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AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- If you're looking for someone not to pick at this year's Masters, go with Ryan Moore.

By winning the Par 3 tournament, he surely sealed his fate. After all, no one has ever taken the just-for-fun prelude Wednesday and gone on to collect a green jacket Sunday evening.

Then again, if there was ever a year to break with tradition, this might be it.

Tiger Woods is on the sidelines. A bunch of brash Augusta rookies are eager to fill his shoes. And the last two dozen majors have been divvied up among 21 winners.

Good luck making sense of it all with the Masters beginning Thursday.

"You never know," Moore said, savoring his two-stroke victory on the picturesque nine-hole course tucked away in a corner of Augusta National.

"Someone has got to break that (Par 3) curse at some point in time, so hopefully it's me. Who knows? I might go shoot 8 under or something, make a couple of hole-in-ones."

As unlikely as that sounds, pretty much everything else is up for grabs at this Masters. Recovering from back surgery, Woods is sitting out the opening major of the year for the first time since turning pro.

Even as his dominance waned in recent years, he was always the clear-cut favorite coming into Augusta, where he has won four times.

Now, as Moore said, who knows?

Jason Day, Sergio Garcia and former Masters champion Zach Johnson are the only players from the top 10 who have won anywhere in the world this year. Only one of the past seven winners on the PGA Tour was ranked in the top 75.

"I think if you're outside the top 50 in the world this week, you've got a great chance," U.S. Open champion Justin Rose said with a laugh.

Woods is out of golf until the summer, but the show goes on at a tournament that rarely fails to deliver plenty of drama.

"We miss Tiger, as does the entire golf world," Masters chairman Billy Payne said. "Nevertheless, this is the Masters. This is what we hope is the best tournament in the world, one of the greatest sporting events. And I think we will have a very impressive audience and have another great champion to crown this year."

That could be Phil Mickelson, who last year won the British Open at age 42 and now has a chance to join Woods and Arnold Palmer with a fourth green jacket.

It could be Adam Scott, trying to take over as the world's No. 1 player and join Woods, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus as the only back-to-back winners.

While Woods last won a green jacket in 2005, he had finished out of the top six only once since then.

That's what made him such a compelling figure at Augusta.

He always seemed to be there.

"It's a huge loss," Scott said. "But, as every year here, this event produces something special no matter what. It just has a way of doing it. It's not going to involve Tiger this year, but it will involve someone else and it will be a memorable event anyway."

Rose falls on the side of experience - knowing where to miss, knowing where you can't afford to miss, where the hole locations tend to be on the contoured greens and using the slope to get the ball close.

"Always you can have the unknowns," he said. "But I would say 15 guys are pretty strong favorites."

Fuzzy Zoeller was the last Augusta rookie to claim the green jacket in 1979, and the only other ones to do it were the first two: Horton Smith and Gene Sarazen.

Then again, there are 24 first-timers in the 98-player field, a record (except for the first tournament), and none of them will concede an insurmountable learning curve.

Besides, no one is dominating golf at the moment. Jimmy Walker has the most PGA Tour wins (three) this season, but this is his first Masters. Scott had a chance to go to No. 1 three weeks ago at Bay Hill, but he lost a three-shot lead in the final round to Matt Every, who had never won in his career.

"Doesn't matter if you've played here once or if you've played here 50 times," said Patrick Reed, who has won three times in the past eight months. "When it comes down to it, it's just going to be that whoever is playing the best is going to walk away with the trophy."

Who knows? Maybe it will be Moore.

He's certainly not fretting over a supposed curse.

"I'm not afraid of it," he said.

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at WWW.TWITTER.COM/PNEWBERRY1963

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Thursday, 10 April 2014 07:10
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Shelby Miller was much improved in his second start. St. Louis Cardinals hitters gave the right-hander no support.
 
"My command was better," the right-hander said after the Cincinnati Reds avoided a three-game sweep with a 4-0 victory on Wednesday. "I got a little streaky at times but I felt like I controlled the ball pretty well on both sides of the plate.
 
