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HOUSTON (AP) -- Johnny Football's season will start a little late.

Johnny Manziel was suspended for the first half of Texas A&M's opening game against Rice on Saturday for what the school called an "inadvertent" violation of NCAA rules by signing autographs.

The penalty appears to have brought a quick end to an investigation that could have ruined the seventh-ranked Aggies' upcoming season.

The school issued a statement Wednesday saying it declared the Heisman Trophy winner ineligible and that the NCAA agreed to reinstate Manziel after he sits out the first half against the underdog Owls.

"I am proud of the way both Coach Sumlin and Johnny handled this situation, with integrity and honesty," Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp said in the statement. "We all take the Aggie Code of Honor very seriously and there is no evidence that either the university or Johnny violated that code."

The quarterback was being investigated by the NCAA for allegedly accepting money for signing autographs for memorabilia brokers, a violation of NCAA rules that could have led to a much longer suspension. ESPN first reported the allegations against Manziel earlier this month.

According to the statement, Texas A&M and the NCAA "confirmed there is no evidence Manziel received money in exchange for autographs based on currently available information and statements by Manziel."

Conditions for reinstatement include Manziel discussing his actions with teammates and A&M revising how it educates student-athletes about signing autographs.

"Student-athletes are often asked for autographs from fans, but unfortunately, some individuals' sole motivation in seeking an autograph is for resale," said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs. "It is important that schools are cognizant and educate student-athletes about situations in which there is a strong likelihood that the autograph seeker plans to resell the items."

He likely will be replaced in the starting lineup by either junior Matt Joeckel or freshman Kenny Hill. Joeckel has thrown only 11 passes in his college career.

The news of Manziel's suspension was the talk of Twitter on Wednesday afternoon, with many questioning the length of the suspension. Former NFL and MLB star Deion Sanders was incredulous at the brevity of Manziel's suspension, after Dez Bryant was suspended for an entire season while at Oklahoma State after lying about having dinner with Sanders.

"Can we investigate the investigators? (at)DezBryant got suspended a season 4 lying about a dinner that wasnt a violation & Manziel gets a half," Sanders tweeted soon after the ruling was made public.

The decision also had a major impact in Las Vegas, where the odds of Manziel's chances of repeating as a Heisman winner and Texas A&M's chances of winning the national championship shifted dramatically on Wednesday. RJ Bell, the founder of sports betting web site Pregame.com, said that Manziel's chances of winning the Heisman jumped from 12/1 to 6/1 on Wednesday, and the team's shot at the title increased from 18/1 to 10/1.

The latest problem isn't the first time off-the-field trouble has put Manziel's career in jeopardy.

Manziel was arrested last summer after a bar fight near campus and charged with disorderly conduct, possession of the fake ID and failure to identify himself to police. It was an incident that put him in danger of being suspended from school and left him having to earn the starting job in fall camp.

Manziel admitted this June that he failed to identify himself to police following the altercation. As part of a plea deal, other charges against the 20-year-old, including disorderly conduct, were dismissed, and it looked like Manziel's trouble was behind him before the latest problems came to light.

Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy last season, setting numerous school and Southeastern Conference records while leading Texas A&M to an 11-2 mark and a victory over No. 1 Alabama in its first season in the SEC.

He followed that with a high-profile offseason of road trips to Las Vegas and the NBA Finals. Manziel got to meet Heat star LeBron James and rapper Drake, and he posted some Tweets that made headlines.

His biggest misstep, however, came during the summer when he departed early from a quarterback camp for high school players run by the Manning family in Louisiana. Manziel said it was a mutual decision after he overslept and missed meetings and activities.

Dat Nguyen, an All-America linebacker at Texas A&M in the 1990s and former assistant coach for the Aggies, lamented Manziel's mistakes, but noted what he's done for the program.

"I'm a little bit disappointed with what's going on down there," Nguyen said recently. "Going into the season I thought this would be the year for A&M to win a national championship and this has been a distraction. He made a bad decision and he's just got to move on ... but overall the guy has put A&M back on the map."

Former Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum, who is now a special adviser to Texas A&M's president, has watched Manziel's career with great interest and is looking forward to seeing how he'll follow up his incredible first season.

