Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kentucky ends Notre Dame’s perfect start, 72-58

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

After Kentucky’s two-point loss at North Carolina last Saturday and a sluggish first half against Notre Dame, the Wildcats looked like they might be in line for their first two-game losing streak of the John Calipari era.

But after holding the Fighting Irish (No. 23 AP) to one field goal over a 15 ½-minute stretch, Kentucky (No. 17) ended Notre Dame’s undefeated start on the way to a marquee win.

Terrence Jones scored 27 points and snagged 17 rebounds and Brandon Knight added 20 points as the Wildcats beat the Irish 72-58 in Louisville, Ky., in the SEC/Big East Invitational Wednesday night.

Ben Hansbrough led Notre Dame with 21 points. He hit five of his first six 3-pointers, including the 200th of his career, but cooled off along with his teammates in the second half, missing his final three treys.

After Kentucky (6-2) erased Notre Dame’s 11-point lead with a 13-2 run to close the first half, the Wildcats took advantage of an Irish offensive drought to open up a big lead. Jones scored on the first possession of the second half and Knight canned two free throws and a jumper. Darius Miller, Knight and DeAndre Liggins all sank treys to put Kentucky up 56-46 with about 9 minutes left.

Meanwhile, during the 15 ½-minute stretch ending with 9:30 left in the second half, Notre Dame (8-1) was 1-for-13 from the field, which didn’t knock the Irish out of contention but crippled their chances to win.

Notre Dame’s Carleton Scott cut the Kentucky lead to 62-57 with a putback jumper with just over 3 minutes left, but the Irish could get no closer. Jones sank a 3 in the corner and added a pair of free throws. Miller canned one from the charity stripe and Knight and Jones added two more apiece down the stretch to win going away.

The only possible downer for the Wildcats came when Knight hobbled off with 31.5 seconds to go after going down in a pile under the Notre Dame basket, appearing to favor his left leg. He appeared to be receiving treatment for a cramp in front of the Wildcats bench.

The Irish put together the first run of the game, using a 12-2 spurt to take an early lead. Hansbrough drained a pair of 3s and Scott made a thunderous dunk, then hit a layup during the run to give Notre Dame a 27-20 lead.

Notre Dame then opened up a double-digit lead when Hansbrough hit a jumper and a 3-pointer and Tim Abromaitis made a jumper and two free throws, putting the Irish ahead 38-27 with about 4:45 to go in the first half.

But the Wildcats made a 13-2 run to close the half to tie the score at the break. Jones dunked, Stacey Poole Jr. hit a 3, Knight made a layup, Doron Lamb sank a baseline jumper and two free throws and Knight drove the lane and made a floater to tie the score at 40.

Scott scored 10 points for Notre Dame.

NOTES: Kentucky is 42-18 all-time in this series. The Wildcats have won 11 of their last 12 games against the Irish. Their lone loss was in the 2009 NIT quarterfinals, the final game of coach Billy Gillispie’s tenure. … Kentucky is 59-18 all-time at Freedom Hall, the former home of their archrival Louisville. Notre Dame is 11-35 in that building. … This game marked the first time this season the Irish have been outrebounded. Kentucky pulled down 40 boards to Notre Dame’s 33. … The 8-0 start was Notre Dame’s best since 1973-74. … The Irish had won five straight games against SEC opponents, including a victory over Georgia in the Old Spice Classic this season. … Kentucky hosts Indiana Saturday evening. Notre Dame returns to action Saturday night against Gonzaga.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Terrence Jones (3) alters Ben Hansbrough's layup attempt Wednesday. (Clay Jackson/Danville Advocate-Messenger)

Video credit – ESPN

Monday, December 6, 2010

Brady hits 250, Patriots deliver beatdown to Jets, 45-3

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE

The AFC’s two best teams couldn’t have looked more different on Monday night, and it appears the New England Patriots aren’t ready to pass on the mantle of AFC East champions to the New York Jets quite yet.

Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes, including the 250th of his career, and moved into 13th place all-time as the Patriots turned their date with a fierce division rival into a 45-3 laugher in Foxborough, Mass.

The Patriots (10-2) were never even seriously challenged after scoring on their first three possessions. For the Jets (9-3), nothing went right.

Brady carved up their vaunted defense. The New England backs and receivers broke nearly countless tackles. New England’s pass defense, ranked dead last in the NFL, forced quarterback Mark Sanchez into three interceptions in a span of six passes. The special teams units couldn’t get on track, with an early missed field goal and a couple of poor punts that gave the Patriots strong field position.

Kicker Shayne Graham capped New England’s first drive with a 41-yard field goal into a stiff wind, and after the Jets’ Nick Folk missed a 53-yard try woefully wide left, the Patriots took a two-possession lead. Wes Welker caught a pass for 14 yards on third-and-7 and the Jets’ Eric Smith was flagged for pass interference in the end zone to set up BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ 1-yard touchdown run.

Jets punter Steve Weatherford then uncorked a 12-yard punt to his own 32-yard line, and on fourth-and-3, the Patriots elected to go for it instead of trying a 43-yard field goal.

Smart choice. Brady found Deion Branch with a short pass left, and Branch took it 25 yards to the end zone for a 17-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Folk and New York broke into the scoring column early in the second quarter. After Braylon Edwards dropped a pass that would have given the Jets a first down on third-and-3 when hit by New England’s Kyle Arrington, Folk hit a 39-yard kick.

New England responded by augmenting its lead on the next possession. Danny Woodhead, who was cut by the Jets this season, caught a pass out of the backfield for 35 yards, Brady ran for the first down on third-and-2 and Green-Ellis picked up 13. Brady rolled left and found a leaping Brandon Tate in the end zone for a touchdown for a 24-3 halftime lead.

Things only got worse for the Jets to begin the second half, with a couple of interceptions turning into long touchdown drives. Patriots rookie Brandon Spikes snuffed out a promising New York drive, picking Sanchez at the New England 2 for his first career interception.

Brady then hit Rob Gronkowski for 12 yards on third down, Aaron Hernandez for 35 and Welker for an 18-yard touchdown down the sideline, capping the 93-yard drive.

Rookie Devin McCourty intercepted a deep Sanchez throw on the Jets’ ensuing drive, and New England marched 94 yards to yet another touchdown. Brady flipped the ball to Woodhead, who ran for 50 yards. Green-Ellis broke several tackles for a gain of 11 before Brady and Hernandez hooked up for a 1-yard score on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 38-3 edge.

James Sanders intercepted one more Sanchez throw and returned it 28 yards to the Jets 28 to set up the Patriots’ final points. Green-Ellis ran for 10 yards on fourth-and-inches and finished off the drive, powering into the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown. Graham’s extra point capped the scoring at 45-3.

The Patriots tied the Falcons (10-2) for the best record in the NFL, while the Jets’ eight-game road winning streak came to an emphatic end.

NOTES: Brady passed Drew Bledsoe to move into 13th place on the all-time touchdown pass list, finishing with 252. … Folk has missed six of his last 12 field goal attempts. … The Jets were playing their first game without safety Jim Leonhard, who is out for the season. … New York has not scored a first-quarter touchdown in the last eight games, the longest drought in the league. … Brady and coach Bill Belichick have won 107 games together, tied for second in NFL history for wins by a quarterback-coach tandem, with Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll. … Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson passed Eric Dickerson to move into sixth place on the all-time rushing list. … The Patriots have won 26 straight home games with Brady under center, the longest streak for a quarterback. … The Jets beat New England 28-14 at home in Week 2. … New York hadn’t trailed by 42 points since losing 45-3 to Miami on Nov. 24, 1986. … New England travels to Chicago Sunday afternoon. The Jets host the Dolphins Sunday.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Tom Brady throws Monday night. (Charles Krupa/AP)

Video credit – ESPN

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Jags keep pace atop South with 17-6 win at Titans

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE

The Jacksonville Jaguars’ 17-6 victory over the Tennessee Titans was hardly aesthetically appealing, but it made the muddled AFC South playoff picture a bit clearer.

Maurice Jones-Drew ran for a career-high 186 yards, over 100 for the fifth straight game and surpassing the 1,000-yard mark on the season, for the Jaguars in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday.

The Jacksonville (7-5) defense kept Kerry Collins’ Tennessee offense out of the end zone again. The Titans (5-7) haven’t reached paydirt in 13 quarters, the longest such stretch in franchise history.

The Jaguars’ victory ensures they will retain at least a tie atop the AFC South with Indianapolis (6-5), which hosts Dallas later Sunday.

Jacksonville took the lead for good with a pounding first-quarter touchdown drive. Eleven of the 12 plays on the drive were runs – quarterback David Garrard handed Jones-Drew the ball seven times, and Rashad Jennings turned his fourth carry on fourth-and-1 into an 11-yard scoring burst up the middle. Josh Scobee connected on the point-after.

The Jaguars continued to control time of possession and were rewarded when a 13-play second-period drive culminated in another touchdown. Garrard found Greg Jones for 11 yards on third-and-1, Jennings picked up three on third-and-2 and Marcedes Lewis caught a pass for 10 yards to convert third-and-9. Garrard then ran a bootleg left for a 4-yard touchdown.

After Collins threw incomplete for Randy Moss on fourth down, Jacksonville scored once more before the half. Scobee was true from 26 yards out on the final play of the second quarter to give the Jaguars a 17-0 halftime lead.

Tennessee finally got on the board on its first possession of the second half. Collins hit Justin Gage for 25 yards on third-and-10 and Chris Johnson broke free for 21 yards. After a wide-open Bo Scaife dropped a third-down pass inside the Jaguars’ 5, Rob Bironas kicked a 37-yard field goal.