"Overall, I felt much stronger."
 
Billy Hamilton had three hits and his first two steals, and scored easily after tagging up on a shallow outfield pop fly to support eight scoreless innings from Mike Leake.
 
The Cardinals were shut out for the second time, both by Cincinnati, and managed just four hits. They're 5-4 heading into a day off before starting a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs on Friday.
 
"There's a couple of games where if we had a couple of things go our way, we could be even better," manager Mike Matheny said. "But I do believe that there's obviously more in our tank offensively.
 
"We've done a lot of things right, we've done things wrong. For now, we'll take the day off."
 
Leake (1-1) allowed four hits and a walk and Devin Mesoraco hit a two-run home run for the Reds, who lost the first two for their ninth series in their last 10 in St. Louis. They're 2-4 against the Cardinals, their NL Central rival, and wrapped up a 2-4 trip.
 
Miller (0-2) allowed his fourth homer in two starts and faced trouble most of his six innings, but held the Reds hitless in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position. In his first start, Miller surrendered three home runs and allowed five runs in 5 1-3 innings.
 
"One bad pitch," Miller said, referring to the Mesoraco homer. "But it wasn't really a bad pitch. It was where I wanted it, he just put a good swing on it.
 
"What are you going to do?"
 
Matheny said he's seldom seen a Miller with a better breaking ball. But Leake was better.
 
"He kept guys off-balance all day long," the manager said. "He was throwing just about any pitch in any location that he wanted to, in any count.
 
"You do that with good late-breaking stuff, you're going to give teams fits and that's what happened to us."
 
Mesoraco hit his first homer in the fourth after doubling twice Tuesday in his first start after coming off the 15-day disabled list.
 
Hamilton entered batting .091 with two hits and seven strikeouts in 22 at-bats and left town batting .192. He reached safely his first three trips beginning with a triple to open the game when left fielder Matt Holliday missed on a diving catch in the gap.
 
After singling to start the fifth he put on a show with his legs, stealing second without a throw, going to third on a flyout to shallow right and scoring easily to beat Jon Jay's' relay on Bruce's pop fly to even shallower right and put the Reds up 3-0.
 
Hamilton bunted for a hit in the ninth against Pat Neshek and stole second, then scored without a throw on Brandon Phillips' one-out single to make it 4-0.
 
Leake retired nine of the first 10 hitters and benefited from three double-play balls, two of them in a run of five straight three-up, three-down innings from the second through sixth. Leake was 0-2 in three starts last year against St. Louis while allowing 15 earned runs in 16 1-3 innings and beat them for the first time since Aug. 25, 2012.
 
Notes: Slumping cleanup man Allen Craig (.097) was not in the lineup for the Cardinals and the Reds gave Zack Cozart (.038) a day off. Together, those two are 4 for 57. ... Both teams have a day off Thursday. The Reds open a six-game homestand Friday with Johnny Cueto (0-1, 1.93) opposing the Rays and David Price (1-0, 4.05). Joe Kelly (1-0, 1.69) will face the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija (0-1, 1.29). ... Miller was a 15-game winner last year as a rookie, going 10-3 with a 1.75 ERA at home.
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 23:01
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Wednesday, 09 April 2014 09:35
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Matt Holliday hit a go-ahead two-run double in the sixth inning that glanced off right fielder Jay Bruce's glove on the warning track and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds 7-5 on Tuesday night.
 
Yadier Molina homered and Peter Bourjos had three hits and an RBI to help the Cardinals clinch their 26th series win to go with three losses and two splits since 2003 against Cincinnati.
 
Bruce had a two-run triple in the first, Billy Hamilton's second hit of the season drove in a run and Ryan Ludwick had two RBIs for the Reds.
 
The Reds squandered a 4-0 second-inning lead by the bottom half of the inning, and Lance Lynn (2-0) got enough support to beat Cincinnati for the second straight time.
 
