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Archive for August, 2014

Seattle Reign FC's Megan Rapinoe celebrates after scoring against the Washington Spirit's in the second half of an NWSL semifinal soccer match Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Seattle. The Reign won 2-1. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Seattle Reign FC’s Megan Rapinoe celebrates after scoring against the Washington Spirit’s in the second half of an NWSL semifinal soccer match Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Seattle. The Reign won 2-1. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

(Washington) (AP) – The Seattle Reign, with the best record in the NWSL this season, has home field advantage for the league championship on Sunday. Well, kind of.

The Reign will face FC Kansas City in the title game on Sunday at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, Washington. That was Seattle’s home last season, the first for the U.S. women’s pro soccer league, and the team’s current training field.

The game can’t be played at Memorial because of scheduling conflicts the Bumbershoot arts and music festival, and the only viable option was Starfire.

“We spent a lot of time at Starfire last year, we train there every day and we’re training there as much as we possibly can during the week to get ourselves back to being used to the surroundings,” Reign coach Laura Harvey said, looking positively at the move. “Anyone who has been to Starfire knows that it’s an exceptional football facility.

The Reign played home games this season at Memorial Stadium, where they were 8-0-4. Seattle has best overall record in the NWSL at 16-2-6.

The Reign defeated the Washington Spirit 2-1 last Sunday to advance to the championship match. The Blues defeated the defending champion Portland Thorns 1-0 in Kansas City last Saturday.

The Blues and the Reign have met twice before at Starfire, with FCKC winning both 1-0.

The Reign have a talented roster that includes U.S. national team goalkeeper Hope Solo, along with Sydney Leroux and Megan Rapinoe, along with midfielder Kim Little – who was named the NWSL Most Valuable player of the Year. Little had an NWSL record 16 goals this season, including four that came after the 89th minute.

Coach Harvey earned Coach of the Year honors.

“Not only is her knowledge about football just second to none, also her man management is probably is probably the best I’ve ever seen,” Seattle midfielder Jess Fishlock said on a conference call this week with reporters. “If you put those things together then you’ll always have, not only a team that is a happy camp on and off the field whether things go well or things go bad, but you also have a club – if you ask any of us I don’t think there’s anywhere we’d rather be.”

Kansas City, which finished second in the regular season standings at 12-7-5, fell to the Thorns 3-2 in the semifinals last season.

“To make it to the final is definitely very rewarding, but we still feel like we have some unfinished business from last year,” said FCKC defender Leigh Ann Robinson said. “We’re hungry, ready and excited to get this far and I think we match up well with Seattle in terms of both teams liking to play through the midfield.”

The Blues are known for their defense, which features Robinson, Nikki Phillips and U.S. national team defender Becky Sauerbrunn, as well as goal keeper Nicole Barnhart, with a 1.33 goals-against average.

“You’ve got the two teams that finished first and second and were most consistent throughout the league,” Fishlock said. “The games we’ve had against each other have all been really exciting and I think that will be exactly the same on Sunday. It will literally be a case of the best team on the day will win because I don’t think there’s much between us at all.”

Former Missouri player Michael Sam watches pregame festivities before the start of the South Dakota State-Missouri NCAA college football game Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014, in Columbia, Mo. Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team, was released by St. Louis Rams Saturday. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Former Missouri player Michael Sam watches pregame festivities before the start of the South Dakota State-Missouri NCAA college football game Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014, in Columbia, Mo. Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team, was released by St. Louis Rams Saturday. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Not long after Michael Sam waved to an adoring crowd at Missouri’s season opener, he looked down at his cell phone.

It was 3 p.m. CT, the deadline for NFL teams to pare rosters to 53 players. And the Rams coach was talking to the players who didn’t make the cut.

He headed into the locker room. At some point, his phone rang with the bad news: He didn’t make the cut.

