The major championships are usually grinds, but for anyone playing in the afternoon Thursday the first round of the British Open proved more of a test than ever. The wind was blowing harder than expected, the golf course was drying up by the minute, and anything around par was a score to be respected.
And there was Woods, feeling awfully good about a 2-under 69 that had to give him hope his five-year drought in the major championships might come to an end this week on a golf course playing like it is in the middle of a drought.
"It was tough," Woods said. "The golf course progressively got more dried out and more difficult as we played. I'm very pleased to shoot anything even par or better."
A day that began with a near catastrophe off the first tee ended with a six-footer that found the center of the cup on the 18th green. Hardly surprising since Woods had 10 one-putts as he scrambled his way around the links course for one of the better scores of the afternoon.
He was three shots off the lead set by Zach Johnson, who was part of a morning surge of players who took advantage of easier conditions to set the pace. More importantly, perhaps, Woods has a morning tee time of his own Friday on a course that at least for the first day was set up to favor the early players.
"The guys that played early had a huge, huge break," Phil Mickelson said after shooting a 69 himself in the morning. "Because even without any wind, it's beyond difficult."
That Woods managed to break 70 in the afternoon was impressive enough. That he did it after nearly snap hooking a 3-wood out of bounds on his opening tee shot and having to take an unplayable when the ball nestled in a deep clump of unruly grass was doubly so.
"When I got over that tee shot I was (thinking), if I hammer it, this 3-wood is in that bunker," Woods said. "So maybe I should take something off it. Maybe I should hit 5-wood. Hence I hit a flip hook left and there she goes."
Woods somehow managed to make a bogey five on the first hole even with a penalty shot by hitting his third into a greenside bunker and getting up-and-down. It set the pattern for a day of one-putts that not only prevented the round from getting away from him, but put him in prime position going into the second round.
"We're supposed to get a different wind tomorrow," Woods said. "It will be interesting to see what the course setup is."
Just how tough was Muirfield in the afternoon? So tough that the threesome Woods was playing in became a twosome when former champion Louis Oosthuizen withdrew on the ninth hole with an apparent injury after going 4-over-par through eight holes.
So tough that his other playing partner, Graeme McDowell made two double bogeys and shot a 75 despite feeling he played well.
So tough that Woods was 1-over at the turn before one-putting the next four holes to spark a 3-under 32 on the back nine.
"Tiger played phenomenally well for his 2-under par," McDowell said. "Really ground it out well, did what he did best."
Playing well early in majors hasn't been the issue for Woods in recent times, though. Closing it out on the weekend has been, the main reason why he's still stuck at 14 major championships and hasn't won one since beating Rocco Mediate on one leg in the 2008 U.S. Open.
Last year he opened the British with a pair of 67s only to fade to a tie for third place behind Ernie Els. This year he was in the mix at the U.S. Open before shooting 76-74 on the weekend.
He came here well rested and healed up from a strained elbow that was acting up at the U.S. Open, his last competitive event. He also came with the knowledge gained from years of playing links style golf on this side of the pond, including his two wins at St. Andrews and his other win at Hoylake near Liverpool.
"They're so different, so different," Woods said. "I mean, this is almost - it's about as fast as Hoylake was. But there's knee-high rough here. And plus this golf course changes directions a lot. This is a totally different setup."
Not so different, though, that Woods doesn't like his chances of winning a fourth claret jug.
Not that it was bothering Lee Westwood.
The 40-year-old Englishman surged up the leaderboard at the British Open on Friday, putting up a blistering 5-under 31 on the front side to climb within one shot of first-round leader Zach Johnson.
Westwood, who opened with a 1-over 72, started the second round with two straight birdies to get into the red numbers. He also birdied the eighth, and took advantage of both par-5s to push his overall score to 4 under.
The last English golfer to win the British Open was Nick Faldo in 1992.