The Cardinals averaged 5.67 runs in Lynn's starts last year, third-most in the National League, and have scored seven both outings this year.
 
Trevor Rosenthal finished for his third save in three chances.
 
Bruce appeared to have a bead on Holliday's two-out drive with two on against Logan Ondrusek (0-1), but had to jump a bit at the last instant and the ball glanced off his glove as the Cardinals took a 6-5 lead. Bourjos added an RBI single in the seventh off J.J. Hoover.
 
Both starters scuffled, just as they did in the second game of the season in Cincinnati. Lynn has surrendered eight runs in 11 innings and Homer Bailey has permitted eight runs on 16 hits and five walks in 9 1-3 innings.
 
Lynn is 5-1 for his career against the Reds, including three wins last year. Bailey is 5-11 against the Cardinals.
 
Joey Votto and Bruce had one-out hits in the fifth ahead of Ludwick's run-scoring groundout for a 5-4 lead.
 
Cardinals leadoff man Matt Carpenter had two hits, an RBI and was hit by a pitch against Bailey. He's 13 for 22 against the right-hander.
 
Notes: It was 61 degrees for the first pitch, a 12-degree improvement over the home opener Monday. ... The Cardinals received World Series rings in a pre-game ceremony. "I'm going to be wearing this one," manager Mike Matheny said. "My fingers have been busted up pretty bad, so they don't hold rings real well. But I'm going to make sure this one stays with me for a while." ... Shelby Miller (0-1, 8.44) opposes Mike Leake (0-1, 5.40) in the series finale Wednesday afternoon. Miller gave up three solo homers in his first start at Pittsburgh. Leake makes his ninth start against the Cardinals but just his second on the road. ... Rehabbing Reds reliever Sean Marshall (shoulder) is scheduled to throw an inning at extended spring training Wednesday.
Tuesday, 08 April 2014 23:28
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Alex Ovechkin took his place in the NHL record book and helped the Washington Capitals keep pace in the playoff race.
 
Ovechkin became the 11th player in NHL history to score 50 more goals in a season five times and added two assists as the Capitals beat the slumping St. Louis Blues 4-1 on Tuesday night. The two points gave the Capitals 85, four behind Columbus for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
 
Both the Blue Jackets and Capitals have three games left.
 
"We talked this morning about all we can do is control our situation," Washington coach Adam Oates said. "Try and focus on tonight, get a win and see what happens tomorrow."
 
The Blues clinched a playoff spot in the Western Conference a while ago, but their hopes of a President's Trophy are fading.
 
Maxim Lapierre had the only goal for St. Louis, which has lost a season-high three straight. The Blues have been outscored 12-3 during the losing streak. St. Louis has scored two or fewer goals in nine of its last 11 games.
 
"I thought the first period we were really good," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "When we got down 3-1, we just seemed to lose our energy."
 
Hitchcock said the Blues' scoring problems are more than just the top lines not delivering.
 
"I think it's across the board," Hitchcock said. "When you're not scoring, you need to shoot, but it's more the execution after we got down."
 
Nicklas Backstrom scored twice and Mikhail Grabovski added another goal for the Capitals. Braden Holtby made 28 saves after he started over Jaroslav Halak, who played 40 games and recorded 24 wins for the Blues this season. Holtby also beat the Blues 4-1 on Nov. 17.
 
"We got fortunate in some places, a broken stick on a wide-open shot and a few others where they just missed, but I think that was a credit to us pressuring them on those scoring chances," Holtby said. "It's a game of those little things and tonight we did that."
 
Holtby said the Capitals have done what they had to do the last few games.
 
"I think we've done a pretty good job of staying calm and just playing our game the last couple," Holtby said. "It's hard, it's a tough thing, but we can only control what we can control now."
 
Ovechkin, who added an assist, beat Ryan Miller with a one-timer from the left circle at 17:54 of the first period for his 50th goal overall and 23rd on the power play, both league highs.
 
