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13 IS LUCKY FOR WAINWRIGHT

Sunday, 21 July 2013 19:24 Published in Sports

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Eric Stults threw a career-high 124 pitches, finessing his way through a tough lineup after a pregame strategy session emphasized avoiding big innings.

One bad inning was enough to beat the San Diego Padres lefty.

The St. Louis Cardinals did all of their scoring in the third to back Adam Wainwright's NL-leading 13th win in a 3-2 victory on Sunday that ended with Allen Craig's leaping catch at the wall on pinch-hitter Jedd Gyorko's bid for the go-ahead hit.

"When they get guys on base, they get up there and they want to swing early," Stults said. "That third inning got away a little bit."

Stults (8-8) fell short in a bid to win three straight starts for the first time in his career. He allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings, stranding two runners in the second and fifth.

"He ran into some longer innings but he did his thing. He kept us in the game," Padres manager Bud Black said. "Gave up the three-spot and five zeros against a very good offensive club. We just fell short."

The first four Cardinals reached in the third inning that was capped by David Freese's two-run double. Center fielder Alexi Amarista missed catching the drive on a diving attempt, and the ball went to the wall, but Freese was thrown out at third on strong relays from right fielder Will Venable and Cabrera.

The Cardinals had just one more runner in scoring position the rest of the way.

Stults said Freese jumped on a first-pitch changeup that he left up in the zone.

"I was trying to get ahead of him," Stults said. "If I throw that ball down, it's probably a ground ball."

Yonder Alonso singled three times with an RBI for the Padres. They had runners at second and third in the ninth after pinch hitter Jesus Guzman's ground-rule double. Black thought Amarista would have scored from first if the ball hadn't bounced into the stands.

"I was hoping that maybe a fan reached out and touched it but I guess it hopped in the stands," Black said. "A bad break."

Then Gyorko's drive came up just short.

"Right off the bat, I thought positive thoughts," Black said. "It looked as though it had a chance but the more Craig was backing up, my thoughts went the other way."

Craig has 12 hits and six RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak for the Cardinals, who took two of three in both series against the Padres this season. The St. Louis defense turned three double plays behind Wainwright (13-5), who allowed two runs. He struck out seven and walked two.

Craig's catch preserved Edward Mujica's 28th save in 30 chances. The Cardinals have won nine of 12 and have the majors' best record. The Padres have lost 19 of 24.

Wainwright matched his season high for walks after entering with a NL-low 15 in 146 2-3 innings, but is 3-1 in his two-walk games. He had only one perfect inning but got key outs with breaking balls and struck out Everth Cabrera with a man on third to end the seventh.

He entered with a 1.34 career ERA against the Padres.

Matt Carpenter opened the third with a double off the base of the wall in right-center for his second straight hit. He leads the majors with 39 multi-hit games.

Cabrera led off the game with an opposite-field double and scored on Alonso's two-out hit. The Padres cut the deficit to a run in the sixth on a double by Carlos Quentin, another Alonso hit and a double-play ball.

Notes: Thousands lined up outside Busch Stadium several hours before game time for Stan Musial replica statues. The near sellout of 44,033 was the Cardinals' 14th straight crowd of at least 43,000. ... Carpenter leads the NL with 31 doubles. ... St. Louis OF Carlos Beltran got a day off due to general soreness, although he told manager Mike Matheny he could play. ... The Cardinals have a day off before rookie Shelby Miller (9-6, 2.92) makes his first start after a 12-day break against the Phillies on Tuesday. Andrew Cashner (5-5, 3.81) pitches for San Diego in the opener of a four-game set in Milwaukee. ... Padres outfielders made a pair of outstanding plays. Venable's sliding catch left a long skid mark in foul territory in the fourth, and LF Quentin snatched Craig's liner at shoe-top level to end the seventh. ... Stults threw a season-high 124 pitches.

US BEATS EL SALVADOR IN GOLD CUP

Sunday, 21 July 2013 19:22 Published in Sports

BALTIMORE (AP) - The passes were sharp, the defense sound and the goals plentiful.

The United States couldn't have played much better, and the timing could not have been more perfect.

Clarence Goodson and Joe Corona scored during an eight-minute span of the first half, and the U.S. cruised past El Salvador 5-1 Sunday to advance to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Eddie Johnson, Landon Donovan and Mix Diskerud added second-half goals for the Americans, who will next play in Dallas on Wednesday against the winner of the Honduras-Costa Rica match.

Honduras and Costa Rica met Sunday night as part of a doubleheader before a sellout crowd at the home stadium of the Baltimore Ravens.

Assists aren't an official statistic in the Gold Cup, but Donovan set up three scores in a dazzling performance.