Tiger Woods was trying to break a drought of his own. The most recent of his 14 major titles came at the 2008 U.S. Open, but he's 0-for-20 since then. Despite taking a bogey at the fourth, where he lipped out a 2 1/2-foot putt, he approached the turn still even on the day, 2 under for the tournament and solidly in the hunt to get his name on the claret jug for the fourth time.
The weather has been unseasonably warm and dry, the fearsome wind not much more than a gentle breeze, and it was expected to stay that way through the weekend. Even so, there weren't many chances for going low, not on a course that is more brown than green, with pin conditions that some players complained were downright unfair.
Even though he opened with a 2-under 69, Phil Mickelson was concerned about some hole locations being too close to the edge of slopes. He pleaded with the Royal & Ancient to let go of its ego and "just set the course up the way the best players can win."
Mark O'Meara, the 1998 Open champion, countered that he's played in much tougher conditions, perhaps emboldened by a surprising 67 that left him just one stroke behind Johnson. But the course bit back on Friday, sending the 56-year-old tumbling out of contention. He lost his ball at No. 6, leading to a double-bogey, and staggered to the finish with a 78.
Jordan Spieth also felt Muirfield's bite. The 19-year-old, who last weekend became the PGA Tour's youngest winner since 1931, made only two bogeys through his first 32 holes and was 3 under. Then, a double-bogey at the 15th, followed by a bogey at No. 16.
Just like that, the youngster was back to even par.
Then there was Darren Clarke, the surprise Open champion in 2011 but mostly an afterthought since then. The Northern Irishman made four birdies on the front side. Unfortunately for him, all that good work was wiped out by one bad hole - a quadruple-bogey 8 at the sixth.
Johnson, who had an afternoon tee time, had not been atop the leaderboard at any major since he rallied to win the Masters six years ago. He took advantage of kinder conditions Thursday morning to shoot a 66, helped along by a 45-foot eagle putt. He made only one bogey despite trouble lurking around every pot bunker.
"Anytime you shoot under par in an Open - or a major, for that matter - you have to be putting at least somewhat decent," said Johnson, who lost to Spieth in a playoff at the John Deere Classic after making bogey on the 72nd hole. "And I putted great. I made some nice birdie putts and obviously that one for eagle. But I struck some really nice, solid par putts. That's what you've got to do to stay in it."
It was an eclectic group setting the early pace, from major champions to players making their British Open debut. What they all had in common was finding a way to get through a firm, fast and frightening setup that figures to get even harder if the R&A doesn't put some water on the course.
"I haven't seen anything like this," said Brandt Snedeker, among those who opened with a 68. "This is completely new to me - foreign to see a 2-iron going 300 yards. You have got to be wary of how you're shaping your golf ball, and what shot selections you're using on the greens."
Snedeker could find things even tougher on Friday, when he was set to tee off in the afternoon. Rafael Cabrera-Bello (67), Miguel Angel Jimenez (68) and Dustin Johnson (68) also had later start times.
As for Rory McIlroy, it doesn't seem to matter when he plays. He struggled to a 79 in the opening round, his highest score at the Open since that 80 in the vicious wind of St. Andrews in 2010. The former world No. 1 has been in a baffling slump since his runaway victory at last year's PGA Championship, and it looked as though he'll be spending another weekend at home.
At least he had some company.
Luke Donald, another former No. 1 player in the world, shot 80. Faldo celebrated his 56th birthday with a 79 on the links where he won two of his three claret jugs.
Ninety-eight players in the 156-man field had at least a double-bogey on their scorecards after Day 1. Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover might have summed it up best when he took to Twitter after opening with an 80.
"Muirfield 1, Me 0." ---
Mariano Rivera was held in the bullpen out in right-center field until Neil Diamond had sung the final words of "Sweet Caroline" in the middle of the eighth inning during Tuesday night's All-Star game.
