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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Lance Lynn earned his 10th victory to tie for the NL lead, Matt Holliday homered and drove in two runs, and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 on Thursday night.

Yadier Molina batted cleanup for the first time this season and walked twice with a double, raising his NL-leading average to .366. Allen Craig, the regular cleanup man, made his first pinch-hit appearance of the season and had a two-run double off Hector Rondon during a four-run sixth.

The Cardinals took three of four from the Cubs and lead the majors with a 47-26 record heading into a weekend interleague series against the Texas Rangers, the team they beat in the 2011 World Series.

Welington Castillo homered leading off the third for the Cubs, who left the bases loaded in the fifth when slumping Starlin Castro fouled out. They're 20-18 against NL teams outside their division, but just 9-24 against the Central.

Lynn (10-1) allowed a run on three hits in six innings with six strikeouts and has reached double digits in wins before the All-Star break both of his years in the rotation, going 11-4 last year and making the All-Star team. He joined teammate Adam Wainwright and Washington's Jordan Zimmermann for the league lead.

Lynn retired the side in order four times and is 5-1 against the Cubs, the lone loss coming last month at Wrigley Field. He's won nine in a row at Busch Stadium.

Molina was 8 for 13 in the series with a homer and is 11 for 21 overall this season against Chicago with a homer and five RBIs.

Castro was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and is in an 11-for-85 slump that has dropped his average to .232.

Castillo's second homer of the season and first since April 8 briefly tied it at 1 after David Freese's run-scoring groundout off Scott Feldman (6-6) had given the Cardinals the lead. Matt Carpenter scored from second on Holliday's infield hit, a bouncer between third and short that Castro got his glove on but could not contain.

Feldman retired one of the four hitters he faced in the sixth, the lone out coming on center fielder Ryan Sweeney's leaping catch at the wall to rob Matt Adams of a homer two at-bats after Holliday hit his 11th also to straightaway center.

The Cardinals won consecutive games for the first time since June 6-7 after alternating wins and losses for nine games.

Notes: Rookie Tyler Lyons (2-3, 4.65) opposes the Rangers' Derek Holland (5-4, 3.30) Friday night. ... The Cubs' three-game series against the Astros is their lone home action in a stretch of 19 games with Matt Garza (1-1, 4.98) opposing Dallas Keuchel (4-3, 4.23). ... Cardinals starters lead the majors with 41 victories.

Thursday, 20 June 2013 23:06
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MIAMI (AP) -- Game 7s do more than settle championships. They define legacies.

No matter what happens Thursday night, LeBron James and the Miami Heat, and Tim Duncan's San Antonio Spurs have already won NBA titles and secured a place in history.

Now is their opportunity to elevate it.

The truly memorable teams won the hard way, and that will be the case for the one celebrating at center court this time. It's either a Heat repeat, possible only after James led them back from what seemed certain elimination in the closing seconds of Game 6, or the Spurs shaking off as gut-wrenching a loss as a team can have to become just the fourth club to win a Game 7 of the NBA Finals on the road.

"As a competitor you love it, because you know you have an opportunity and it's up to you," Heat guard Ray Allen said. "We have a chance in our building to make something great. All of our legacies are tied to this moment, this game. It's something our kids will be able to talk about that they were a part of. Forever will remember these moments, so we want to not live and have any regrets."

Allen played in the game the last time the NBA's season went down to the very last day, the Boston Celtics fading at the finish and falling 83-79 to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010. That made home teams 14-3 in finals Game 7s, with no road team winning since Washington beat Seattle in 1978.

Overcoming those odds, not to mention the NBA's winningest team, would make this more memorable than the Spurs' previous four titles, though this is a franchise that never dwells too much on the past or looks too far into the future.

All that matters is now.

"You know what, it's all about just winning the title. It's not about situation or what has led up to it," Duncan said. "It's a great story for everybody else, but we're here for one reason, one reason only: It's to try to win this game (Thursday). We have had a very good season thus far, and I think we just want to get to the game more than anything. We just want to see what happens and be able to leave everything out there."

The teams trudged back to the arena Wednesday, some 12 hours after the Heat pulled out a 103-100 overtime victory in Game 6 to even the series. The Spurs, five points ahead with 28 seconds left in regulation, had to fight off fatigue and heartbreak, insisting neither would linger into Thursday.

By far the best game of this series, Game 6 immediately took its place among the best finishes in finals history, with everything from James' triple-double to Allen's tying 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left in regulation.

