 10-3-4 in season openers. ... Nashville defenseman Seth Jones, the No. 4 overall pick in last year's draft, made his debut. He is the son of former NBA journeyman Popeye Jones.

Thursday, 03 October 2013 22:36
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Carlos Beltran, Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals gave Pittsburgh a quick reality jolt.

Beltran's three-run homer sparked a seven-run third inning Thursday and the Cardinals got seven stingy innings from Wainwright to open their NL division series with a 9-1 rout of the Pirates.

"To be able to get out on a good first step and play well today I think is big for our guys confidence-wise," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "Gives us an opportunity to just take some momentum, and momentum is big right now when you talk about a five-game series."

The first eight Cardinals reached safely in the third to chase A.J. Burnett, saddling the right-hander with the second-shortest outing of his career and putting Game 1 out of reach early.

A sellout crowd roared and then settled in for an easy victory by the NL Central champions, making their third consecutive trip to the postseason.

"Game 164 was rough," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "One of the things we've been good at is we don't overcook things."

Lance Lynn (15-10) faces Pittsburgh rookie Gerrit Cole (10-7) in Game 2 on Friday.

After a record 20 straight losing seasons, the Pirates are back in the playoffs for the first time since 1992. They entered their first best-of-five division series with plenty of momentum after beating Cincinnati in the wild-card game Tuesday, but Pittsburgh never threatened to rally against Wainwright and finished with only four hits.

Pittsburgh also was sloppy in the field, committing three errors. St. Louis was sharp on defense, with reliever Carlos Martinez turning in the top play by slinging an off-balance throw to first to nip Russell Martin in the eighth.

"What a play!" Matheny mouthed in the dugout.

Third baseman David Freese prevented extra bases in the third with a diving catch on Clint Barmes' low liner.

Wainwright remained unbeaten in the postseason, going to 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA in 14 games, five of them starts.

He allowed a run on three hits in seven innings, striking out nine without a walk. The only damage came on a homer by Pedro Alvarez to start the fifth.

The right-hander tied for the NL lead with 19 wins this year and was 4-0 in his last five starts. He thrives on expectations.

"I'd love to be that guy," Wainwright said. "It's important to have somebody go out there that you can count on for sure."

Wainwright also started the Cardinals' big burst with a leadoff, full-count walk.

Beltran, who has never reached the World Series, reprised his role as one of the game's greatest playoff sluggers. His 443-foot drive to the distant second deck in right field put St. Louis ahead and was the second-longest shot by a left-handed batter at 8-year-old Busch Stadium.

"I almost got caught up in the moment," said Wainwright, who had a perfect view from second base. "I threw my hands up in the air as soon as he hit it, I knew it was gone.

"Then I realized I had to run."

Beltran has 15 home runs, 10 doubles and 28 RBIs in 35 postseason games. He also has scored 40 runs and stolen 11 bases.

Leadoff man Matt Carpenter called Beltran "Mr. October."

"He's like our secret weapon when it comes to the postseason. He steps up every time," Carpenter said. "Some guys just have a knack for a big game and he's one of them."

Beltran's 13 career RBIs against Burnett are the most of any player.

Beltran's homer got the Cardinals going, and Jon Jay later walked with the bases loaded. Freese added a two-run single that cleared the bases when right fielder Marlon Byrd's throw to the plate deflected off Freese's leg for an error.

Burnett was 3-1 against the Cardinals this season but has gotten rocked in his last two visits to St. Louis, also giving up five runs in three innings in early September. In five outings at Busch Stadium the last two seasons he has a 15.50 ERA.

"Hopefully, we can turn it around and give me a chance to get that ball again," Burnett said. "I was not able to repeat a single delivery all day, that's the bottom line."

Hurdle was non-committal on whether Burnett would get the ball if the Pirates make it to Game 5, again in St. Louis.

"I do believe that he's capable of going out and throwing a gem the next time he's out there, wherever that may be," Hurdle said.

While the Pirates may have had trouble at the plate and in the field with the shadows, the late-afternoon start didn't seem to bother the Cardinals.

"Everybody was seeing the ball good today," rookie Matt Adams said.

NOTES: Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon threw the first pitch in the dirt, with reserve Shane Robinson making a nice scoop. ... St. Louis OF Matt Holliday walked and doubled his first two trips and had reached base safely in nine straight plate appearances before grounding out to start the fourth. ... The Cardinals claimed OF Joey Butler on waivers, three days after he was designated for assignment by the Rangers. Butler spent most of the year at Triple-A Round Rock, batting .291 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs.

Thursday, 03 October 2013 22:35
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Pirates are riding high after their first postseason victory in 21 years. They're confident they can beat anybody, anywhere.

A few hours after defeating Cincinnati in the NL wild-card game Tuesday night, the Pirates touched down in St. Louis. They're about to face another familiar foe in an unfamiliar month when they take on the NL Central champion Cardinals in a best-of-five division series.

"We know them, they know us," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "There won't be any ball tricks, I hope. No Statue of Liberty plays."

