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Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

by RB Fallstrom, AP

St. Louis Cardinals' Peter Bourjos yells after striking out to end the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, June 30, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

St. Louis Cardinals’ Peter Bourjos yells after striking out to end the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, June 30, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

(St. Louis) (AP) – The only damage against Lance Lynn came on a single that deflected off second base.

The St. Louis Cardinals right-hander didn’t threaten double-digit strikeouts, but he did just fine going up against Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale.

“My innings were ugly, but the defense made some plays and I made some pitches when I needed to,” Lynn said after the Cardinals lost 2-1 in 11 innings on Tuesday night. “The ball was moving pretty good and they weren’t able to square it up.”

Lynn made a big save in the second, too. Second baseman Pete Kozma dropped a relay throw, costing the Cardinals a double play and leaving the bases loaded with none out, but Lynn escaped without damage.

“Lance was pretty good, too,” manager Mike Matheny said. “He got better as he went, but unfortunately took him a lot of pitches to get there.”

Lynn allowed a run on six hits in six innings but needed 117 pitches. In two starts off the 15-day disabled list from a forearm strain he’s surrendered one run in 12 innings.

Sale matched a major league record by striking out at least 10 in eight straight starts, and Tyler Flowers homered in the 11th for Chicago. Sale struck out 12 in eight innings. The lefty tied the mark set by Pedro Martinez in 1999 with Boston.

The White Sox ace had fanned every hitter in the St. Louis lineup by the end of the sixth. He is 0-2 with two no-decisions during the last four games of his streak, getting only four runs of support.

Sale helped himself in his 100th career start, singling for his first hit and scoring the first run for the White Sox.

Flowers hit his sixth homer with two outs in the 11th. He connected off Miguel Socolovich (2-1), pitching for the first time in nine days.

“We like him in those situations,” Matheny said. “He’s been in mostly tough situations, he’s just got to pitch. We have no hesitation to throw him in there right there.”

Matheny would have loved Socolovich’s post-game comments, too. The right-hander refused to use the long layoff as an excuse.

“That’s OK, anything can happen in this game,” Socolovich said. “I’m going to be same tomorrow. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and help the team win.”

Daniel Webb (1-0) got the win and David Robertson earned his 16th save in 20 chances.

Randal Grichuk homered into Big Mac Land and doubled for the Cardinals, whose nine-game home winning streak ended.

Both teams recorded 14 strikeouts. White Sox leadoff man Adam Eaton fanned four times and rookie Xavier Scruggs struck out three times for St. Louis.

Sale struck out the side in the third. He got his 10th strikeout against Jhonny Peralta in the sixth.

Sale singled leading off the third, advanced on a groundout and scored on Jose Abreu’s one-out hit that looked like a groundout before caroming off the second base bag. Sale had been 0 for 8 with six strikeouts in his career.

TRAINER’S ROOM

White Sox: Reliever Dan Jennings (neck) made his third rehab appearance Monday for Triple-A Charlotte, working two scoreless innings.

Cardinals: LHP Jaime Garcia has not thrown a bullpen session since cramping in his groin in his last start last Wednesday and is a question mark for Thursday’s start.

UP NEXT

Chicago’s Jose Quintana is 2-6 in his last 12 starts but with a 3.10 ERA. John Lackey is 7-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 13 career starts in St. Louis, including 5-1 with a 1.91 ERA this year.

by Christy Reiken, AP

(Houston) (AP) – Kansas City starter Danny Duffy was done in by a couple of bad pitches on Tuesday night against the Houston Astros.

Duffy (2-4) allowed six hits and four runs in 6 2-3 innings in his second start since returning from the disabled list in a 4-0 loss.

“For the most part (he pitched) really well,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “He elevated a couple of pitches they didn’t miss.”

George Springer had a two-run homer in the third inning. Jose Altuve drove in a run in the fifth to help Houston to the victory.

Marwin Gonzalez singled with two outs in the third inning before Springer’s soaring shot, which bounced off the foul pole in left field to make it 2-0 and snapped Springer out of an 0 for 8 slump.

“I think I was most upset about hanging the slider to (Gonzalez),” Duffy said. “I just tried to throw hard and make it really tight. But it just floated in there. I think that may have taken me out of the next at-bat, which is in my opinion the best hitter on their team.”

Evan Gattis tripled with one out in the fourth inning. The fly ball sailed just out of reach of the glove of Lorenzo Cain, who raced up Tal’s Hill in center to try and grab it and instead crashed to the ground and into the padded wall after coming up short.