"This young man has been in a position that no one has ever been in," Slocum said on Wednesday before the suspension was announced. "He's been a freshman and a 20-year-old winner of the Heisman Trophy, and he's done some great things with that and he's had a few things I'm sure he'd like to have a do-over with. And if I were advising him, I might have said, `That's probably not in your best interests to do that or say that or be there,' but in terms of the upcoming season, I'm as anxious as anybody to see what happens and see what the results are."

Manziel was the main attraction at SEC Media Days, where he was peppered with questions but answered with the same cool and calm he often shows in the face of a pass rush.

"I don't feel like I've done anything that's catastrophic," Manziel said at the time. "Of course, I've made my mistakes. It's time to grow up."

The day before the Aggies reported for preseason practice, ESPN reported Manziel signed thousands of autographs for brokers in Texas, Florida and Connecticut, and cited unidentified sources who said Manziel was paid thousands for dollars for the signatures.

Manziel has been off-limits to the media since news broke of the NCAA investigation, but has been practicing with the Aggies.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013 23:01
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Robert Griffin III trade helped speed the St. Louis Rams' arc from sad sack to respectability. In coach Jeff Fisher's second season, they'll be counting on more high-profile youngsters they've stockpiled to take the next step.

Surplus picks from the deal with Washington for the second overall pick in 2012 gave the Rams confidence to trade up for wide receiver Tavon Austin this year. Austin and fellow first-rounder Alec Ogletree will start for a team that improved to 7-8-1 last year with two rookie starters on defense and both specialists as rookies, too.

While the Redskins made the playoffs last year, the Rams had more needs to fill and they're getting Washington's first-rounder next year, too. They remain among the NFL's youngest teams, so expect more learning on the job that'll require patience at the top.

There are increased expectations, fed in part by the addition of free agents Jared Cook and Jake Long. There's a feeling the Rams belong in a stacked NFC West, too, after going 4-1-1 in the division, but will have to show it over the long haul to post the franchise's first winning record in a decade.

"Now is when you're got to learn grit," general manager Les Snead said. "They're going to know we're coming."

If the Rams were playing on the PGA tour, Snead last year they'd have been satisfied making the cut. No more.

The Rams have been here before only to fall back, winning seven games in 2010 only to crash the next season, losing their first six, going 2-14 and getting Steve Spagnuolo fired. It shouldn't happen again under Fisher, and here are five things to know about the Rams heading into the Sept. 8 opener at home against Arizona:

FISHER'S TEAM: The roster overhaul has been drastic, with eight undrafted free agents among the 18 rookies to play last year. There are about a dozen holdovers from the failed Spagnuolo and Scott Linehan regimes that combined for just 15 wins in five seasons, the worst stretch in NFL history. A few have been simply too good to show the door. Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis has led the team in tackles all four of his seasons, defensive end Chris Long is the top pass rusher and though Sam Bradford has yet to crack the NFL's elite cadre of quarterbacks, the Rams are satisfied with him. They've had a while to adjust to the biggest camp setback, plugging in veteran Will Witherspoon at outside linebacker the first four games. Though Jo-Lonn Dunbar's suspension was announced in early August, the team had known it was coming barring a successful appeal for some times.

REPLACING JACKSON: The biggest question heading into camp, finding a successor to Steven Jackson, was settled prior to Week 3 of the preseason when Fisher named Daryl Richardson the starting running back. Richardson was the next-to-last pick of the 2012 draft but is no surprise anymore, beating second rounder Isaiah Pead for the backup job last year and impressing this summer with quickness and decisive moves. Two rookies, fifth-rounder Zac Stacy and undrafted Benny Cunningham, are also in the mix.

SPEED SPEED SPEED: For years, the Rams ignored wide receiver. Now they're well stocked. Austin showed game-breaking potential at Denver with an 81-yard punt return and will be used all over the field to keep defenses guessing. Both Austin and Stedman Bailey are coming off prolific seasons at West Virginia. Incumbent Chris Givens won a number of foot races as a rookie last year after emerging ahead of Brian Quick, chosen two rounds earlier in the second round. Quick has shown promise in the preseason he's ready to handle more. The rookies must adapt, though, to a more complex playbook.

