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Rockies outlast Cardinals in 15, 7-6

Thursday, 19 September 2013 23:33 Published in Sports

 

DENVER (AP) -- Shortstop Pete Kozma could see the situation coming, his chance in the 15th inning to give the St. Louis Cardinals a hard-fought victory.

The Colorado Rockies intentionally walked Yadier Molina with one out and runners on first and third to load the bases for Kozma.

Batting against Rob Scahill, Kozma grounded into a double play. Corey Dickerson's RBI triple with one out in the bottom of the inning gave the Rockies a 7-6 victory in a marathon that lasted 5 hours, 9 minutes.

"He's a good sinkerball pitcher," Kozma said of Scahill. "Faced him a couple times in the minors. I was just looking for something to get up and drive. I had something to hit and didn't do anything with it."

What Kozma did was fire his helmet to the ground in disgust. He entered the game hitting just .218 but with a .324 average with runners in scoring position. It is rare for Kozma to show emotion, but this was not just any clutch situation.

"Game on the line," Kozma said. "The game lasts six hours or however long it lasted. Everybody was feeling something, especially at that point."

Charlie Blackmon finished with four hits and Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton homered for the Rockies in tying the second-longest game in Coors Field history.

Matt Holliday had three hits for the Cardinals, who had their NL Central Division lead over Pittsburgh trimmed to one game. The Pirates beat San Diego 10-1 on Thursday.

DJ LeMahieu started the winning rally with a one-out single to right. Dickerson then drilled a line drive into the right-field corner as LeMahieu rounded the bases. The relay from second baseman Matt Carpenter beat LeMahieu but catcher Molina couldn't control the ball as LeMahieu crawled to touch home.

It was Dickerson's second triple of the game and sixth of the season.

In the first inning, Helton tagged out Carpenter at first with the hidden-ball trick. After Roy Oswalt threw to first, Helton feigned a throw back to the mound and tagged Carpenter when he stepped off the bag to end the inning.

The teams traded late-game rallies.

Helton, who struck out with the bases loaded to end Wednesday's game, turned on Edward Mujica's fastball Thursday, drove an 0-1 offering into the Rockies bullpen to lead off the ninth and tie it at 6-all.

It was Mujica's fourth blown save in 41 chances.

Holliday hit his former team hard, going 8 for 21 with a home run, four walks and four RBIs in the series. He reached base in six straight at-bats Thursday and was poised to be the hero with his RBI single in the ninth before Helton tied it with his 14th home run of the season.

It was part of a back-and-forth that saw the Cardinals rally from four runs down but blow two late leads.

Trailing 4-0, the Cardinals got within a run in the fourth. Oswalt walked the first two batters, Carlos Beltran singled to score Jon Jay and Holliday came home on a sacrifice fly.

Tony Cruz doubled off the wall in left to make it 4-3.

Holliday tied it at 4-all with an RBI single in the fifth.

David Freese gave the Cardinals a 5-4 lead in the eighth with an RBI double to center, but Colorado tied it in the bottom of the inning on Dickerson's two-out triple.

Helton helped the Rockies take an early lead with a leadoff double in the second, his 588th career two-bagger. He moved to third on Charlie Culberson's infield single and scored on Yorvit Torrealba's blooper to right.

Culberson scored on a double play to make it 2-0.

Tulowitzki's two-run homer in the third made it 4-0. It was his 23rd of the season.

Cardinals starter Michael Wacha had a curious Coors Field debut. He allowed four runs and 12 hits but no walks with seven strikeouts in 4 2-3 innings.

"Plain and simple, I gave up too many hits," Wacha said. "And I didn't put our team in a good position to win a game. I feel it all starts with the starting pitcher, and I just wasn't able to get guys out there for a while and gave up entirely way too many hits."

NOTES: Cardinals 1B Matt Adams (right elbow soreness) did not start but came into the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth. He singled in the ninth and was replaced by a pinch-runner. ... Rockies OF Michael Cuddyer (left wrist, forearm) was out of the lineup but hopes to play Friday. ... RHP Shelby Miller (14-9) will open the Cardinals' weekend series in Milwaukee on Friday. ... RHP Jhoulys Chacin (13-9) will start the first game of Colorado's series against Arizona on Friday.