It had close calls, debatable decisions, and the NBA's best player at his very best when his team needed him most.

Games 2-5 in the series had been ugly, but that one was a beauty.

"I think - I know - that game will go down as one of the best finals games that's been seen," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "But I think this series will go down as being one of the most competitive, bizarre series that's been seen. So this is what you pay for to watch. You pay to watch two great teams battle to the very, very end, and that's what we'll do (Thursday). It will be to the very last second."

The Heat could become the NBA's first repeat champions since the Lakers in 2010. James and Chris Bosh moved to Miami to join Wade a few weeks later and they are in the finals for the third time in three chances.

But playing for titles is more expected than celebrated now in Miami, and a 66-win season that included a 27-game winning streak - and perhaps the whole Big Three era - goes down as a failure if the Heat fall Thursday. Yet James said he doesn't need the victory to validate his decision to take his talents to South Beach.

"I mean, I need it because I want it and I only came here - my only goal is to win championships," he said. "I said it, this is what I came here for. This is what I wanted to be a part of this team for."

He, Wade and Bosh are going for No. 2, while San Antonio is getting a second shot at what would be a fourth together for Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. All their years together have given the Spurs' trio the belief they can bounce back from Tuesday's collapse.

The team went to dinner after the game, Duncan figuring that was better than guys sitting alone with their thoughts in their rooms. Parker and Boris Diaw discussed a similar situation with the French national team in the 2005 European championships, when they blew a late lead against Greece in the semifinals but then came back to beat Spain for the bronze medal.

"We just have to be positive and forget Game 6," Parker said. "It was a great opportunity, but that's life. It's basketball and everybody will be ready."

So will James, who was planning a relaxing night with family and friends Wednesday. He has the most at stake in the game, and when it's over he'll be either a two-time NBA Finals MVP or a two-time loser in a Heat uniform.

"I want to go down as one of the greatest. I want our team to go down as one of the greatest teams. And we have an opportunity to do that," James said. "Hasn't been many teams to win back-to-back championships. It's so hard. It's the hardest thing. I said last year it was the hardest thing I've ever done, winning my first. Last year don't even come close to what we've gone through in this postseason and in these finals.

"So I'll be there (Thursday) night. I'm going to give it my all."

The Spurs have never lost in the finals, but they've never faced a situation quite like this. They won a Game 7 for the 2005 championship, but that victory over Detroit was at home. The last five finals that went the distance all went to the home team.

"I don't really care what it's been like for anybody else at any time," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "All I know is we have had a hell of a year and we have an opportunity to win a championship. That's all that matters."

Thursday, 20 June 2013 00:24
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Edwin Jackson believes he knows what ailed him at the start of his tenure with the Chicago Cubs.

"Earlier, I felt like I was kind of mechanical, kind of too much in a bubble," he said. "You have to go back to having fun."

The Cardinals kept Jackson from having much fun in his bid for a third straight victory. Yadier Molina hit his fifth home run and Jake Westbrook (2-3) pitched seven innings of two-hit ball in the St. Louis Cardinals' 4-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night.

Jackson signed a four-year, $52 million contract with the Cubs in the offseason and promptly dropped his first five decisions and started 1-8 overall as his ERA ballooned to 6.29. In his past three starts, however, both he and manager Dale Sveum have seen a major difference in his approach.

"He's pitching with more conviction," Sveum said. "(Wednesday's) velocity wasn't like it was, but everything is going a heck of a lot better than the first half of his starts."

Jackson (3-9) was pulled after he hit Jon Jay following Molina's blast to left field. He pitched 5 1-3 innings, allowing four earned runs on six hits. He struck out one and walked two. His ERA is down to 5.49

He was pleased with his performance and wasn't even unhappy with the ball that Molina homered on.

"I thought it was a pretty good pitch, but either he was looking for it or he guessed right or it was right in his zone," Jackson said. "Either way, he hit it for a home run. But I threw my pitch with conviction and it was the pitch I wanted to throw. Sometimes it happens in a game."

Molina admitted to being surprised by his blast.

"Sometimes you get lucky," he said. "That was lucky."

Westbrook worked around trouble almost the entire night in his second start since coming off the disabled list with a sore elbow. He gave up no earned runs, striking out two and walking three.

Edward Mujica pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 21st save in 21 attempts.

Westbrook said if he voted for MVP, his battery mate would certainly get the nod.

"With the way he's been hitting, but more importantly the way he's handled us as a staff and the way we've been pitching," Westbrook said. "He, in my mind, is the reason for that."

