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Stadium workout helps Rams build enthusiasm

Sunday, 04 August 2013 18:51 Published in Sports

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Moving practice indoors along with a fan festival gave the St. Louis Rams a chance to build some enthusiasm. Gave the rookies a feel for the stadium, too.

Safety T.J. McDonald was a bit overwhelmed at first walking into the Edward Jones Dome in front of a crowd estimated at 15,000 before settling down to business Saturday for what essentially was another full-pad practice with little tackling.

"I kind of had to just step back for a little bit and like 'Wow!'" McDonald said. "It's a good feeling to see the Ram in the middle of the field."

The top attendance at the team facility so far is about 2,300, so the cheers were a lot louder even in a facility that holds about 67,000.

"Definitely more adrenaline going," McDonald said. "You want to hear the oohs and aahs in your favor, not because you gave something up."

McDonald never played indoors at USC, and wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey's only dome experience at West Virginia was at Syracuse.

"It felt good walking down that tunnel for the first time," Austin said. "Even though it was a scrimmage I approach everything like it's a game and I made a couple plays, so it felt good."

It felt good afterward, too.

"I'm just glad that anybody wants my autograph right now," Austin said.

Quarterback Sam Bradford thought the kids handled the newness pretty well and came away believing the offense was even faster on the artificial surface.

"It was exciting to get down here and just change it up a little bit," Bradford said. "It's always fun to get out here in front of this many fans."

The biggest impact addition on offense could be rangy tight end Jared Cook, who made several nice catches. Like Austin, Cook also can line up in the backfield.

"I think you saw today my trust with Jared," Bradford. "I've got all the trust in the world that if I put the ball up there he's going to go get it."

At first blush, coach Jeff Fisher was pleased with everything in an injury-free workout capped by a scrimmage involving players down the depth chart to end "phase one" of training camp. Players have a day off Sunday before starting preparations for the preseason opener Thursday night at Cleveland.

"I think the goal for us is to just go out and execute," Bradford said. "It'll be our base stuff and it's important that we go out and execute the way we know we can."

Fisher was appreciative of the fan reception, while noting it also means they're anxious for the franchise to field their first winning team in a decade.

"I would make an assumption that the expectation level is much higher than it was," Fisher said. "That's a fair assumption. That's where we are, too."

Before the practice, the Rams held fan forums involving vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff and general manager Les Snead.

Kicker Greg Zuerlein had the distance on a pair of line-drive 64-yard field goal attempts with no rush that were wide left. He set a franchise record with a 60-yarder as a rookie last October.

WESTBROOK STRUGGLES, CARDINALS FALL TO REDS 8-3

Saturday, 03 August 2013 22:05 Published in Sports

CINCINNATI (AP) — Jake Westbrook's sinker took too much of a dive.

The right-hander had trouble with walks on Saturday night, helping the Cincinnati Reds break out of their week-long offensive funk with an 8-3 victory that evened their series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Devin Mesoraco drove in three runs with a pair of homers, and the Reds got only their fourth win in 11 games against their NL Central rival. Cincinnati had scored fewer than four runs in each of their last nine games head-to-head.

Westbrook (7-6) and the bullpen couldn't keep it going.

"I couldn't finish off innings," Westbrook said. "I'd get a couple of quick outs and I couldn't put them away. That was a subpar performance for me. I felt like I pitched better today than in my last start. I was making decent pitches."

Just not enough of them, especially with two outs. Westbrook gave up five runs in five innings, all with two outs. He walked five batters and three of them scored.

"He had one of the best sinkers he's had this year," manager Mike Matheny said. "It was really diving. Walks seemed to hurt him, especially after two outs, but overall, his stuff was better than his line showed.

"A lot of times, the ball was moving too much. He had a good one today."

The loss knocked second-place St. Louis back to 1½ games behind Pittsburgh. Cincinnati remained 5½ out.

It was a significant win for Cincinnati, which has lost six of its last eight games overall to stay mired in third place.

"It's pretty big," left-hander Tony Cingrani said. "We've been on a pretty rough stretch."

And not just against St. Louis. The defending NL Central champions are mired in third place because their offense has gone missing. Jack Hannahan singled home a pair of runs in the first inning, and the Reds were back in the swing.

Mesoraco hit a solo shot in the eighth off Michael Blazek for the first multihomer game of his career. Shin-Soo Choo followed with a two-run homer off Blazek.

Cingrani (5-1) and four relievers contained an offense that had scored 26 runs in the last two games, allowing four hits.

The Cardinals ended a seven-game losing streak by beating the Pirates 13-0 on Thursday, then came to Cincinnati and drubbed the Reds 13-3 on Friday night. It was the first time since 2003 that they scored 13 runs in back-to-back games.

They got off to a fast start against Cingrani, making his first career appearance against the Cardinals. Jon Jay opened the game with a walk and came around on Carlos Beltran's double. Cingrani bounced his next pitch, letting Beltran move to third, but that's all the Cardinals would manage as the left-hander escaped the 30-pitch inning down only 1-0.