“I felt like my first two steps were good and then after that my legs just gave out and into the wall I went,” Cain said. “I gave a great effort but at the end of the day, the hill won.”

Yost raved about Cain’s effort on the play, before adding that he thinks the hill should go. He’ll get his wish. The Astros are removing it at the end of this season.

“I thought it was phenomenal because anytime I’ve seen anybody go up the hill, they take a nosedive on the first step,” Yost said. “Lo took a nosedive on the third step. It shows you how great an outfielder he is.”

Gattis already has four triples this season after tripling just once in his first two years in the majors.

Chris Carter walked on a wild pitch by Duffy, which sailed over catcher Drew Butera’s head, and allowed Gattis to score and make it 3-0.

Springer drew a one-out walk in the fifth inning before scoring on a double by Altuve to push Houston’s lead to 4-0.

That was more than enough for Keuchel (10-3), who backed up a shutout win over the New York Yankees in his previous start by dominating the Royals. Keuchel struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter to lower his ERA to an American League-leading 2.03.

“He utilized both sides of the plate really effectively,” Yost said. “He’d get us looking away and then he’d start pounding us in. We couldn’t gauge him. He was changing speeds. He really did a great job of keeping the ball down.”

The Astros have taken the first two games of this matchup of teams with the best records in the AL. Houston is 46-34 and Kansas City is 44-30.

Cain had three hits for the Royals, including two doubles, but the rest of the lineup fizzled. Kansas City produced more than one hit in only one inning while being shut out for the second time in a week.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Royals: 1B Eric Hosmer missed a second straight game and will likely miss Wednesday’s game too with a sprained left ring finger. Yost said he isn’t sure when Hosmer will return, but doesn’t expect him to be out too long. Hosmer said he was feeling better on Tuesday and that most of the swelling was gone.

Astros: OF Colby Rasmus was out for the fourth straight game because of a skin infection on his left arm caused by a bug bite. Manager A.J. Hinch said Rasmus spent Monday night in the hospital receiving intravenous antibiotics to try to eliminate the infection and that he remained there on Tuesday. Hinch said they hope Rasmus responds to treatment and can avoid going to the disabled list.

UP NEXT

Houston rookie Vince Velasquez (0-0) tries for his first win in his fifth major league start when he opposes Kansas City’s Edinson Volquez (8-4) in the series finale. Velasquez has a 3.72 ERA, but has not factored in the decision in any of his first four starts. Volquez looks for his fifth straight win.

MIAMI (AP) — Casey McGehee, the NL Comeback Player of the Year in 2014, will need another comeback.

The veteran infielder was designated for assignment Tuesday by the San Francisco Giants shortly before they began a three-game series at Miami. The Giants purchased the contract of infielder Ehire Adrianza from Triple-A Sacramento.

McGehee, 32, lost his starting job at third base to Matt Duffy and was demoted to the minors earlier this season. After returning he went 5 for 17, and he’s batting .213 with two homers in 49 games. Despite playing part-time he has grounded into 15 double plays, tied for most in the majors.

Adrianza, a switch-hitter, has spent all of this season with Sacramento, batting .316 with three home runs.

by Colin Binkley, AP

In this June 22, 2015 photo, Schuyler Bailar poses for a photo in Washington. Recruited as a woman to swim for Harvard, he will now swim for the men's team after transitioning from a female to a male in the last year. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via AP)

In this June 22, 2015 photo, Schuyler Bailar poses for a photo in Washington. Recruited as a woman to swim for Harvard, he will now swim for the men’s team after transitioning from a female to a male in the last year. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via AP)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Schuyler Bailar was a star recruit for the women’s swimming team at Harvard University, a tough competitor with a shot at winning titles. But Bailar is opting to forgo such honors to join the men’s team instead, competing as one of the first openly transgender swimmers in the NCAA.

“It’s half terrifying and half exciting,” said Bailar, a 19-year-old from McLean, Virginia. “I’m just kind of embracing it with open arms.”

Bailar, an incoming freshman, came out as transgender this year after already being recruited for the women’s team. Initially he planned to stay on that team but had mixed feelings about it – he wanted to swim, but he also wanted to embrace his identity.

The Harvard women’s coach saw that Bailar was torn and helped orchestrate another option: In a surprise move, the university offered Bailar a spot on either the men’s or women’s team.