Molina is hitting .365 and is pulling away from the field. Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki, who is on the disabled list, is second at .347. Molina is just outside of the top 10 in RBIs (41). He's also helped the Cardinals pitching staff post the major league's second-best ERA (3.28).

Allen Craig reached in the fifth after second baseman's Darwin Barney's throw on the back end of a double-play attempt went to the Cardinals dugout. Molina drove a 1-2 pitch just over the outfield wall to improve to 9 of 15 with three homers against Jackson.

Jay went to third on a hit-and-run with Daniel Descalso singling to right and scored on a hit from Pete Kozma to give St. Louis a 4-1 lead.

Westbrook retired the Cubs in order in the first and seventh innings, allowing at least one runner to reach in the five innings between. He faced the minimum in three of those five innings. Two runners were erased on inning-ending double plays and Luis Valbuena was caught stealing on a pitchout for the first out of the third.

"He was good," Molina said of Westbrook. "That sinker was moving a lot."

The pitcher lasted just five innings in his return Friday at Miami, giving up five runs (three earned) on eight hits in a loss.

"I felt good," Westbrook said. "I was throwing a really good sinker, tonight. I was locating it a lot better than the last start."

Anthony Rizzo opened the second with a single and went to third when second baseman Matt Carpenter's throw to start a potential double play sailed over the Kozma's head and into leftfield. Rizzo tagged up on a sacrifice fly from Barney and scored after knocking the ball out of Molina's glove.

Carpenter singled to start the first and scored on Craig's hit to center.

NOTES: The Cardinals earned at least a split of the four-game series. ... Jackson's exit with one out in the fifth snapped a five-game streak in which the Cubs' rotation recorded a quality start and a seven-game stretch in which it went at least six innings. ... Craig is hitting .431 with runners in scoring position. ... Rizzo's single in the second ended a 0-10 streak. ... Molina was assessed with his third error of the year for dropping the ball in the second and allowing Ryan Sweeney and Welington Castillo to advance. He had three all of last season. ... Major League Baseball made two scoring changes from the Cardinals' game June 11 at the New York Mets. It rewarded Molina a double rather than an error as originally scored and changed an error assessed to 3B David Freese to a hit for David Wright.

Thursday, 20 June 2013 00:19
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BOSTON (AP) -- After struggling for more than 120 minutes to score even once, the Blackhawks beat Boston goalie Tuukka Rask a half-dozen times in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals to send the series back to Chicago tied two games apiece.

Now that's an Original Six.

Brent Seabrook's slap shot 9:51 into overtime gave the Blackhawks a 6-5 victory on Wednesday night, restoring the home-ice advantage to the Western Conference champions. Game 5 is Saturday night in Chicago, with Game 6 back in Boston on Monday.

"I guess it was just our turn to score again," said Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, who had a goal and an assist in the back-and-forth game in which Boston come back to tie the score three times. "It was a fun game to play. ... I'm sure the fans enjoyed that, for sure."

It was the third overtime game in the matchup of Original Six franchises, but it bore little resemblance to the three tightly contested games that opened the series. The teams combined for five goals in the second period - as many as in Games 2 and 3 combined - as Chicago bounced back from its first shutout of the season with its most prolific output of the playoffs.

Bryan Bickell and Michal Rozsival had two assists apiece for Chicago, which had scored only five goals total in the first three games of the series and hadn't gotten the puck past Rask in more than 129 minutes coming into Game 4. Corey Crawford made 28 saves, coughing up the lead three times.

"They keep coming," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "One of those nights."

Patrice Bergeron scored twice and Zdeno Chara and Jaromir Jagr each had two assists for Boston, which has won 11 of 14 playoff games; the three losses have all been in overtime.

Rask made 41 saves but he was screened by Jonathan Toews on the game-winner, which quickly quieted the building where Boston had earned a dominating, 2-0 victory two nights earlier - the only Blackhawks' shutout of the season.

"One of the things we have talked about, get pucks to the net," said Seabrook, a defenseman who also had the overtime goal in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals. "I just tried getting it on net, we had a great screen in front. ... It just found a way."

The Blackhawks led 1-0, 4-2 and 5-4, but each time the Bruins evened it up. The last, just 55 seconds after Chicago took the lead, came when Johnny Boychuk slapped it over a sliding Johnny Oduya with 7:46 left in regulation.

Boychuk, who had never scored more than five goals in a season, has six in the postseason.