It is Ovechkin's first 50-goal campaign since 2009-10 when he scored 50. His single-season high is 65 in the 2007-08 season.
 
"It means a lot," Ovechkin said. "That's a big number, and it's going to be there my whole life."
 
After Lapierre tied the game at 2:39 of the second period, Grabovski gave the Capitals the lead for good when he beat Miller with a slap shot from the left circle at 8:52 of the period.
 
Ovechkin then gave Washington some insurance when he broke in down the right wing and fed Backstrom in the slot. Backstrom put it past Miller with 1:10 left in the second period to make it 3-1.
 
"It was a great feed again," Backstrom said. "That was a seam pass there and that defenseman gave me a little room, so you have to take advantage of that."
 
Washington began the third period on a power play and Backstrom put the game out of reach when he scored 16 seconds into the period.
 
NOTES: Ovechkin is tied with Pavel Bure, Phil Esposito, Bobby Hull, Brett Hull and Steve Yzerman with five seasons of 50 or more goals. Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky accomplished that nine times, and Marcel Dionne, Guy Lafleur and Mario Lemieux had six such seasons. ... Alexander Steen returned to the Blues' lineup after missing the last three games. ... Tuesday marked the first time the Capitals have been in St. Louis since Dec. 1, 2010, when they also beat the Blues 4-1.
Tuesday, 08 April 2014 23:27
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham was suspended indefinitely Monday for an unspecified violation of team rules, three months after he and two friends were arrested on suspicion of felony drug distribution when police found a pound of marijuana in their car.
 
Coach Gary Pinkel announced the suspension without mentioning the January incident in which the standout receiver was arrested in his Missouri hometown of Springfield. No criminal charges have been filed in that case against any of the three men arrested.
 
"It's unfortunate, but it's the right thing to do for our football program, for the athletic department, and also for Dorial," Pinkel said in a prepared statement. "We have high standards related to the expectations that come along with being a Missouri Tiger, and Dorial has not met those recently."
 
Pinkel said he consulted athletic director Mike Alden on the suspension, which includes spring practices and other team activities. Green-Beckham will continue to have access to the football team's academic resources.
 
Green-Beckham was also charged in October 2012 with marijuana possession in Columbia and later pleaded guilty to second-degree trespassing. He and two teammates were reportedly smoking pot in a campus parking lot near Memorial Stadium.
 
Green-Beckham led Missouri with 59 receptions as a sophomore last season and scored 12 touchdowns, including a school single-game record of four scores against Kentucky. Some recruiting services ranked the 6-foot-6, 225-pound receiver as the nation's top prep prospect coming out of Springfield Hillcrest High. He caught six passes for 144 yards and two scores in the SEC championship game against Auburn and was considered the Tigers' top returning pass catcher.
 
"Representing Mizzou and our fans is a privilege, and we'll work with him during this process," Pinkel said. "It's been disappointing to have this, and other issues which have taken place lately. It's frustrating, because we work very hard to instill responsibility and discipline in our young men so that our program represents Mizzou the right way. These actions aren't representative of those expectations, and we are addressing these issues head-on."
 
Springfield police have said they first stopped the Jeep Cherokee driven by John McDaniel because of an expired license and then searched the vehicle after an officer smelled marijuana.
 
Court records show that Patrick Prouty said he owned the drugs but said his supply was for personal use. McDaniel said he had hidden one gram of marijuana in the car's glove box. Police found no drugs in the possession of Green-Beckham, who denied McDaniel's assertion that the three men had just smoked a marijuana cigarette in the car before being pulled over.
 
Tyson Martin, Green-Beckham's attorney in the Springfield drug case, could not be reached for comment Monday.
 
Last week, Missouri basketball player Zach Price was suspended after being arrested twice for allegedly assaulting his roommate and a woman.
Monday, 07 April 2014 23:34
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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- No conference wanted them. Several teammates and their coach left them. The NCAA kept them out for a year.
 