“I was blown away,” Bailar said. “I had no idea how to respond.”

On the women’s team, Bailar would have been a top athlete. He had hopes of breaking records and winning titles. In the world of men’s swimming, though, his times were far behind the best. It took two wrenching months to decide, but he finally dropped his competitive goals and joined the men’s team.

“I just want to be a boy,” he remembers thinking. “I can’t live this in-between thing anymore.”

By then, men’s coach Kevin Tyrrell had already gathered the team to talk about adding Bailar.

“We talked about how we’re all about character and values, and I kind of gave my two cents: If we’re going to say that we care about others, then this is something we should consider,” Tyrrell said. “And basically all the guys said, within 15 seconds, `Yeah, let’s do it.'”

Bailar is among the first openly transgender swimmers in the NCAA. Jay Pulitano, a Division III athlete at Sarah Lawrence College, competed on the women’s team for three seasons before joining the men’s team in the 2014-15 school year.

Athletes have come out as transgender in other college sports, too. In 2010, Kye Allums asked to be identified as a man while playing on the women’s basketball team at George Washington University. Keelin Godsey was already a national champion in the women’s hammer throw at Bates College before coming out as transgender in 2005.

The NCAA clarified in 2011 that transgender athletes can often compete on teams of either sex, depending on their hormone use.

For Bailar, joining the men’s team will bring obstacles. Beyond the daunting competition, he’ll have to adjust to a locker room full of guys, and he’s still getting used to wearing a men’s swimsuit.

But it’s also an immense relief, he said. Bailar has the chance to embrace his identity without losing the sport that was a bright spot during years of depression.

“Through high school I grew my hair out, I conformed, I dressed in the high heels to prom – and I was miserable,” he said. “I did succeed in swimming because that was really my only outlet. That was the only place to put my passion into, because I didn’t enjoy much else really.”

Among his accomplishments, he was part of a national relay record on a girls’ team, and he competed in the 2013 junior national championships.

He was recruited to Harvard during his senior year of high school but took a year off after graduation, in part to focus on therapy. That’s when he first came out as transgender.

“Once I was able to say that, a lot of things started clicking into place,” he said.

Supported by his family and friends, Bailar started to transition. He had his breasts surgically removed and has started hormone treatments.

In the two months before swimming season starts, he’s training hard but tempering his expectations.

“My goal is just to contribute something to the team, and be a good teammate and a good friend. I have no idea what my body can do,” he said.

But he’s already seeing physical progress and documenting it on social media. One post from last week includes a photo of a shirtless Bailar, flexing one of his biceps and giving a game-face scowl.

“Despite my face,” he wrote, “I’m actually really happy these days.”

Houston Astros' Lance McCullers delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning of a baseball game Monday, June 29, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Houston Astros’ Lance McCullers delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning of a baseball game Monday, June 29, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

HOUSTON (AP) — Houston’s young hitters were disciplined Monday night against a veteran pitcher struggling with command, and it propelled the Astros to a win over the top team in the American League.

Chris Carter and Jose Altuve homered to back a solid start by rookie Lance McCullers in a 6-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

In a matchup of teams with the best records in the AL, Houston snapped Kansas City’s four-game winning streak. The Royals are 44-29 and the Astros are 45-34.

McCullers (4-2) allowed four hits and a run with six strikeouts in seven innings in his ninth major league start.

The Astros jumped on Joe Blanton (2-1) for five runs in the first three innings and Carter added a solo home run in the fifth to help them to the win.

“We didn’t swing out of the zone too much, specifically early,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “You always ask your guys to take whatever they give you and he was nibbling on the plate or just off the plate and we just continued to take our base, take our base … we really were opportunistic with whatever we were being given.”

Blanton, who didn’t walk anyone in his first two starts this season, walked four and gave up five runs and five hits in just 2 2-3 innings. It was his first loss since Aug. 20, 2013. He was out of baseball in 2014 and started this season 2-0 with a 1.73 ERA after being called up from Triple-A Omaha.

“I take pride in not walking guys,” Blanton said. “I can’t think of too many games where I walked that many guys. You throw some borderline pitches that don’t go your way. You throw some chase pitches that they don’t swing at. Other than that, trying to fight command issues makes it that kind of day.”

McCullers held the Royals scoreless until a solo homer by Salvador Perez cut the lead to 6-1 in the seventh inning.

He retired nine in a row after a single by Alex Gordon to start the second inning. Rios singled to start the fifth, but McCullers still faced the minimum in that inning after Christian Colon grounded into a double play.

