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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- The Los Angeles Angels were confident about extending their winning streak to eight games, which would have matched their longest of the season. Jerome Williams didn't give them much of a chance.

Williams was charged with seven runs, four hits and four walks in just 1 2-3 innings of a 12-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night. The right-hander had not given up more than three bases on balls in any of his previous 17 starts.

"I think Jerome had a good idea of what he wanted to do going into the game, but I think he tried to get a little bit too fine," manager Mike Scioscia said. "They've got some guys over there that are swinging the bat well. In the second inning, I don't know if it was a situation where he really felt comfortable putting the ball in some areas and he tried to get a little too fine, especially early in the count and he got behind some guys."

Jon Jay had three RBIs, including a two-run homer off center fielder Mike Trout's glove during St. Louis' seven-run second inning. Matt Carpenter, batting leadoff in front of Jay, also homered and drove in three runs to help keep the Cardinals two games behind Pittsburgh in the NL Central.

One night after the Angels scored all of their runs in the second inning of a series-opening 5-1 victory, the Cardinals sent 12 men to the plate in the second after Williams had set them down 1-2-3 in the first.

"In the first inning he looked sharp, had good velocity and really good action on his sinker," Scioscia said. "At the start of the second inning he looked a little bit tentative, and the walks obviously compounded that inning. He just couldn't minimize the damage and the inning got away from him."

The seven-run rally included a two-run double by David Descalso, and a two-run homer by Jay that Trout had in his glove for an instant before it popped out as his arm made contact with the top of the fence.

Yadier Molina, who raised his NL-leading average to .352 after going 3 for 4 with a walk, greeted Garrett Richards with an RBI single that delivered the seventh run.

After Hank Conger's two-run homer in the bottom half, David Freese scored an unearned run in the Cardinals' third when Richards mishandled a throw from first baseman Mark Trumbo on Carpenter's two-out grounder behind the bag.

St. Louis increased the margin to 10-2 in the fifth on a run-scoring, ground-rule double by Carpenter and an RBI single by Jay, who had driven in only one run in his previous 35 at-bats coming in. It was only his second game this season with three or more RBIs, the other on May 4 when he had four at Milwaukee.

Carpenter ended the scoring in the eighth with his eighth homer, a solo shot off Billy Buckner.

"After winning that many in a row, you almost always think you're due for a butt-kicking," Angels right fielder Josh Hamilton said. "You'd rather lose one like this than a really close one, but you've got to put it behind you."

The Cardinals scored one more run than the Angels had allowed in their previous six games combined.

"Matt Carpenter sets the tone for us, and he had a terrific game," manager Mike Matheny said. "He put together good at-bats and he doesn't give any away. It was also nice to see John Jay have some real nice at-bats. We need to get him going, and today was a real good indicator that he's on the right path. He's been making some adjustments that are allowing him to have good at-bats, and it worked out for him today."

Shelby Miller (9-6) struck out six over six innings and allowed five hits. The right-hander was coming off back-to-back losses against two other AL West clubs, including a 6-1 defeat last Friday at Oakland in which he lasted only 1 2-3 innings and gave up five runs.

"I wouldn't say I was any fresher tonight," Miller said. "I mean, I threw 51 pitches in the second inning at Oakland and that's going to wear your arm down moreso than going eight innings and throwing 100 pitches. But I felt strong, so I basically wanted to try to go deep in the ballgame."

NOTES: Matheny caught Williams when they were teammates in San Francisco during the 2005 season. ... The Angels have committed 61 errors, the second-most in the AL. The Cardinals have made 34, the fewest in the NL. ... Howie Kendrick's 102 hits are the most by an Angels second baseman before the All-Star break. ... St. Louis LF Matt Holliday didn't play for the second straight night because of a pinched nerve in his neck. ... Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright was named the NL pitcher of the month for June after going 4-2 with a 1.77 ERA in six starts, including complete-game 7-1 victories over San Francisco and Oakland. ... Molina was back in the fifth spot in the batting order, after hitting in the two hole the previous six games and going 7 for 25 with a homer and three RBIs. ... Cardinals LF Allen Craig drew three walks in the first four innings, matching the total he had in 116 plate appearances over his previous 28 games. He has 18 this season in 338 plate appearances.