The Titans’ Jacob Ford then blocked a Scobee 49-yard field goal attempt, and Tennessee marched back into scoring range. Jaguars cornerback William Middleton committed pass interference on fourth down to give the Titans a free first down and Jared Cook caught a pass for seven yards on fourth-and-6 before Bironas’ 30-yard boot cut the Tennessee deficit to 17-6.

But, given two more chances with the ball, the weak Tennessee offense couldn’t make anything happen. Collins threw incomplete for Nate Washington on fourth down with about 7 minutes left.

With about 2:50 to go, Collins’ pass was tipped by Daryl Smith and intercepted by Middleton.

Jacksonville was able to run out the clock from there, with Jones-Drew providing a signature play by stiff-arming safety Michael Griffin near the sideline and running for 37 yards.

Johnson also passed the 1,000-yard milestone for Tennessee. He finished with 53 yards on 13 carries.

The Jaguars have won four of their last five games. The Titans’ losing streak, which knocked them out of first place in the division, is up to five.

NOTES: Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger was in the booth in what the team called an “advisory role” after undergoing chemotherapy treatment Wednesday. … Collins, who returned from missing two weeks with a right calf injury, was Tennessee’s third starting quarterback in three weeks. Vince Young, who is out for the season with a right thumb injury, and rookie Rusty Smith started the previous two games. … Jacksonville had lost five straight road December games. … Tennessee beat the Jaguars 30-3 in Jacksonville Oct. 18. … The Jaguars’ Mike Sims-Walker was out with a right ankle sprain. … Jacksonville hosts Oakland Sunday. The Titans continue their stretch of three straight home division tilts when the Colts come to town.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Maurice Jones-Drew (32) carries the ball as Michael Griffin tries to tackle him. (Frederick Breedon/AP)

Video credit – CBS

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Auburn dominates S. Carolina 56-17 for SEC title

2010-11 COLLEGE FOOTBALL POSTSEASON SPECIAL COVERAGE – SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Everyone’s been talking about Auburn quarterback Cam Newton all week, mostly for the wrong reasons.

That talk isn’t likely to decrease. But after the SEC championship game Saturday, it may take on a different tint: Heisman hype.

Game MVP Newton became the second player in NCAA history to run and pass for 20 touchdowns in a season, guiding BCS top-ranked Auburn to an emphatic 56-17 win over South Carolina in Atlanta.

With the win, the Tigers (13-0, No. 2 AP) likely clinched a berth in the national championship game in Glendale, Ariz., Jan. 10. They are projected to face Oregon, which capped a 12-0 regular season with a win over Oregon State Saturday.

As for Newton, who was briefly ineligible this week due to an amateurism violation before the NCAA reversed course and reinstated him for this game? He threw for 335 yards and four scores and ran for 73 yards and two touchdowns and will attempt to ride a strong SEC title game performance to the Heisman Trophy, similar to Alabama’s Mark Ingram’s course to the Heisman last year.

Auburn was up just one touchdown in the last 15 seconds of the second quarter before seizing momentum for good with a stunning play to end the first half. Newton scrambled to the right sideline and flung the ball into the end zone from 51 yards away. South Carolina’s DeVonte Holloman tipped it in the air and the Tigers’ Darvin Adams snagged it for a touchdown as time expired. Wes Byrum’s extra point gave Auburn a 28-14 lead.

South Carolina (9-4, No. 18 AP) took possession to begin the second half, but Spencer Lanning missed a 42-yard field goal wide right, and the Tigers made everything look easy from there out. Newton scrambled left for 25 yards to convert third-and-2 and lofted a pass to Emory Blake for 39 yards up the sideline before finishing off the drive himself with a 1-yard touchdown run.

On the Gamecocks’ ensuing possession, pressured quarterback Stephen Garcia threw the ball right into Auburn’s T’Sharvan Bell’s arms. Bell practically waltzed the 10 yards to paydirt, and Byrum’s boot put the Tigers up 42-14.

One offensive possession later, Auburn put together a grind-it-out-style drive for seven more points. Michael Dyer ran for three first downs, Onterio McCalebb gained 22 yards on a sweep, Dyer and Newton picked up first downs on the ground and Newton hit Blake on a fade for a 7-yard touchdown pass.

After a 33-yard Lanning field goal, Newton and most of the Tigers’ offensive starters came off the field to an ovation, but the Auburn offense wasn’t finished. Backup quarterback Barrett Trotter ran for 34 yards two plays before Mario Fannin ran six yards for a touchdown with 5:26 to go.

Earlier, Auburn opened things up offensively on its first possession to take the first lead of the game. Newton found Adams on play-action on the second play from scrimmage for 62 yards, and a wide-open McCalebb came out of the backfield and caught a 12-yard touchdown pass.

South Carolina evened the score when Garcia found fullback Patrick DiMarco on play-action for a 25-yard touchdown. Newton responded with a 5-yard touchdown run to regain the lead, and after a Gamecock punt, Newton hit Adams, running free up the sideline with a 7-yard lead on defender Stephon Gilmore, for a 54-yard touchdown and a two-touchdown lead.

Lanning and Byrum traded missed field goals before South Carolina made a sustained drive to cut its deficit in half. Marcus Lattimore caught a pass for 26 yards on third-and-9 before Garcia and Alshon Jeffery hooked up for a 1-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left in the half.

Of course, then Auburn took control for good on its way to its seventh SEC title.

Adams caught seven passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers.

NOTES: Newton was declared ineligible by Auburn on Tuesday and reinstated by the NCAA on Wednesday. The NCAA determined Newton’s father solicited payment from Mississippi State during Newton’s recruitment, but that Newton himself knew nothing of the matter. … South Carolina was seeking its first SEC title. It has only won one conference title ever, the ACC crown in 1969. … Auburn leads the all-time series 8-1-1 and has won five straight. … This was Auburn’s sixth game with 50 or more points this season, a school record. … Auburn gained 589 yards, holding the Gamecocks to 349.

Photo above: Cam Newton celebrates Saturday. (Brant Sanderlin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


BOX SCORE


Video credit – CBS

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Gilardino pushes host Fiorentina past Cesena, 1-0

SERIE A SOCCER

FIRENZE, Italia -- This season hasn't been altogether kind to injury-ravaged Fiorentina, which at one point in October was dead last in Serie A.

After a 1-0 victory over Cesena Saturday night at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, the Viola have climbed back to the top half of the table.

Alberto Gilardino scored in the
59th minute for the hosts, who lost striker Adrian Mutu in the 41st minute and remain without captain Riccardo Montolivo, starting goalkeeper Sebastien Frey, Cristiano Zanetti and Stefan Jovetic.

Gilardino's goal, his fifth of the season and second in as many matches, was nothing short of beautiful. He took Alessio Cerci's cross in the box, spun and fired top drawer into the left side past Cesena goalie Francesco Antonioli.

Despite it being the slimmest of possible leads, the one-goal margin seemed to be more than enough for Fiorentina keeper Artur Boruc for the remainder of the second half. Cesena mounted only a couple of legitimate scoring chances, with Ivan Fatic's long shot going well high in the 76th minute and Emanuele Giaccherini's 85th-minute shot deflected wide left.

Fiorentina missed out on a couple of chances to extend its lead when Gaetano D'Agostino took substitute Adam Ljajic's pass in front of the goal but shot very high, and Gianluca Comotto's header off a corner was just a touch too high.

Cesena has now lost four of its last five and sits 19th in the standings.

NOTES: Neither Fiorentina nor Cesena has won on the road this season. ... The Viola return to action Saturday night at league leaders AC Milan. Cesena hosts Palermo next Sunday afternoon.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Alberto Gilardino celebrates after scoring Saturday. (La Repubblica)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Roma beats city rival, league leader Lazio, 2-0

SERIE A SOCCER

AS Roma came into this season with high expectations but has looked a bit lost at times, coming into the Derby della Capitale against hated Lazio in ninth place in Serie A.

A pair of successful penalty kicks helped the Giallorossi pick up a key victory against their top-of-the-table rival.

Marco Borriello and Mirko Vucinic each converted from the spot in the second half as AS Roma defeated Lazio 2-0 in Rome on Sunday.

Borriello scored the winner in the 52nd minute. Lazio's Stephan Lichtsteiner deflected Fabio Simplicio's shot with his wrist to put Borriello on the spot. Lazio goalkeeper Fernando Muslera guessed correctly, diving to his left, but Borriello's shot caromed off Muslera and across the goal line.

Vucinic provided the final margin with three minutes of regulation time left, finding the net after his teammate Julio Baptista was brought down by Andre Dias in the box. This time Muslera guessed wrong; he dove left while Vucinic was deftly sending the ball the other direction into an unguarded net. Vucinic then ripped off his shirt and ran to celebrate, earning a yellow card, but by then it didn't much matter.

The Biancoceleste didn't make much noise at all offensively, and their best chances to score were thwarted by stellar goalkeeping from Julio Sergio, who stopped a Cristian Ledesma free kick in the 48th minute and Hernanes' 65th-minute shot inside the area. Lazio's Pasquale Foggia's shot from extremely close range in the 83rd minute hit the crossbar.

Five minutes earlier, Lazio was denied an opportunity when Roma's John Arne Riise brought down Stefano Mauri on a set-piece play about two yards from the goal, but despite five Lazio players simultaneously crowding and yelling at referee Emidio Morganti, no foul was called.

Second-place AC Milan beat Bari 3-2, cutting Lazio's lead to two points. Roma is seven points back, tied for fifth place.