UConn won it all anyway.
 
Shabazz Napier turned in another all-court masterpiece Monday night to lift the Huskies to a 60-54 win over Kentucky's freshmen and a national title hardly anyone saw coming.
 
Napier had 22 points, six rebounds and three assists, and his partner in defensive lock-down, Ryan Boatright, finished with 14 points.
 
Napier kneeled down and put his forehead to the court for a long while after the buzzer sounded. The senior guard was wiping back tears when he cut down the net.
 
"You're looking at the hungry Huskies," Napier told the crowd and TV audience. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is what happens when you banned us."
 
Yes, it is only a short year since the Huskies were barred from March Madness because of grade problems. That stoked a fire no one could put out in 2014.
 
UConn (32-8) never trailed. The Huskies led by as many as 15 in the first half and watched the Wildcats (29-11) trim the deficit to one with 8:13 left. But Aaron Harrison, Kentucky's big-moment shooter in the last three games, missed a 3-pointer from the left corner that would've given the `Cats the lead. Kentucky never got closer.
 
One key difference in a six-point loss: Kentucky's 11 missed free throws - a flashback of sorts for coach John Calipari, whose Memphis team blew a late lead against Kansas after missing multiple free throws in the 2008 final.
 
The Wildcats went 13 for 24. UConn went 10 for 10, including Lasan Kromah's two to seal the game with 25.1 seconds left.
 
"We had our chances to win," Calipari said. "We're missing shots, we're missing free throws. We just didn't have enough."
 
In all, Calipari's One and Doners got outdone by a more fundamentally sound, more-seasoned group that came into this tournament a seventh-seeded afterthought but walked away with the program's fourth national title since 1999. They were the highest seed to win it all since Rollie Massimino's eighth-seeded Villanova squad in 1985.
 
Napier and Boatright now go down with Kemba Walker, Emeka Okafor, Richard Hamilton and all those other UConn champs. This adds to the school's titles in 1999, 2004 and 2011.
 
This one was, by far, the most unexpected.
 
A short year ago, UConn was preparing for its first season in the new American Athletic Conference after being booted from the Big East and not welcomed by any of the so-called power conferences. Longtime coach Jim Calhoun left because of health problems. And most damaging - the NCAA ban triggered an exodus of five key players to the NBA or other schools.
 
Napier stuck around. So did Boatright. And Calhoun's replacement, Kevin Ollie, figured out how to make their grit, court sense and loyalty, pay off.
 
"It's not about going to the next level, it's not about going to the pros, but playing for your university, playing for your teammates," Niels Giffey said. "And I'm so proud of all the guys on this team that stuck with this team."
 
They were one step ahead of Kentucky all night, holding off furious rally after furious rally.
 
Kentucky's biggest push started when James Young (20 points, seven rebounds) posterized Amida Brimah with a monster dunk to start a three-point play and trigger an 8-0 run.
 
In the middle of that, Boatright, who shut down Harrison's twin brother, Andrew, most of the night, twisted his left ankle while receiving an innocuous-looking pass from Napier. He called a timeout. Got it worked on and came back out.
 
"I've got a lot of heart and I wasn't coming out," Boatright said. "We put in too much work all year for me to give up on an ankle sprain."
 
Napier and Giffey made 3s on UConn's two possessions after the timeout, and that one-point lead was back up to five - fairly comfortable by this tight, taut, buzzer-beating tournament's standards.
 
The big question in Kentucky is what will happen to all those freshmen. Julius Randle (10 points, six rebounds) is a lottery pick if he leaves for the NBA. Young and the Harrison brothers could be first-rounders. The big question is whether they'll want to leave on this note.
 
"I think all these kids are coming back, so I think we should be good," Calipari deadpanned, getting big laughs.
 
He called his group the most coachable bunch he's ever had. They were preseason No. 1, a huge disappointment through much of this season, then came on just in time for a run to the final.
 