Thursday, 04 July 2013 10:05
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ST. LOUIS – St. Louis Blues Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today the club has agreed to terms with defenseman Jordan Leopold on a two-year contract.

Leopold, 32, posted two assists in 15 regular season games with the Blues after the club acquired him from Buffalo on Mar. 31 last season.  In addition, Leopold dressed in all six games for the Blues during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Overall, the 6’1, 206-pound defenseman has appeared in 10 National Hockey League (NHL) seasons including stints with Calgary, Colorado, Florida, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and St. Louis.  For his career, Leopold has registered 204 points (65 goals, 139 assists) and 268 penalty minutes in 625 regular season games as well as 16 assists in 65 postseason games.

The Golden Valley, Minnesota native was originally drafted by Anaheim in the 2nd round (44th overall) of the 1999 Entry Draft.

Wednesday, 03 July 2013 15:53
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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Jered Weaver earned his second win of an injury-plagued season with help from a five-run second inning, and the Los Angeles Angels extended their winning streak to seven games Tuesday night with a 5-1 victory over St. Louis in the Cardinals' first game at Angel Stadium.

St. Louis was the only National League club that had never played at the "Big A," having hosted the three previous interleague series between the teams in 2002, 2007 and 2010.

Three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols, who spent his first 12 major league seasons with the Cardinals before signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels in December 2011 as a free agent, played his first game against his former club and was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts and a walk as the designated hitter while Mark Trumbo started at first base.

The first time Pujols came up, he tapped catcher Yadier Molina's shin guard with his bat and Molina tapped Pujols on the back of the helmet with his glove - a subtle but meaningful display of affection and respect between two All-Stars who were teammates for nine seasons and won two World Series rings together. Pujols then struck out, and Molina threw out J.B. Shuck at second for an inning-ending double play.

Weaver (2-4) allowed a run, six hits and no walks over seven innings. He struck out five in his ninth start of the year, working with runners on base in every inning but the seventh.

The All-Star right-hander, who became a 20-game winner for the first time last year before a broken bone in his non-pitching arm sidelined him for more than six weeks this season, ended a streak of five winless starts that began after his 3-1 victory against the Dodgers on May 29 at Angel Stadium - his first game back from the injury.

The Cardinals loaded the bases in the eighth against Kevin Jepsen. Scott Downs came in and struck out rookie Matt Adams before finishing a spectacular 3-6-1 double play, after Trumbo made a slick play in the hole on a hard-hit grounder by David Freese.

Lance Lynn (10-3) gave up five runs and nine hits in six innings, striking out eight. The 26-year-old right-hander, coming off a 4-3 loss last Wednesday at Houston, has dropped back-to-back outings for the first time in 1 1/2 big league seasons spanning 48 starts.

The Angels sent 10 batters to the plate in the second. Lynn gave up singles to six of his first seven hitters, including run-scoring hits by Trumbo, Alberto Callaspo, Erick Aybar and Shuck. Aybar scored when second baseman Matt Carpenter misplayed Mike Trout's grounder up the middle for an error with a chance to force Shuck. Lynn ended the inning by striking out Pujols and Josh Hamilton.

Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday was a late scratch because of tightness in his neck, hampering a lineup that had averaged a league-best 7.04 runs of support for Lynn in his other 16 starts this season. Molina was 2 for 4, raising his NL-leading average to .347.

The Cardinals got on the board in the fourth. Allen Craig reached on an infield single, was held up at third on a double by Adams and scored on a groundout by Freese.