HOLDER OF LUCKY POWERBALL TICKET A MYSTERY IN SC

Thursday, 19 September 2013 11:39 Published in National News
LEXINGTON, S.C. (AP) — A semi-rural service station was abuzz with activity Thursday, with reporters and onlookers hoping to learn who held the winning $400 million ticket in the latest Powerball drawing.

The ticket was sold Wednesday afternoon at the Murphy USA station, nestled just off I-20 west of Columbia among fast-food restaurants and a red barn where produce and homemade jellies are sold. But those jamming the gathering at the station remained disappointed Thursday — the winner wasn't there.

Winners in South Carolina do not have to come forward publicly, but Lottery Executive Director Paula Harper Bethea noted that, to claim the winnings, the ticketholder must contact state lottery officials within 180 days.

"We have no idea who holds this ticket," Bethea said. But she advised the winner to sign the back of the ticket, put it in a safe place and consult financial and legal advice.

Bethea said the winner chose a "quick pick" ticket, letting the computer select the numbers, drawn Wednesday night: 7-10-22-32-35, with the Powerball of 19.

The actual value is $399.4 million, with a direct cash option of $233 million. It's the largest Powerball winning ticket sold in South Carolina and the fourth largest in Powerball history. In May, a Florida widow won the biggest Powerball jackpot in history — a $590 million pot.

Manager Keith Wedmore said ticket traffic the day of the winning sale was fairly constant. Donna Taylor of Columbia, 42, was among those who purchased from the station, but it wasn't her lucky day.

"I didn't win. I'm frustrated," said Taylor, who runs a cleaning service. "I think I'm going to go right in there and buy another ticket today."

Leo Hinnant, 48, of Columbia, leaned on his pickup and laughed at all the fuss.

"It's high time it's come close to home, but I want to see who the winner is," he said.

FED SPARKS A DEBATE: WHEN TO REDUCE STIMULUS?

Thursday, 19 September 2013 11:37 Published in National News
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve's decision to postpone any pullback in its economic stimulus immediately ignited a debate: Was the Fed right or wrong to delay the inevitable?

Investors had anticipated a small cut in the Fed's $85 billion in monthly bond purchases, which are intended to keep long-term borrowing rates low to encourage spending. A pullback would have signaled that the Fed felt the economy had shown steady improvement.

Was the Fed right to hold off? Here's the case for slowing the purchases — and the case against it.

— THE CASE FOR SLOWING BOND PURCHASES

If not now, when? That's what many economists were asking.

By not reducing its purchases as most investors and economists had expected, the Fed has heightened uncertainty about its future actions.

Back in June, it had all seemed clear: Chairman Ben Bernanke said the Fed planned to slow its purchases by year's end as long as the economy improved. The Fed's policymaking board reaffirmed that time frame at its July meeting. Borrowing rates rose in expectation that a pullback was near, with most economists forecasting that it would start in September.

Now, it isn't even clear that any pullback will begin before next year. If the Fed thinks the economy hasn't improved enough yet, there's little reason to think its view will change soon. The Fed's own forecasts foresee scant improvement until 2014.

Markets soared Wednesday in response to the Fed's decision. By maintaining the pace of its bond buying, the Fed will aim to keep borrowing rates as low as possible. That's seen as a recipe for higher bond and stock prices.

But "we wonder whether the longer-lasting reaction will be increased volatility ... as the Fed's communications become even more confused," says Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics.

So what's changed since June?

Not much. Employers have added an average of 180,000 jobs a month this year, about the same as last year and in 2011. From April through June, the economy grew at a 2.5 percent annual rate, little changed from its 2.8 percent rate in the quarter when the Fed began its bond buying.

Growth and hiring remain modest by the standards of a robust economic recovery. But they've been pretty consistent for the past few years.

The Fed's efforts, meanwhile, are more appropriate for a recession or other economic emergency, some economists argue.

"The Fed has gone to great lengths to describe its (bond purchases) as extraordinary economic stimulus," says Mark Vitner, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities. "It's not something you use when the economy is just struggling."