Jarrod Dyson drew a walk to start the sixth but he set down the next three batters to end the inning.

“He had a really good breaking ball. … It had good break on it,” Kansas City’s Lorenzo Cain said. “It definitely kept us off balance all night.”

The Royals were without shortstop Alcides Escobar and first baseman Eric Hosmer, who both sat out with finger injuries.

Luis Valbuena singled with no outs in the second before Blanton walked Jon Singleton and Preston Tucker with one out to load the bases. A third consecutive walk, this one by Domingo Santana, made it 1-0.

Jason Castro’s sacrifice fly pushed the lead to 2-0 before George Springer struck out to end the inning.

Altuve led off the second with a homer to the Crawford Boxes in left field to make it 3-0.

Valbuena singled with one out before Singleton drew a two-out walk. A bloop single by Tucker scored Valbuena and a single by Santana drove in another run to make it 5-0 and chase Blanton.

Santana, who went 0 for 17 with 14 strikeouts in his first stint in the majors last season, is hitting .250 with two doubles and two homers in 11 games this season.

“It’s just trying to go out there and just have fun,” he said. “Last year, I put too much pressure on myself.”

Carter added a solo homer off of Brandon Finnegan in the fifth inning to snap an 0-for-7 slump.

Singleton doubled in the eighth inning for his first hit since being called up from Triple-A Fresno on Friday.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Royals: Escobar was scratched Monday with a bruise on his index finger. … Hosmer was out with a sprained left ring finger and manager Ned Yost said he probably won’t play during this series, which ends on Wednesday. Hosmer was injured on Saturday and left Sunday’s game early with the problem. He had improved on Monday and the swelling in his finger was subsiding.

Astros: OF Colby Rasmus was for the third straight game because of a skin infection on his left arm caused by a bug bite. Hinch said Rasmus received intravenous antibiotics on Monday to try to eliminate the infection. He is day to day. … OF Jake Marisnick, who is on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, is improving and could start a rehabilitation assignment soon. … RHP Scott Feldman (arthroscopic knee surgery) will throw a simulated game in Houston on Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Houston left-hander Dallas Keuchel (9-3) opposes Danny Duffy (2-3) when the series continues on Tuesday. Keuchel, who is second in the AL with a 2.17 ERA, threw his third complete game of the season in his last start, a 4-0 win over the Yankees on Thursday.

Toronto Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson hits a solo home run during fourth-inning baseball game action against the Texas Rangers in Toronto on Sunday, June 28, 2015. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

Toronto Blue Jays’ Josh Donaldson hits a solo home run during fourth-inning baseball game action against the Texas Rangers in Toronto on Sunday, June 28, 2015. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

NEW YORK (AP) — Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson and Seattle designated hitter Nelson Cruz have moved ahead in fan voting for starting spots in the All-Star Game, leaving five Kansas City Royals still in the lead.

Major League Baseball released the results Monday, and voting continues through Thursday night. MLB said more than 500 million votes had been cast.

The starters will be announced Sunday, with the pitchers, reserves and candidates for the final spot to be presented Monday. The game is July 14 in Cincinnati.

Royals outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon, catcher Salvador Perez, shortstop Alcides Escobar and second baseman Omar Infante hold leads.

Infante is about 230,000 votes ahead of the Astros’ Jose Altuve going into Monday night’s series opener at Houston. Infante was hitting .237 with 23 RBIs and one steal while Altuve, last year’s major league batting champion, was at .292 with 30 RBIs and 21 stolen bases.

Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera and Angels outfielder Mike Trout also led in the American League.

Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and DH Kendrys Morales led last week, but were overtaken by Donaldson and Cruz. Donaldson has drawn over 11.7 million votes, already a record for any player in any season.

Donaldson made his All-Star debut in last year’s game in Minneapolis, starting at third base and sharing the left side of the infield with retiring Yankees star Derek Jeter.

“It was a moment I’ll never forget,” Donaldson said.

Finishing as baseball’s leading vote-getter this time around might just rival that memory.

“To be a starter, what that symbolizes is that you’re the best guy at that position,” Donaldson said. “It’s very humbling and it’s an honor.”

The National League leaders are: St. Louis third baseman Matt Carpenter, shortstop Jhonny Peralta and outfielder Matt Holliday, Miami outfielder Giancarlo Stanton and second baseman Dee Gordon, Washington outfielder Bryce Harper, San Francisco catcher Buster Posey and Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

Stanton has a broken hand is out four to six weeks. Nori Aoki of the Giants is fourth in the NL outfield voting, followed by Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen.