NOTES: A ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Stan Musial's grandson, Brian Schwarze, with Pujols as his catcher. Musial, who died on Jan. 19 at age 92, was honored with a video tribute following the first inning. "Stan was my buddy," Pujols said. "I wish I would have had more opportunities to talk to him. When he walked into the clubhouse, it was like a light that was so bright. It was amazing. Everybody would stop what they were doing." ... Shortly after Pujols joined the Angels, he took offense to promotional billboards put up throughout Southern California that heralded him as "El Hombre" - or "The Man." Pujols requested they be taken down, saying that only Musial - whose moniker was "Stan The Man" - should ever be referred to in that manner. ... The Angels wore circular patches with Musial's name and No. 6 on the front of their jerseys, which they will do throughout this series. The idea for the unique tribute came during spring training. "It's out of the respect that everyone in baseball has for Stan Musial and his legacy, and obviously the connection with Albert," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We wanted to honor a great person and a great ballplayer in a very classy way, and we're proud to wear them." ... Former Angels Jim Edmonds, Scott Spiezio, David Eckstein and Jeff Weaver all played significant roles for the Cardinals during their 2006 championship season. Eckstein was the World Series MVP, and Weaver won the Series clincher against Detroit's Justin Verlander. ... The Cardinals won five of the nine meetings between the teams in St. Louis.

Wednesday, 03 July 2013 00:08
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ST. LOUIS – St. Louis Blues Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today that the club has extended qualifying offers to eight players including Alex Pietrangelo, Chris Stewart, Jake Allen, Kris Russell, Evgeny Grachev, Philip McRae, Cade Fairchild and Tyler Shattock.  The qualifying offers will allow the Blues to retain the negotiating rights for each player.

Tuesday, 02 July 2013 21:28
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NEWARK  – The St. Louis Blues selected four total players in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft in Newark.  With their first pick overall, the Blues selected defenseman Thomas Vannelli in the second round, 47th overall.  The Blues then traded the 83rd, 94th and 113th overall picks to Edmonton in exchange for an additional second round pick (57th overall), which they used to select forward William Carrier.  In addition, the Blues sent the 203rd overall pick and a 4th round pick in 2014 to Nashville in exchange for a fourth round pick (112th overall), which they used to draft St. Louis native, foward Zach Pochiro.  With their final pick, the Blues drafted defenseman Santeri Saari in the sixth round, 173rd overall.

Vannelli, 18, split last season between Minnetonka of the Minnesota High School League (MSHSL) and Team USA (U-18) of the United States Hockey League (USHL), leading Minnetonka defensemen with 31 points (eight goals, 23 assists) in 25 games while recording two points (one goal, one assist) in 14 games with Team USA.   In addition, Vannelli appeared in five games during the 2012 USA Hockey Select 17 Player Development Camp registering six points (one goal, five assists) in six games.  In 2011-12, the Minneapolis, Minnesota native also led Minnetonka defensemen with 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) in 28 games.  The 6’2”, 165-pound defenseman was ranked 44thamong North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.

Carrier, 18, has spent the past three seasons with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s (QMJHL) Cape Breton Screaming Eagles including 2012-13, when he led the club as an Assistant Captain with 42 points including 16 goals and 26 assists to go along with 41 penalty minutes in 34 games.  In addition, Carrier served as the lone representative for his team at the 2012 Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Canada-Russia Super Series, appearing in two games.  In 2011-12, the 6’2, 198-pound forward finished second on the team with 70 points including 27 goals and 43 assists to go along with 65 penalty minutes in 66 games.  Carrier also helped Team Canada earn the Bronze Medal at the 2012 Under-18 World Championship, dressing in all seven games.  In 2010-11, his QMJHL rookie season, Carrier posted 12 points including eight goals and four assists as well as 54 penalty minutes in 61 games.  The La Salle, Quebec native was ranked 18thamong North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
      Pochiro, 19, appeared in 65 games for the Western Hockey League’s Prince George Cougars in 2012-13, ranking third on the club with 39 points including 15 goals and 24 assists while leading the Cougars with 105 penalty minutes.  In 2011-12, the 6’1, 161-pound forward dressed in 52 games for the North American Hockey League’s (NAHL) Wichita Falls Wildcats, leading the club with 34 points including 18 goals and 16 assists to go along with 154 penalty minutes.  A native of St. Louis, Pochiro was ranked 173rd among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.