NOTES: Lazio had won seven of its last nine matches and hadn't lost since Aug. 29. ... Roma has won five of seven derbies. ... Although technically the away side in this match, Roma is unbeaten at the Stadio Olimpico in six league matches this year. ... Lazio star Hernanes promised before the game he would score but did not, being lifted for a substitute in the 72nd minute. ... Rodrigo Taddei, David Pizarro, Matteo Brighi and Stefano Okaka missed the match due to injury for Roma, and Mourad Meghni and Alberto Quadri were out for Lazio. Francesco Totti of Roma and Lazio's Giuseppe Biava also missed due to suspension. ... Roma next hosts Fiorentina Wednesday night. Lazio is at Cesena Wednesday.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: AS Roma's Marco Cassetti, center, and Marco Borriello celebrate after Borriello's goal Sunday. (La Repubblica)

Video credit -- Sky Sports

Monday, November 1, 2010

Renteria, Lincecum, Giants beat Texas to win World Series

2010 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – WORLD SERIES GAME 5

With one mighty swing of the bat, Edgar Renteria has made everyone forget his struggles over the last two years and reprised his old role as World Series-winning hero.

He, Tim Lincecum and the Giants are the best in the baseball world for the first time in 56 years and the first time since the Giants moved west to San Francisco.

Series MVP Renteria stunned Texas ace Cliff Lee with a three-run seventh-inning bomb, Lincecum allowed one run and struck out 10 Rangers and the Giants won Game 5 3-1 in Arlington, Texas, Monday night.

Renteria's walk-off single won Game 7 of the 1997 Series for Florida over Cleveland. Thirteen years later, the veteran victimized Lee and Texas to secure another ring for himself and the Giants' first championship since the franchise did it in New York in 1954.

Giants pitching has dominated almost all series long, and Game 5 was no different. Lincecum three-hit Texas over eight innings, beating fellow former Cy Young winner Lee for the second time in the series.

Lincecum and Lee matched scoreless frame for scoreless frame all the way until the top of the seventh, when San Francisco's Cody Ross delivered yet another key hit with a leadoff single up the middle and Juan Uribe singled to center.

Game 4 hero Aubrey Huff then dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt, the first of his career, and one batter later, Renteria drilled a 404-foot shot to left-center for a lead the struggling Texas offense had no chance of overcoming against Lincecum and Giants closer Brian Wilson.

The Rangers' Nelson Cruz finally touched Lincecum for a one-out solo homer in the bottom of the seventh. The next batter, Ian Kinsler, drew a walk, but Lincecum settled in and struck out David Murphy and Bengie Molina, who came to Texas in a midseason trade from the Giants, to end the inning.

Lincecum proceeded to retire Mitch Moreland, Elvis Andrus and Michael Young 1-2-3 in the eighth, and Wilson came on to shut it down in the ninth, striking out Josh Hamilton looking, inducing a groundout from Vladimir Guerrero and striking out Cruz swinging to touch off the celebration in gray, orange and black.

Giants catcher Buster Posey was the only player with a multi-hit night, going 2-for-4.

Meanwhile, Texas' biggest hitters continued to struggle when it mattered most. Hamilton and Guerrero each went 0-for-4 Monday and finished 2-for-20 and 1-for-14, respectively, for the series.

Lee pitched well but found himself the losing pitcher of record for the second time in a week after losing Game 1 Wednesday. Lee, a free agent following this season, allowed three runs on six hits in seven innings, with six strikeouts.

NOTES: San Francisco's Pat Burrell was back in the lineup at designated hitter after sitting out Game 4 but continued to flounder, finishing 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. His series line was 0-for-13 with 11 strikeouts, and he struck out 22 times in the playoffs. ... Lincecum went 4-1 this postseason. ... This was the eighth World Series matchup of former Cy Young winners, including Lee and Lincecum's Game 1 meeting.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Edgar Renteria homers in Game 5. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Audio credit -- San Francisco Giants Radio Network

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bumgarner, Giants one win from title after 4-0 win

2010 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – WORLD SERIES GAME 4

On Halloween Night, Giants rookie starter Madison Bumgarner came to Game 4 of the World Series dressed as a dominant ace.

Consequently, the team in orange and black is one win away from its first Series title since moving to San Francisco.

Bumgarner held Texas to three hits over eight innings, Aubrey Huff hit a two-run third-inning homer and the Giants beat the Rangers 4-0 in Arlington, Texas, Sunday night.

The win gives the Giants a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. The Rangers now find themselves one loss from elimination after being shut out for just the second time since Sept. 23 -- but also the second time in three games.

Huff handed Bumgarner an early lead, and the Giants essentially coasted from there. Andres Torres led off the third with a double that bounced off first base and caromed down the right-field line, and Huff hit Rangers starter Tommy Hunter's one-out offering out of the yard to right.

Torres' seventh-inning two-out double to the center-field wall plated Edgar Renteria, who had singled and was running from first base with the pitch. Catcher Buster Posey added a solo shot in the eighth for the final margin.

San Francisco closer Brian Wilson pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning in a non-save situation, striking out Josh Hamilton on a failed check swing for the final out.

Bumgarner, 21, the fifth-youngest pitcher to start a Series game, only allowed one runner past first base, stirking out six batters with two walks.

Renteria went 3-for-4, while Torres was 3-for-5.

Hunter took the loss for Texas, allowing two runs on five hits over four innings. He issued one walk and struck out one.

Game 5 is Monday night in Arlington, matching Game 1 starters and aces Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee. The Giants and Lincecum earned an 11-7 win in the opener, while the previously nearly unbeatable Lee gave up seven runs without finishing the fifth inning.

NOTES: Bumgarner and Posey were the first rookie batterymates to start a World Series game since 1947. The Yankees' Spec Shea and Yogi Berra did so against the Brooklyn Dodgers that year. ... Texas reliever Alexi Ogando left in the top of the sixth inning with a left oblique strain. It was not immediately clear whether he will be available for the remainder of the series. ... San Francisco's Cody Ross' 10-game postseason hitting streak came to an end, one game shy of tying the franchise record held by Irish Meusel. ... The Giants have won 14 of 15 against Texas. ... Former President George W. Bush threw out the opening pitch, a strike, to team president Nolan Ryan. His father, former President George H.W. Bush, looked on. ... The shutout was the Giants' fourth of the playoffs, tying the 1998 Yankees and 1905 New York Giants for the most in a single postseason. ... San Francisco's Nate Schierholtz and Travis Ishikawa made their first starts of the postseason.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Madison Bumgarner pitches Sunday. (Matthew Campbell-Pool/Getty Images)

Audio credit -- San Francisco Giants Radio Network/ Rangers Radio Network

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Long balls give Texas first win of World Series, 4-2

2010 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – WORLD SERIES GAME 3

The Texas Rangers came back home for Game 3 of the World Series having been thoroughly beaten by San Francisco in Games 1 and 2.

All it took was a three-run homer from their No. 9 hitter and some effective pitching to pick up their first-ever World Series win.

Mitch Moreland hit a three-run homer in the second inning, starter Colby Lewis turned in another solid outing on the hill and the Rangers beat the Giants 4-2 in Arlington, Texas, Saturday night.

Lewis didn't seem otherworldly on the mound but allowed just two runs and five hits over 7 2-3 innings against a San Francisco club that looked much more like the team that struggled to score runs in the regular season than the Giants who outscored Texas 20-7 in the first two World Series games at home.

The right-hander, who went 12-13 during the regular season but is now 3-0 in the playoffs, never trailed, thanks to Moreland and the Rangers offense. Nelson Cruz doubled Jonathan Sanchez's first pitch of the second inning off the center-field wall and Bengie Molina walked with two outs.

Moreland then took the ninth pitch of the at-bat out to right for a 3-0 edge. Josh Hamilton supplemented the lead three innings later with a two-out solo homer, his fifth of the playoffs.

The Giants' Cody Ross continued his improbable postseason hot streak with a seventh-inning home run to left. Andres Torres hit a homer to right in the eighth to cut San Francisco's deficit to 4-2.

Texas closer Neftali Feliz made his first appearance of the World Series and retired the Giants 1-2-3 in the ninth to earn the save, striking out Pat Burrell, getting Ross on a flyout to deep right and punching out Juan Uribe.

Elvis Andrus and Michael Young each had two of Texas' eight hits.

Game 4 is scheduled for Sunday night in Arlington. The Rangers' Tommy Hunter will face San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner.

NOTES: Burrell went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. He's struck out eight times in the series. ... Texas' Jeff Francoeur and the Giants' Pablo Sandoval each made their first starts of the series. The Rangers' Vladimir Guerrero was also back in the lineup as the designated hitter after sitting out Game 2 following a two-error night in the field in Game 1. ... This marked the third World Series game played in the state of Texas after the Astros hosted Games 3 and 4 of the 2005 Series, which they lost to the White Sox. ... Texas team president and former ace Nolan Ryan threw the first pitch to former Ranger Ivan Rodriguez. The pitch was reportedly clocked at 87 mph in the stadium.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Mitch Moreland, left, receives congratulations from Texas manager Ron Washington, center, and teammates after hitting a home run Saturday. (David J. Phillip/AP)

Audio credit -- San Francisco Giants Radio Network/ Rangers Radio Network

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ross, Cain, Giants beat Phils 3-0, take 2-1 NLCS lead

2010 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – NLCS GAME 3

In the third spectacular NLCS pitching matchup in as many games, the Giants' Matt Cain dominated the Phillies on the hill and turned a little run support into a Game 3 victory.

Cain pitched seven two-hit innings, Cody Ross continued his mastery of Philadelphia's Cole Hamels with a fourth-inning tiebreaking RBI single and the Giants beat the Phillies 3-0 in San Francisco Tuesday to take a 2-1 series lead.

