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DODGERS WIN 15TH IN A ROW ON ROAD, 3-2 OVER CARDS

Monday, 05 August 2013 23:47 Published in Sports

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Adam Wainwright lacked ace stuff again, falling behind in the count and battling to get outs. Facing the visitors no one likes to see these days, he again took the St. Louis Cardinals deep into the game but missed a third straight chance to take the National League lead in wins.

"I wouldn't say I'm in a lull by any means," Wainwright said after the Los Angeles Dodgers won 3-2 for their 15th straight road victory Monday night. "I feel great, there's no reason not to be winning games.

"A play here, a play there has not been going my way."

Manager Mike Matheny was unhappy and terse about Carlos Beltran's first sacrifice bunt of the season after the first two runners reached safely in the seventh.

"Sometimes we put them on, sometimes we do it on our own," Matheny said. "A lot of things could have happened differently for us, a lot of little things could have changed the game but didn't, and now we move on."

Zack Greinke pitched into the seventh inning and raised his batting average to .405 with an RBI single for the Dodgers.

Wainwright (13-7) is tied for the league lead with teammate Lance Lynn and is 0-2 in his last three starts although he's worked at least seven innings in all three.

"It didn't have the zip on it maybe a little bit, but I was still able to make some good pitches," Wainwright said. "I mean, I'm tired of tipping the hat, but you've got to tip your hat."

Wainwright had retired eight in a row before Nick Punto doubled to the opposite-field in left with two outs in the seventh and Greinke lofted a single on a tough curveball that made it 3-1.

"I can't remember the last time a pitcher hit that for a hit, much less an RBI hit," Wainwright said. "That's not the pitch of the inning that really gets me. A double to Punto on a bad pitch, middle of the plate, that cost us."

Punto was productive subbing for injured shortstop Hanley Ramirez and the Dodgers got an RBI apiece from Andre Ethier and A.J. Ellis while matching the Cincinnati Reds' 15-game run in 1957. They're two wins shy of the NL record set by the 1916 New York Giants.

Greinke (9-3) allowed two runs in 6 1-3 innings for his 100th career victory, allowing two hits in the third, fourth and fifth but no runs. Paco Rodriguez earned his second career save with a perfect ninth.

Carlos Beltran and Allen Craig had an RBI apiece for the Cardinals, stifled in the opener of a 10-game homestand after totaling 44 runs the previous four games. They've lost nine of 12 overall.

Punto's relay to the plate preserved a one-run lead in the fifth and denied David Freese of an RBI double, and he made nice defensive plays to end the seventh and eighth.

Matt Carpenter doubled off the right-field wall in the first and took third when Yasiel Puig fumbled the ball, then sprinted home on Beltran's groundout when Punto sailed a throw over catcher A.J. Ellis' head.

Running shoe-top catches by Puig in right field and Ethier in center helped Greinke strand three Cardinals in a scoreless third. St. Louis came up empty again in the fourth after opening with singles by Jon Jay and Tony Cruz, and Punto's relay in the fifth caught Allen Craig at the plate on Freese's double to right.

The first three Dodgers reached in the fourth, with Adrian Gonzalez stopping at third on Puig's double off the right-field wall and then scoring on Ethier's broken-bat single. Puig scored the go-ahead run when Ellis beat the relay on a potential double-play ball.

NOTES: Major league ERA leader Clayton Kershaw (10-6, 1.87) faces Cardinals fifth starter Joe Kelly (2-3, 3.10) on Tuesday. Kershaw was the NL pitcher of the month in July going 4-1 with a 1.34 ERA, while Kelly has thrown 14 2-3 consecutive scoreless innings for the Cardinals in a bid to become more than just an occasional fifth starter. ... The Dodgers are 8-1 in Greinke's last nine starts.

DEFIANT A-ROD GETS 211-GAME BAN, WILL APPEAL CASE

Monday, 05 August 2013 23:45 Published in Sports

NEW YORK (AP) -- Defiant till the end, Alex Rodriguez is intent on evading baseball's most sweeping punishment since the Black Sox scandal.