And then the opening notes of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" - his Yankee Stadium theme song but unfamiliar on the road - rang out over the public-address system as the greatest reliever of all-time jogged toward the mound. The record crowd of 45,186 gathered at Citi Field on this humid summer night rose and cheered, knowing this was a moment people will remember much more than the American League's 3-0 victory.
Quiet, reserved and understated during nearly a quarter-century in a sport that took him from Panama to the pantheon of pinstriped pitchers, Rivera was being honored with that rarest of baseball tributes - a solo bow.
As he reached the brown circle in the center of the green diamond, Rivera realized he was the only person on the field.
Sinatra. Springsteen. The Mick - Jagger and Mantle. They all got to stand in the spotlight alone. And now it was Rivera's turn.
He took off his cap, waved it to all sides of the ballpark. He touched his hat to his heart.
His AL All-Star teammates stood by the third-base dugout rail and applauded, just like the fans. So did his NL opponents on the first-base side. With no other players in fair territory, he finally started tossing his warmup pitches to catcher Salvador Perez.
Like Ted Williams at Boston's Fenway Park in 1999 and Cal Ripken Jr. at Seattle's Safeco Field two years later, one man transcended all the rest of the gathered talent.
"You're supposed to know your team is behind you," Rivera said. "I didn't know what to do. Just keep throwing the ball, I guess, because it was so weird."
And then, after a 90-second standing ovation, eight AL position players came on the field. Normalcy resumed. Rivera threw 16 pitches - all cutters - and retired Jean Segura, Allen Craig and Carlos Gomez, sending the side down in order the way he has so many times before.
"He still can pitch for three or four more years. He's the best," Gomez explained. "After I got to the dugout, I say I'm going to be history because I'm the last guy Mariano got out in the All-Star game."
Rivera then walked to the dugout to another standing ovation and was given a hug by Detroit ace Justin Verlander.
"It's kind of surreal for me," Verlander said. "I just wanted to give him the respect and the respect that he deserved, I just happened to be standing out there and I was the first one he came to. That's something that I will never forget."
AL manager Jim Leyland decided to pitch Rivera in the eighth instead of the ninth, worried that if the NL somehow rallied Rivera might not get into the game.
"I just couldn't take any chance," Leyland said. "You know, I'm probably not the most popular manager in baseball. I wanted to make sure I got out of here alive."
Rivera has never allowed an earned run in nine All-Star innings. The only older pitcher to appear in an All-Star game was 47-year-old Satchel Paige 60 years ago, according to STATS. At 43, Rivera was the oldest All-Star since Carlton Fisk in 1991.
Of course, he was selected the All-Star MVP. Never having had a chance for a talk, Mets star David Wright pulled Rivera aside at baseball's red-carpet event before the game.
"Before it was too late, I had enough courage to kind of go grab him and just tell him how much I appreciate his body of work, the way he carries himself, how great of an ambassador he is to this game," Wright said. "Forget about the numbers. Forget about being the greatest closer of all-time. The way he carries himself and the way he goes about his business is special."
After the game, still smiling, sometimes laughing, Rivera spoke in the interview room as his family stood behind him.
"It was tough. It was special," an emotional Rivera said. "Seeing the fans sharing and both teams standing out of the dugout, managers, coaches, players - priceless."
Jose Bautista's fourth-inning sacrifice fly off loser Patrick Corbin stopped a 17-inning scoreless streak for the AL that dated to Adrian Gonzalez's homer off Cliff Lee two years ago in Arizona. J.J. Hardy added an RBI groundout in the fifth, and Jason Kipnis doubled home a run in the eighth off Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel.
Rivera and nine other pitchers combined on a three-hitter, with Chris Sale getting the win. Joe Nathan worked the ninth, handing the final ball to Rivera as the AL ended a three-game losing streak and regained home-field advantage in the World Series.
So even when the Mets hosted the All-Star game for the first time in 49 years, the spotlight fell on a rival Yankee.
Hours after the game, a video board at Citi Field reminded people the All-Stars will gather next year at Minnesota's Target Field.
