AP Friday Sports Roundup
Brady sharp in NFL season opener
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Other than the weather, it was a near-perfect night for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
The Pats unveiled their latest Super Bowl banner before Brady passed for four touchdowns to lead the defending champs past the Steelers 28-21 in the NFL season opener. All four TDs went to his tight ends, with Rob Gronkowski catching three while the Patriots built a 28-14 lead. Gronkowski also recovered a fumble by Dion Lewis at the Steelers 1 to set up his third score.
Brady set a franchise record with 19 straight completions on a rainy night in Foxborough. He finished 25 of 32 for 288 yards just a week after a federal judge vacated the NFL's four-game suspension in the deflated footballs scandal.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 26 of his 38 passes for 351 yards, one touchdown and one interception. DeAngelo Williams carried 21 times for 127 yards.
Rosters continue to be set
UNDATED (AP) — A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press that Luke Kuechly has agreed to a five-year, $62 million contract extension with the Carolina Panthers, making him the highest-paid middle linebacker in the NFL.
Kuechly has an NFL-best 473 tackles since coming into the league as a first-round draft pick in 2012. He's one of only three players to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors within his first two years. He also won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012.
In other NFL news:
— Suspended Dallas defensive end Greg Hardy won't challenge the NFL in federal court over his four-game ban for his role in a domestic violence case. The former Carolina player was suspended 10 games by Commissioner Roger Goodell after the league concluded through evidence obtained from his trial in North Carolina that he roughed up his former girlfriend, Nicole Holder, in May 2014. An arbitrator reduced the suspension on appeal.
— A person familiar with the decision has told The Associated Press that the NFL will suspend Buffalo Bills linebacker IK Enemkpali for the first four games of the season for punching and breaking the jaw of New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith. Enemkpali will be suspended without pay for violating the league's personal conduct policy following the altercation that took place inside the Jets locker room on Aug. 11. Enemkpali was cut on Sept. 4. Buffalo then signed the second-year player to its practice squad on Monday.
— The Minnesota Vikings have placed center John Sullivan on injured reserve with a designation to return. The Vikings report that Sullivan had surgery Wednesday for a procedure that is typically done to address a herniated disc. Sullivan hasn't practiced since Aug. 18 and has been replaced in the starting lineup by Joe Berger.
— The Vikes have also signed wide receiver Jarius Wright to a four-year contract extension. Wright is coming off career bests in 2014, with 42 catches and 588 yards.
— Marcell Dareus has become the Buffalo Bills' top-paid player after signing a six-year contract extension worth just over $100 million. Dareus will miss the game while serving a one-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He is a two-time Pro Bowl and one-time All Pro selection.
Cards, Bucs fall
UNDATED (AP) — The Cincinnati Reds played the spoiler's role to perfection on Thursday by preventing the St. Louis Cardinals from padding their 4 ½-game lead in the National League Central.
Todd Frazier was 3-for-5 with a two-run homer, three RBIs and three runs scored as Cincinnati crushed the Redbirds, 11-0. Brandon Phillips added a solo blast and three RBIs in helping the Reds deal the Cardinals their sixth loss in eight games. Joe Lamb gave up three hits and six walks in six innings for his first big league win.
The Pirates could have moved within 3 ½ games of the Cards, but the Brewers scored twice in the top of the 13th to earn a 6-4 win at Pittsburgh. Logan Schafer and Luis Sardinas hit RBI singles after Gregory Polanco extended the game with a solo blast in the bottom of the 12th.
Khris Davis smacked a two-run homer for Milwaukee.
Elsewhere around the ballparks:
— Bartolo Colon carried a shutout into the seventh and the New York Mets cut their magic number for winning the NL East to 16 by defeating the Braves, 7-2 in Atlanta. Colon ran his scoreless streak to 31 innings before Jace Peterson laced an RBI triple in the seventh. Colon also provided an RBI single in the fourth after Kevin Plawecki's two-run double put the Mets ahead to stay earlier in the inning. Plawecki drove in three runs and Juan Uribe had three hits and three RBIs against his old club.
— Seattle did the Astros a favor by downing the Texas Rangers, 5-0. Nelson Cruz reached the 40-home run plateau for the second straight season, a two-run blast in the Mariners' three-run seventh. That was more than enough offense for Felix Hernandez, who gave up three hits in eight innings. Texas is 2 ½ games behind the AL West-leading Astros following the Rangers' second straight shutout loss. Texas also saw its lead for the second wild-card berth shrink to one game over Minnesota.