BRADFORD BREAKOUT?: For the first time since getting picked first overall in 2010, the quarterback didn't have to spend the offseason learning a new scheme. A second season with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's scheme should help expand the options for Bradford, who is coming off his best statistical season.

"It seems like now I've just had so much more experience and I've seen things that it's rare that I see something that catches me totally off-guard," Bradford said.

FRONT LINE: The Rams have a pair of former No. 1 overall picks on offense, with Long (2008) protecting Bradford's blind side at left tackle. Center Scott Wells was among the top additions last year and is healthy after a delayed debut in 2012 and right guard Harvey Dahl is durable, efficient and feisty. Chris Williams and Shelly Smith, alternating starts at left guard during the preseason, are both solid. Former left tackle Rodger Saffold is an upgrade on the right side after an inauspicious start, injuring his shoulder on the second snap of the preseason. He returned for Week 3.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013 23:12
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Joe Kelly tossed six strong innings and Matt Holliday drove in a run for a seventh straight game, lifting the St. Louis Cardinals to a 6-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.

St. Louis has won six of its last seven, including the first two games of this three-game set. The first-place Cardinals have won eight of their last 10 against the third-place Reds and lead them by 4 1/2 games in the NL Central.

The Cards also moved 1 1/2 games ahead of second-place Pittsburgh, which lost to Milwaukee.

Shin-soo Choo homered for Cincinnati, which lost for the fourth time in five games. The Cardinals retired the last 13 Cincinnati batters, dropping the Reds to 4-10 against St. Louis this season.

Kelly (6-3), who allowed one run on nine hits, improved to 6-0 in nine starts since rejoining the starting rotation on July 6. The Cardinals have won the last six games he has started. Kelly began the season in the bullpen.

Holliday, who went 2 for 3, keyed a two-run outburst in the first against Mat Latos (13-5), who gave up four runs on nine hits over six innings. He struck out four and did not walk a batter.

Arizona slugger Paul Goldschmidt had an eight-game RBI streak in early June - a season best in MLB.

The Cardinals needed just 14 pitches to take a 2-0 lead. Matt Carpenter and Carlos Beltran began the opening frame with singles. Holliday followed with a hit to right to bring in Carpenter, who scored his major league-leading 100th run. Allen Craig then hit into a double play, allowing Beltran to score from third.

Choo brought the Reds to 2-1 with a leadoff homer in the fifth, the 100th round-tripper of his career and 17th of the season.

The Cardinals answered with single runs in the sixth and seventh and scored twice in the eighth.

Craig pushed the lead to 3-1 with his team-leading 96th RBI on a run-scoring double in the sixth. Carpenter brought in Jon Jay with a sacrifice fly in the seventh. Jay and Daniel Descalso singled to start the inning.

Notes: Adam Wainwright (15-7, 2.58 ERA) faces Homer Bailey (8-10, 3.71) in the final of the three-game series Wednesday. Bailey is 0-5 with a 6.90 ERA in seven career starts at Busch Stadium. ... St. Louis INF Pete Kozma is mired in a 0-for-23 slump. ... The Cardinals are 34-22 against NL Central opponents this season with 22 divisional games remaining. ... The Reds have spent the past 127 days in second, third or fourth place.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013 23:08
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rams coach Jeff Fisher does not want the team's running backs to be judged solely on the preseason stats.

However, it doesn't mean he's not concerned about their production.

"That's an area where we need to improve on, but we haven't had opportunities in the games to really just line up," Fisher said after Monday's practice.

The Rams finish the preseason on Thursday against Baltimore.

The Rams are making a transition to a life without perennial 1,000-yard rusher Steven Jackson, who left via free agency to Atlanta.

They are averaging a little more than 3 yards a carry from their top four running backs, a year after the team ranked 19th in the league in yards per game with a 107.1 average.

Daryl Richardson, tabbed as the team's starter earlier this month, has 34 yards on nine carries in the first three games of the preseason.

"I feel pretty good about the running game," he said. "We've just got to execute and get better every day, all just be on the same page and eliminate penalties."

Richardson is coming off a rookie season in which he gained 475 yards on 98 carries in a backup role to Jackson.