But the great Rivera won't be among them.
"It's been a privilege," Rivera said to the crowd, speaking on the field after the game. "You guys almost made me cry."
Max Scherzer and Chris Sale. Felix Hernandez and Matt Moore.
Heat and more heat.
Even with its own studs such as Matt Harvey and Clayton Kershaw, the National League couldn't match up. The AL's 3-0 victory at Citi Field on Tuesday night was an arms showcase.
"We all came tonight and we brought it," Scherzer said. "You got guys who just can absolutely light up a radar gun, but not only that, throw multiple offspeed pitches for strikes."
It was just the third shutout for the AL, following 1946 at Boston's Fenway Park and 1990 at Chicago's Wrigley Field.
Scherzer, throwing at up to 99 mph, pitched a 1-2-3 first. Sale followed with a pair of perfect innings, reaching 96 mph.
Six up. Six down.
Against baseball's best.
"I don't think I've been a part of a baseball experience like that in my entire life," Sale said.
The rest weren't shabby either, with Greg Holland topping out at 97 and Grant Balfour at 95. Matt Moore, Steve Delabar and Joe Nathan all reached 94, Brett Cecil 93 and Felix Hernandez 92, throwing sinkers on nine of 13 pitches.
Mariano Rivera threw 16 pitches, all cutters ranging from 89-91, in a perfect eighth remembered for his introduction, when the other All-Stars left the field to him alone during a 1 1-2 minute ovation.
The NL managed three hits and one walk for four baserunners in all. And these weren't just any batters, but All-Star sluggers with shining colored spikes and enough honors to fill two dozen trophy dens.
"It's not fun," said David Wright of the host New York Mets. "You think of the broad spectrum of being an All-Star and it gets you excited. And then when you get down to the nitty-gritty and you look in there and you've got to face those pitchers, it's like, `OK, maybe this isn't as fun as I thought it was going to be.' Every guy comes in throwing high 90s with good secondary pitches. And this is difficult."
Carlos Beltran's one-out single to left-center in the fourth against King Felix gave the NL its first baserunner, and pinch runner Andrew McCutchen was stranded on third base when Wright grounded out.
Hernandez isn't used to warming up in the middle of a game.
"It was pretty weird. I don't feel that comfortable that way," he said.
Michael Cuddyer reached on a leadoff walk against Balfour in the sixth, Wright singled softly to center against Greg Holland in the seventh and Paul Goldschmidt doubled to deep right off Nathan in the ninth.
"That's a good lineup we threw out there, a lot of great hitters," NL manager Bruce Bochy said. "They shut us down."
The New York Yankees are America's most valuable sports franchise but European soccer clubs are the world champs, including a team that will be playing here in St Louis next month.
ABC News reports Spain's soccer powerhouse Real Madrid can boast of one more trophy. According to Forbes its now the world's most valuable sports franchise - worth $3.3 billion.
Manchester United is in 2nd place Barcelona third .The New York Yankees come in 4th. NFL teams have the most Facebook and Twitter followers in the the US. Forbes says the 30 top teams have 60 million fans. But Barcelona's soccer club has more than that by itself.
Spain's soccer powerhouse Real Madrid will be playing in an exhibition game against Inter Milan August tenth at the Edward Jones Dome.
Woods held his regular session with the media ahead of the British Open at Muirfield, where he resumes his quest for a 15th major title. Once considered a lock to break Jack Nicklaus' record, he hasn't won one of golf's biggest events since the 2008 U.S. Open.
"I feel very good about my game," Woods said. "I feel very, very good going into major championships. I've had a pretty good year this year so far - won four times. Even though I haven't won a major championship in five years, I've been there in a bunch of them where I've had chances. I just need to keep putting myself there and eventually I'll get some."
The biggest question mark for Woods at this major is his health.
He strained his elbow at last month's U.S. Open, playing in visible pain while struggling to a 32nd-place finish. He hasn't played since Merion, even skipping his own tournament to give the injury time to heal.