Saari, 18, dressed in 46 games for Jokerit Jr. of the Finland-Jr. League in 2012-13, posting 23 points including five goals and 18 assists to go along with 34 penalty minutes.  In addition, the 6’2, 191-pound defenseman dressed in seven games with K-Vantaa of the Finland-2 League as well as two games with Jokerit Helsinki of Finland’s SM-liiga.  In 2011-12, Saari appeared in 13 games with Jokerit Jr. logging four points (two goals, two assists) and 10 penalty minutes while also registering 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists) and 48 penalty minutes in 33 games with Jokerit U-18 of the Finland-Jr. U-18 League.  The Helsinki, Finland native was ranked 116th among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting.

Monday, 01 July 2013 10:25
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LONDON (AP) -- Add Serena Williams to the list of big names eliminated early at this wild and unpredictable Wimbledon.

The defending champion failed to close out a see-saw third set Monday, dropping the last four games against Sabine Lisicki of Germany to lose 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 in the fourth round and end her career-best 34-match winning streak.

"I'm still shaking," Lisicki said in a post-match interview, covering her face with her hands to wipe away tears. "I'm just so happy."

It was the latest in a string of upsets that has jolted the tournament, with defending champion Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal knocked out in the first three days - along with Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka on the women's side.

Williams looked to be cruising after dropping the first set, winning nine straight games to take a 3-0 lead in the third. The players then traded breaks to give Williams a 4-2 lead, but the American couldn't win another game - despite having four break points at 4-3.

Those would have given her a chance to serve for the match. Instead, Lisicki held, broke again, and converted her second match point with a forehand winner.

Lisicki reached the semifinals at the All England Club in 2011 but this will rank as arguably her biggest victory at the grass-court Grand Slam. It was also the fourth straight time Lisicki has eliminated the reigning French Open champion during her Wimbledon run, having missed the tournament in 2010.

"Serena played a fantastic match," Lisicki said. "She's such a tough opponent. Just an amazing feeling to win this match."

Britain's Laura Robson also lost. She couldn't recover from her missed chances in the first set and fell 7-6 (5), 7-5 to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, failing to become the first British woman in the quarters of any Grand Slam since 1984. Kanepi will face Lisicki in the quarterfinals.

Former champion Petra Kvitova and No. 4 David Ferrer also advanced. Top-ranked Novak Djokovic and No. 2 Andy Murray, about the only pre-tournament favorites still standing, played their fourth-round matches later.

Monday, 01 July 2013 10:02
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Matt Carpenter and Carlos Beltran combined for six hits, each with a home run and three RBIs, and Allen Craig added a solo home run. The rest of the lineup did not fare as well, leading to another series loss for St. Louis.

Jed Lowrie and Josh Donaldson homered and Tommy Milone overcame a rocky start to win for the first time in nearly four weeks as the Oakland Athletics held on to beat the Cardinals 7-5 on Sunday.

"In the beginning he was leaving a lot of balls up and we were hitting them," Beltran said of Milone. "After that he started hitting the corners and he was using his change-up better. And they continued to score. Good pitchers find a way to regroup and pitch a good game. He did that."

Jake Westbrook (4-3) suffered his first poor outing since coming off the disabled list and gave up his second home run of the season as the Cardinals lost for the sixth time in eight games, their worst stretch of the season.

"I just didn't have it. It was a bad game," Westbrook said. "We have to get back to making pitches that get us out of jams, to limit the damage. We have to get back to where we were winning series."