Cain's strong effort earned him his first career playoff win. Ross, who homered three times in the first two games of the series, victimized Hamels again after doing so regularly with division rival Florida prior to coming to San Francisco as a waiver-wire pickup in August.

This time, Ross came up in the fourth inning with two outs and knocked in Edgar Renteria, who had walked, one batter before Aubrey Huff singled home former Phillie Pat Burrell.

One inning later, the Giants' Freddy Sanchez's infield single -- initially ruled an error on Phillies second baseman Chase Utley -- scored Aaron Rowand, another ex-Phillie, who had doubled.

Philadelphia, which hadn't been shut out since August, couldn't do much against Cain. The Phillies got two runners on with two outs in the seventh, but Shane Victorino grounded out to end that inning.

The Phillies' only baserunner after that came in the ninth, when Jimmy Rollins singled with one out. But Giants closer Brian Wilson induced a game-ending double play from Raul Ibanez to give San Francisco the series lead.

Cain struck out five batters and walked three. Hamels allowed three runs on five hits in six innings of work, with eight strikeouts and a walk.

Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday night. Giants rookie Madison Bumgarner will face Philadelphia's Joe Blanton.

NOTES: Ross has an RBI in each of the last four postseason games in which he had a plate appearance. ... San Francisco's Juan Uribe was back in the lineup after missing Game 2 with a bruised left wrist. Reportedly, tests showed no structural damage. ... Cain was pitching on 10 days' rest, the longest stretch of his career. He received a no-decision in the Giants' loss to Atlanta in Game 2 of their division series.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Matt Cain pitches in Game 3. (Ben Margot/AP)

Audio credit -- Giants Radio Network/Phils Radio Network

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rangers beat Yankees for first-ever home playoff win

2010 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – ALCS GAME 2

One game after squandering a five-run lead in their potential first home playoff win ever, the Texas Rangers used a complete team effort to make sure it didn't happen again, and tie up the ALCS in the process.

David Murphy homered and doubled to knock in two runs, Elvis Andrus stole home in the first inning, pitcher Colby Lewis put up a strong start and Texas beat the Yankees 7-2 in Game 2 of the ALCS in Arlington, Texas, Saturday.

The Texas bullpen, which imploded in an ignominous eighth inning in Game 1, held New York scoreless over 3 1-3 innings in relief of Lewis, who scattered six hits over 5 2-3 frames.

Meanwhile, the Rangers, who staked their pitchers to a five-run lead in Game 1, touched Yankees All-Star Phil Hughes for seven runs and 10 hits, seven for extra bases.

The Rangers' offensive outburst was all the more bewildering for New York, considering who was on the mound. Hughes had pitched 15 1/3 scoreless innings in his career at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, including a no-hit bid he was forced to leave after a hamstring injury in his second major-league start.

Despite the offensive fireworks to come, Texas manufactured its first run. Andrus led off the first inning with an infield single, took second on a Hughes wild pitch and stole third base before Josh Hamilton drew a free pass.

Andrus and Hamilton then executed a double-steal to perfection, with Hamilton breaking for second but stopping shy of the bag and allowing himself to be caught in a run-down. Andrus then broke for the plate and swiped home without a tag, as New York second baseman Robinson Cano's throw to catcher Jorge Posada was wide and late anyway.

Murphy began to heat up at the dish in the second with a one-out upper-deck solo shot to right. After Mitch Moreland and Andrus singled with two down, Michael Young doubled the other way down the right-field line to plate Moreland for a 3-0 edge.

Texas continued to pile up its early lead with two more runs in the third inning. Nelson Cruz led off with a double, moved to second on Ian Kinsler's sacrifice bunt and came home on Murphy's double into the right-field corner. Bengie Molina followed with a two-bagger to the right-center-field wall to score Murphy.

The Yankees cut a run off their deficit in the fourth, when Lance Berkman singled off Moreland's glove to plate Cano, who had doubled on the first pitch of the inning and took third on a wild pitch.

But any momentum New York might have begun to build up was lost when Berkman was caught in no-man's-land and tagged out between first and second base, and the Rangers responded by tacking on two more runs in the fifth. Cruz led off with a double off the center-field wall and Kinsler tripled to score Cruz and chase Hughes.

Moreland greeted Yankees reliever Joba Chamblerlain with an opposite-field single through the left side to score Kinsler and take a 7-1 lead.

New York scored just once more after that, on a Cano homer halfway up the right-field upper deck in the sixth. Rangers relievers Clay Rapada, Alexi Ogando, Darren Oliver, Darren O'Day and Neftali Feliz picked up where Lewis left off, holding the powerful Yankee offense scoreless.

The series heads to New York for Game 3 Monday night, when Texas' Cliff Lee will oppose the Yankees' Andy Pettitte.

NOTES: Texas improves to 1-7 in home postseason games all-time, including 1-5 against the Yankees. They lost Games 3 and 4 of the ALDS to Tampa Bay at home. ... Andrus' swipe of home was the first in a playoff game since the Angels' Brad Fullmer turned the trick, also on a double-steal, in Game 2 of the 2002 World Series. ... Texas has homered in all seven of its postseason games. ... Cruz has hit safely in all seven playoff games. ... Andrus has reached base to lead off the Texas first inning in four straight games. ... Hamilton was the only Texas starter held hitless, but he walked four times, including two intentional passes.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Elvis Andrus, second from left, steals home behind Jorge Posada, right, Saturday. (Barton Silverman/The New York Times)

Audio credit -- Texas Rangers Radio Network

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hamels dominates Reds to complete NLDS sweep

2010 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – NLDS GAME 3

Cole Hamels didn't match Roy Halladay's Game 1 no-hitter, but he was plenty effective enough to get the Philadelphia Phillies to their third straight NLCS.

Hamels struck out nine Cincinnati batters in a complete-game five-hit shutout to help the Phillies complete a three-game sweep of the Reds, winning 2-0 in Cincinnati Sunday night.

Philadelphia is now one series victory away from its third straight NL pennant. The Phillies await the winner of the San Francisco-Atlanta division series, which the Giants lead 2-1 after a Sunday victory.

The Phillies scored yet another unearned run -- their sixth out of 13 in the series -- to give Hamels all the offense he would need in the first inning. Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera, a two-time Gold Glover, threw wildly to first on Jayson Werth's two-out grounder, pulling first baseman Joey Votto off the bag and allowing Placido Polanco to score from third.

Chase Utley added a fifth-inning two-out solo homer that just barely cleared Cincinnati's Drew Stubbs' glove and the right-center field wall. The play was upheld after video review, giving Hamels and the Phillies a 2-0 edge.

Cincinnati only had a few real scoring chances all night. Stubbs led off the bottom of the first with an infield single and Brandon Phillips lined a shot to left-center, but Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino made an outstanding running catch to save a likely RBI extra-base hit.

In the seventh, Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez doubled to the left-field wall with two outs, but Jay Bruce flew out to Werth to end the inning.

With the Reds down to their final three outs of the season, Phillips singled to lead off the ninth, but Votto grounded into a double play to Utley and Hamels struck out Rolen swinging for the final out.

Hamels' performance and the early Cincinnati defensive miscue overshadowed a solid outing by Reds starter Johnny Cueto, who was making his first career playoff appearance. He allowed two runs, one earned, on five hits, with a walk and two strikeouts.

After a strong effort in Game 1 but faltering in Game 2, the Reds' relief corps was again effective in Game 3. Normal starter Homer Bailey, Bill Bray, Nick Masset and heralded rookie Aroldis Chapman held Philadelphia to three hits over the final two innings.

NOTES: Game 1 of the NLCS is to be played in Philadelphia Saturday. ... Hamels has never lost to the Reds and is 6-0 against them in regular-season play. ... After falling behind 4-0 in Game 2, the Phillies outscored Cincinnati 9-0. ... Philadelphia has won six straight potential playoff clinchers and 10 of 12. ... Utley's homer was his 10th in postseason play, the most in team history. Werth has nine. ... Cincinnati committed seven errors in the series after finishing second in the NL with a .988 fielding percentage during the regular season. ... Cabrera was back in the lineup after leaving Game 2 due to injury. ... The announced attendance at Great American Ball Park was 44,599, the most in stadium history. The previous high was on opening day in 2005. ... Bailey's stint on the mound was his first career major league relief appearance. ... Rolen finished the series 1-for-11 with eight strikeouts. ... Since the Cardinals won the 2006 World Series, NL Central teams have lost 15 of their last 16 playoff games.

Photo above: Cole Hamels pitches during Game 3. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

BOX SCORE

Audio credit -- Reds Radio Network

Friday, October 8, 2010

Host Northern Ireland draws Italy 0-0 in Euro qualifier

INTERNATIONAL SOCCER SPECIAL COVERAGE – EURO 2012 QUALIFYING GROUP C

After Northern Ireland's historic recent home wins over big boys England and Spain, Italy should probably be satisfied to get out of Windsor Park with a draw.

That was the result -- a 0-0 tie -- between Norn Iron and the Azzurri in a Euro 2012 qualifier in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Friday night.

The finish left Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington pumping his fist as time expired, showing his excitement as his side took down another top-flight team in front of a raucous capacity crowd.

Italy, meanwhile, escaped without a loss, faring better than the English and Spaniards in the last five years. The Azzurri also fell in the teams' last meeting in Belfast in 1958, when Northern Ireland won 2-1 to clinch a World Cup berth.

The Italian side attacked most of the night and took 16 shots to the Green and White Army's 5. But Northern Irish goalkeeper Maik Taylor parried six shots on goal to hold firm.