Harper is the top vote-getter in the NL with over 11.3 million.

HOUSTON (AP) — Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar has been scratched from the Royals game against the Houston Astros with a finger injury.

Escobar left the game on Sunday after suffering the injury, but was originally in Monday’s lineup. He was scratched about an hour before game time.

He was replaced at shortstop by Christian Colon.

First baseman Eric Hosmer was also out of the lineup with a sprained left ring finger. He was injured on Saturday and left Sunday’s game early with the problem.

Manager Ned Yost isn’t sure when Hosmer will return, but it likely won’t be in this series, which ends Wednesday.

by Jimmy Golden, AP

(Montreal) (AP) – In the city where Jackie Robinson made the jump to the big leagues – and a country where gay marriage has been legal for a decade – Michael Sam has come to restart his football career.

The first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team, Sam returned to practice with the Montreal Alouettes on Monday ready to resume his Canadian Football League career after a brief leave for undisclosed personal reasons.

Speaking for just a few minutes, Sam praised last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage and said he hoped to marry someday. Although Sam’s public coming-out and his efforts to make the NFL have been cited as a catalyst for Americans’ abrupt turnaround on gay rights, he deflected credit to those who have worked on the issue for years.

“I don’t think I did anything. … I’m just happy that I can get married and it would be legal,” he said, adding that he was focusing on football for now. “It was a historical day and I’m very proud and very happy to be an American right now.”

The 2013 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year at Missouri, Sam was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh and final round of the 2014 NFL draft. He was cut by St. Louis and signed by Dallas to the practice squad, but he couldn’t make the Cowboys’ roster.

Sam agreed to a two-year deal with the Alouettes last month but left training camp on June 12, citing personal reasons. He missed the season opener on Thursday night but returned over the weekend and was back on the practice field at Montreal’s Parc Hebert on Monday.

“The door was open for him to come back,” coach Tom Higgins said, adding that Sam was treated the same as other players. “This was just more high-profile.

“He worked some things out that he needed to settle and he came back to us a much more dedicated athlete than he was before. He wants to prove that he can play on a high level.”

Neither Sam nor his coaches and teammates would comment on the personal matters that took Sam away from the team. Sam said there was never any doubt that he would return.

“I was always coming back,” he said. “I had to deal with personal matters when I was home. That’s all taken care of, so now I’m back.”

Higgins said Sam asked for and received permission to address his teammates on Sunday; the coaches left the room to the players, and Sam spoke for less than a minute. Higgins said applause could be heard through the closed door.

“He told us he’s all-in,” center Luc Brodeur-Jourdain said. “He missed the game for the short period of time he was away.”

Linebacker Kyries Hebert said Sam “got a pretty good welcome,” and predicted that he would have no trouble earning back his teammates’ trust. Higgins said Sam is trying to fit in with the Alouettes, but the attention he gets as a gay rights pioneer makes that difficult.

“He didn’t want to be standing here until he does something,” Higgins said. “Being put in the limelight doesn’t help him with any of his teammates. He hasn’t played one down in the CFL and he gets more attention than any one of his teammates. That bothers him.”

Among the adjustments for Sam are different rules in the CFL, which has a 110-yard field, three downs instead of four and offensive formations with more movement than in the NFL and American colleges.

“He still has to learn how to play the CFL game,” Brodeur-Jourdain said. “All we want to do as teammates is compete against him in practice so we can make him better as a player. Our general manager thinks he has potential. He’s part of the club. Let’s make him better.”

Sam signed autographs and posed for pictures after practice with the handful of fans waiting by the field. Among them was Mike Raimondo, who draped an Alouettes jersey with Sam’s name carefully over his arm.

“I’m new to CFL football. I’m a big hockey fan, but I’m a big Michael Sam fan,” Raimondo said. “When he signed here, I ordered the jersey right away.

“When he left, I had a heart attack.”

by RB Fallstrom, AP

St. Louis Cardinals' Jason Heyward hits an RBI double during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs Sunday, June 28, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

St. Louis Cardinals’ Jason Heyward hits an RBI double during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs Sunday, June 28, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Mike Matheny has zero interest in scanning the daily statistics that show just how efficiently the St. Louis Cardinals are dealing with the opposition.