But they got outdone by a team on a different sort of mission - a team led by Napier, who stuck with the program even though he knew the 2012-13 season was for nothing but fun.
 
Oh, what fun this was, though.
 
Napier was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player and he earned it on both ends of the court, keeping a hand in Aaron Harrison's face most of the night and holding him to a 3-for-7, seven-point, no-damage night.
 
He could also shoot it a bit - including a 3-pointer in the first half when UConn was having trouble dissecting the Kentucky zone. The shot came from about 30 feet, right in front of the edge of the Final Four logo at Center Court, or, as Dick Vitale put it: "He shot that one from Fort Worth."
 
They felt it back in Storrs, where they could be celebrating another title shortly. The UConn women play for the national title Tuesday.
 
If they win, it will be the first sweep of the titles since 2004. The last school to do it: UConn, of course.
 
Monday, 07 April 2014 23:33
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Home opener hoopla was no distraction at all for Michael Wacha. Neither was the 49-degree chill for the first pitch.
 
The 22-year-old rookie was definitely excited about the occasion and the opportunity. Just like last fall when he was the breakout pitching star of the postseason, he fed off the atmosphere.
 
"Huge crowd out there, a lot of energy," Wacha said after the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds 5-3 on Monday. "It's a lot of fun pitching in front of your home crowd, 40,000-plus fans.
 
"I don't know who wouldn't thrive off those kind of situations."
 
Wacha outdid Tony Cingrani in a rematch of young power arms, and the Cardinals got a three-run double from Yadier Molina in the first inning.
 
"I didn't have my fastball, so what are you going to do? I just tried to battle," Cingrani said. "One bad pitch and it cleared the bases."
 
A standing-room crowd of 47,492, the largest at 9-year-old Busch Stadium, braved daylong rain to greet the National League champions and take a look at the new Ballpark Village. Hundreds milled about the attached complex, which features five sports bars and rooftop seating.
 
The Cardinals bunched three hits and a walk over the first five hitters to take the early lead against Cingrani (0-1), who allowed two hits in seven scoreless innings against the Cardinals six days earlier in Cincinnati.
 
The Cards went 1 for 18 before adding RBIs from Matt Holliday and Allen Craig off Trevor Bell in a two-run seventh.
 
St. Louis ended a three-game losing streak on opening day, including a blowout loss to the Reds last year.
 
Wacha (1-0) hadn't allowed a run in 21 career innings against the Reds before back-to-back doubles by Brayan Pena and pinch-hitter Roger Bernadina in the fifth cut the Cardinals' lead to 3-1.
 
The NL championship series MVP benefited from two double-play balls in six stingy innings and has permitted one run in 13 2-3 innings his first two starts.
 
Wacha threw 82 pitches before getting lifted for a pinch hitter with the Cardinals up by two runs and two on in the sixth. St. Louis manager Mike Matheny wanted to take a shot at putting the Reds away, but thought the right-hander had plenty left.
 
"That was more of a situation of what's best for the day, what's best for that particular game," Matheny said.
 
Cingrani needed 31 pitches to get through the first and lasted four innings, striking out five but walking four. Matheny said before the game that his hitters had been a "click off" with timing against the 24-year-old lefty last week and should benefit from another chance so soon.
 
Pena said he wasn't trying to make excuses but thought Cingrani was bothered by the elements.
 
"The baseball was slippery. He couldn't grab his breaking ball the way he wanted," Pena said.
 
Peter Bourjos moved up to second in the order and got his first two hits of the season after an 0-for-13 start. Craig got his third hit and third RBI of the season after entering 2 for 22.
 
Seeing Wacha once again didn't do the Reds any good. They've totaled 18 runs in seven games.
 
"Right now, almost collectively, we've struggled to do anything with guys in scoring position," Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. "But that'll change. It's tough to sit through it."
 