"I think Landon proved again today how valuable he is and now he can make a difference," coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "This game was important for coaches to see who is a difference maker. Overall, we see our team clicking more and playing better and better."

To say the least.

The U.S. has won nine straight full internationals - a record for the country's national team. The Americans have also prevailed in seven of their last eight Gold Cup matches, the exception being a 4-2 loss to Mexico in 2011 final.

"We are trying to catch up with the big teams in the world," Klinsmann said. "It's all about speed. I'm not talking about physical speed. I'm talking about mental speed, passing speed with every player going both ways. That's what we're working to. This is a process and I think that process is coming along."

Rodolfo Zelaya scored for El Salvador, 1-19-7 overall against the U.S.

"Collectively, they're a very good team," El Salvador coach Agustin Castillo said through a translator. "They almost play by memory. They can find the spaces. It almost seems like every time they pass the ball into a space it's going to nobody, then somebody appears and actually meets the ball. Good work, good movement."

And good enough to claim a fifth Gold Cup.

"They're going through a very good time," Castillo said. "They're the best team I've seen in this tournament. They are a candidate to win it all."

Goodson put the U.S. ahead in the 21st minute by converting a crossing pass from Donovan, who gained possession near the end line within 15 feet of the net. It was Goodson's fifth career goal, the second in the Gold Cup.

Minutes later, U.S. goalkeeper Nick Rimando kicked aside a straight-on shot by Lester Blanco Pineda and batted away the subsequent rebound at the right corner of the net.

In the 29th minute, Corona gained possession at the top of the penalty area and used his right foot to line a shot into the left corner of the net for a 2-0 lead.

That drained much of the enthusiasm from the strong contingent of blue-and-white clad El Salvador fans.

The U.S. continued to dominate, and it took several strong saves by Dagoberto Portillo to keep El Salvador within striking distance.

Momentum shifted in the 39th minute, when El Salvador's Rodolfo Zelaya was fouled by DaMarcus Beasley and converted the penalty kick to make it 2-1.

It was perhaps the lone flaw in an otherwise lopsided match.

"The difference today was scoring early goals," Donovan said. "Even though they got a questionable goal back, we still kept going and our effort was really good. Obviously, to score five goals is a bonus."

Johnson added an insurance goal with a header off a pass from Donovan in the 60th minute. The score came 14 seconds after Johnson entered as a substitute.

Donovan converted a breakaway in the 78th minute. He is only player in history to score in six Gold Cup tournaments.

Six minutes later, as a sudden rain shower began to pick up intensity, Diskerud found the back of the net.

Five goals, five scorers. That's balance.

"It seems like we've been playing with each other for a while," Jose Torres said. "We move the ball well, we know each other well - where we're going to move. I think we're looking good right now."

MICKELSON TAKES THE BRITISH OPEN

Sunday, 21 July 2013 19:19 Published in Sports

GULLANE, Scotland (AP) - One of the greatest final rounds in a major. Two of the best shots he ever struck with a 3-wood. The third leg of the Grand Slam.

Phil Mickelson never imagined any of this happening at the British Open.

No wonder he never took his hand off the base of that silver claret jug as he talked about the best Sunday he ever had at a major. Five shots out of the lead, Mickelson blew past Tiger Woods, caught up to Lee Westwood and Masters champion Adam Scott, and won golf's oldest championship with the lowest final round in his 80 majors.

With four birdies over the last six holes, Mickelson closed with a 5-under 66 for a three-shot win over Henrik Stenson.

No longer is he mystified by links golf, and he has his name etched in that jug to prove it.

"This is such an accomplishment for me because I just never knew if I'd be able to develop the game to play links golf effectively," Mickelson said. "To play the best round arguably of my career, to putt better than I've ever putted, to shoot the round of my life ... it feels amazing to win the claret jug."

Introduced as the "champion golfer of the year," he held the oldest trophy in golf over his head to show it off to one side of the massive grandstand lining the 18th green at Muirfield, and then the other. An hour earlier, they gave the 43-year-old Mickelson the loudest ovation of the week as he walked up the final fairway.

He drained an 8-foot birdie putt and thrust his arms in the air, hugged caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay and whispered to him, "I did it." After signing for the lowest final round ever at Muirfield, Mickelson huddled with his wife and three children - back from a quick holiday to Spain - for a long embrace and waited for the others to finish.

Westwood, who started the day with a two-shot lead, fell behind for the first time all day with a bogey on the par-3 13th hole and never recovered, closing with a 75.

Scott took the outright lead with a 4-foot birdie on the 11th, and then closed as sloppily as he did last year when he threw away the Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. He made four straight bogeys starting at the 13th, and a final bogey on the 18th gave him a 72. At least he has a green jacket from the Master to console him.