Isaiah Pead's role might be more questionable. The second-year player out of Cincinnati carried the ball just 10 times in 2012 and is suspended for the 2013 season opener for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

He's had the most carries this preseason with 19, gaining 59 yards. He also has the only lost fumble by a running back.

"I've been trying to prove myself since I came here. Really, the only difference is that Steven's gone," Pead said. "I still come in, ready to work, trying to find a spot on the team whether it be special team or offense."

The Rams game at Denver last Saturday was another missed chance for the running backs to get work.

St. Louis planned to work on its running attack, only to change as the game unfolded.

Lineman Rodger Saffold, returning from a shoulder injury that limited his work leading up to the game, lasted the entire first half after it was anticipated he might only play a handful of snaps.

The Rams have also wanted to focus on their passing game and this year's top draft choice Tavon Austin and third-rounder Stedman Bailey at receiver. Fisher wants to enhance the downfield options for quarterback Sam Bradford.

He said if that part of the game develops, it can only serve to help his young running backs, that includes two second-year players and two rookies in the top four on the depth chart.

That has limited the chances for rookies Zac Stacy, a fifth-round choice from Vanderbilt, and Benny Cunningham, from Middle Tennessee State who signed as an undrafted free agent. But both should play a role in the upcoming season.

How much might be determined Thursday.

"I think you'll probably see some more," Fisher said. "''We'll get a chance to look at them this week. With Isaiah not being available to us in Week 1, we'll have to look at all the backs."

NOTES: TE Cory Harkey could miss up to a month with a fracture in his leg suffered Saturday at Denver. The second-year player got significant time during the preseason as top TE Lance Kendricks recovers from offseason knee surgery. ...The Rams announced 11 cuts as they close in on Tuesday's deadline to reduce the roster to the NFL-mandated 75 players. St. Louis released K/P Brett Baer, WR Demetrius Fields, WR Andrew Helmick, LS Jorgen Hus, QB Tim Jenkins, DT Al Lapuaho, LB Joseph Lebeau, TE Colby Prince, WR Raymond Radway and CB Robert Steeples.

Monday, 26 August 2013 22:55
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Allen Craig hit his first career grand slam with two out in the seventh inning, helping the St. Louis Cardinals rally for an 8-6 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night.

Matt Holliday also had a long three-run homer as St. Louis moved into sole possession of first place in the NL Central for the first time since July 29. The Cardinals lead idle Pittsburgh by a half-game and Cincinnati by 3 1/2 games in the top-heavy division.

Rookie Carlos Martinez (1-1) pitched two innings for his first major league win and Edward Mujica worked a perfect ninth for his 35th save.

Zack Cozart had two hits and three RBIs for the Reds, who dropped to 4-9 against St. Louis this season. Jay Bruce hit his 25th homer in the eighth.

Cozart and Todd Frazier each hit a two-run triple off Tyler Lyons in the second, helping Cincinnati to a 4-0 lead. But Holliday belted a three-run drive deep to left in the third.

Holliday's 18th homer came against Mike Leake and traveled an estimated 443 feet for the longest shot by a St. Louis player at Busch Stadium this season.

The Cardinals went ahead to stay in the seventh. Jon Jay drove in a run with a bases-loaded grounder off Manny Parra (1-3). J.J. Hoover then came in and walked Holliday on a full-count pitch and Craig drove the next pitch over the wall in right for his 13th homer.

The crowd of 35,159 roared as Craig rounded the bases. The big first baseman then came out for a curtain call.

Bruce connected against Seth Maness, but that was it for Cincinnati, which lost for the third time in four games.

Lyons settled down after the rough start and was charged with one earned run in five innings. He struck out seven and walked two.

Leake allowed five runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings. The right-hander is 1-1 with an unseemly 5.20 ERA in his last six starts.

NOTES: Joe Kelly (5-3, 3.01 ERA) will face Cincinnati's Mat Latos (13-4, 2.93 ERA) in the second game of the three-game series on Tuesday. Latos is 5-1 with a 1.47 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break. ... The Cardinals are 24-3-2 in home series against Cincinnati since the start of the 2003 season.

