AP Thursday Sports Roundup
Jays clinch first title since 1993...Cards win NL Central
UNDATED (AP) — The longest postseason drought in baseball is over -- the Toronto Blue Jays have clinched their first AL East championship in 22 years with a 15-2 rout of Baltimore.
Toronto entered the doubleheader needing only one victory to eliminate the New York Yankees and claim its first title since 1993. The suspense ended rather quickly, as Toronto built a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning before adding four unearned runs in the fifth.
Toronto's dugout emptied at the final out and players jumped up and down in a mass huddle between the mound and the third-base line. Because there was a second game to be played, the Blue Jays opted to put off the champagne celebration until after the nightcap. Baltimore won the second game 8-1, and then they Jays had their raucous celebration.
In other baseball:
__ The St. Louis Cardinals clinched their third straight NL Central title by routing second-place Pittsburgh 11-1 in the second game of a twin bill. Jason Heyward had a grand slam in the Cardinals' 100th victory. St. Louis has won 11 division titles since 1994. The Pirates won the first game 8-2. Pittsburgh ace Gerrit Cole allowed two runs in seven innings of work to pick up his 19th win.
— The Chicago Cubs routed Cincinnati 10-3 behind a 16-hit assault. Austin Jackson drove in five runs. Starlin Castro went four for five and hit his 11th home run. Jon Lester broke Ken Holtzman's club record of 202 strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher by fanning nine. The Reds have lost 11 straight.
— Adrian Beltre hit the first of three Texas home runs as the AL West-leading Rangers moved closer to a postseason berth with a 6-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers. The Rangers start a four-game series against the L.A. Angels tonight at home. They need to win just one to earn a playoff spot.
— Eric Hosmer hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the top of the 10th inning, and the Kansas City Royals beat the Chicago White Sox 5-3 to clinch home-field advantage in an AL Division Series. The Royals are one back of Toronto for home-field edge throughout the AL playoffs.
__ Houston improved its playoff chances by holding off Seattle 7-6. The Astros and Yankees currently own the two AL wild cars. They are a half-game ahead of the L.A. Angels.
— Kyle Gibson pitched six shutout innings and Torii Hunter had a three-run double as the Minnesota Twins split a doubleheader in Cleveland, winning 7-1 and losing 10-2. The Twins are one-and-a-half games out in the wild card chase.
__ Stephen Vogt hit a tiebreaking, two-run single during Oakland's four-run rally in the seventh inning, and the Athletics hung on to stop the Los Angeles Angels' seven-game winning streak, 8-7.
— Drew Smyly won his fifth straight decision, Grady Sizemore had a three-run double and the Tampa Bay Rays beat Miami 6-4.
__ Boston beat the New York Yankees for the third straight night, 9-5 in 11 innings. Dellin Betances gave up a tying homer, and Andrew Bailey allowed the go-ahead hit.
__ Mike Leake pitched a two-hitter for his first career shutout, and the San Francisco Giants beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0. The NL West champion Dodgers remain one game back of the Mets for No. 2 seed in the NL playoffs.
__ Philadelphia dumped NL East champion New York Mets 7-5. Freddy Galvis drove in two runs for the Phillies and scored the go-ahead run in the sixth on a wild pitch.
__ Atlanta blanked Washington 2-0. Rookie Williams Perez and three relievers combined on a six-hit shutout.
— Zach Davies pitched seven innings and the Milwaukee Brewers shut out the San Diego Padres 5-0.
— The Arizona Diamondbacks scratched out a 3-1 win over the Colorado Rockies. Chase Anderson and three relievers combined on a five-hitter.
Cespedes suffers bruised fingers; Matz scratched from today's start
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — New York Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes has two bruised fingers of his left hand after being hit by a pitch. X-rays were negative.
The NL East champion Mets say Cespedes was bruised on the middle and ring fingers. He was hit by an 89 mph fastball from Philadelphia's Justin De Fratus in the third inning.
Acquired at the July 31 trade deadline from Detroit, Cespedes is batting .287 with 17 homers and 44 RBIs in 54 games with the Mets.
In another ominous sign for the Mets, rookie left-hander Steven Matz has been scratched from his scheduled start today because of a back injury, putting his playoff availability in question.
Matz had been slated to pitch in Wednesday's game, then was pushed back a day when he woke up Tuesday with a sore back following a poor night's sleep. Manager Terry Collins said the back issue was lingering.
Matz is 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA.
MLB-SPEEDING THINGS UP
Commissioner wants as faster games
NEW YORK (AP) — Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred envisions more experiments to find ways to speed up the game, such as limiting pitching changes and trips to the mound, or requiring each pitcher to face multiple batters.