Woods, in his best position to win a major since the crisis in his personal life, stumbled badly on his way to a 74 and was never a serious challenger.

"We know that he goes for broke, and if that's how he was feeling and pulling it off, he's got the ability to do that," Scott said about Mickelson. "And he's gone and won an Open easily. So every credit to him."

At the end of a rough-and-tumble week along the Firth of Forth, Mickelson was the only player under par at 3-under 283. In his four other majors - three Masters and one PGA Championship - he had never started the final round more than one shot behind.

"I don't care either way how I got this trophy - I got it," Mickelson said. "And it just so happened to be with one of the best rounds of my career, which is really the way I've played my entire career. I've always tried to go out and get it. I don't want anybody to hand it to me. I want to go out and get it. And today, I did."

Westwood, whose only other 54-hole lead in a major ended with Mickelson winning the Masters, paid tribute to Lefty for what will go down as one of the great closing rounds in a major.

"When you birdie four of the last six of a round any day, that's good going," Westwood said. "With a decent breeze blowing and some tough flags out there, it's obviously a pretty good experience. When you do it in a major championship, it's an even better experience."

But this major? Phil Mickelson?

He had only contended twice in two decades at golf's oldest championship. One week after he won the Scottish Open in a playoff on the links-styled course of Castle Stuart, Mickelson was simply magical on the back nine of a brown, brittle Muirfield course that hasn't played this tough since 1966.

Tied for the lead, Mickelson smashed a 3-wood onto the green at the par-5 17th to about 25 feet for a two-putt birdie, and finished in style with a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th to match the lowest score of this championship.

"Those two 3-woods were the two best shots of the week, to get it on that green," Mickelson said. "As I was walking up to the green, that was when I realized that this is very much my championship in my control. And I was getting a little emotional. I had to kind of take a second to slow down my walk and try to regain composure."

Mickelson figured a par on the 18th would be tough for anyone to catch him. When the ball dropped in the center of the cup, he raised both arms in the air to celebrate his fifth career major, tying him with the likes of Seve Ballesteros and Byron Nelson.

"Best round I've ever seen him play," said his caddie, Jim "Bones" Mackay.

His final surge was right about the time Westwood and Scott began to fold.

Scott, trying to join an exclusive list of players who have won a green jacket and a claret jug in the same year, made a remarkable recovery from the dunes right of the par-3 13th hole, only to miss the 7-foot par putt. He took three putts for bogeys on the next two holes - from long range on the 14th, and from 20 feet on the 15th - and found a bunker on the next.

Westwood started to lose his grip on the jug with bogeys on the seventh and eighth, and failing to birdie the downwind, par-5 ninth. Presented with birdie chances early on the back nine, his putting stroke began to look tentative.

Westwood and Scott tied for third with Ian Poulter, who played a four-hole stretch in 5-under around the turn and closed with a 67. At 1-over 285, he canceled a flight home in case of a playoff. Moments later, with Mickelson pulling away, the outcome was clear.

Jack Nicklaus said on Twitter, "Phil's round was incredible. After his bad break on 16 and to then get up and down showed a lot of guts. And the two great shots at 17 ended the tournament."

Making this even sweeter for Mickelson is that just one month ago he lost out on yet another chance to win the U.S. Open, the missing link of a career Grand Slam. Mickelson twice made bogey with wedge in his hand on the back nine at Merion and had his record sixth runner-up finish.

Woods, Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen are the only players to win all four professional majors. Mickelson figured it would be the British Open that would hold him back. Now he has the jug, and he never took his hand off it during his press conference.

"I think that if I'm able to win the U.S. Open and complete the career Grand Slam, I think that that's the sign of the complete, great player," Mickelson said. "And I'm a leg away. And it's been a tough leg for me."

For now, Mickelson takes his place among an elite list of winners at Muirfield, which is considered the fairest of the links on the British Open rotation. All but two of the Open champions at Muirfield are in the World Hall of Fame. Mickelson is the only winner who already has been inducted.

It was the 43rd win of his PGA Tour career. The guy who once couldn't win the big one now has five majors in the last nine years. This one returns him to No. 2 in the world ranking for the first time in nearly three years.

Woods, meanwhile, now has gone 17 majors without winning, and that pursuit of Nicklaus and his benchmark of 18 majors - Woods is stuck on 14 - doesn't look any closer. He three-putted twice in four holes at the start of the round and looked like just another contender on this Sunday.

He attributed his poor day to not getting the right pace on the greens, which he said were progressively slower.

"I felt like I was really playing well today, actually the whole week, " said Woods, who has not broken 70 in the final round of his last seven majors. "I really hit so many good shots and really had control of my ball this week. As I said, it was just trying to get the speed, and I just didn't get it."

 

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