The Cardinals are 1-3-1 in their past five series after going 11-0-2 in their previous 13.

"We're playing good," Beltran said. "We're in a good division. It's not going to be easy. Baseball is pitching and we have a good staff."

St. Louis continues to lead the NL in hitting and rank third in pitching. Manager Mike Matheny is hardly worried at this point, despite the recent lack of success.

"It comes down to our starting pitchers have been so good all season long and they deserve that once in a while the offense picking them up," he said. "We set a very high bar early and I hope these still believe in that. Jake is as good as anybody when he's on. If he gets his sinker where he wants, there's not a lineup around who will do a lot against him."

The slugfest in the series finale was in stark contrast to the first two games when starting pitchers Bartolo Colon of the A's and Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals put together dominant performances.

Oakland had seven extra-base hits - five off Westbrook. Westbrook (4-3) lasted just four innings and gave up six runs and 10 hits overall.

St. Louis, which began the day one game behind Pittsburgh in the NL Central, took two early leads but couldn't make them hold up.

NOTES: Cardinals 1B Matt Adams was a late scratch due to food poisoning. His replacement, Ty Wiggington, went 0 for 3. Adams struck out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. ... Cardinals RHP Shelby Miller threw an extended bullpen before the game. Miller threw 61 pitches in his previous start on Friday. ... RHP Lance Lynn (10-3) takes the mound for the Cardinals in their first-ever visit to Anaheim to play the Angels.

Sunday, 30 June 2013 21:21
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Brazil won a heated matchup of past and present soccer powers, boosting its confidence as it prepares to host next year's World Cup.

Fred scored two goals, Neymar added another and Brazil defeated world champion Spain 3-0 in the Confederations Cup final on Sunday night as protesters clashed with riot police outside Maracana Stadium.

Brazil, a five-time world champion, beat the reigning world and European champion and ended Spain's 29-game, three-year winning streak in competitive matches.

"We beat the world champions today, but we know that the tournament that we will be playing next year will be a lot more difficult," Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. "Now we have more confidence. That's what we needed."

Fred put Brazil ahead in the second minute, Neymar doubled the lead in the 44th with his fourth goal of the tournament and Fred added his fifth in the 47th.

Brazil, which won its third straight Confederations Cup, has not lost a competitive home match since 1975.

Spain, which had not lost a competitive game since its 2010 World Cup opener against Switzerland, had a miserable night. Sergio Ramos sent a penalty kick wide in the 55th and defender Gerard Pique was ejected by Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers with a straight red card for fouling Neymar in the 68th.

"They were superior on every way," Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said. "They scored early. This is not an excuse but they had pressure on us all the time."

Eliminated in the quarterfinals of the last two World Cups, the Selecao entered the tournament having not played a competitive match since the 2011 Copa America, Brazil had slipped to 22nd in the FIFA rankings, between Ghana and Mali.

Spain, ranked first for the past 20 months, is the most accomplished national team of the 21st century, winning its first World Cup in 2010 between titles in the 2008 and 2012 European Championships.

But in the stadium that will host the World Cup final on July 14 next year, Brazil dominated La Furia Roja.

"The champion is back," chanted the crowd of more than 73,000 people at the renovated Maracana.

It also didn't take long before the fans - in a sea of yellow jerseys - started teasing the Spaniards, chanting "Wanna play, wanna play!? Brazil will teach you."

Spain had been unbeaten in 26 matches overall, including friendlies, since a 1-0 loss to England in London in 2011 and had outscored opponents 69-11 in competitive matches since the loss to Switzerland in South Africa.

But Spain had not played Brazil since a 1999 exhibition, and they hadn't met in a competitive match since the Selecao's 1-0 win in the first round of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

Fred opened the scoring after a cross into the area by Hulk in the second minute. The ball bounced off Neymar near the far post and Fred, who had fallen while trying to reach for the cross, shot with his right foot while still on the ground.