Cingrani left after the Cardinals loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth. Grounders by Rob Johnson and pinch-hitter Matt Carpenter drove in runs that cut it to 5-3.

Westbrook threw a five-hitter for a 10-0 win over Cincinnati on April 10. He lost his shutout right away this time. Westbrook gave up a hit and a pair of walks in the first, including an intentional walk to Jay Bruce that brought up Hannahan with the bases loaded and two outs. Hannahan, who was 0 for 4 career against Westbrook, lined a 2-2 pitch to center for a 2-1 lead.

It was the second game in a row that Westbrook had trouble in the opening inning. He gave up four runs in the first inning of a 9-2 loss in Pittsburgh on Monday.

Mesoraco's homer was only the fifth that Westbrook has allowed in his 16 starts this season.

Notes: Carpenter (0 for 20) and Reds 3B Todd Frazier (0 for 25) were out of the starting lineups. Carpenter got into the game as a pinch hitter. Frazier got in as part of a double switch. Neither got a hit. ... The Reds optioned RH reliever Curtis Partch to Triple-A Louisville a day after he struggled in the series opener. RH Pedro Villarreal was called up for the third time. ... RH Jonathan Broxton (elbow) threw 14 pitches in the bullpen without problem. He'll throw again on Sunday and could be activated off the DL next week. ... Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick threw a ceremonial pitch.

CARDS BEAT THE REDS 13-3

Saturday, 03 August 2013 07:59 Published in Sports

CINCINNATI (AP) — Before the opening game of their series against the rival St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker had an inkling how it would go.

"We were struggling on the road trip and they were struggling too, so something has to break here," Baker said.

It was the Cardinals who broke out on Friday night.

David Freese set the tone with a bases-loaded double in the first inning, and Daniel Descalso hit two of the Cardinals' three homers as St. Louis pulled away to a 13-3 victory that left the Reds stalled in the NL Central race.

The Cardinals have emerged from a deep hitting slump by scoring 13 runs in each of their last two games. It's the first time this season they've had double-digit run totals in consecutive games.

"These guys were cold coming in here and all of a sudden — Boom! — everybody looks hot," Baker said afterward.

The Reds? Still in their scoring rut.

Shelby Miller (11-7) limited Cincinnati's slumping offense to two singles over the first five innings before Joey Votto hit a three-run homer in the sixth. The Reds managed only six hits, five of them singles. They've been held to three or fewer runs in six of their last seven games.

In every respect, it was a night the Reds wanted to forget.

"This is a game that depends upon how short a memory you have," outfielder Jay Bruce said.

Bronson Arroyo (9-9) matched his season high by giving up seven runs in only 3 2-3 innings, his shortest outing of the season.

Freese also had a bases-loaded walk, giving him four RBIs. Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran each had three hits as St. Louis piled up 14 in all. The 13 runs were the most allowed by Cincinnati this season.

"It's usually feast or famine with these guys," Arroyo said. "With a lineup like that to give up four runs in the first inning, it's very difficult. They get momentum going and start to turn it up."

The Cardinals improved to 7-3 against the Reds this season, keeping the defending NL Central champions at arm's length. They moved to a half-game behind first-place Pittsburgh. Cincinnati stayed 5½ games back.

Both teams were coming off tough weeks set up by a lack of offense.

The Cardinals lost four of five in Pittsburgh and seven straight overall, allowing the Pirates to take over the top spot. St. Louis managed a total of only 10 runs during the seven-game losing streak, which ended with a 13-0 victory in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

The Reds had trouble scoring runs on the West Coast while dropping five of their last six games there.

Which one would break out first in the weekend series?

The Cardinals. Emphatically.

They quickly got to Arroyo, who had trouble getting his pitches to go where he wanted. The Cardinals loaded the bases on a pair of hits and a walk with one out in the first, and Freese doubled off the wall in center for a 3-0 lead. Jon Jay followed with an RBI single on Arroyo's 24th pitch.

It never got much better for Arroyo, who has faced the Cardinals more than any other opponent in his career and had far more bad times than good. He fell to 8-16 in 37 career starts against St. Louis.

Curtis Partch relieved Arroyo in the fourth and walked the first three batters he faced, including Matt Holliday and Freese with the bases loaded. Jay's double made it 9-0.

Descalso hit a pair of solo shots for the first multihomer game of his career, and Craig had a two-run shot as St. Louis pulled away. The Cardinals hit only nine homers in July, including one after the All-Star break.

NOTES: Cardinals leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter went 0 for 6, extending his slump to 0 for 18. ... Reds 3B Todd Frazier went hitless for the seventh straight game. He's in an 0-for-24 slump, the worst of his career. ... RH reliever Jonathan Broxton is scheduled to make his second appearance of a rehab stint on Saturday. He's been on the DL since June 15 with a sore elbow. ... LH Tony Cingrani makes his first career start against the Cardinals on Saturday. Jake Westbrook goes for St. Louis. ... Sixteen couples were married on the field pregame by the man who wears the Gapper mascot costume.

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