"The elbow feels good," Woods said. "It's one of the good things of taking the time off to let it heal and get the treatment and therapy on it. The main reason was that coming over here, the ground is going to be hard, obviously. And I'm going to need that elbow to be good. And just in case the rough was, well, reports were it was going to be high, and it was going to be lush. I needed to have this thing set and healed. And everything is good to go."
Woods has dealt with several injuries, a swing change and major distractions in his personal life since winning at Torrey Pines five years ago.
Not like he hasn't been in contention. Woods has eight top-10 finishes in the majors since his last victory, but he hasn't been able to break his drought. Now he's returning to a course where he shot his worst round as a professional, an 81 in miserable conditions during the third round of the 2002 British Open.
"It's just a shot here and there," he said. "It's making a key up-and-down here or getting a good bounce there, capitalizing on an opportunity here and there."
Woods is again the world's top-ranked player, and no one comes close to his 13 PGA Tour victories over the last five years. But he knows better than anyone that major titles are what will determine his legacy. These are the tournaments he gears his entire season around, the ones he wants more than any others.
In his eyes, it's just a matter of time before he wins another one.
"It's not much," Woods said. "It could happen on the first day, it could happen on the last day. But it's turning that tide and getting the momentum at the right time or capitalizing on our opportunity. That's what you have to do to win major championships."
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at WWW.TWITTER.COM/PNEWBERRY1963
Actually, it was a dent.
Oakland's second-year slugger won baseball's Home Run Derby with a dazzling display of power Monday night, becoming the first player left out of the Midsummer Classic to take home the crown.
Cespedes beat Bryce Harper 9-8 in the final round at reconfigured Citi Field, hitting the decisive drive with five swings to spare. The outfielder from Cuba flipped his bat aside and raised his left arm in triumph when he sent his 32nd homer of the night some 455 feet to center field, where it caromed off the back wall of the black batter's eye.
He was swarmed by the American League All-Stars near the third base line.
"You come for a show in New York. He put on a show," said Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer, set to start for the AL on Tuesday night.
The final addition to the field, Cespedes was the fourth player not selected for the All-Star game to compete in the event.
Right off the bat, he proved he belonged. With family in the stands, Cespedes hit a whopping 17 home runs in the first round - more than any other player managed in their first two trips to the plate.
"I felt that I was getting into a very good rhythm, and that as long as the ball was right over the plate, I felt like I was in a good groove," he said through a translator. "That was the key."
Baseball's big boppers took aim at two trucks parked beside the home run apple behind the center-field fence, a popular staple at Mets games dating to their days in Shea Stadium.
With a shiny prize to shoot for, Cespedes dinged the hood on one and elicited a rousing cheer.
Cuban reliever Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds brought Cespedes water and a towel during the first round, and 2010 champion David Ortiz strolled over to offer encouragement and advice.
The Rockettes danced atop the dugouts and did their famous kickline between first-round batters.
"It's far different from in Cuba," Cespedes said. "There might be two people at our games. There's only one photographer, and this is completely different and foreign to me. But I'm very happy to be here."
His first-round outburst was enough to send him straight into the finals, though he added six long balls in round two for good measure. Some of his drives were especially impressive, too.
Cespedes hit about a half-dozen balls into the upper deck in left, never reached by anyone in a game, and banged another couple of shots off the restaurant windows in the corner just below.
The 27-year-old Cespedes has struggled as a sophomore, batting .225 with 15 home runs, but hardly anyone in the game doubts his ability.
"This trophy will motivate me so that things continue to go well for me, and I just want to thank the people that believed in me, that thought I could play at this level," he said.
The 20-year-old Harper, wearing shiny gold spikes as his father pitched to him, hammered eight homers in all three rounds. But the Washington Nationals phenom couldn't keep up with Cespedes.
"He's incredible," Harper said. "He's an absolute machine."