Twenty others were cut by the St. Louis Rams on Saturday, all of them mere footnotes. For Sam, it meant a roadblock in his journey to become the first openly gay player to make an NFL roster.

Over and over, coach Jeff Fisher said, it was purely a football decision.

“I will tell you this: I was pulling for Mike,” Fisher said. “I really was, and I don’t say that very often. Mike came in here and did everything we asked him to do.”

The seventh-round draft pick projected confidence while scrutinized at least as closely as Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel. He’s been cheered by athletes and celebrities, denigrated by just a few.

In the end, the defensive end couldn’t make a team stocked with pass rushers and lost out to undrafted Ethan Westbrooks, who proved more productive and more versatile.

Fisher believes Sam has an NFL future, and it still could be with the Rams. If he’s not picked up by another team, he could land on the St. Louis practice squad.

“I can’t go there right now,” Fisher said. “Coaches don’t talk about practice squads because we have to see what happens. We’ll know better tomorrow afternoon.”

Wherever he lands, Fisher said “there will be no challenge, no challenges whatsoever.”

“He’s not about drawing attention to himself,” Fisher said. “He kept his head down and worked and you can’t ask anything more out of any player for that matter.”

On Twitter, roughly an hour after he was cut, Sam wrote “The most worthwhile things in life rarely come easy, this is a lesson I’ve always known. The journey continues.”

He also thanked the Rams and city of St. Louis on Twitter, adding that he looks forward to a long and successful career.

Sam was introduced to the Missouri crowd in the end zone alongside defensive E.J. Gaines, a sixth-round pick who made the team. He blew a kiss and waved before returning to the sideline, then posed for a few pictures before starting to look at his phone, and then headed for the locker room.

Fisher personally delivered the news to the 20 others released in meetings Friday and Saturday, but didn’t seem to mind that Sam was out of town, visiting his alma mater. The conversation was perfunctory, with plans for a face-to-face meeting on Sunday.

“He said `Yes sir,’ and he said, `I understand.’ He said, `Thanks for the opportunity,’ and I said, `Mike, I’m looking forward to visiting with you tomorrow,’ and he goes, `I am, too.’”

Sam was the SEC co-defensive player of the year at Missouri and had been projected as a mid-round draft pick. His stock fell after a poor combine showing not long after he came out as gay in February, and the Rams took him with the 249th overall pick out of 256.

He kissed his boyfriend as a national television audience looked on, and arrived brimming with confidence and with a quick retort for anyone who contended he was in the NFL only because he came out. Fisher was proud to have made the landmark pick, but made clear from the start that Sam would be judged on talent.

The cameras followed, but the extra attention did not seem to faze Sam or his teammates. Veteran defensive end Chris Long noted rosters are always made up of players from different backgrounds. Players said Sam was part of their family.

Sam shed weight before training camp to be faster for special teams duty, reporting at 257 pounds. But after the preseason opener, Fisher said he’d have to make the team based on defensive end play.

Sam came out publicly following his final season at Missouri, though he had told his teammates before it began. It was no distraction. Missouri tied the school record with 12 wins and won the SEC Eastern Division and Sam had 11 1-2 sacks.

Sam was lightly regarded out of Hitchcock, Texas, a town of about 7,000 along the Gulf Coast about 40 miles southeast of Houston. His first two years at Missouri, Sam backed up Aldon Smith and Jacquies Smith, both of whom are in the NFL.

From the start, teammates seemed to like having Sam around. His energy was infectious and, if there were problems, they stayed behind closed doors. Publicly, Sam was just another late-round pick trying to make the Rams, which, like other NFL teams, held sensitivity training early in camp. The Oprah Winfrey Network put off a planned documentary on Sam, saying it would allow him to focus on his dream.

At one point, Sam’s Rams jersey was the No. 2 seller among rookies online, trailing only Cleveland’s Johnny Manziel, and Sam was among just 10 draftees selected by the NFL to be featured on commemorative coins. Sam headed to the ESPY Awards to pick up the Arthur Ashe Courage award. He got a hug from Hall of Famer Jim Brown on his way to the stage and fought back tears throughout his speech.