A.J. Burnett, set to start the series opener Thursday, was a part of three New York Yankees teams that made it to October. He said Wednesday there's a sense of euphoria with this experience that was lacking before.

"I guess the main thing is, over in New York, it's expected every year, you know?" Burnett said. "You tend to get in there a couple of weeks before the season ends. And this one was more of a `Shock the world, we're going to do it, we made it!'"

The Pirates won the season series 10-9, but the Cardinals overtook them for the division lead with a four-game sweep at home in early September. St. Louis also has quite an advantage in postseason experience, with several holdovers from the 2011 World Series championship team and from last year, too, when St. Louis fell one win shy of a second straight pennant.

The Cardinals earned some time off after winning six in a row to end the season. They won their first NL Central crown since 2009 and secured home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

Their .330 average with runners in scoring position was the majors' best dating to 1974, when the statistic was first used. So far, they've done fine without injured Allen Craig, who missed almost all of September and isn't expected back from a left mid-foot sprain until at least the NL championship series.

"We played really well most of the year minus a couple of dips here and there that every team has," said Matt Holliday, who batted .378 over the final month to finish at .300. "I'd say, just try to roll that momentum into the postseason."

Adam Wainwright has to like this matchup, too. St. Louis' ace will pitch the opener and would also be available on full rest for a possible deciding Game 5. He went 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts against Pittsburgh this season.

Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA) got rocked for 15 runs over eight innings in consecutive starts against the Reds. One of them he labeled, "the worst start of my career," before rebounding in the win that put the Cardinals in first place to stay. He was 4-0 in his final five starts, working seven or more innings in all of them except for a tuneup his last time out.

"Well, aside from Clayton Kershaw this year, I'd argue that you could look at any single pitcher in the history of the game and they're going to have a bad game or two in the course of 35 starts," Wainwright said.

"I didn't need to do anything different. I just had a bad day."

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny described Wainwright, the third pitcher in franchise history to lead the league in wins twice, as a "fierce competitor."

"All in all, a Cy Young-caliber season," Matheny said. "We're not afraid to put him on the mound against anybody."

Burnett (10-11, 3.30 ERA) is 3-1 with a 3.67 ERA in his career against the Cardinals, but the last time he faced them he gave up five runs in three innings - his shortest outing of the year. In two appearances at Busch Stadium, he allowed 12 runs in 13 1-3 innings.

"It's just execution, that's all it is," Burnett said. "It's a great lineup over there. You can't make too many mistakes because they'll capitalize on them.

"The good ones I have limited those and the ones that got me, I haven't been able to execute."

The Cardinals haven't announced a starter after Lance Lynn, who will face rookie Gerrit Cole in Game 2 on Friday. Matheny has three strong candidates in Joe Kelly and rookies Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha. The manager said Miller and Wacha would be available in the bullpen for Game 1.

Miller led all rookies with 15 wins this year, Wacha was one out shy of a no-hitter in his final regular-season start and Kelly was 10-5 with a 2.69 ERA.

Hurdle said Francisco Liriano, the winner in the wild-card game, will start Game 3 on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, 02 October 2013 22:52
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CLEVELAND (AP) -- Alex Cobb dodged trouble for nearly seven innings and the Tampa Bay Rays pitched their way to another must-have win on the road, beating the Cleveland Indians 4-0 on Wednesday night in the AL wild-card game.

Cobb, who missed a chunk of the regular season after he was hit in the head by a line drive, quieted a thundering Cleveland crowd and ended the Indians' unexpected season.

Delmon Young homered in the third inning off rookie Danny Salazar as the Rays, playing in their third city over four days, advanced to face the AL East champion Boston Red Sox in the division series starting Friday.

 

Cobb's comeback in August from his frightening injury helped stabilize the Rays, who have spent the past two weeks winning crucial games to make the postseason for the fourth time in six years.

Wednesday, 02 October 2013 22:50
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Rams re-signed outside linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, who was waived at the beginning of a four-game suspension to start the season.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 29 September 2013 19:26
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Albert Pujols hits 500th HR of major league career

  WASHINGTON (AP) -- Albert Pujols reached 500 homers in a hurry.   The Los Angeles Angels' first baseman hit a pair of shots off Washington Nationals righ...

Lyons solid in 1st start, Cards blanked by Mets

Lyons solid in 1st start, Cards blanked by Mets

  NEW YORK (AP) -- Tyler Lyons stepped into the St. Louis rotation and looked right at home. Too bad for him, the Cardinals couldn't get anyone home to help him. &n...

Blackhawks blank Blues 2-0 in Game 3

Blackhawks blank Blues 2-0 in Game 3

CHICAGO (AP) -- Corey Crawford made 34 saves in his third career postseason shutout, and the Chicago Blackhawks got back into their playoff series with the St. Louis Blues with ...

Cards defense, bullpen falter in 3-2 loss to Nats

Cards defense, bullpen falter in 3-2 loss to Nats

  WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Cardinals managed to score twice against Stephen Strasburg while starter Shelby Miller kept the Nationals offense quiet. Nine outs away from ta...

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