"It wasn't a Bruins' type of game, but at the same time you have to get yourself back into it," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Our guys worked hard to score goals. Probably got ourselves out of what our normal game plan is. So we opened up and we scored goals, but we also gave them some goals, like the game-winning goal."

The overtime was even until the Bruins failed to clear the zone, and the Blackhawks got the puck to Seabrook at the right point. What seemed like a harmless shot eluded Rask, and the Blackhawks followed with a subdued celebration at the end of another long night.

"If he sees the puck, he's going to be almost impossible to beat," Quenneville said. "We want to make sure we get there and make it hard on him to find it, try to go on the second and third opportunity. Nice ending with traffic in the net, Seabs having a shot that tied us up."

The Bruins had trailed for under 60 minutes total of the almost 900 minutes they had played in the postseason. But the Blackhawks came out strong early in this one, recording the first seven shots and taking a 1-0 lead on a short-handed goal when Oduya was off for interference early in the first period.

Brandon Saad picked Tyler Seguin clean in the defensive zone and brought the puck down the ice before flipping it across to Michal Handzus, who rattled it in off the post to make it 1-0. That snapped Rask's shutout streak that dated to the first period of Game 2, but the lead didn't last for long.

None of them did.

The Bruins tied it on the power play when Andrew Ference kept the puck in at the blue line, and Rich Peverley finished it off with a wrist shot.

But it was in the second period that the teams really opened things up.

Toews tipped in Rozsival's shot to put the Blackhawks back in the lead with 6 1/2 minutes gone. Just over two minutes later, Chicago took its first two-goal lead of the series when Kane converted a rebound to make it 3-1.

It stayed that way for six minutes before Milan Lucic deflected Chara's shot into Crawford and then put back his own rebound to make it a one-goal game. Forty-nine seconds later, Kruger stuck with the puck until he had poked it past Rask and into the net to make it 4-2.

That's when Boston got some luck.

Chara's shot from the center of the blue line deflected off Crawford's left shoulder and over the net, where it hit the back wall, bounced back onto the top of the net and landed in the slot, right in front of Bergeron. He chipped it in to make it 4-3, then tied it two minutes into the third.

"You think you have a good lead at 3-1 and they made it 3-2. Then we had 4-2 and they scored on the power play," Kane said. "It was back and forth the whole game but a fun game to play."

Patrick Sharp gave Chicago a 5-4 lead with 8:41 left in regulation - on an assist from Marian Hossa, who missed Game 3 with an undisclosed injury - but it lasted only 55 seconds before Boychuk tied it.

Notes: Bruins Hall of Famer Bobby Orr, who also played briefly for Chicago, was in the crowd, waving a yellow towel in support of the Bruins. ... Boston killed 29 consecutive penalties dating to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, including the first 13 Chicago opportunities of the finals. ... The Blackhawks had the first seven shots of the game despite a penalty that left them short-handed. ... Jagr assisted on both goals by Bergeron, giving the 1999 NHL MVP 199 career postseason points. He is fifth all-time. ... Midway through the first, Boston's Shawn Thornton hit the scoreboard when he lofted the puck out of the zone.

Thursday, 20 June 2013 00:17
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MIAMI (AP) -- LeBron James led a title-saving charge, and now his crown will be on the line one more time in Game 7.

James powered Miami to a frantic fourth-quarter rally and overtime escape as the Heat beat the San Antonio Spurs 103-100 on Tuesday night to extend the NBA Finals as far as they can go and keep their repeat chances alive.

Losing his headband but keeping his cool while playing the entire second half and overtime, James finished with 32 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, making the go-ahead basket with 1:43 remaining in the extra period.

Tim Duncan scored 30 points for the Spurs, his most in an NBA Finals game since Game 1 in 2003, but was shut out after the third quarter. He added 17 rebounds.

Game 7 will be here Thursday, the NBA's first do-or-die game to determine its champion since the Lakers beat the Celtics in 2010.

The Spurs looked headed to a fifth title in five chances when they built a 13-point lead with under 4 minutes left in the third quarter, then grabbed a five-point edge late in regulation after blowing the lead.

But James hit a 3-pointer before Ray Allen tied it with another with 5.2 seconds remaining in regulation.

James was just 3 of 12 after three quarters, the Heat trailing by 10 and frustration apparent among the players and panic setting in among the fans.

Nothing to worry. Not with James playing like this.

He finished 11 of 26, even making a steal after his basket had given Miami a 101-100 edge in the OT.