He told the audience: “Great things can happen when you have the courage to be yourself.”

St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Holliday, right, is congratulated by teammate Yadier Molina after hitting a solo home run during the eighth inning in the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014, in St. Louis. The home run was Holliday's second of the game. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Holliday, right, is congratulated by teammate Yadier Molina after hitting a solo home run during the eighth inning in the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014, in St. Louis. The home run was Holliday’s second of the game. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Matt Holliday has been known to be a streaky hitter.

And he might be finding his hitting stroke at just the right time for the St. Louis Cardinals.

He homered twice and had five RBIs and the Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 13-2 Saturday night to earn a split of a day-night doubleheader.

“It feels good,” Holliday said. “It always feels good to help your team win. That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to win games. When you do something that helps the team win, that’s the idea.”

The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for St. Louis, which won for just the third time in its past nine games and pulled to within one game of the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers. Milwaukee dropped its fourth straight with a 3-1 loss at San Francisco.

It’s the most runs this season for the Cardinals and the first time in seven games they scored at least three runs. Their previous high was 10, which they did twice.

“Yeah, we really need those big production days and Matt’s the guy that can do that,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “It’s nice to see and nice to see him lead like he did.

“It’s good to see our offense kind of quiet people that think that we can only score two runs a game.”

The Cardinals have scored two or fewer runs in 45 of their 136 games or about one-third of the time.

Marco Gonzales (1-2) gave up one run and three hits over a season-high six innings. His previous long outing was in his debut on June 25 when he pitched five innings against Colorado, but didn’t figure in the decision in a 9-6 win for St. Louis.

Tsuyoshi Wada (4-2) gave up four runs in six innings.

“Wada was hanging in there,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “He was hanging in there. One pitch obviously Holliday drilled it out of the ballpark. Then he went back out and kept us in there one more inning. He ground it out. I thought he kept us in the ballgame.”

Holliday hit his 14th home run in the fifth to break a 1-1 tie. His three-run, two-out blast to center scored Daniel Descalso and Matt Carpenter.

He got No. 15 leading off a nine-run eighth. It marked his 19th career multi-homer game and his first since getting two on Aug. 10, 2013, against the Cubs. Holliday has an 11-game hitting streak during which he has gone 14 for 43.

“Three-run homers are game-changers,” he said. “Especially if it’s a tie game and you get a three-run lead, it kind of gives you a little bit of a cushion and allows your pitcher to settle down a little bit.”

The first 10 batters reached to start the eighth for St. Louis. Holliday’s homer was followed by five singles and three walks before he was hit by a pitch to drive in the seventh run of the inning.

Matt Adams hit a sacrifice fly and Yadier Molina got his third hit of the night to drive in the ninth run before second baseman Javier Baez made a nice play on an Oscar Taveras grounder to start an inning-ending double play.

Felix Doubront pitched seven strong innings in his National League debut and Starlin Castro hit one of Chicago’s three solo homers, sending the Cubs to a 5-1 victory in the opener.

Doubront (1-0) allowed seven hits in his return from the disabled list. He had been out with a strained right calf since Aug. 1, two days after Chicago acquired him from Boston. Logan Watkins and Chris Valaika also connected for Chicago in the makeup of a May 14 rainout.

Justin Masterson (2-3) gave up all three homers and five earned runs in 4 1-3 innings for St. Louis. Masterson has allowed four or more runs in five of his six starts for the Cardinals and pitched five innings or fewer in four of his starts.