Monday, 26 August 2013 22:52
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DENVER (AP) — Ever the perfectionist, Peyton Manning momentarily stepped back on the field long after his night was concluded just so he could lob a few more passes in a steady drizzle.

The Denver Broncos' quarterback made his reappearance during a break in the action to hone his "wet-ball mechanics," coach John Fox joked after a 27-26 preseason win over the St. Louis Rams on Saturday night.

Utilizing an up-tempo offense, Manning & Co. were virtually unstoppable against the Rams' starting defense.

That is, until the Broncos stopped themselves by turning the ball over four times, including a fumble from Ronnie Hillman which rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree scooped up and returned for a TD.

"It's disappointing when you don't take care of the ball," said Manning, who finished 25 of 34 for 234 yards, a TD and an interception. "Four turnovers in a game is not what you want to do."

Here are five things we learned from a game in which the Broncos (2-1) and Rams (0-3) played a bulk of their starters in the first half:

1. GROUND PROBLEMS: Just when it looked like Hillman had the starting job all but locked up, he fumbled. Again.

For the second straight game, Hillman's turnover was returned for a TD. The week before in Seattle, Hillman's miscue at the goal line was taken 106 yards for a score.

This time, Ogletree ripped the ball out of Hillman's hands and trotted 13 yards for a score.

"I still have great confidence," Fox said of Hillman.

Meanwhile, rookie Montee Ball had a productive game, rushing for 43 yards and a score. Knowshon Moreno was solid, too, finishing with 33 yards rushing. He added another 42 on three catches.

2. ELECTRIC AUSTIN: Rookie Tavon Austin showed his explosiveness, fielding a punt in the first quarter and racing 81 yards. Had his blockers been able to actually block punter Britton Colquitt, Austin could've scored. No worries, though, Sam Bradford threw a short TD pass on the next play.

Austin returned two punts for 104 yards. He also had one catch for 12 yards.

"I felt good for the most part," Austin said.

3. STILL MILLER'S TIME: Even though he's staring at a six-game suspension, defensive end/linebacker Von Miller played a majority of the first half with the first-team unit. The Pro Bowler finished two tackles.

After the game, Miller declined to talk about his performance.

With Miller soon to be sidelined for violating the NFL's drug-abuse policy, Shaun Phillips will be counted on to step up.

"I didn't come here to be a cheerleader," Phillips said.

4. ELITE COMPANY: The youthful St. Louis secondary is receiving quite an early test. Last week, the Rams went up against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. On Saturday, it was Manning.

"He's a heck of a player and it's good to see him in the preseason," defensive end Chris Long said.

It doesn't get any easier on Thursday when the Rams face Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens.

"We have a young secondary, so I think it gives our guys a chance to play against the best," linebacker James Laurinaitis said.

5. NOT SO SPECIAL TEAMS: The Broncos surrendered a long return, had a field goal attempted blocked and muffed a punt. Not exactly a stellar night for the special teams.

However, Lerentee McCray did get a hand on a Brett Baer punt late in the game that set up what would be the Broncos' winning TD.

"It's all disconcerting," Fox said. "It's something we will look at."

Sunday, 25 August 2013 20:44
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- After a rough beginning, Lance Lynn settled down and kept the Cardinals in the game. They just couldn't come up with enough offense to beat the Braves.

The struggling St. Louis right-hander overcame a slow start and allowed just one run in his final five innings in the Cardinals' 5-2 loss to Atlanta on Sunday.

Lynn, who is winless in his last four starts and 2-4 since the All-Star break, surrendered four runs on nine hits over seven innings in falling to 13-8.

"They got after me pretty good early in the game, but I was able to turn it around and go deep in the game," Lynn said. "I think I threw the ball well for the most part."

Lynn had been burned by one bad inning in each of his previous three starts. He gave up five runs in the fourth against Milwaukee, four in the second against Pittsburgh and three in the seventh against the Cubs.

He avoided the blow-up frame on Sunday and feels he is headed in the right direction.

"Hopefully for me, this was a building (block) going down the stretch," he said. "I've got some starts coming up where I've got to be really good.

And I plan on being really good."

Lynn faced just three batters in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings against the Braves.

"He needed to slow down a bit," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "But once he established that, they seemed to have different at-bats against him."