Before that, he was 12 minutes from hearing the familiar criticisms about not being able to get it done, from having to watch a team celebrate on his home floor again.

Then he changed the game and erased that story.

The Heat, who haven't lost consecutive games since Jan. 8 and 10, had too much defense and way too much James for the Spurs in the final 17 minutes. They are trying to become fourth team to win the final two games at home since the NBA went to the 2-3-2 format for the finals in 1985.

James came in averaging 31.5 points in elimination games, highest in NBA history, according to a stat provided through the NBA by the Elias Sports Bureau.

This wasn't quite the 45-point performance in Game 6 of last year's Eastern Conference finals in Boston, but given the higher stakes may go down as more important - if the Heat follow it with another victory Thursday.

The Heat were in the same place as they were in 2011 at the end of their Big Three's first season together, coming home from Texas facing a 3-2 deficit in the finals.

This is a different team. And oh, what a different James.

They said they welcomed this challenge, a chance to show they how much mentally tougher they were than the team the Dallas Mavericks easily handled in Game 6 that night.

James made sure they did, looking nothing like the player who was so bad in the fourth quarters during that series.

He was simply unstoppable down the stretch of this one.

Kawhi Leonard had 22 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs. Tony Parker had 19 points and eight assists, but shot just 6 of 23 from the field.

The Spurs had one final chance down 103-100, but Chris Bosh blocked Danny Green's 3-pointer from the corner as time expired.

Bosh had said Green wouldn't get open the way he has all series - and he didn't.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013 23:13
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Ryan Sweeney and Cody Ransom hit back-to-back homers in a four-run first inning and that was plenty for Jeff Samardzija, who pitched the Chicago Cubs over the St. Louis Cardinals 4-2 Tuesday night.

Chicago started fast against Adam Wainwright (10-4) and broke a five-game losing streak in St. Louis.

Pinch-runner Shane Robinson was called out for interference while trying to break up a double play to end the game.

Carlos Beltran hit his team-high 17th homer for the Cardinals, who lost for the third time in five games but still lead the majors with a 45-26 record.

Samardzija (4-7) gave up two runs and seven hits in 8 1-3 innings. He struck out six and walked one for his first win since May 27, a 7-0 shutout against the Chicago White Sox.

The Cardinals cut the lead to 4-2 on an RBI single by Yadier Molina with one out in the ninth.

Kevin Gregg got David Freese to ground into a game-ending double play for his 10th save in as many opportunities. Robinson interfered with shortstop Starlin Castro on the pivot at second base.

Wainwright was trying to become the majors' first 11-game winner. The Cubs tied a season high with four runs in the first - they also did it in the first inning of a 10-7 loss to San Francisco on April 14.

Wainwright gave up back-to-back homers for the third time in his career. He allowed four earned runs on seven hits over seven innings.

Wainwright had won his previous five starts, but has not beaten the Cubs since Sept. 24, 2010. Wainwright, who bounced back to retire 12 in a row, had given up a total of four first-inning runs over his first 14 starts this season.

The Cubs' first-inning runs all came after two outs. Nate Schierholtz and Alfonso Soriano hit consecutive doubles before Sweeney unloaded with his second homer of the season to make it 3-0. Ransom followed with his eighth homer.

Samardzija never let a runner past second base in the first five innings and was helped out by three double plays.

Beltran homered off the right-field foul pole with two outs in the sixth. Molina went 3 for 3 and leads the NL with a .363 average.

NOTES: Schierholtz has hit safely in a career-best 10 straight games. ... St. Louis OF Jon Jay has gone 215 successive games without making an error in center. He is second in team history behind Curt Flood (226). Jay last made an error on Aug. 24, 2011. His streak is the longest current run in the NL. .... Chicago signed LHP Rob Zastryzny, their second-round draft choice. ... St. Louis rookie right-hander Shelby Miller (8-4, 2.08) left after five innings of Monday's 5-2 win due to cramps caused by dehydration. He will not miss a start. ... Chicago pitchers have a league-leading 22 RBI this season.... The Cardinals signed LHP Rob Kaminsky, their second first-round selection. The 28th overall pick, Kaminsky is from St. Joseph's Regional High in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013 23:11
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SANDY, Utah (AP) -- Jozy Altidore scored a goal in his fourth consecutive international match, enough for the United States to edge Honduras 1-0 in a World Cup qualifying game Tuesday night.

Before 20,250 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium, the Americans remained atop the six-team CONCACAF group. The United States (4-1-1) won three straight games this month, all since a 0-0 draw at Mexico gave it a boost toward the top.