Italy got off several good chances in the first half in particular. Domenico Criscito's 13th-minute shot from the left side went wide right.

Northern Ireland countered with a scoring try in the 31st minute, but David Healy's header drifted wide left.

Italy's Marco Boriello wasted no time, shooting immediately on a 1-on-1 against Taylor, who stopped him from extremely close range to preserve the clean sheet. Antonio Cassano collected the rebound but proceeded to shoot wide right.

In the second half, Boriello tested Taylor in the 62nd minute but shot right at him, making for an easy save.

Then, in the 86th minute, Italy's Giampaolo Pazzini headed a shot across the net and wide left.

Northern Ireland then almost completed the miracle victory in the final minute of regulation time, but Steven Davis was stonewalled by Azzurri keeper Emiliano Viviano to effectively end the match.

Italy picked up one point for a total of seven, which leads Group C. Northern Ireland is tied for third place with four.

Northern Ireland's next qualifier is Tuesday at the Faroe Islands. Italy hosts Serbia Tuesday night in its next match.

NOTES: Italy has not lost a road qualifier since 2006, but has never won in three trips to Belfast. ... Azzurri defender Gianluca Zambrotta did not play and remains three appearances shy of 100 caps for Italy.

Photo above: Italy's Antonio Cassano, right, possesses the ball in front of Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley. (News of the World)

BOX SCORE

Video credit -- Rai Uno

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Phils' Halladay no-hits Cincinnati in NLDS opener

2010 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – NLDS GAME 1

Not bad for a postseason debut -- at least for Philadelphia's Roy Halladay.

For the Cincinnati Reds, making their first playoff appearance in 15 years, it couldn't have gone much worse.

Halladay pitched the second no-hitter in postseason history and his second of the season, dominating the Reds 4-0 in Game 1 of the NLDS in Philadelphia Wednesday.

Halladay faced just one batter over the minimum, striking out eight batters -- perhaps thanks in part to the generous strike zone of home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck -- and walking the Reds' Jay Bruce in the fifth inning. He added an RBI single in the second inning to help his own cause.

The right-hander, making his playoff debut after pitching the first 12 seasons of his career in postseason-starved Toronto, threw a perfect game at Florida May 29. The only other playoff no-hitter was Don Larsen's perfect game for the Yankees in the 1956 World Series against Brooklyn.

The Reds -- only six of whom have postseason experience -- fell behind early and never had a chance against Halladay. Cincinnati starter Edinson Volquez surrendered a sacrifice fly to Chase Utley, scoring Shane Victorino, who had doubled and stolen third, for a one-run first-inning lead.

Halladay got in on the fun offensively one inning later, singling home catcher Carlos Ruiz, who had walked. Victorino then knocked in Wilson Valdez, who had singled, and Halladay to chase Volquez after just 1 2-3 innings.

The old adage goes that in any no-hitter, the defense always contributes a few gems behind the pitcher. But Cincinnati couldn't even manufacture any real near-misses at the plate and went quietly before the raucous crowd in the ninth. Halladay retired Ramon Hernandez and pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo before Brandon Phillips chopped an 0-2 pitch in front of the plate, with Ruiz making the final play to end it.

The lone bright spot for the Reds was the work of their bullpen. Travis Wood, Logan Ondrusek and Bill Bray collectively allowed just one hit over the final 6 1-3 frames.

Volquez allowed four runs on four hits, with two walks and no punchouts.

Victorino went 2-for-4, the lone player with a multi-hit night.

Game 2 of the series is scheduled for Friday, with the Phillies' Roy Oswalt set to oppose Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo.

NOTES: Halladay's effort is the sixth no-hitter this season. Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez, Oakland's Dallas Braden, Edwin Jackson of Arizona and Tampa Bay's Matt Garza all accomplished the feat, with Detroit's Armando Galarraga losing a perfect game against Cleveland with two outs in the ninth inning on a blown call in June. ... Halladay is the first pitcher to throw a shutout in his playoff debut since the Mets' Bobby Jones pitched a one-hitter in Game 4 of the 2000 NLDS. ... Halladay also threw just the second playoff shutout in Phillies history. Curt Schilling shut out the Blue Jays in Game 5 of the 1993 World Series. ... Philadelphia's Placido Polanco sat out with back stiffness.

Photo above: Philadelphia's Roy Halladay pitches Wednesday. (Matt Slocum/AP)

BOX SCORE

Audio credit -- Reds Radio Network

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bayern beats Roma in Champions League opener

2010-2011 INTERNATIONAL SOCCER SPECIAL COVERAGE – UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUP E

The last time Bayern Munich participated in a Champions League game against an Italian side, it fell to Inter Milan in the 2009-2010 final in May.

Thanks to a couple of late goals from German national stars Thomas Muller and Miroslav Klose, the Bavarians are off to a fast start in their quest to reach the finals again.

Muller found the net in the 78th minute and Klose followed suit five minutes later as Bayern downed AS Roma 2-0 in Munich, Germany, Wednesday night.

Bayern outshot Roma 24-6 but couldn't break through against the defensive-minded Italian side until late. Muller, situated in the right side of the box, took Daniel van Buyten's pass and finished with the outside of his right foot across the goal inside the left post past Roma keeper Julio Sergio.

Substitute Klose provided a pretty set-piece goal from close range in the 83rd minute, getting his studs on Holger Badstuber's free kick to direct the ball past Sergio for a 2-0 lead that would prove more than insurmountable.

Both sides return to Champions League action Sept. 28. Bayern travels to face Swiss side Basel, while Roma hosts Romanian club CFR Cluj.

Roma, which owns just one point in Serie A play on the heels of a 5-1 loss at Cagliari, hosts Bologna Sunday. Bayern has four points after three Bundesliga matches and takes on FC Cologne Saturday.

NOTES: John Arne Riise, Philippe Mexes, Rodrigo Taddei, Mirko Vucinic and Stefano Okaka all missed the match for Roma due to injury. ... Bayern is slated to play six games in the next 17 days.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller and AS Roma's Marco Cassetti battle for the ball Wednesday. (Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Video credit -- Rai Due

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Zambrano winning pitcher as Cubs beat St. Louis 3-2

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Carlos Zambrano probably couldn’t have picked a better time for his first win since his month-long team suspension.

Zambrano earned his first win since June 20, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee homered and the reeling Cubs beat the Cardinals 3-2 in St. Louis Saturday.

Chicago won for just the third time in its last 17 games, evening the weekend series, while the NL Central-leading Cardinals’ edge over second-place Cincinnati dwindled to a half-game with their second loss in eight games.

Zambrano (4-6), starting for the second time since his suspension for a dugout outburst against the White Sox June 25, pitched 5 2-3 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits. He struck out three batters and walked two, beating longtime Cubs-killer Chris Carpenter, who lost to Chicago for the first time since Aug. 10, 2008.

The Cubs (49-68) took the lead for good in the second inning, when Ramirez homered in his first at-bat since missing three games with sore ribs and Koyie Hill doubled home Marlon Byrd, who had doubled, to go on top 2-1.

Lee doubled the lead with his second homer in as many games, a solo shot to right with two outs in the third.

The Cardinals got that run back in the sixth. Skip Schumaker singled with two outs, took second base on a Zambrano wild pitch and scored on pinch hitter Randy Winn’s single, evading Hill’s tag at home to make it 3-2.

St. Louis (65-50) appeared to be in good shape to begin the bottom of the ninth after Aaron Miles led off with an infield single and moved to second on Ramirez’s throwing error.

But Cubs closer Carlos Marmol got Brendan Ryan to pop up a bunt to Hill – leading to loud booing from the St. Louis faithful – then induced a foul popout from Felipe Lopez and struck out Allen Craig on three pitches, leaving the dangerous Albert Pujols stranded on deck, to end it.

The Cardinals had taken a one-run first-inning lead on Matt Holliday’s sacrifice fly to score Jon Jay, who had singled.

Ramirez went 2-for-4. Marmol posted his 20th save.

Jay and Pujols each had two hits for the Cardinals. Carpenter (13-4) yielded three runs on six hits, with three strikeouts.

St. Louis manager Tony La Russa missed his second straight game, serving out his suspension for his role in the Cardinals’ brawl with the Reds during an 8-4 win Tuesday, for which Carpenter and Yadier Molina were fined.

NOTES: The Cubs won a one-run game for the first time in nine tries. … Zambrano is 6-1 in 11 starts at St. Louis. … The Cubs’ second inning marked the first time Carpenter yielded four extra-base hits in one inning since Sept. 28, 2006 against San Diego. … Carpenter had won four straight decisions and falls to 10-4 all-time against the Cubs. … St. Louis had scored at least four runs in every game in August coming in. … With a win Sunday, the Cardinals can claim their fourth straight home series win over Chicago. The Cubs with a victory can win just their second Central series in their last 15 tries, but their second straight over St. Louis after taking two of three at home July 23-25. … The Cardinals currently lead Cincinnati by a half-game and fifth-place Chicago by 17 games. The Reds host the Marlins Saturday night and can tie for first place in the Central with a win. … The Cubs’ Ryan Dempster and St. Louis’ Kyle Lohse will pitch the rubber game Sunday afternoon.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Carlos Zambrano pitches Saturday. (Bill Boyce/AP)

Video credit – FOX

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Gonzalez, Crisp, A's down Rangers, 6-2

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Trying to stay in contention in the American League West race, the Oakland Athletics shut down the punchless Texas offense.

Gio Gonzalez pitched seven scoreless innings, Coco Crisp drove in three runs and the A's beat the Rangers 6-2 in Oakland, Calif., Saturday.