Rodriguez was suspended through 2014 and All-Stars Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta and Everth Cabrera were banned 50 games apiece Monday when Major League Baseball disciplined 13 players for their relationship to Biogenesis of America, a Florida anti-aging clinic accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs.

The harshest penalty was reserved for Rodriguez, the New York Yankees slugger, a three-time Most Valuable Player and baseball's highest-paid star. He said he will appeal his suspension, which covers 211 games, by Thursday's deadline. And since arbitrator Fredric Horowitz isn't expected to rule until November or December at the earliest, Rodriguez was free to make his season debut Monday night and play the rest of this year.

Sidelined since hip surgery in January, Rodriguez rejoined the Yankees five hours after the suspension in a series opener at the Chicago White Sox, playing third base and batting fourth.

"The last seven months has been a nightmare, has been probably the worst time of my life for sure," Rodriguez said before the game.

Booed loudly each time he walked to the plate, Rodriguez went 1 for 4 in New York's 8-1 loss. He blooped a single to left field in the second inning, flied out in the fourth and sixth, then struck out in the eighth. He acknowledged he felt rusty in the field, though he made all his plays.

"It was fun to go out there and play the game again," Rodriguez said. "I love the fans here."

The other 12 players agreed to their 50-game penalties, giving them a chance to return for the playoffs.

Ryan Braun's 65-game suspension last month and previous penalties bring to 18 the total number of players sanctioned for their connection with Biogenesis.

At the center of it all was Rodriguez, once the greatest player of his time, reduced Monday night to saying that he was humbled, at 38, just to "have the opportunity to put on this uniform again" and adding if he didn't fight for his career, no one else would.

A-Rod's drug penalty was for "his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone over the course of multiple years," MLB said.

His punishment under the labor contract was "for attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the office of the commissioner's investigation."

In Chicago, Rodriguez wouldn't deny using PEDs, saying "when the time is right, there will be an opportunity to do all of that. I don't think that time is right now."

He added: "It's been the toughest fight of my life. By any means, am I out of the woods? This is probably just phase two just starting. It's not going to get easier. It's probably going to get harder."

Rodriguez admitted four years ago that he used PEDs while with Texas from 2001-03 but has repeatedly denied using them since. His penalty was more than double the previous high for a PED suspension, a 100-game ban given last year to San Francisco pitcher Guillermo Mota for a second offense.

"At some point we'll sit in front of an arbiter and give our case," Rodriguez said.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi, minutes after losing captain Derek Jeter for the third time this year, was ready to welcome A-Rod back. "I'm not here to judge people. That's not my job," Girardi said. "He's a player as long as he's in our clubhouse."

Girardi called the suspensions "another black eye for us, but we're trying to clean this game up."

The suspensions are thought to be the most at once for off-field conduct since 1921, when Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned eight White Sox players for life for throwing the 1919 World Series against Cincinnati: Shoeless Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Happy Felsch, Chick Gandil, Fred McMullin, Charles "Swede" Risberg, Buck Weaver and Claude "Lefty" Williams. They had been suspended by the team the previous year and were penalized by baseball even though they had been acquitted of criminal charges.

As for the modern-day All-Stars, Cruz, an outfielder, leads Texas in RBIs and Peralta has been a top hitter and shortstop for Detroit, a pair of teams in the midst of pennant races. They will be eligible to return for the postseason.

Others agreeing to 50-game bans included Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and outfielder Fernando Martinez; Philadelphia pitcher Antonio Bastardo; Seattle catcher Jesus Montero; New York Mets utilityman Jordany Valdespin and outfielder Cesar Puello; Houston pitcher Sergio Escalona; and free agent pitchers Fautino De Los Santos and Jordan Norberto.

While the players' association has fought many drug penalties in the past three decades, attitudes of its membership have shifted sharply in recent years and union staff encouraged settlements in the Biogenesis probe.

"The accepted suspensions announced today are consistent with the punishments set forth in the Joint Drug Agreement, and were arrived at only after hours of intense negotiations between the bargaining parties, the players and their representatives," union head Michael Weiner said. "For the player appealing, Alex Rodriguez, we agree with his decision to fight his suspension. We believe that the commissioner has not acted appropriately ... The union, consistent with its history, will defend his rights vigorously."