Brazil added to the lead after Neymar exchanged passes with Oscar and then sent a powerful left-footed shot over goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Fred got the final goal from just inside the area, sending a low shot to the far corner. Hulk started the move with a pass to Neymar, but the striker let it go as Fred came running behind him.

Spain was awarded the penalty kick after Marcelo fouled Jesus Navas inside the area. Ramos, who skied a penalty kick for Real Madrid against Bayern Munich in the 2012 Champions League semifinals, sent this one wide.

Spain's best chance before the penalty came with Pedro Rodriguez in the 41st, when he entered the area clear from defenders on a breakaway. His low shot beat goalkeeper Julio Cesar, but David Luiz came rushing in and slid in front of the goal line just in time to deflect the ball over the crossbar.

There were protests outside the stadium during the match, with police using rubber bullets and tear gas to keep demonstrators from getting too close. A wave of anti-government protests has swept across Brazil in recent weeks, and many affected the Confederations Cup host cities as demonstrators complained of the costs of hosting the World Cup.

On the field, it was a heated match from the start, with players from both teams pushing and shoving each other a few times. Even the substitutes got into a shouting match.

Sunday, 30 June 2013 21:19
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Adam Wainwright pitched a five-hitter to become the NL's second 11-game winner, Matt Adams had his first two-homer game and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Oakland Athletics 7-1 Saturday.

Wainwright (11-5) tied Washington's Jordan Zimmerman for most wins in the NL. He struck out eight and walked two in a 112-pitch performance for his fourth complete game this year and 15th of his career.

What appeared a pitcher's duel in the making changed quickly when A's starter Jarrod Parker left in the fourth inning with tightness in his right hamstring on an unusually hot Bay Area afternoon.

Adams hit a three-run homer to highlight a four-run sixth and a solo shot in the eighth.

Josh Reddick's RBI single in the eighth provided the lone A's run on a dominant day by Wainwright.

Daniel Descalso broke a scoreless tie with a sacrifice fly in the fifth, and the Cardinals gave Wainwright plenty of support to take sole possession of the team lead in wins ahead of Lance Lynn's 10.

Wainwright appeared to have no issues this time after objecting to manager Mike Matheny's decision to pull him after 6 2-3 innings in a loss to Texas last Sunday.

After a 1-2-3 first inning on nine pitches, Wainwright was on his way. A's No. 9 hitter Derek Norris singled with two outs in the third for the first hit off Wainwright, who snapped a two-start skid.

Wainwright got through the seventh on seven pitches. The right-hander faced the A's for just the second time in his career after beating Oakland on June 19, 2010, in St. Louis while allowing one earned run in eight innings.

He had a career-high five complete games in 2010, and is now one away from that.

A sold-out Coliseum crowd of 35,067 braved the hot temperatures to watch Wainwright keep the A's batters off balance - they didn't get a three-ball count until Coco Crisp walked in the eighth as the 28th hitter of the game. Wainwright threw 21 of his pitches that inning.

While the first-pitch temperature was an A's season-high 84 degrees, Matheny is loving the lively atmosphere this series.

"It reminds me of the Dominican and Puerto Rico, a lot of drums and excitement," he said.

Parker went down after grabbing his right hamstring and stretching for several minutes with athletic trainer Nick Paparesta before throwing some warmup pitches. Jesse Chavez relieved.

Chavez (1-2), who pitched 5 2-3 scoreless innings of relief for victory in an 18-inning win against the Yankees on June 13, was done after 1 1-3 innings this time. Carlos Beltran doubled starting the sixth, and Allen Craig followed with a single to chase Chavez.

Jerry Blevins surrendered an RBI single to Matt Holliday, then Adams' first-pitch homer that broke open the game.

Holliday faced repeated boos while in left field and at the plate from his former fans. He briefly played for the A's in 2009, all of 93 games.