Division-leading Texas (64-46) retains an 8 1/2-game lead over second-place Oakland, but the Athletics (55-54) will have a chance to win the series Sunday afternoon.

Rangers starter Rich Harden again fell victim to a high pitch count, lasting just 2 1-3 innings -- long enough for Oakland to score all the runs it would need.

With the bases loaded in the first inning, Harden walked Kevin Kouzmanoff to force in Crisp before Mark Ellis' sacrifice fly to right scored Daric Barton.

One inning later, Crisp lifted a two-out homer to right for a 3-0 edge.

Crisp's sac fly in the fourth scored Cliff Pennington, who had tripled. In the sixth, Matt Watson doubled to right to score Rajai Davis. Crisp's second sac fly then scored pinch runner Gabe Gross ahead of Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz's strong throw to the plate.

The Rangers managed to plate two runs in the final two innings. Catcher Taylor Teagarden hit his second homer in as many days, hitting a pitch just beyond Crisp's reach and off his glove to center in the eighth.

David Murphy's two-out ninth-inning single plated Jorge Cantu for the final run.

Gonzalez (10-7) allowed four hits and no runs over seven innings, with two strikeouts and three walks.

Crisp and Davis each had two hits for the A's.

Harden (4-4) yielded three runs on two hits and five walks. He had two strikeouts against his former club.

Murphy went 2-for-4 to lead Texas offensively.

NOTES: Texas' three-game winning streak ended. ... Gonzalez has won 14 of his last 15 starts when the A's score three runs or more. ... Oakland's Trevor Cahill will work the series finale Sunday against the Rangers' Colby Lewis.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Oakland's Gio Gonzalez pitches Saturday. (Chad Ziemendorf/San Francisco Chronicle)

Video credit -- FOX

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

ZSN College Football 2010 Preseason Top 25 Rankings

School (2009 Record)/Season opener (Sept. 4 unless otherwise noted)

1. Alabama (14-0)/San Jose State
2. Boise State (14-0)/Virginia Tech (Landover, Md.) (Sept. 6)
3. Ohio State (11-2)/Marshall (Sept. 2)
4. Texas (13-1)/Rice (Houston)
5. Texas Christian (12-1)/Oregon State (Arlington, Texas)
6. Florida (13-1)/Miami (Ohio)
7. Iowa (11-2)/Eastern Illinois
8. Virginia Tech (10-3)/Boise State (Landover, Md.) (Sept. 6)
9. Wisconsin (10-3)/at UNLV
10. Georgia Tech (11-3)/South Carolina State
11. Nebraska (10-4)/Western Kentucky
12. Oregon (10-3)/New Mexico
13. Cincinnati (12-1)/at Fresno State
14. Miami (Fla.) (9-4)/Florida A&M (Sept. 2)
15. Penn State (11-2)/Youngstown State
16. North Carolina (8-5)/LSU (Atlanta)
17. West Virginia (9-4)/Coastal Carolina
18. Pittsburgh (10-3)/at Utah (Sept. 2)
19. Stanford (8-5)/Sacramento State
20. Arkansas (8-5)/Tennessee Tech
21. Oregon State (8-5)/TCU (Arlington, Texas)
22. LSU (9-4)/North Carolina (Atlanta)
23. Texas Tech (9-4)/SMU (Sept. 5)
24. Oklahoma (8-5)/Utah State
25. Navy (10-4)/Maryland (Baltimore) (Sept. 6)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cain, Renteria, Giants beat L.A. 2-0 to complete sweep

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

San Francisco pitcher Matt Cain has finally beaten the Dodgers, his team’s fiercest rival.

He wouldn’t have done it without a motivated Edgar Renteria, who helped Cain out in no small way with some much-needed offensive support.

Cain earned his first win against L.A. after eight losses and Renteria smacked a two-RBI sixth-inning triple as the Giants swept the Dodgers with a 2-0 win in San Francisco on Sunday.

The Giants’ (61-45) big right-hander pitched 7 2-3 innings, allowing four hits with seven strikeouts and one walk.

Renteria gave Cain (9-8) all the offense he would need in the sixth, breaking up a scoreless tie. With two out and Pat Burrell on second after his double, Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw intentionally walked Aaron Rowand to bring up Renteria, who tripled to the wall in left-center to score Burrell and Rowand and then pumped his fist after sliding into third.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles’ offensive woes continued. The Dodgers, whose losing streak stretched to five games, are averaging just over two runs a game since the All-Star break and were held to two runs or less for the sixth time in seven games.

The Dodgers (54-51) had multiple baserunners in the same inning just once, in the fourth inning. Recent acquisition Scott Podsednik reached on an infield single, stole second and advanced to third before James Loney walked with two out. Cain responded by inducing a fielder’s choice from Matt Kemp to end the inning.

Closer Brian Wilson notched his 31st save of the season, retiring Kemp on a flyout to a running Rowand in the right-center gap for the final out.

Kershaw (10-6), making his first start after serving a five-game suspension for hitting Rowand with a pitch July 20, allowed two runs on six hits over seven innings, with six strikeouts and four walks.

NOTES: The Giants are 21-6 since July 6. They’ve won five of six against the Dodgers and swept L.A. at home for the first time since a four-game series June 21-24, 2004. … San Francisco’s Javier Lopez and the Dodgers’ Octavio Dotel, teammates in the Pittsburgh bullpen on Saturday, made their debuts for their respective new clubs after trade-deadline deals one day ago. … Los Angeles’ Ryan Theriot, acquired from the Cubs on Saturday, made his first appearance as a Dodger, going 0-for-4 at second base. … L.A.’s Andre Ethier missed his second straight game after the birth of his child. … The Giants stay in second place in the NL West, 1.5 games behind first-place San Diego. The Dodgers are eight games out in fourth place. … San Francisco is off Monday, then travels to Colorado for a two-game set, with Jonathan Sanchez scheduled to pitch Tuesday night. The Dodgers head home to host the Padres in a four-game series. Hiroki Kuroda will throw Monday night.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: San Francisco's Matt Cain pitches Sunday. (Ben Margot/AP)


Video credit – ESPN

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Backup Hanigan keys Reds’ 5-2 comeback over Atlanta

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

CINCINNATI – With a little help from a crucial Braves defensive miscue, Reds reserve catcher Ryan Hanigan helped his club beat the NL East leaders for the first time this season.

Hanigan’s seventh-inning double coupled with Atlanta center fielder Melky Cabrera’s odd throwing error allowed three runs to score on the play as Cincinnati came back to beat the Braves 5-2 Saturday.

The Reds (58-47) had been stymied by Atlanta starter Jair Jurrjens most of the afternoon, trailing 2-1 entering the seventh inning. But Cincinnati changed all that when Scott Rolen doubled, Jonny Gomes singled and Jay Bruce singled to right to score Rolen and tie the game with one out.

One out later, Hanigan took Jurrjens’ offering to the center-field wall. Cabrera retreated to field it, but his throw slipped out of his hand and meekly shot sideways toward right field, allowing the merry-go-round on the bases to continue. Gomes and Bruce scored ahead of Hanigan, who came all the way around and slid home to give Cincinnati a 5-2 lead.

Reds closer Francisco Cordero, fresh off taking the loss in Atlanta’s series-opening win Friday, took the mound to boos and pitched himself into trouble in the ninth, allowing two runners to bring Braves rookie Jason Heyward – who victimized Cordero with the winning two-run 10th-inning double Friday – to the plate as the potential tying run with two out.

But Cordero struck out Heyward looking, turning the boos into cheers and evening the NL contenders’ weekend series. The rubber match is Sunday.

Atlanta (59-44) jumped on Reds starter Bronson Arroyo (11-6) early, taking a two-run first-inning lead. Omar Infante led off the game with a double and came home when Hanigan fielded Heyward’s topper and threw the ball away into right field. Eric Hinske then drew a bases-loaded walk to force in Heyward.

But Arroyo shut down the Braves after that, and Rolen cut the Reds’ deficit in half in the fourth with a two-out solo shot to left.

Rolen led the Reds with a 2-for-3 performance. Arroyo allowed two runs and four hits over seven innings, with three walks and three strikeouts, to earn the win. Cordero produced his 28th save.

Jurrjens (3-4) gave up five runs on eight hits in 6 2-3 frames of work, with six punchouts and no walks. He has yet to win on the road this season.

Brian McCann and Infante each had three of Atlanta’s seven hits.

NOTES: Cincinnati’s win was its 31st comeback victory of the season, second in the majors. … The Reds honored Atlanta manager Bobby Cox, who is retiring from managing after this season, at home plate before the game. … Atlanta discovered Saturday that leadoff hitter Martin Prado broke the second knuckle on his right pinkie sliding into home Friday. He is expected to miss at least a week. … Arroyo is 6-3 all-time against the Braves. … All of Jurrjens’ losses have come in day games. … Early during the game, the Braves completed a deadline deal with Kansas City that brought Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth to Atlanta. Cincinnati did not pull off any blockbuster deals. … The Reds remain a half-game back of St. Louis in second in the NL Central. Atlanta is 3.5 games up on Philadelphia in the East. … Cincinnati’s Edinson Volquez and the Braves’ Tommy Hanson will work Sunday afternoon.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Cincinnati's Ryan Hanigan (29) slides home after his game-winning double Saturday. (Al Behrman/AP)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Garza no-hits Tigers, Rays win series opener, 5-0

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Thanks to Matt Garza, the Tampa Bay Rays finally ended up on the right side of a no-hitter.