Matheny prefers that his players ignore all that, too, just as they have the hacking investigation involving the Houston Astros that seems to have quieted down. The players can keep the franchise with the majors’ best record rolling along by grinding out at-bats, grinding out innings, briefly savoring results and moving on.

“I couldn’t say I stuck my head in the sand so much I didn’t know we won 50 games,” Matheny said before the Cardinals raised their record to 51-24. “But it doesn’t really do us any good to focus on that stuff, we’ve just got to go play the game.”

It is best, he added, that contributing kids spend no time fretting about when they might be sent back down to the minors or wondering how they’ll respond to the hard times that might be around the corner.

The manager is not about to throw cold water on rookie Xavier Scruggs, a recent first-time call-up who has nine hits in his last five games and an RBI in each of the last three, helping the Cardinals run their winning streak to six and widen their lead to nine games in the NL Central.

“Oh, this is awesome,” Scruggs said. “It’s everything you dream of, just being part of the best team in baseball. Just being able to able to play a little part is just great for me.”

Some of the reasons behind the Cardinals’ run of success:

STINGY ARMS

The biggest reason, by far, for a start of historic proportions is the pitching minus ace Adam Wainwright, sidelined for the year in April with a torn Achilles tendon. The 2.61 ERA leads the majors by far, and the Pirates are the only other team with an ERA below 3.00.

Over the last five games, the opposition has mustered just six runs, and that’s no isolated stretch. The Cardinals have allowed two or fewer runs an amazing 44 times, going 37-7. Michael Wacha (10-3, 2.77), Carlos Martinez (9-3, 2.80) and Lance Lynn (5-4, 2.84) are all among the ERA league leaders.

The Cardinals had enough confidence in Martinez, in his first year in the rotation, to stick with him after two rain delays in Sunday’s 4-1 victory over the Cubs that completed a three-game sweep. Medical marvel Jaime Garcia, coming off thoracic outlet surgery after years of shoulder trouble, is 3-3 with a 1.69 ERA in seven outings.

STERLING PEN

Closer Trevor Rosenthal has a 0.52 ERA and one blown save in 24 chances. St. Louis leads the league with 30 saves overall with Carlos Villanueva (1.37), Kevin Siegrist (1.52) and Miguel Socolovich (1.69) all under 2.00.

The Cardinals are 29-7 at home, the best ever in the divisional era that began in 1969 according to STATS, and they lead the majors with 22 come-from-behind wins.

JUST ENOUGH

The offense does its part minus Matt Holliday and Matt Adams for long stretches. Scruggs has earned recent time at first base ahead of veteran Mark Reynolds and is not being prepared for the inevitable “rough patch.”

“Mark’s still going to be a big part of what we’re doing here, but Xavier is putting together some at-bats you can’t ignore,” Matheny said. “That’s what a young guy’s supposed to do – you get an opportunity, jump on it.”

Another neophyte, outfielder Greg Garcia, is 5 for 10 with a critical homer.

Holliday is getting closer to returning from a quad injury sustained in early June but feels no pressure to because the team is doing just fine without him.

“They’re obviously playing great, so it’s no hurry,” Holliday said. “They’re finding ways to win and guys are stepping up, and that’s really the way it’s been the last few years.”

INNINGS COUNT

Matheny played for Tony La Russa, whose mantra was winning series. The Cardinals have done that admirably, going 18-5-2.

The manager who’s taken the Cardinals to a World Series and two NL championship series in his first three seasons thinks smaller.

“I just can’t help but keep being drawn to this very simplified idea of one pitch at a time,” Matheny said. “We don’t worry about what our record is, it’s what we can do right now. Play today. That’s it.”

St. Louis Cardinals' Jaime Garcia delivers a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

St. Louis Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia delivers a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia is likely to make his next start Thursday against the White Sox, getting two extra days to recover from a groin cramp he sustained running the bases.

St. Louis, which leads the majors with a 50-24 record, has a day off Monday and manager Mike Matheny said he’ll use Lance Lynn and John Lackey on regular rest ahead of Garcia.

Garcia is 3-3 with a 1.69 ERA in seven starts coming off thoracic outlet surgery. He allowed a run in seven innings his last outing Wednesday in Miami, but was injured scoring a run in the eighth.

Outfielder Matt Holliday, on the 15-day disabled list with a right quad strain since June 9, took batting practice for the second straight day Sunday and said he could begin running early this week.

Holliday said he’d attend the All-Star Game if voted in, but wasn’t sure about a target date for his return.