It has also shut out its last two opponents, Panama and Honduras.

Honduras (2-3-1) was the last team to win at the United States in a World Cup qualifying match, back in 2001. The Americans have won or drawn 25 straight at home since then.

The visitors made it difficult on the Americans for much of the game by slowing the pace before Altidore broke through.

After several second-half near misses, the U.S. got its goal in the 73rd minute. Altidore took a cross from Fabian Johnson from near the end line and put it past goalkeeper Noel Valladares across the goalmouth inside the right post.

It was Altidore's ninth goal in a qualifier as he finally develops into the scoring threat the United States has hoped for.

Both teams played physical soccer in the first half, leading to an emphasis on defense and a limited number of scoring chances on either side of the field. Just before the first period ended, though, Tim Howard was forced to make a difficult save when Andy Najar launched a running right footer from the right side of the box. Howard met the ball in the center of the box and deflected it outside the right post.

Eddie Johnson had a chance in the 17th minute when he latched onto a cross from Fabian Johnson. His left-footed shot from the center of the box was knocked away by Valladares.

When the U.S. stepped up the offensive pressure early in the second half, it put Honduras on its heels. Altidore had the finishing touch.

He even appeared to score earlier in the half. Moments after Graham Zusi sent a free kick into a crowd of players just outside the 6-yard box in the 56th minute, only to see Brad Evans' header go right into Valladares' gloves, Altidore got behind the defense. Clint Dempsey sent a through ball ahead to Altidore, who was ruled offside and his score was negated.

Valladares came up with another clutch save in the 69th minute. Zusi, who was particularly active all night after sitting out the win over Panama because of yellow card accumulation, sent a ball into Dempsey in the center of the box and he leaned into a point-blank header. The ball bounced off of Valladares' hands and Michael Bradley sent a follow-up shot too high.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013 23:09
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Rookie Shelby Miller pitched five shutout innings and Yadier Molina had a two-run double to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 5-2 win over the Chicago Cubs on Monday night.

Miller (8-4), who had to wait out a rain delay of 1 hour, 59 minutes to start the game, left due to cramping in his right leg. He allowed just two hits and struck out five in the shortest start of his career. His previous shortest stint was 5 1-3 innings at Los Angeles on May 26.

Kevin Siegrist and Seth Manness followed Miller and combined for two shutout innings before Trevor Rosenthal allowed a run in the eighth on a broken bat single by Nate Schierholtz. Edward Munica gave up a homer to Darwin Barney with two outs in the ninth, but still earned his 20th save in 20 opportunities.

Molina also had a single in four at-bats to raise his average to a National League leading .355. Shane Robinson and Allen Craig added sacrifice flies for the Cardinals, who moved back to a major league best 20 games over .500 (45-25).

Chicago fell to 8-22 against the National League Central, the lowest winning percentage by any team in its own division (.266). The Cubs are 5-23 when they score three runs or less, including Travis Wood's last three starts. Wood (5-6) was again a hard-luck loser, as he gave up four runs on seven hits. He has dropped three straight games despite having a 2.70 ERA in those contests.

The Cardinals took a 2-0 lead in the fourth. Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday started the inning with singles, and Beltran then went to third on Craig's long fly out to right. Molina then drove both Beltran and Holiday home with a double to the gap in right center.

St. Louis began the seventh the same way, with Molina and David Freese getting singles. Molina would score on a throwing error by first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Freese came home on Robinson's sacrifice fly.

Craig's sacrifice fly in the eighth gave the Cardinals a 5-1 lead.

NOTES: The Cardinals' Adam Wainwright (10-3) will try to become the Major League's first 11-game winner when he opposes Jeff Samardzija (3-7) in the second game of the series Tuesday. ... Chicago manager Dale Sveum was ejected with one in the seventh inning after arguing with home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn over whether Molina had eluded Wood's tag. ... St. Louis is 17-7 in the first game of a series. ... Schierholtz has a nine-game hitting streak, equaling his career best.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013 06:40
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MIAMI (AP) -- They lost three times in three months in one of the most overpowering stretches the NBA has ever seen.

Now the Miami Heat have lost three times in five games.

So superb during the regular season, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Heat have to be something even more for the rest of the NBA Finals.

They have to be perfect.

"We look forward to the challenge," James said.

The San Antonio Spurs can finish Miami off Tuesday night in Game 6, reaffirming themselves as one of the league's greatest franchises.