Garza held Detroit without a hit and Matt Joyce broke up the Tigers’ Max Scherzer’s own no-hit bid with a sixth-inning grand slam as Tampa Bay won 5-0 in St. Petersburg, Fla., Monday night.

The no-hitter is the first in franchise history for the Rays (60-38), who have been no-hit twice themselves this year.

Garza’s effort is the fifth no-hitter in 2010. Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez no-hit Atlanta April 17, Oakland’s Dallas Braden threw a perfect game against the Rays May 9, Roy Halladay of Philadelphia was perfect against Florida May 29 and Arizona’s Edwin Jackson dominated his old team, the Rays, June 26. The Tigers’ Armando Galarraga lost a perfect game against Cleveland with two outs in the ninth inning on a blown call June 2.

Remarkably, Garza’s no-no came against a team he had never beaten. He was 0-4 with a 5.85 ERA in six starts against Detroit coming in.

Garza (11-5) struck out six batters and allowed just one baserunner – he walked Brennan Boesch in the second inning. He only had one near-miss all night, giving up a third-inning drive to right to Danny Worth, but right fielder Ben Zobrist leaped to make the catch.

He didn’t need a whole lot of offense to win, but the Rays helped him out with a big sixth inning. Scherzer got the first out of the inning, but Zobrist drew a walk, Carl Crawford reached on catcher’s interference on Gerald Laird and Evan Longoria walked to set the stage for Joyce, who laced a pitch halfway up the right-field foul pole for a four-run cushion.

Crawford added a little more insurance with an eighth-inning homer to dead center, and Garza induced a groundout from Don Kelly, struck out Laird looking and got pinch hitter Ramon Santiago on a flyout to Zobrist to end it.

Joyce spoiled a dominant start by Scherzer (7-8), who allowed two hits through 5 2-3 innings, with four walks and eight strikeouts.

Detroit (51-47) manager Jim Leyland wasn’t around to see the show. He was ejected in the third inning after arguing when second-base umpire Marty Foster called the Rays’ B.J. Upton safe stealing second, though replays showed Tigers second baseman Will Rhymes tagged him out.

The Tigers have lost 10 of their last 13 games and are 16-30 on the road this season, having lost seven straight.

Tampa Bay has won seven of its last eight at home after dropping 12 of 19 at Tropicana Field.

NOTES: The Padres and the Mets are now the only major-league teams who have never thrown no-hitters. … This was the first game of an 11-game homestand for the Rays. … Garza has won his last four home decisions. … Detroit was without Brandon Inge, Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen, all on the 15-day DL. … With Longoria’s 0-for-3 night, he is hitless in his last 13 at-bats. … Leyland was also ejected by Fieldin Culbreth of the same umpiring crew at Atlanta June 27. … Tampa Bay remains three games back of the Yankees in second in the AL East. The third-place Tigers are three games behind the first-place White Sox in the Central. ... The Rays’ James Shields and Detroit’s Justin Verlander have the unenviable task of following Garza’s effort. They’ll pitch the second game of the four-game set Tuesday night.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Tampa Bay's Matt Garza pitches during his no-hitter Monday. (Mike Carlson/AP)

Video credit – ESPN

Lopez hands Cardinals 4-3 11-inning win over Cubs

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Trying to avoid their fourth straight loss and solidify their spot atop the NL Central, the St. Louis Cardinals were saved by an extra-inning home run – not from any of their usual suspects, but from Felipe Lopez.

Lopez’s 11th-inning homer helped the Cardinals beat the Cubs 4-3 to end their losing streak and avoid a three-game sweep in Chicago Sunday night.

The Cardinals (55-44) took a half-game lead in the Central. Their main competition for the division lead, Cincinnati, lost 4-0 at Houston Sunday. Chicago is 10 games out in fourth place.

Lopez provided the winning run in the 11th inning with his two-out, no-doubt homer off Chicago reliever Brian Schlitter to right, after which he flipped his bat, raised his hands and hopped, à la Sammy Sosa, out of the batter’s box.

Cubs pinch hitter Xavier Nady led off the bottom of the inning with a bloop single, but Chicago couldn’t push him home as St. Louis’ Dennys Reyes struck out Kosuke Fukudome to end the game.

The Cardinals struck first against Chicago starter Ryan Dempster in the second inning. Jon Jay led off with a triple to the wall in right-center and Skip Schumaker drove him in with a bloop single.

Pitcher Chris Carpenter then sacrificed Schumaker to second, and Brendan Ryan’s single up the middle scored Schumaker for a 2-0 St. Louis edge.

The Cubs (45-54) cut their deficit in half in the fourth when Derrek Lee led off with a double into the left-field corner and came home on Marlon Byrd’s one-out single to left-center.

Chicago took its first lead one inning later. Ryan Theriot tripled past a diving Jay to score Geovany Soto, who had walked, to tie the game before Starlin Castro’s two-out single knocked in Theriot.

But Albert Pujols stole the Cubs’ lead and momentum immediately, hitting a leadoff shot to left to lead off the sixth. St. Louis almost took the lead back, but Byrd fielded a two-out Carpenter single up the middle and threw Schumaker, who had doubled, out at home to end the inning.

Both teams loaded the bases in the 10th but couldn’t push a run across. Matt Holliday, Jay and Schumaker hit back-to-back-to-back singles to load the bases for St. Louis before Schlitter (0-1) got Yadier Molina to ground into an inning-ending double play.

In the bottom of the frame, Tyler Colvin reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second, Castro was hit by a pitch and Aramis Ramirez reached on a Schumaker error, but Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin (5-1) struck out Byrd looking to strand three runners.

Schumaker went 4-for-4 to lead St. Louis. Ryan Ludwick, Jay and Ryan had multiple-hit nights. Reyes earned his first save of the season.

Carpenter pitched seven innings and yielded three runs on nine hits. He struck out four batters and walked one. With the no-decision, he remains 10-3 against the Cubs all-time.

Dempster also threw seven frames, allowing three runs on nine hits with four walks and four strikeouts. He’s allowed three or fewer runs in nine of his last 10 starts.

Byrd, Alfonso Soriano and Theriot posted two-hit performances.

NOTES: Chicago hasn’t swept the Cardinals at home since taking four straight from July 27-30, 2006. … The Cubs’ series win breaks a 10-series losing skid in division play and is just their third all season. They last beat a Central team by sweeping Milwaukee April 23-25 and dropped a combined six series against woeful Pittsburgh and Houston during that time. … St. Louis is an MLB-best 39-9 when scoring first this season. … Holliday ran his hitting streak to 11 games with his 10th-inning single. … Cubs reliever Sean Marshall posted his 10th straight scoreless appearance. … Nady had just three hits in his last 39 at-bats before his pinch-hit single. … The Cardinals are off Monday before a three-game road set with the Mets. Jaime Garcia will pitch Tuesday night. Chicago heads to Houston for three, with Carlos Silva – who allowed five runs in one inning in a loss to the Astros last Monday – pitching Monday’s series opener.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Felipe Lopez watches his game-winning 11th-inning homer Sunday. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

Video credit – ESPN

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Buehrle, Quentin, White Sox cool off A’s, 5-1

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

One year to the day after throwing a perfect game, White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle finally figured out how to win at Oakland, with a little help from Carlos Quentin.

Buehrle threw a complete-game four-hitter for his first-ever win at Oakland Coliseum, Quentin drove in two runs in his return from injury and Chicago beat the Athletics 5-1 in their series opener in Oakland, Calif., Friday night.

Buehrle’s effort came 365 days after he took down Tampa Bay with a perfect game last July 23.

The White Sox have won a majors-best 29 of their last 38. Oakland lost for just the second time in nine games.

Quentin, in the lineup for the first time since Sunday after bruising his hand at Minnesota, put Chicago (53-42) on the board in the fourth inning. He knocked in Alex Rios on a sacrifice fly to the warning track after Rios’ leadoff double off A’s All-Star pitcher Trevor Cahill.

Two innings later, the White Sox tripled their lead. Juan Pierre led off with a walk and Omar Vizquel singled ahead of Rios, who reached on Oakland’s Cliff Pennington’s error, letting Pierre score.

Quentin’s groundout then scored Vizquel for a three-run edge.

Oakland (48-48) scored its run on back-to-back seventh-inning doubles. Jack Cust’s base hit off the right-center-field wall scored Kevin Kouzmanoff to cut the Athletics’ deficit to two.

But the Sox weren’t done at the plate. In the ninth, A.J. Pierzynski’s bouncer up the middle scored pinch runners Andruw Jones and Brent Lillibridge, who each stole second, for some insurance.

Buehrle (9-8) struck out two batters and walked none, retiring 11 straight A’s at one point. He had been 0-6 at the Coliseum with a 4.66 ERA in 12 appearances. He’s just 4-12 against Oakland all-time.

Vizquel and Rios each went 2-for-4.

For Oakland, Cust was 2-for-3.

Cahill (9-4) allowed three runs on four hits over seven innings, with two walks and no strikeouts. He has lost two of three decisions after winning seven straight.

NOTES: Buehrle is 6-2 in his last eight starts. … The only AL parks Buehrle remains winless in are the new Yankee Stadium, erected before last season, and Minnesota’s Target Field, which is in its inaugural campaign. … Oakland reliever Jerry Blevins worked two-thirds of a scoreless inning, his 13th consecutive scoreless outing. He hasn’t allowed a run since June 25. … Athletics outfielder Rajai Davis was scratched with a reported hamstring injury. … Chicago stretched its lead in the AL Central to 2.5 games over second-place Detroit, which was rained out Friday. The Athletics sit in third in the West, 8.5 games back of Texas. … The middle game of the series is Saturday afternoon, with Chicago’s Freddy Garcia set to oppose Vin Mazzaro for the A’s.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Chicago's Mark Buehrle pitches Friday. (Jeff Chiu/AP)


Video credit – WGN

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sox ninth-inning error caps Twins comeback, 7-6

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

The Chicago White Sox began their second half-opening four-game series at Minnesota with a solid lead in the AL Central.