NOTES: The Cardinals are sticking with rookie Shelby Miller on schedule despite his struggles. "He's going to go back out there and do what he was doing," Matheny said. ... A's C John Jaso missed his seventh straight start with a cut on his left hand but was available off the bench. Manager Bob Melvin had hoped to get him back Friday night, but the concern is that he still can't catch or hit through a full game. ... A's C Stephen Vogt received 100-plus text messages in addition to greetings on Facebook and Twitter after his first major league hit - and home run - Friday night ended an 0-for-33 start. "It's really neat to get everybody's support," he said. ... Umpires received water between innings. ... Wainwright is 8-5 in interleague play. ... LHP Tommy Milone looks to snap a four-start winless stretch with his first win since June 3 in Sunday's finale against St. Louis RHP Jake Westbrook.

Saturday, 29 June 2013 22:09
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LONDON (AP) -- As the sun set on the opening week of Wimbledon, just about the only seeding that truly signified something was No. 1.

That's the number beside the names of Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, who turned in nearly perfect performances back-to-back Saturday on Centre Court to cap nearly perfect runs to the fourth round at the All England Club, while chaos reigned all around them.

In the final match of the fortnight's first half, played with the roof closed and lights glowing to make sure it would get done as darkness approached, defending champion Williams used eight aces and 11 return winners to power past 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan 6-2, 6-0 in 61 minutes.

"She didn't lose energy, and her game, I think, is getting better, day after day. Not better in general, but adapting to the surface. Everything is getting better," said French coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who has been working with Williams over the past year, when she is 77-3. "So now let's enter into the most important part of the tournament. ... Now the matches are going to get tougher and tougher."

Might not necessarily have been a fair fight, considering that Date-Krumm is ranked 84th and was the oldest woman to reach the third round at Wimbledon in the 45-year Open era. Never better than a semifinalist at a Grand Slam tournament, she played Williams evenly for about three games, before the 16-time major champion took over.

"She has so much power, speed," Date-Krumm said. "She has everything."

Williams' easy win followed the 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over 28th-seeded Jeremy Chardy of France turned in by 2011 champion Djokovic, who compiled a remarkable ratio of 38 winners to three unforced errors. The Serb's initial miscue of his own doing did not come until the third set's sixth game, when he double-faulted while ahead 4-1, 40-love.

"Everything went my way," Djokovic said. "I did everything I wanted to do."

Both he and Williams could say that about the way they handled matters throughout Week 1.

Williams has won all six sets she's played, allowing her opponents a total of 11 games. Djokovic has won all of his nine sets, dropping 29 games.

"You don't want to play your best tennis in the first round and continue to go down. I feel like I try to play better as each match goes on," said Williams, whose 34-match winning streak is the longest for a woman since older sister Venus had a run of 35 in 2000. "I try to find out something I can improve on from each match so I can do it better in the next round."

In other words: Look out, Sabine Lisicki, the 23rd-seeded German who will meet Williams on Monday for a quarterfinal berth.

Up next for Djokovic after the middle Sunday's traditional day of rest is another German, 13th-seeded Tommy Haas, the 35-year-old who is enjoying a career renaissance and eliminated Feliciano Lopez of Spain 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4.

How certain was Lisicki that she would be dealing with Williams and not Date-Krumm? Lisicki tweeted a photo of her with Haas early in the second set of Williams' match, writing: "Last Germans standing" and "We both play the no1's next."

Take a glance around, and a high seeding has mattered very little, with the notable exception of No. 2 Andy Murray, Djokovic's potential foe in the final. Indeed, in many cases, any seeding at all has guaranteed nothing whatsoever. The men's Nos. 3, 5, 6, 9 and 10 are all gone, including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with their 29 combined Grand Slam titles. The women's Nos. 2, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 10 are out, too, including four-time major champion Maria Sharapova and two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka.