Fighting a brain tumor diagnosed a year ago, Weiner spoke in a raspy voice during a conference call and said the union's executive board will consider stiffer drug penalties when players meet in December.

But the union will fight Rodriguez's discipline.

"We've never had a 200-plus (game) penalty for a player who may have used drugs," he said. "And among other things, I just think that's way out of line."

A-Rod intimated Friday that New York did not want him to return. The Yankees answered Monday with a statement:

"We are compelled to address certain reckless and false allegations concerning the Yankees' role in this matter," the team said. "The New York Yankees in no way instituted and/or assisted MLB in the direction of this investigation; or used the investigation as an attempt to avoid its responsibilities under a player contract; or did its medical staff fail to provide the appropriate standard of care to Alex Rodriguez."

Rodriguez is making $28 million this year, and his salary drops to $25 million next year and $21 million in 2015. If the 211-game penalty is upheld, his lost pay could range from $30.6 million to $32.7 million, depending on when exactly the suspension is served.

Players have often succeeded at persuading arbitrators to overturn or shorten drug suspensions. In the era before the drug agreement, LaMarr Hoyt, Ferguson Jenkins, Pascual Perez and Willie Wilson were among those who had success in hearings, and Steve Howe's lifetime ban for a seventh suspension related to drugs or alcohol was cut to 119 days.

Weiner said a settlement prior to Horowitz's decision is possible but not likely. David Cornwell, an attorney for one of Rodriguez's three law firms, called the penalty an "unprecedented action."

Rodriguez's suspension might dampen his future chances for election to the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire all compiled big numbers, too, but voters blocked them from Cooperstown because of the drug cloud.

Though they lose part of their salaries, the stats and awards are safe for baseball players penalized in drug cases. Nothing is stripped from any record book or trophy case.

That's not always the case in other sports. Doping cost Lance Armstrong his seven Tour de France cycling titles and stripped away Olympic gold medals from sprinters Ben Johnson and Marion Jones.

Cruz attributed his action to a gastrointestinal infection, helicobacter pylori, and said he had lost 40 pounds following the 2011 season.

"I made an error in judgment that I deeply regret, and I accept full responsibility for that error," he said in a statement. "I should have handled the situation differently, and my illness was no excuse."

Peralta can rejoin Detroit for a season-ending three-game series at Miami - not far from the former office of Biogenesis.

In a statement released by the Tigers, Peralta said in "spring of 2012, I made a terrible mistake that I deeply regret." Peralta apologized to his teammates and "the great fans in Detroit," saying he knows he let "many good people down."

MLB's investigation began last year after San Francisco outfielder and All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera tested positive for elevated testosterone, as did Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon and San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal. The probe escalated in January when the Miami New Times published documents obtained from former Biogenesis associate Porter Fisher that linked several players to Biogenesis.

MLB said Melky Cabrera, Colon and Grandal will not receive additional discipline and it found no violations for Washington pitcher Gio Gonzalez and Baltimore infielder Danny Valencia, both linked to Biogenesis in media reports.

In June, baseball struck a deal for Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch to cooperate. After holding investigatory interviews with the players, MLB presented evidence to the players' union along with its intended penalties, starting the final round of negotiations.

"Those players who have violated the program have created scrutiny for the vast majority of our players, who play the game the right way," baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said. "We continue to attack this issue on every front - from science and research, to education and awareness, to fact-finding and investigative skills."

Picked first in the 1993 amateur draft, Rodriguez reached the majors at age 18 with Seattle and was an All-Star by 20. He seemed destined to become one of the greatest players in the history of the game, and appeared in line to break the all-time home run record - he ranks fifth with 647.

Yet for all his accomplishments, Rodriguez has been reviled by fans as much as celebrated, especially later in his career. His off-field antics, enormous paycheck and playoff failures have often overshadowed his feats at the plate.

The Yankees are now saddled with an aging star slowed by two hip operations. They still owe him around $94 million, raising questions about whether his dwindling production is worth that price.