After a sudden ninth-inning meltdown to lose the third game of those four, Chicago’s lead over the Twins and Detroit has dwindled to 1 ½ games.

Sox outfielder Alex Rios’ wild throw up the third-base line allowed Michael Cuddyer to score the winning run as the Twins scored four runs in the ninth to win 7-6 in Minneapolis on Sunday.

Combined with the Tigers’ five straight losses, Minnesota’s three-game winning streak has moved it into a tie in second in the Central with the Tigers.

Chicago, which won its ninth straight game in the series opener, has lost three straight for the first time since dropping four in a row April 15-18. Minnesota is on its first three-game winning streak since taking five straight May 27-31.

White Sox (50-41) starter Freddy Garcia was in line for his seventh straight win after allowing three runs over six innings, but closer Bobby Jenks wasted no time helping the Twins off to a great start in the bottom of the ninth, walking Orlando Hudson on 10 pitches and Joe Mauer.

Jason Kubel’s single to center scored Hudson and Cuddyer’s single plated Mauer to cut the Twins’ deficit to 6-5 and chase Jenks.

With reliever Sergio Santos on the hill to put out the fire and still no outs, Jason Repko walked to load the bases and Delmon Young blooped a base hit to center in front of Rios. Pinch runner Nick Punto scored on the play, and Cuddyer dashed home on Rios’ throwing error to clinch the series for Minnesota.

The Twins (49-33) scored first in the second inning. Young’s homer to left plated Jim Thome, who had singled.

Chicago cut Minnesota’s lead in half in the next frame when Gordon Beckham’s double against Twins starter Nick Blackburn scored Alexei Ramirez, who led off the inning with a double.

Cuddyer and Kubel got that run back for the Twins in the fourth, when Kubel singled and Cuddyer drove him home with a triple to center for a 3-1 Minnesota edge.

But the White Sox scored the next five runs, putting them in good position heading into the ninth. Juan Pierre knocked in Ramirez with a groundout in the fifth, and Carlos Quentin doubled home Rios and Paul Konerko after their sixth-inning singles to chase Blackburn.

Reliever Brian Duensing walked Ramirez intentionally and Quentin stole third before Ramon Castro singled in Quentin and Beckham’s single knocked in Ramirez for a 6-3 lead.

Each team had 16 hits. Kubel and Cuddyer were each 3-for-5, while Thome, Young, Danny Valencia and J.J. Hardy each had two hits.

Beckham led the way for Chicago, going 4-for-4. Omar Vizquel, Rios, Konerko, Quentin, and Ramirez all registered two hits.

Duensing (3-1) scattered seven hits over four innings of one-run ball to record the win. Jenks (1-2) took the loss. The Twins’ comeback rescued Blackburn from what would have been his seventh loss in eight decisions.

Quentin left after the sixth inning with a bruised right hand. No more information regarding his condition was immediately available.

NOTES: J.J. Putz pitched a scoreless eighth inning out of the White Sox bullpen. It was his 24th straight shutout outing, tying him with Shingo Takatsu for the longest streak in Sox history. Takatsu did it in 2004. … The White Sox have lost just eight of their last 34 games. … The Twins host the Indians for a three-game set beginning Monday night, with Scott Baker on the mound. Chicago begins a six-game West Coast swing with three tilts in Seattle. Daniel Hudson is set to make his fourth career start Monday night.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Delmon Young (center) celebrates with teammates Sunday after his ninth-inning hit helped the Twins win 7-6. (David Brewster/Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Video credit – WGN

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

McCann 3-RBI double snaps NL skid, 3-1

2010 MLB SPECIAL COVERAGE – ALL-STAR GAME

Atlanta catcher Brian McCann was just 12 years old the last time the National League won an All-Star Game.

The 26-year-old’s bases-clearing seventh-inning double finally ended the American League’s 13-year streak of dominance.

Game MVP McCann provided all the NL’s offense as the senior circuit knocked off the AL 3-1 in Anaheim, Calif., in the Midsummer Classic Tuesday night.

The AL, which has come back to win four straight one-run All-Star Games, finally ran out of heroics this time. Boston’s David Ortiz reached on a leadoff single in the ninth inning off Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton but was forced out at second on a great defensive play by Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd, and the NL hung on for the win.

Coming into the seventh inning, the NL offense had been stymied all night by a combination of Rays starter David Price, the Yankees’ Andy Pettitte, Texas’ Cliff Lee, the Tigers’ Justin Verlander and Jon Lester of Boston.

But the NL lineup, down 1-0, won the game in the seventh. Cincinnati’s Scott Rolen and the Cardinals’ Matt Holliday singled and Byrd drew a walk to load the bases for McCann.

The catcher did not disappoint, taking White Sox reliever Matt Thornton’s pitch to right for a three-run double.

The AL, as usual, didn’t go quietly. Toronto’s John Buck doubled with one out in the seventh off Holliday’s glove and the Blue Jays’ Vernon Wells reached on a fielder’s choice, but Angels local favorite Torii Hunter struck out swinging to end the inning.

Ortiz led off the ninth with a single, but Broxton struck out Adrian Beltre of the Red Sox and Byrd fielded Buck’s bloop to right, spun and threw Ortiz out at second.

Broxton then got the Rangers’ Ian Kinsler to fly out to Arizona’s Chris Young in center field to give the NL its first All-Star win since 1996.

The AL scored first, manufacturing a run to go on top in the fifth inning. New York’s Robinson Cano hit a sacrifice fly to deep left to score Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria, who had walked and gone to third on Dodgers pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo’s throwing error.

Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun made the prettiest defensive play of the night, robbing Texas’ Josh Hamilton of an extra-base hit with a diving snag in the fourth.

The Mets’ David Wright was the only player with a multi-hit game, going 2-for-2.

Ubaldo Jimenez of Colorado was the first of nine NL pitchers, while 10 AL hurlers took the mound.

Washington reliever Matt Capps was the winning pitcher of record, while the Yankees’ Phil Hughes, who allowed two hits in the seventh, took the loss. Broxton was credited with the save.

NOTES: The players observed a moment of silence before the game for Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, 80, who died Tuesday morning. … With the win, the NL pennant winner will have home-field advantage in the World Series in October. … The NL leads the all-time series 41-38. … The senior circuit’s last win was 6-0 in Philadelphia in 1996. … Price, 24, was the youngest starting pitcher in an All-Star Game since the Mets’ Dwight Gooden, then 23, did it in 1988.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Atlanta's Brian McCann hits a three-run double Tuesday. (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

Video credit – FOX

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Iniesta gives Spain first World Cup title, beats Dutch

2010 FIFA WORLD CUP SPECIAL COVERAGE – FINAL

The European champions have finally won their first world title.

Andres Iniesta scored in the 116th minute as Spain defeated the 10-man Netherlands 1-0 in extra time in the World Cup final in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sunday.

Spain, a first-time finalist,claimed its first World Cup, ending the Netherlands’ 25-game unbeaten streak. Its patient attack yielded just eight goals in the entire tournament, the lowest ever for a champion, as Spain became the first nation to ever lose its first game and come back to win the title.

With about five minutes to play in extra time, Iniesta took a ball in the penalty area from substitute Cesc Fabregas and finished across Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.

The match was anything but beautiful – the 14 cards English referee Howard Webb handed out more than doubled the previous record for a final – but both goalkeepers provided sublime moments to force extra time and set the stage for Iniesta.

La Roja’s Iker Casillas dove to stop two Arjen Robben second-half breakaways, while Stekelenburg stonewalled Sergio Ramos in the fifth minute and stopped Fabregas in the 95th minute.

Iniesta alone had two earlier chances to score, but hesitated and was stopped by Stekelenburg after being alone in the penalty area in the 81st minute and again in the 99th.

Both sides missed out on some earlier seemingly easy scoring opportunities. The Oranje’s Joris Mathijsen almost completely whiffed on a corner in the 37th minute, and Spain’s Joan Capdevila returned the favor in the 48th minute, failing to capitalize on an open net.

Spanish Golden Boot contender David Villa blasted a tough-angle shot from inside the 6-yard box well high in the 69th minute, then hit a 25-yard free kick over five minutes later.

Ramos headed a corner over the bar in the 77th minute, Jesus Navas’ shot was deflected off the side net by Netherlands defender Giovanni van Bronckhorst in the 101st minute and a slipping Fabregas missed wide right in the 104th minute.

Mathijsen headed a corner over the bar, missing a wide-open net, 13 minutes before teammate John Heitinga received his second yellow card and was sent off.

Xavi missed the 110th-minute free kick, but the Spaniards’ one-man advantage soon paid off with Iniesta’s goal six minutes later.

NOTES: The Dutch hadn’t lost since falling 2-1 to Australia on Sept. 6, 2008. … This was the first World Cup held outside Europe won by a European nation. … Spain lost its opener to Switzerland, 1-0, but has lost just two of its last 56 matches. … The last World Cup to reach extra time scoreless was in 1994, when Brazil beat Italy on penalty kicks in Pasadena, Calif. … Spain has won five straight games by one goal. … Dutch captain van Bronckhorst played in his final professional game.

Photo above: Spain's Andres Iniesta celebrates his World Cup-winning goal Sunday. (Luca Bruno/AP)

Video credit – ESPN on ABC