Atlanta right-hander Mike Minor went seven strong innings to pick up his team-leading 13th win.

Still, Minor refuses to accept the role of stopper on his pitching-rich squad.

"I don't look at myself as the ace of this team," he said.

Atlanta, which has the best record in the NL, salvaged the final game of the four-game set. Andrelton Simmons hit his 12th homer of the season for Braves, who finish a six-game road trip at 2-4.

St. Louis had a four-game winning streak snapped.

Minor may not claim to be the team ace - but he certainly performed like one on Sunday, halting a three-game losing streak.

He bounced back from the shortest outing of his career to give up one run on six hits. He struck out two and walked one. He was pitching on seven days rest after allowing four runs in 1 2-3 innings against Washington on Aug. 17.

"I felt like I was pounding the zone, hitting more spots," Minor said.

Minor did not allow a run until the sixth. He retired the side in order twice in the first five frames.

"He's developing into a big-time deal," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez. "The Wainwrights of the world, the Kershaws of the world, they stop losing streaks and extend winning streaks.

He's becoming one of those guys."

Minor also beat the Cardinals 4-1 on July 26, starting the Braves on a 14-game winning streak.

"He was sharp today, he didn't give us a lot of mistakes to handle," Matheny said. "And he got out of any kind of jams that he got himself into."

Minor, who also legged out an infield hit in the seventh, recorded his team-high 19th quality start.

The win gave Minor a team-leading 13th win of the season ahead of Kris Medlen and Julio Teheran, who have 10 wins each.

Simmons paced the attack with a solo shot in the seventh that gave the Braves a 4-1 lead.

Closer Craig Kimbrel came on with two out in the eighth and picked up his 41st save in 44 opportunities. It was his first four-out save of the season. a trend that may continue in October.

"We may have to do that come post-season," Gonzalez said. "It was perfect timing. He hasn't pitched in three days, with a day off tomorrow, it made a lot of sense to push him and he came through."

Kimbrel enjoyed the extra work. He also liked sitting the dugout for a change between the eighth and ninth innings.

"I found myself talking and joking around," he said. "Then I said, "Wait I've got three more outs to get. But I was able to get back out there and get in the zone."

Notes: Minor is 6-5 in 17 starts with over six days rest. ... The Cardinals will play their next 13 games NL Central rivals Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. ... Atlanta opens a nine-game homestand on Tuesday with a three-game series against Cleveland. LHP Alex Wood (2-2, 2.50) will face Danny Salazar (1-1, 3.52) in the opener. St. Louis plays host to Cincinnati on Monday in the start of a three-game series. Tyler Lyons (2-4, 5.09) takes on Mike Leake (11-5, 3.12). ... Atlanta is 7-7 since ending a 14-game winning streak on Aug. 10.

Sunday, 25 August 2013 20:39
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DENVER (AP) -- Rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree ruined Ronnie Hillman's night with a strip-and-score takeaway and kept Peyton Manning from turning all those passes into points with a big interception. Yet the St. Louis Rams' lost 27-26 at Denver on Saturday night.

Ogletree ripped the football from Hillman's arms, scooped it up and trotted 13 yards for the score one week after Hillman's fumble at the goal line was returned 106 yards for a touchdown in Seattle.

Manning completed 25 of 34 passes for 234 yards in one half, but Ogletree's pickoff just before halftime set up Greg Zuerlein's 58-yarder field goal that gave the Rams a 20-10 lead at the break.

Ogletree also had a half-dozen tackles and two pass breakups in his breakout preseason performance.

Saturday, 24 August 2013 22:22
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Rookie Shelby Miller worked seven innings of three-hit ball, Matt Carpenter and Carlos Beltran each homered and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Atlanta Braves for the third straight time, 6-2 Saturday night.

Freddie Freeman homered for the NL East-leading Braves, who totaled five runs while dropping three in a row for the first time since July 3-5. Julio Teheran (10-7) allowed a season-worst five walks and was charged with four runs.

Miller (12-8) worked more than six innings for the first time in 13 starts since June 1. He struck out six without walking a batter while pitching with no more than a one-run cushion against a fellow 22-year-old right-hander. Center fielder Jon Jay made a leaping catch at the wall to rob Brian McCann of at least extra bases in the seventh.