The start of the game was delayed 12 minutes after the inclement weather combined with pregame ceremonies that featured the traditional grand entrance with players, coaches and Hall of Famers touring Busch Stadium on the back of convertibles and trucks. A team of Clydesdales was kept in the stable due to concerns the field might be damaged.
 
Billy Hamilton doubled to start the game and the Reds put the leadoff man on base in the first four innings but were undone by two double plays.
 
Zack Cozart broke an 0-for-22 slump to start the season with a bloop RBI single, and pinch-hitter Neftali Soto had a sacrifice fly for his first career RBI in the ninth against St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal, who gave up his first runs at home since Aug. 15 against Pittsburgh.
 
The Cardinals opened the first with singles by Matt Carpenter and Bourjos, and Holliday walked to load the bases with none out. Craig struck out before Molina cleared the bases with a drive to left-center on a 1-2 pitch.
 
NOTES: Lance Lynn (1-0, 5.40 ERA) opposes Homer Bailey (0-1, 8.31) in the second game of the series, another rematch from the season-opening series in Cincinnati. Lynn allowed three runs in five innings and Bailey gave up four runs in 4 1-3 innings in St. Louis' 7-6 win. ... The Reds anticipate activating reliever Jonathan Broxton (forearm) from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday. The team held off making the move Monday to give Broxton two days off after pitching on consecutive days.
Monday, 07 April 2014 23:31
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PITTSBURGH (AP) -- It seemed every time the St. Louis Cardinals hit a ball hard Sunday a Pittsburgh Pirates fielder was there to make the play.
 
Sometimes it was just good conventional defense that stymied the Cardinals' hitters. Other times, the Pirates' shifts made the difference.
 
The Cardinals managed just three hits as Edinson Volquez pitched well for 5 2-3 innings before Tony Sanchez hit a tiebreaking RBI double in the seventh inning to give the Pirates a 2-1 victory.
 
"They did seem to always have a guy in the right place," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, whose team is hitting just .186 through the first six games of the season. "The hitters know the alignment when they step into the box, so I don't think the shift is having an effect on them. We just want our hitters to think about playing to their strengths instead of worrying about shifts."
 
The right-hander had a 5.71 earned run average with the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers last season. That was the worst mark among the 81 major league pitchers who qualified for the ERA title.
 
However, Volquez looked like he was worth the one-year, $5-million contract Sunday following a spring in which he allowed 15 runs in 13 innings.
 
"What you saw was fastball command with downhill angle, big-time spin and tilt on the breaking ball, a good changeup and getting ahead with good pitches," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He pitched a gem."
 
Sanchez's double to deep center field with two outs came off Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright (1-1) and snapped a 1-1 tie.
 
The hit by the rookie reserve catcher scored Pedro Alvarez, who led off the inning with a walk, and was Sanchez's second game-winning hit of the week as he singled home the winning run in the 16th inning of Wednesday night's victory over the Cubs.
 
Tony Watson (1-0) retired all four batters he faced, striking out three, and ran his string of consecutive scoreless innings to 24, since last season. Jason Grilli pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save.
 
Wainwright went seven innings and allowed two runs and five hits after pitching seven scoreless innings in his first start of the season at Cincinnati in Monday's opener. He struck out seven and walked two.
 
"I can't let what happen in the seventh inning happen, especially in a close game, a rivalry game like this," Wainwright said. "I walked the leadoff man then left a ball out over the plate with two outs and Sanchez took a good swing at it. You can't do that."
 
The Pirates opened the scoring in the fourth inning when Andrew McCutchen doubled with one out and scored on Neil Walker's two-out double.
 
An RBI triple by the Cardinals' Jon Jay in the sixth tied the score at 1-1 and chased Volquez.
 