CARDS DRUB REDS 15-2

Sunday, 04 August 2013 19:04 Published in Sports

CINCINNATI (AP) — Even when things go horribly wrong on the road, the St. Louis Cardinals can always count on one soothing stop. No matter how deep their slump, it'll end in Cincinnati.

 

Matt Carpenter broke his 0-for-23 slump with a bases-loaded double during the decisive rally, and the Cardinals ended a tough trip on the upswing by beating the Reds 15-2 on Sunday.

 

The Cardinals went 3-8 on a trip that included seven straight losses — four of them in Pittsburgh, allowing the Pirates to overtake them for the NL Central lead. On their final stop, an offense that couldn't do much of anything found a little bit of everything.

 

"Offensively, we did a terrific job," manager Mike Matheny said. "We had a little bit of everything — some power, some good situational hitting, made the (defensive) plays."

 

It's been like that against the Reds lately.

 

St. Louis took two of three at Great American Ball Park and has won its last six series against Cincinnati, its best such stretch against the Reds since 2003-04. The Cardinals lead the season series 8-4.

 

"Some teams you play better than others, but they've got our number for sure," said Reds starter Mike Leake (10-5), who gave up a season-high seven runs. "They play us tough. It's on us to try to figure them out because they've got us figured out for the most part."

 

The Cardinals scored their most runs against Cincinnati since 1993. They've scored at least 10 runs against the Reds in four games this season, the first time they've done that since 1980.

 

Carpenter's two-run double off the wall completed a five-run rally in the sixth against Leake and two relievers, setting up another blowout.

 

"It's a great feeling," Carpenter said. "It's even better that we come back and win the series in a convincing fashion. It was fun to join in on the action."

 

Matt Adams, David Freese and Tony Cruz homered for the Cardinals, who have scored 13, 13, 3 and 15 runs in their last four games.

 

St. Louis finished with 19 hits and a season high in runs. Every starter except Lance Lynn drove in at least one run.

 

Lynn (13-5) allowed four hits in eight innings, including Zack Cozart's two-run homer. Lynn struck out a season-high 11 and joined Adam Wainwright as 13-game winners in a rotation that has the NL's third-best ERA.

 

"I had pretty good command of all four pitches, and I was able to use all of them on both sides of the plate," Lynn said. "That makes it a lot easier to pitch. Between my last three starts, I've had the best stuff I've had all year. "

 

The Reds have dropped seven of nine, leaving the defending NL Central champions marooned in third place.

 

The Cardinals scored in the first inning of all three games of the series. They scored four off Bronson Arroyo on Friday night, one on Saturday and four more on Sunday off Leake, who had allowed a total of four runs in his last three starts combined.

 

Matt Holliday and Freese had RBI doubles, and Adams hit a two-run homer — his first since July 6 — for the 4-0 lead only 19 pitches into the game. Holliday improved to 9 for 20 career off Leake.

 

The Cardinals sent 10 batters to the plate for five runs in the sixth, aided by a pair of errors. They opened the inning with five consecutive hits, and Carpenter's two-run double off Logan Ondrusek made it 9-2 and gave the second baseman relief from his personal slump.

 

"At that point, I was so relieved to just put the barrel of the bat on the ball that I didn't care what happened," Carpenter said.

 

The Cardinals hit only nine homers in July, including one after the All-Star break. They had six in three days at Great American Ball Park.

 

Reds third baseman Todd Frazier went without a hit for his ninth straight game, leaving him in an 0-for-28 slump. It's the longest by a Reds player since Drew Stubbs went 0 for 32 midway through last season.

 

Notes: The Cardinals play 17 of their next 24 games at Busch Stadium. They open a 10-game homestand on Monday against the Dodgers, with Wainwright trying for his 14th victory. ... The Reds are off on Monday before resuming their homestand with a pair of games against the Athletics. ... Cardinals OF Carlos Beltran got a day of rest. ... Reds LH reliever Sean Marshall and RH starter Johnny Cueto still haven't resumed throwing. Marshall, on the DL since May 24 with a sore left shoulder, had a setback before the All-Star break. Cueto has been sidelined since June 5 with a strained muscle in the back of his shoulder.

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