Colorado outfielder Michael Cuddyer and Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis, who leads the majors with 37 homers, were eliminated in the second round. Davis tied Reggie Jackson (1969) for the AL record before the All-Star break.
"I had a little blister come up second round. It's just one of those things," Davis said. "I usually get one once a year and it just happened to be tonight. It actually popped during a swing. My main concern is obviously not to hurt myself and to hang onto the bat.
"It's something that I've dealt with in my career since I can remember. You've just got to kind of wear it for a couple of days and then it hardens up and you're good to go."
Citi Field opened in 2009 with a cavernous outfield and yielded the fewest home runs in the majors over its first three seasons, according to STATS. But the Mets erected a new fence in front of the old one, dubbed the Great Wall of Flushing, before last season. That trimmed dimensions by up to 12 feet and lowered the height of the wall from as high as 16 feet to 8 all around.
Since then, the ballpark has ranked closer to the middle of the pack in home runs, 18th out of 30. But it's still no hitter's haven. In fact, hometown favorite David Wright had joked he would take his Derby swings from second base.
Cespedes, however, and most of the other sluggers had little trouble clearing the old wall. When they got good wood, it was long gone.
"This stadium may be very difficult, but it's not as difficult as Oakland. And if I can do it in Oakland, I thought, why can't I do it here?" Cespedes said.
Wright and another hometown darling, Pirates slugger Pedro Alvarez, were both eliminated in the first round. Alvarez went to high school in New York City and grew up in the same Manhattan neighborhood as Manny Ramirez.
Wright managed five home runs as the sellout crowd of 43,558 chanted "Let's Go Mets!"
"I ran out of gas," he said.
Also knocked out early were defending champion Prince Fielder, the only player besides Ken Griffey Jr. to win multiple times, and American League captain Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees, who made Cespedes his final pick.
NOTES: Cespedes' home run total matched Ortiz (2010) and Cano (2011) for the third-highest behind Bobby Abreu (41 in 2005) and Josh Hamilton (35 in 2008). ... Davis was credited with the longest drive of the night at 502 feet. ... Oakland third base coach Mike Gallego pitched to Cespedes, who averaged 405 feet on his home runs. He became the first A's player to participate in the Derby since Jason Giambi in 2001 and joined Mark McGwire (1992) as the team's only winners. "Before I left, they asked me to bring home the trophy," Cespedes said. ... The American League topped the NL 53-50. ... Cano showed up at the afternoon news conference in a snappy suit. Harper was in a T-shirt, mesh shorts, sneakers and his spiky mohawk. At least he was dressed in blue and orange, Mets colors. ... By hitting 103 home runs in all, the sluggers raised $529,000 for charity.
CHICAGO (AP) -- Yadier Molina hit a three-run homer in St. Louis' four-run ninth inning, and the Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 10-6 on Sunday night in the majors' final game before the All-Star break.
Allen Craig lined a tiebreaking RBI single into left field before Molina drove an 0-2 pitch from Kevin Gregg (2-2) over the wall in left for his seventh homer. Craig and Molina tuned up for Tuesday's game in New York with four hits apiece, helping St. Louis to a season-high 21 hits overall.
Chicago went up 4-3 on Darwin Barney's three-run homer in the sixth and pinch hitter Cody Ransom had a tying two-run double in the eighth, but the Cubs' bullpen was unable to hold off the NL's highest-scoring team.
Pete Kozma had two RBI singles as the Cardinals won for the seventh time in nine games to salvage a split of the four-game series. Edward Mujica (2-1) had his second blown save opportunity in 28 chances, but managed to get the win on the same day he was chosen to replace teammate Adam Wainwright on the NL All-Star team.
Despite injuries to key pitchers Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Jason Motte, St. Louis heads to the All-Star break with baseball's best record at 57-36. It leads the NL Central by one game over surprising Pittsburgh, which lost 4-2 to the New York Mets earlier in the day.