NOTES: St. Louis CF Peter Bourjos, who is off to a 0-for-13 start, got the day off and Jay started in his place. The Cardinals acquired Bourjos from the Los Angeles Angels in an offseason trade. ... Former RHP Chris Carpenter, who retired at the end of last season and won the 2005 NL Cy Young Award, will throw out the ceremonial pitch at the Cardinals' home opener Monday against the Reds as RHP Michael Wacha (0-0, 0.00) faces LHP Tony Cingrani (0-0, 0.00). . RHP Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh's top pitching prospect, will undergo Tommy John surgery at a date to be determined with David Altcheck performing the operation in New York and miss 12 to 18 months. ... Pirates C Chris Stewart (right knee) began a rehab assignment Sunday with high Class A Bradenton and LHP Jeff Locke (right oblique) will join him Thursday.
Sunday, 06 April 2014 19:26
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CHICAGO (AP) -- Rookie Jeremy Morin scored and set up Patrick Sharp's go-ahead goal in the second period, and the injury-depleted Chicago Blackhawks held on to defeat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Sunday afternoon for their third straight win.
 
The Blackhawks ground out the victory despite skating without injured star forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane for the third game. Forward Brandon Saad was a last-minute scratch.
 
Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith also scored for Chicago, which closed to one point behind Colorado for second place in the Central Division and home ice in the first round of the playoffs. The Blackhawks have three games left. The Avalanche, who host Pittsburgh on Sunday night, have five games left.
 
Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Sobotka connected for St. Louis, which lost its second straight and remained two points behind idle Boston for the NHL's overall point lead and race for the Presidents' Trophy.
 
Both the Blues and Bruins have four games remaining.
 
Chicago's Corey Crawford made 21 saves and St. Louis' Brian Elliott made 31.
 
The Blues skated without two of their top forwards, including leading goal scorer Alexander Steen who missed his third game with an upper-body injury. Vladimir Tarasenko has been sidelined since mid-March with a hand injury.
 
The Blues, who were shut out by Colorado on Saturday, have scored two goals or fewer in eight of their past 10 games.
 
Toews, Chicago's captain, sat out his third game with an upper-body injury suffered last Sunday when he was drilled by Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik.
 
Kane, who has resumed skating, missed his ninth with a lower-body injury suffered against the Blues on March 19.
 
Toews and Kane are expected to return for the start of the playoffs.
 
Chicago dominated territorially in the chippy first period and outshot the Blues 11-3, but trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes.
 
Schwartz's power-play goal at 1:57 of the first opened the scoring. After taking Brenden Morrow's pass, Schwartz fired from the left circle, but his shot hit traffic in front of the net and bounded back to him. His second shot got through the screen and beat Crawford low.
 
Crawford made a pad save on Patrik Berglund's short-handed breakaway attempt midway through the first.
 
Elliott stopped several prime Chicago chances in the final minutes of the first as Chicago turned up the pressure. With 1:30 to go, he blocked a point-blank short-handed shot by Marian Hossa, who rocketed in alone past Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.
 
Morin tied it at 1 at 8:34 of the second, when he drove to the net and pushed in a rebound of Bryan Bickell's shot. Bickell had picked off a pass at center ice before cruising back into the Blues' zone and firing from the left circle.
 
Sharp put Chicago ahead 2-1 with 27 seconds left in the second when he completed a 2-on-1 break with Morin. Morin carried the puck down the right side, then passed to Sharp who fired a shot past Elliott's stick side from the left circle.
 
Kruger made it 3-1 just 56 seconds into the third. Elliott got a piece of Joakim Nordstrom's shot from the right wing, but the puck trickled to the left goal post. Kruger punched it in.
 
Sobotka cut it to 3-2 with 2:02 left when his flipping shot from the left wing knuckled under Crawford's glove. Smith scored into an empty-net with 3.3 seconds left.
 
NOTES: Blackhawks D Johnny Oduya sat out his third game with a lower-body injury. Healthy scratches for Chicago were D David Rundblad and forwards Teuvo Teravainen and Matt Carey. ... Blues scratches were defensemen Ian Cole and Jordan Leopold and F Dmitrij Jaskin.
Sunday, 06 April 2014 19:24
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