If so, the Heat and their Big Three once again go from celebrated to devastated, just as they were two years ago when they came home from Texas facing this same predicament.

"We're going to see if we're a better team than we were our first year together," James said.

The Spurs took a 3-2 lead with their 114-104 victory Sunday night. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were all brilliant again, and Danny Green added to what could become one of the most out-of-nowhere finals MVP campaigns ever.

One more victory makes the Spurs 5-0 in the NBA Finals, keeping pace with Michael Jordan's 6-0 Chicago Bulls as the only teams to make it here multiple times and never lose.

"We understand Game 6 is huge," Parker said. "Obviously, you want to finish in the first opportunity you get. We understand that Miami is going to come out with a lot more energy, and they're going to play better at home. They're going to shoot the ball better. Their crowd is going to be behind them."

None of that mattered two years ago.

Clearly reeling and their psyches shaken after dropping two straight games in Dallas, the Heat were blitzed early in Game 6. They never recovered, Chris Bosh inconsolable as he made his way back to the locker room afterward while the Mavericks celebrated at center court.

James had to endure the criticisms that came with not getting it done in the finals, a story line that was put to rest last year but will be back again if the Heat don't manage to put together consecutive victories.

"We challenge ourselves to see if we're a better team than we were," Wade said. "Same position no matter how we got to it."

The Heat would also host Game 7 on Thursday. They're trying to join the 1988 and 2010 Los Angeles Lakers and 1994 Houston Rockets as the only teams to rally from 3-2 down by winning the final two on their home floor since the NBA Finals went to a 2-3-2 format in 1985.

Of course, the Heat - who won 27 in a row during the second-longest winning streak in league history - haven't put together consecutive victories now in close to a month.

"We're in a position where it's a must-win and everything that we've done all year comes to this point, and we have to win," Heat guard Ray Allen said. "We've found ourselves in so many situations this year, and we've thrived in tough moments because this is a tough team. We will be ready for Game 6."

So will the Spurs, and the Heat know it.

"I'm sure this team, they've been here before many times. They understand winning that last game is one of the hardest things you're going to do. And we understand it as well," Wade said.

"But you know what? It's the game; we've got to play it. I like our chances, just like they like their chances, in this series and in Game 6. We'll see. We'll see which team, which style is going to prevail."

Their four titles have made the Spurs respected but never beloved. Their first, in 1999, came following a 50-game lockout season, and they certainly weren't the team to help the NBA regain its jilted fan base.

Victories in 2003 over New Jersey, 2005 over Detroit and 2007 over James' Cleveland Cavaliers were all low-rated, lukewarm-interest series in which the Spurs were supposed to win and did, just not in a way that erased the idea that they had boring players with a boring brand of basketball.

Win this one, though, and they will surely get their due. They would be knocking off the league's winningest team and the game's best player, with Duncan at 37 and Ginobili soon to be 36, behind a more wide-open offense that has helped Green break Allen's finals record for 3-pointers.

Not that they're thinking about that, or anything else beyond Game 6 at this point.

"We'll reflect back and let it hit us when it's over. We still have a lot more work to do. There's still some business to be done. We have to carry it out and finish it," said Green, who was cut previously by the Cavaliers and Spurs and now has made 25 3-pointers in the first five games.

It looked as though the game was finally passing by the Spurs last year, when the young Oklahoma City Thunder blew by them with four straight victories after San Antonio had taken a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.

The Heat routed the Thunder for the championship and the Spurs brought back essentially the same team, believing another year in their system for players like Green and Kawhi Leonard was a better option than seeking out some quick-fix outsider.

That's almost always been the Spurs' way, and it's on the verge of again being the model for an NBA title - at the expense of the Miami one that once appeared to be the way champions would be built.

"I think every one of us wants this very badly from the top on down," Duncan said. "We're trying to play that way."

Tuesday, 18 June 2013 06:39
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BOSTON (AP) -- The puck bounced off the post and rolled across the crease, away from the goal line. The red light flashed briefly, but replays would confirm that Tuukka Rask's shutout streak was intact.

For the last 122 minutes, 26 seconds of the Stanley Cup finals, the Bruins goalie has prevented Chicago from scoring.

Rask made 28 more saves in Game 3 on Monday night to earn his third shutout of the postseason, leading Boston to a 2-0 victory over the Blackhawks and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

"We ran up against some of the best goalies in the league here," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "Tonight I thought we made it rather easy on him as far as traffic and finding and seeing pucks. I think we've got to be better at going to the net."