Barney also had a run-scoring single for the Cubs, who went 6-4 on a 10-game stretch in Chicago that included a makeup game at the crosstown White Sox last Monday. The four RBIs for Barney matched a career high set in a 14-4 victory against Pittsburgh on July 30, 2012.
After a slow start, the Cubs (42-51) are a respectable 24-21 in their last 45 games. It's good enough for a four-game improvement compared to last year at this point, when the North Siders were 38-55 on their way to their first 100-loss season since 1966.
The Cardinals carried a 3-1 lead into the sixth, but Wainwright got into trouble after Alfonso Soriano began the inning with a fly ball to the warning track in right. Dioner Navarro and Brian Bogusevic then hit consecutive singles to put runners on first and second.
Wainwright bounced back to strike out Dave Sappelt, but his first pitch to Barney was up and over the plate, and he drove it into the basket in left field for his sixth homer.
That proved to be just a minor little speed bump for the Cardinals, who used four hits to regain the lead during a two-run seventh. Kozma singled in Molina to tie it at 4 and eventually came around on Matt Carpenter's bouncer into center field.
Adams tacked on an RBI double in eighth, setting the stage for the wild finish.
Travis Wood, who will represent the Cubs at the All-Star festivities, allowed three runs and a season-high 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings. It matched the shortest outing of the year for the consistent lefty, who pitched at least six innings in 17 of his first 18 starts.
Molina was out of the starting lineup for St. Louis' 6-4 loss on Saturday night and began the night in a 1-for-19 rut covering his previous seven games. But he singled in each of his first two at-bats and forced Bogusevic to make a leaping catch against the wall in center in the eighth.
NOTES: Cardinals OF Matt Holliday (right hamstring tightness) missed his third consecutive game. "We need to be real careful so we can continue to progress, make sure we are aiming for that first day after the break," manager Mike Matheny said. ... OF Cole Gillespie joined the Cubs, and reliever Henry Rodriguez was designated for assignment to make room on the roster. Gillespie was claimed off waivers from San Francisco on Saturday. He had a pinch-hit single in the eighth. ... Cubs RHP Scott Baker allowed four runs and six hits in three innings in his first rehab start with Class A Kane County. Baker missed last season with Minnesota after undergoing elbow-ligament replacement surgery. "Today was a big hump, to pitch against hitters and getting in a real game and the whole atmosphere and everything," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said, "and then hopefully we just start seeing gradual pickup in the velocities and all that."
CHICAGO (AP) -- Carlos Beltran had three hits and drove in a run, while reliever-turned-starter Joe Kelly (1-3) won his first game of the season as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 3-2 Friday at Wrigley Field.
Beltran was a homer short of hitting for the cycle, with a run-scoring triple, double and single as the Cardinals bounced back from Thursday night's loss to the Cubs that snapped a five-game winning streak.
Kelly allowed three hits and a run in 5 1-3 innings, striking out four and walking two. Edward Mujica pitched the ninth for his 26th save in 27 opportunities.
St. Louis jumped on Cubs starter Carlos Villaneuva (2-5) for two runs in the top of the first inning. Matt Carpenter singled and scored on Beltran's triple, followed by Allen Craig's RBI single.
The Cubs cut St. Louis' lead to 2-1 in the third. Luis Valbuena walked, went to second when Starlin Castro was hit by a pitch, Anthony Rizzo hit into a fielder's choice that pushed Valbuena to third and then Alfonso Soriano's single scored Valbuena.
The Cubs threatened in the sixth with runners at first and second with just one out, but Brian Bogusevic hit into an inning-ending double-play.
The Cardinals increased their lead to 3-1 in the seventh. Pinch-hitter Rob Johnson, batting for reliever Randy Choate, hit a two-out triple to right field, just out of reach of a diving Nate Schierholtz, and Matt Carpenter followed with an RBI double to left-center.
Castro closed the score to 3-2 with a lead-off homer in the eight, but the Cubs would get no closer, stranding seven runners in the game.