The Fed's decision to delay also suggests it's dismissive of concerns that its policies might be inflating dangerous bubbles in assets like stocks or real estate in the United States or overseas. By keeping mortgage rates low, the Fed has sought to accelerate the housing recovery. It's also tried to drive up stock prices. Yet the longer it continues to do so, the greater the risk that it will go too far.

Vitner notes that home prices have jumped 12 percent in the past year even as the number of homeowners has declined. And stock indexes closed at record highs Wednesday. Home and stock prices may have risen too far too fast considering the state of the economy.

The Fed's policies may have made the housing recovery appear stronger than it is: Much of the increase in sales and prices has been fueled by investors. First-time home buyers, who typically play a vital role in driving housing recoveries, remain largely on the sidelines. They face tighter credit standards, which the Fed's policies haven't addressed.

The Fed's "massive intervention ... has distorted the price of many financial instruments," said Sun Wong Sohn, an economist at California State University, Channel Islands. "The sooner (the Fed) can allow market forces dictate the price, the better."

— Christopher S. Rugaber, AP Economics Writer

_____ THE CASE AGAINST SLOWING BOND BUYING

What's the hurry?

Many argue that the Fed had good reason to delay any reduction in its bond-buying program: The economy still needs the help. Economic growth and hiring remain weak. The unemployment rate remains high.

The Fed's bond purchases tend to push interest rates down, making it cheaper for consumers to buy cars and houses. Lower rates also help drive the stock market up and make Americans feel wealthier and more willing to spend. That's important in a country where consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.

The Fed downgraded its outlook for U.S. economic growth this year and next. The job market doesn't look as strong as in the spring when the Fed raised the prospect of scaling back the bond purchases. Job growth has slowed to an average of 155,000 a month since April, down from an average 205,000 in the first four months of the year.

True, the unemployment rate has sunk to a 4½-year low of 7.3 percent. But it's fallen for the wrong reason. More people have stopped working or looking for work. Once people without a job stop looking for one, they're no longer counted as unemployed.

Their departure shrank the so-called labor force participation rate — the percentage of adults who have jobs or are seeking one — to 63.2 percent, the lowest since August 1978. If those who left the labor force last month had still been looking for work, the unemployment rate would have risen to 7.5 percent in August.

Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, noted that the Fed wants to see unemployment decline "because employment improves, not because the number of people looking for work falls."

The Fed has plenty of other reasons to delay any reduction in the bond purchases.

For one thing, inflation is under control. Those who want to see the Fed reduce its economic stimulus worry that super-low rates and aggressive bond purchases could ignite inflation and perhaps create dangerous asset bubbles.

But there's no inflation threat in sight. Inflation is running well below the Fed's 2 percent target. Consumer prices have risen just 1.5 percent over the past year. And there's little sign that that inflation is gaining any momentum. The Fed predicted Wednesday that inflation would stay at or below 2 percent through 2016.

A destructive budget fight also looms in Washington. Unless Congress agrees to fund the government past Oct. 1, the government will shut down. Worse, the government will reach its borrowing limit next month. If Congress won't raise the limit, the government won't be able to pay all its bills. The risk of a shutdown or default would likely rattle financial markets and could scare businesses and consumers into spending less.

The Fed doesn't want to reduce economic aid until it's sure the politicians don't wreck the economy. The upcoming budget battles "gave them the reason to hold off on tapering right now," says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com

Investors are also nervous about any reduction in Fed stimulus, despite Bernanke's assurances that even reduced bond purchases would still pump significant cash into the economy and financial markets.

Investors dumped bonds and drove up interest rates after the Fed started talking in May about cutting bond purchases. Since then, long-term mortgage rates have risen a full percentage point to the highest level in two years. Those rates could rise further if the Fed slowed its bond purchases.

David Robin, an interest rate strategist at Newedge LLC, said Fed policymakers were surprised by how quickly interest rates rose. They worried that rates would rise even more, and jeopardize economic growth, if they actually reduced the bond-buying.

"The Fed knows once they started to move," the market reaction "would be almost impossible to control," Robin said.

— Paul Wiseman, AP Economics Writer

_____ Follow Paul Wiseman on Twitter at https://Twitter.com/PaulWisemanAP . Follow Chris Rugaber at https://Twitter.com/ChrisRugaber .

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