Even during a pair of victories Saturday, both No. 4-seeded players, David Ferrer and Agnieszka Rawdwanska, looked shaky. Ferrer, the French Open runner-up this month, was treated for blisters on his right foot while coming back to beat No. 26 Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine 6-7 (6), 7-6 (2), 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. Radwanska, who lost to Williams in last year's Wimbledon final, was pushed to three sets by 18-year-old American Madison Keys before winning 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

"I'm very happy to be a little bit better," Radwanska said. "It was really close. Every set was really tight."

The highest-seeded man other than Murray on his half of the field is No. 20 Mikhail Youzhny, who will play the 2012 U.S. Open champion and Wimbledon runner-up after defeating Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-4, 7-5.

Otherwise, Saturday's winners on that side of the men's draw were 130th-ranked Lukasz Kubot of Poland, who beat No. 25 Benoit Paire 6-1, 6-3, 6-4; 80th-ranked Kenny de Schepper of France, who defeated No. 22 Juan Monaco 6-4, 7-6 (8), 6-4; and 54th-ranked Fernando Verdasco of Spain, a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 winner against Ernests Gulbis.

Things have generally been less hectic on Djokovic's portion of the tournament, but No. 9 Richard Gasquet lost 7-6 (7), 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (5) to 20-year-old Bernard Tomic, whose father has been barred from tournaments after being accused of head-butting Tomic's hitting partner. No. 23 Andreas Seppi of Italy, meanwhile, won his seventh consecutive five-setter, edging No. 12 Kei Nishikori 3-6, 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-4, and 49th-ranked Ivan Dodig of Croatia moved on when Igor Sijsling retired while trailing 6-0, 6-1, 1-0, the 13th player to stop mid-match or withdraw before one, equaling a tournament high.

For a moment, it looked as if there might be a 14th when No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro hyperextended his left knee as chased a ball late in his 7-5, 7-6 (3), 6-0 defeat of Grega Zemlja. The 2009 U.S. Open went champion sprawling face-forward into the players' chairs and racket bags on the sideline.

"It was really painful," del Potro said. "I was a little scared."

Del Potro and Murray each own one Grand Slam title, the only two of the last 33 not claimed by Federer, Nadal or Djokovic.

There isn't a lot of company for Williams in the major championship department, either. Two women with one apiece advanced Saturday, though: 2011 Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova and 2011 French Open winner Li Na.

Otherwise, just as with the men, there are some fresh faces among the women. That includes 19-year-old Laura Robson, the first British woman to reach Wimbledon's fourth round since 1998; 19-year-old Monica Puig of Puerto Rico; and 20-year-old Sloane Stephens of the U.S., who'll face Puig on Monday.

That matchup prompted this question for Stephens from a reporter: Is there pressure for you when you're playing someone in the next round who you're older than?

"Like a year, OK," Stephens said. "No, not really."

At 31, Williams is the oldest No. 1 in WTA rankings history, but she's still more than a decade Date-Krumm's junior.

"I honestly never thought I would play until my 30s, to be honest. I don't see my stopping any time soon," she said. "However, I don't see myself playing into my 40s. That's why I have so much respect for Kimiko."

They spent a good chunk of the early evening wondering where and when they would play, because their match was scheduled to be last on Court 1, where Ferrer and Dolgopolov went to a fifth set. It wasn't until 7:59 p.m., minutes after Djokovic's match ended, that the Wimbledon referee's office announced it was shifting Williams' match to Centre Court, with the roof shut and lights on.

Williams was rather dominant serving and receiving. In the first set, she delivered seven aces at up to 116 mph, at least one in each of her four services game, and hit nine return winners, at least one in each of Date-Krumm's four service games.

When it was over, Williams wagged an index finger in the air, as if to remind all she is No. 1, then exchanged high-fives with some fans.

"Every time I go out there, I tell you, I feel like anything can happen. I don't feel invincible. I feel like anything can happen," she said. "More than anything, that keeps me completely motivated."

Saturday, 29 June 2013 22:07
Published in Sports
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