The Cubs are 12-8 in their last 20 games, and are 3-5 vs. St. Louis thus far this season. They faced the best team in baseball for the second straight week. Last weekend, they took two-of-three from the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had the major leagues' best mark at the time.
NOTES: Cardinals LF Matt Holliday was held out Friday with right hamstring tightness and is day-to-day. . In addition to signing first round draft pick Kris Bryant, the Cubs also inked 12th round RHP Trevor Clifton and 19th round C Will Remillard. . Saturday's pitchers will be the Cards' Lance Lynn (11-3, 3.67) vs. Matt Garza (5-1, 3.22) for the Cubs. Garza has been the subject of trade rumors in recent days. "He's obviously throwing extremely well and he's very healthy and there are teams out there looking for pitching who are going to call and try to acquire him," Cubs president Theo Epstein said before Friday's game. "He's helping us win games right now, there's a chance to possibly retain him beyond this year, so we'll just balance all that out and do what's best for the organization." . The Cubs have used 42 players thus far this season, a pre-All-Star break team record. . The Cubs came into Friday's game leading the National League with 293 extra-base hits. . Attendance was 37,322.
CHICAGO (AP) -- Edwin Jackson earned his third straight win, combining with four relievers on a four-hitter, and Anthony Rizzo drove in all the runs to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night.
St. Louis had the tying run at the plate in the ninth inning after Kevin Gregg dropped a throw covering first on Allen Craig's grounder, and David Freese walked.
Alfonso Soriano made a shoestring catch on Jon Jay's liner to end the game. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was then seen arguing vehemently with plate umpire Dan Bellino and appeared to make contact with him.
The Cubs escaped with the win, and Gregg got his 16th save in 18 chances.
St. Louis' five-game winning streak ended.
Jackson (6-10) struck out five without a walk in seven innings. Starlin Castro added three singles and scored two runs for the Cubs, who won for the fifth time in six games.
The Cardinals lost Matt Holliday to tightness in his right hamstring when he ran out a grounder in the fourth inning.
Rizzo delivered an RBI double in the first inning after Castro singled with one out and made it 3-0 in the third off Jake Westbrook (5-4), poking a two-run single to left past a drawn-in infield.
That was enough for Jackson, who didn't give up either a run or a walk for the first time this season. He also matched his longest outing of the year and improved to 5-2 in his last seven starts after opening 1-8.
The Cubs also made some crisp plays behind him, including Brian Bogusevic's leaping catch against the center-field wall to rob Matt Adams of an extra-base hit leading off the seventh.
The Cardinals had runners on first and second in the eighth after Blake Parker gave up a leadoff single to Jay and walked pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso with one out. James Russell then retired Matt Carpenter on a liner to center, and Pedro Strop threw a wild pitch to put runners on second and third, Carlos Beltran struck out swinging to end the threat.
It was just what the Cubs were looking for one night after matching a season-high for runs allowed and setting one by giving up five homers in a 13-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
Westbrook went seven innings, allowing three runs and seven hits. But it was a tough night for the NL Central leaders, particularly with Holliday leaving the game.
He came up clutching his hamstring halfway to first base on a grounder to short in the fourth. He walked off gingerly after being tended to by a trainer and didn't go out to left field in the bottom half.
NOTES: Beltran played in his 2,000th game. ... The Cubs' Scott Baker threw a bullpen session at Wrigley Field on Thursday and will begin a minor league rehab stint with Class A Kane County on Sunday. The right-hander signed a one-year deal with the Cubs after undergoing Tommy John surgery and sitting out last season with Minnesota, then had a setback in spring training. Chicago manager Dale Sveum said he will make at least four rehab starts before joining the Cubs. ... RHP Joe Kelly (0-3, 4.15 ERA) starts Friday for the Cardinals, with RHP Carlos Villanueva (2-4, 3.63) going for the Cubs.