— Cleveland beat Detroit 7-5 on Michael Brantley's second homer of the night, a two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth. Abraham Almonte smacked a solo shot and Giovanny Urshela added a two-run double to help the Indians climb within four games of the Rangers for the second AL wild-card slot.
— Nolan Arenado hit his NL-leading 38th home run and teammate Carlos Gonzalez added his 37th as Colorado downed San Diego, 4-3. Charlie Blackmon reached above the wall to rob pinch hitter Brett Wallace of a tying home run with one out in the ninth.
— The Bronx showdown between the New York Yankees and AL East-leading Toronto Blue Jays was rained out and rescheduled as part of a day-night doubleheader on Saturday. The Blue Jays top their division by 1 ½ games over the Yankees.
— The Cubs' playoff push was also put on hold by rain in Philadelphia. The game has been rescheduled as part of a Friday twinbill as the Cubs try to pad their 8 ½-game lead over San Francisco in the battle for the NL wild-card berth.
Surgery for Hamilton
SEATTLE (AP) — Texas designated hitter Josh Hamilton will have an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee Friday. The Rangers hope he'll return before the end of the season. He was hitting .257 in 40 games with six home runs and 21 RBIs.
Hamilton was on the 15-day disabled list last month with left knee inflammation and had two pinch-hit at-bats since Sept. 1.
Phills dump GM
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Ruben Amaro Jr. has been fired as general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. They have the worst record in the majors at 54-86 and for the fourth straight season will miss the playoffs after winning five consecutive National League East titles. They are on course to lose 100 games for the first time since 1961.
NEW YORK (AP) — The women's semifinals at the U.S. Open have been rained out and will be part of Friday's schedule at the National Tennis Center.
Top seed and No. 1-ranked Serena Williams is just two wins away from clinching a calendar Grand Slam, a win in all four major tournaments this year. Her semifinal opponent will be Italian Roberta Vinci, who has lost to Williams four times in as many matches.
The other semi has second seed Simona Halep going up against 26th seed Flavia Pannetta, who leads the series with Halep 3-1.
The men's semifinals will follow with No. 1 Novak Djokovic playing ninth seed Marin Cilic and second seed Roger Federer going against No. 5 Stan Wawrinka.
Mitchell to fill in for Saunders
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Sam Mitchell will replace Flip Saunders as coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves while Saunders continues treatment for cancer. That's according to a person with knowledge of the situation who told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because official word had not yet come from the Wolves.
Saunders has Hodgkins lymphoma and has been undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments since June.
Updates from around the NHL
UNDATED (AP) — The Buffalo Sabres have added veteran depth to their defense by signing free-agent Cody Franson to a two-year contract worth $6.65 million. The signing comes a week before players report for training camp. A person familiar with the contract provided its value to The Associated Press and spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Sabres did not release that figure. Last year, Franson had a career-best 36 points on seven goals, 29 assists in 78 games split between Nashville and Toronto.
Elsewhere in the NHL:
— The New York Islanders have signed first-round draft pick Mathew Barzal to a three-year, entry-level contract, 2 ½ months after he was taken with the 16th overall pick in the recent NHL draft. Barzal had 12 goals and 45 assists in 44 games last season with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League.
— Defenseman David Schlemko has signed a one year contract worth $625,000 with the New Jersey Devils. The free agent had a goal and three assists in 44 NHL games with Arizona, Dallas and Calgary last season. Schlemko has registered nine goals and 50 points in 231 NHL games.
Final major of the year
EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France (AP) — There is a two-way tie for the lead after the opening round of the final major of the year in women's golf, the Evian Championship in France. The lead is shared by Lexi Thompson of the U.S. and South Korea's Mi Hyang Lee at 5-under 66.
Three players, including American Gerina Piller, are tied for third at minus-4.
New York's top cop apologizes
NEW YORK (AP) — New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton has reached out to former tennis professional James Blake to apologize for his being handcuffed and arrested mistakenly by a New York police officer. Blake told ABC's "Good Morning America" that he was standing outside Manhattan's Grand Hyatt New York hotel on Wednesday waiting to head to the U.S. Open when he saw an officer charging him. He says he was body-slammed and handcuffed.
The office has been placed on desk duty.