Concerned the average time of nine-inning games climbed to 3 hours, 2 minutes in 2014, owners and players agreed to install clocks to time between-innings breaks and pitching changes, and to require hitters to keep at least one foot in the batter's box in many instances. The average has dropped to 2:56 this season.
Speaking at a sports symposium in New York, Manfred also said he doesn't see any need to expand the designated hitter to the National League.
Brantley done for the year...So is King Felix
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Indians have shut down left fielder Michael Brantley for the rest of the season because of a sore right shoulder. Brantley injured the shoulder trying to make a diving catch last week in Minnesota. He ends the year with a .310 batting average with 15 homers and 84 RBIs in 137 games. Brantley finished third in the AL MVP voting last season.
SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez is done for the season after manager Lloyd McClendon decided not to have the right-hander pitch on the final weekend. McClendon said it wasn't worth the stress on Hernandez's arm to have him make one more start.
Hernandez finishes the season with an 18-9 record and 3.53 ERA.
Rose has surgery; out two weeks
CHICAGO (AP) — Bulls guard Derrick Rose has had surgery to repair his left eye socket after he was injured in practice yesterday. Coach Fred Hoiberg says Rose should be able to resume basketball activities in about two weeks. That would be just two weeks before the season opener against Cleveland Oct. 27.
In other NBA news:
— The Denver Nuggets signed veteran forward Mike Miller to a one-year deal. Miller played last season for the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he saw action in 52 games and averaged 13.5 minutes. The 15-year veteran has also played for Memphis, Miami, Washington, Minnesota and Orlando.
Chiefs get regain a cornerback, lose another...Brees could be back Sunday
UNDATED (AP) — Kansas City cornerback Sean Smith has rejoined the Kansas City Chiefs. He missed the first three games of the season after being suspended for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. His return couldn't come at a better time as cornerback Phillip Gaines is done for the season after tearing an ACL while defending a pass in the end zone.
In other moves around the NFL:
— Drew Brees' return to the New Orleans Saints' lineup seemingly will come sooner than later, even if the club's all-time passer isn't quite ready to guarantee he'll be back under center against Dallas on Sunday night. Brees, who took most of the snaps at today's practice, says he "obviously felt good — good enough to do that." He sat out last week with a bruised rotator cuff.
— The Packers have placed tight end Andrew Quarless on injured reserve/designated to return with a sprained left knee. He will miss a minimum of eight weeks. Quarles was injured in Monday's win over Kansas City.
— Minnesota cornerback Xavier Rhodes has passed his post-concussion tests and resumed practice with the team. He was injured when he ran into teammate Andrew Sendejo during a game against San Diego last week. Rhodes is expected to be OK when the Vikings play Sunday at Denver.
— The Browns have signed third-string quarterback Austin Davis to a two-year contract extension through 2017.
Former champ makes news on two fronts
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (AP) — Three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart has announced his retirement from the Sprint Cup series, following the 2016 season. The soon-to-be 45-year-old Stewart hasn't won a race in over two years. He said he wasn't pressured into the decision and that his involvement in the death of dirt track racer Kevin Ward Jr. during a race a year ago had nothing to do with it either.
Stewart says that Clint Bowyer will replace him in the No. 14 car in 2017.
In news regarding the Ward case, a federal judge in Utica, New York, has ruled that a lawsuit against Stewart over the death of Ward, whom he struck over during a race, will remain in central New York. The Post-Standard of Syracuse reports the judge rejected a request from Stewart's lawyers to have the case transferred from Utica to Rochester.
Ward had gotten out of his car after it spun out and was walking toward Stewart's approaching car when he was hit by the NASCAR veteran's vehicle.
Edmonton's Eberle out
EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — The Edmonton Oilers say that forward Jordan Eberle will miss four to six weeks with a shoulder injury. He left Tuesday night's exhibition game against Arizona in the first period following a collision against the wall behind the Coyotes net. Eberle was the Oilers' top scorer last season with 63 points in 81 games.
The Oilers begin their season Oct. 8 in St. Louis.
Chalk one up for the NCAA
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court in San Francisco says the NCAA does not have to allow schools to pay players up to $5,000. As part of the same ruling the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the NCAA's use of college athletes' names, images and likenesses in video games and TV broadcasts violated antitrust laws.
The NCAA had appealed U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken's 2014 decision to allow players in the top division of college football and in Division I men's basketball to be paid. The money would have been put in a trust fund and given to them when they left school.
The Appeals Court said the NCAA could not stop schools from providing full scholarships to student athletes but vacated a proposal for deferred cash payments.