The Cardinals, who began the night a game back in the NL Central, go for a four-game sweep Sunday with Lance Lynn (13-7) opposing Mike Minor (12-5).

St. Louis totaled three runs while getting swept in a three-game series in Atlanta in late July.

Pinch-hitter Shane Robinson and Carpenter opened a three-run seventh with singles to chase Teheran and the Cardinals broke it open against reliever Dave Carpenter with a two-run double by Matt Holliday and an RBI single by Yadier Molina for a 5-1 lead.

The Braves had three of their seven hits in the ninth, including pinch-hitter Gerald Laird's RBI double off Seth Maness before Edward Mujica struck out Elliott Johnson with two on for his 34th save in 36 chances.

The first three hits of the game were home runs. Miller struck out the first two batters on seven pitches and the Braves' first contact came when Freeman hammered a 1-2 pitch for his 16th homer.

Carpenter answered with his second career leadoff homer and 10th overall, also on a 1-2 count, in the bottom of the first. Beltran's team-leading 23rd put the Cardinals ahead 2-1 in the third and he finished with three hits, two RBIs and his second base-running gaffe of the series.

Beltran settled for a single in the fifth after standing at the plate for several seconds and belatedly jogging to first on a liner down the third base line that caromed off the jut in the stands in shallow left. Two days earlier he missed third base and had to double back before scoring.

NOTES: Miller walked nine in 16 1-3 innings his first four starts this month, one of them lasting just two pitches when he took a liner off the elbow. Missouri DE Kony Ealy threw a ceremonial first pitch. ... The Cardinals have hit 21 homers in August after totaling nine in July, although Carpenter's 10th overall was his first since July 10 against Houston. ... The Braves are 8-31 when scoring two or fewer runs.

Saturday, 24 August 2013 22:20
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Adam Wainwright earned his NL-leading 15th win with his fifth complete game and had a key sacrifice fly to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 3-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

Matt Holliday's 432-foot home run off Kris Medlen (10-12) snapped a sixth-inning tie for St. Louis, which took the first two games of a four-game set against the NL East leaders.

Having already thrown 101 pitches, Wainwright was allowed to bat with the one out and the bases loaded in the seventh inning and hit a long sacrifice fly off Scott Downs for his third RBI of the season to make it 3-1. He then retired the side in order in the eighth.

Medlen singled to lead off the sixth and scored on Freddie Freeman's second hit of the game and retired 12 in a row at one point. But he allowed Holliday's 17th homer on a liner deep into the left field stands. He's lost his last two times out, including a relief appearance in a 15-inning game.

The Cardinals lost three in a row at Atlanta to start a seven-game losing streak in late July that knocked them out of the Central lead and entered the night a game behind Pittsburgh. Wainwright (15-7) took one of the losses in that series, but the Brunswick, Ga., native is 7-2 against the Braves.

Wainwright allowed a run on six hits with no walks and nine strikeouts, passing injured teammate Chris Carpenter for fourth on the franchise career list, and he has 16 career complete games. He's worked seven or more innings seven straight starts and retired 10 in a row at one point.

He even got an assist from his manager. Mike Matheny, a former four-time Gold Glove catcher, took the warmup tosses from Wainwright before the ninth.

Yadier Molina had three hits with a pair of doubles to raise his NL-leading average to .337, five points ahead of the Braves' Chris Johnson, who had a pair of singles.

Molina doubled and Jon Jay singled to open the seventh and chase Medlen. Downs got a brief reprieve earlier in the inning when a wild pitch ricocheted back to catcher Brian McCann.

The Braves' Justin Upton was ejected in the sixth for arguing with home plate umpire Paul Nauert after a groundout, perhaps about a called third strike the previous at-bat.

NOTES: Braves SS Andrelton Simmons made an outstanding sliding catch on Kolten Wong's foul popup in the second. ... B.J. Upton snapped an 0-for-25 slump with a single in the second. ... Wainwright tied his career best for complete games in a season, also throwing five in 2010. He threw a season-high 128 pitches.

Friday, 23 August 2013 22:29
Published in Sports
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