After playing four extra periods in the first two games, the Bruins made an early night of it in Game 3 with second-period goals by Daniel Paille and Patrice Bergeron.

Corey Crawford had 33 saves for a Blackhawks team playing without Marian Hossa, who was scratched just before gametime.

Game 4 is Wednesday night in Boston before the matchup of Original Six franchises returns to Chicago for a fifth game. The teams split the first two games there, with the Blackhawks winning Game 1 in triple-overtime and the Bruins stealing home-ice advantage on Paille's goal in the first OT of the second game.

"Obviously, you go triple-overtime, (then) overtime the next game, it takes a lot of energy out of you," Rask said. "But we'll take a regulation win, for sure."

This time the intrigue came before the opening faceoff instead of after the end of regulation.

Hossa and Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara both left the ice after warmups. But while Chara needed just some stitches after a collision with teammate Milan Lucic, Hossa was dropped from the lineup with an unspecified injury.

"I was as surprised as anybody else," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "I can definitely tell you they lost a pretty important player on their roster, but that doesn't mean we change our game. I think it's important we stick with what we believe in."

Julien said Chara slipped and "had a little gash over his eye."

"Nothing serious," the coach said of his captain and No. 1 defenseman, who still managed to lead the team in ice time.

Quenneville was less forthcoming with information on Hossa's malady, sticking to the standard NHL diagnosis: Upper body.

"We'll say `day-to-day.' We're hopeful he'll be ready for the next game," he said, adding that it did not happen during warmups, as had been reported on the team's Twitter account and the TV broadcast. "It was a game-time decision after the warmup there. That's when we made the call, after warmup."

Hossa, who has three game-winning goals in the playoffs this year, was tied for the team lead with 15 playoff points and was third on the Blackhawks with 17 goals during the regular season.

It was a loss the Blackhawks couldn't afford.

Not with Rask stopping everything that came his way.

The backup to Conn Smythe-winner Tim Thomas in the Bruins' 2011 Stanley Cup run, Rask didn't face as difficult a test as in the first period of Game 2, when the Blackhawks sent 19 shots at him but managed just one goal.

The Bruins outshot Chicago 26-18 and led 2-0 after two periods. The Blackhawks had a 10-9 edge in the third, including a late flurry on a 6-on-4 - a power play with Crawford pulled for an extra skater - that led to Bryan Bickell's shot off the post with 42 seconds left in the game.

The puck caromed off the right post as play continued for another 30 seconds before the whistle blew and the game degenerated into fisticuffs. Chara was on top of Bickell, pounding away, and Andrew Shaw got the better of Brad Marchand.

By the time it was all sorted out, the benches were a little emptier and the scoring column for Chicago was still blank.

"You're playing the last five minutes of the game, you know they're going to throw everything at you that they possibly can," Rask said. "Got the penalty there. Got a little lucky there, one save off my blade and the post."

After a scoreless first period, the Bruins made it 1-0 when Paille slapped in the puck at 2:13 of the second, falling to one knee for extra power. It stayed that way until late in the second, when the Bruins picked up their first power plays of the game on two nearly identical sequences, with a Bruin racing to the net and a Blackhawk undercutting his skates and sending him crashing into the left post.

Boston set up its offense during the 11-second two-man advantage, and just five seconds after it expired - but before Dave Bolland was able to get back into the play - Jaromir Jagr slid one across the middle, past Lucic in the center to Bergeron on the other side; he settled it and then knocked it in.

It was Jagr's 197th career playoff point in 199 games, moving him into sole possession of fifth place on the NHL's all-time postseason points list.

Notes: Jagr had been tied with Paul Coffey on the career postseason scoring list. ... Two of Jagr's playoff points came on goals scored against the Blackhawks when they were swept by the Penguins in 1992 final. ... Boston's Gregory Campbell, who broke his leg blocking a shot in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, attended the game. ... The Bruins have killed off 27 straight penalties in the playoffs. ... Boston's David Krejci entered the game tied with Chicago's Andrew Sharp for the most goals in the postseason with nine. The Bruins center entered the game leading all scorers with 23 points. ... The Bruins are attempting to win a Cup for the second time in three seasons for the third time in their history. They also did it in 1939 and `41 and again in 1970 and `72. ... The Bruins won their seventh straight home playoff game. ... The Blackhawks fell to 3-5 on the road in the postseason. ... Ben Smith, who played just one game this regular season and none in the playoffs, replaced Hossa in the lineup.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013 06:36
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