WELCOME BACK:

Molina went 3 for 5 with three singles in his second game since returning to the lineup following a seven-week absence. Molina, who had surgery on his thumb in July, went 0 for 3 in his return Friday and sat out the first game of the doubleheader. He also threw out Arismendy Alcantara trying to steal second in the fifth, the first attempt against Molina since his return.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cubs: 1B Anthony Rizzo, who was second in the NL with 30 homers, sat out again. Rizzo’s lower back tightened during a rain delay Tuesday in Cincinnati. He has not played since and is expected to sit out Sunday as well. … RHP Edwin Jackson (strained right strain) threw in the bullpen before the game. He has been on the disabled list since Aug. 21.

Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (right shoulder strain) will pitch Sunday in Tulsa for Double-A Springfield. Wacha went on the DL after his June 17 start.

UP NEXT

Cubs: LHP Travis Wood (8-11, 4.72) will start Sunday afternoon. He is 2-5 with a 5.83 ERA against St. Louis in his career, with both victories coming this year. In his last outing against the Cardinals, he got a no-decision after giving up five runs (two earned) in five innings July 25 in a game Chicago won 7-6.

Cardinals: RHP John Lackey (2-1, 4.50) gets his second career start against Chicago. He earned his second win with St. Louis in his last start, giving up one run in seven innings in a 3-2 win Aug. 25 at Pittsburgh.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — It’s getting very crowded at the top of the AL Central. The surging Cleveland Indians have turned the division into one of baseball’s best playoff races.

Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana each had an RBI single in the 11th inning, leading the Indians to a 3-2 victory over the sliding Kansas City Royals on Saturday night.

Kansas City has lost three in a row to fall into a first-place tie with Detroit, which split a doubleheader at Chicago. Cleveland, which has won six of seven, is just 3 1/2 back.

“It’s extremely agonizing,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It’s frustrating.”

The Royals got a run back in the bottom of the 11th when Salvador Perez’s two-out double scored Jarrod Dyson. But Erik Kratz struck out to end the game.

Jose Ramirez sparked Cleveland’s winning rally with a leadoff triple. Brantley followed with a base hit against Scott Downs (0-4).

“It was a hustle triple,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I about swallowed my tobacco when he went around second. Instead of Brantley trying to get the runner over they have to bring the infield in and he hit a chopper over the infield.”

Brantley then stole second and went to third on Perez’s throwing error before Santana singled into center field.

The Royals loaded the bases with one out in the 10th, but failed to score off Josh Tomlin (6-8). The reliever got Alcides Escobar to hit a grounder to third, forcing Perez at the plate. He then struck Jayson Nix, who was making his Royals debut.

The Royals went 2 for 18 with runners in scoring position and stranded 16 runners, twice leaving the bases loaded.

“We weren’t getting any hits with runners in scoring position, it was plain and simple,” Yost said. “One was an infield hit and didn’t score a run. We had a multitude of opportunities starting in the first inning. We just couldn’t take advantage of it.”

Cleveland grabbed a 1-0 lead when Yan Gomes doubled in Jason Kipnis in the fourth.

The Royals tied it in the eighth without the benefit of a hit. Alex Gordon led off with a walk. Billy Butler then hit a comebacker that should have been a double play, but reliever Scott Atchison threw the ball into center field, putting Gordon on third. With the bases loaded, Lorenzo Cain’s grounder scored Gordon for an unearned run.

“That’s tough, leaving that many runners on base,” Cain said. “We should have definitely beat these kids. We had a few chances to walk it off. I did myself. We just didn’t get the job done. We’ve got to come through in those tight situations if we want to get to the playoffs.”

Indians rookie Trevor Bauer pitched 5 2-3 scoreless innings despite issuing five walks. He allowed four hits and struck out six. The Royals loaded the bases with none out in the first, but Bauer escaped the jam.

“I was fortunate to get out of it,” Bauer said. “With the way the game turned out it was important to get out of it with no runs. Usually in that situation you try to keep it to one or two, but that was big with no runs.”

James Shields tossed seven innings of one-run ball for Kansas City. He gave up five hits, struck out four and walked one.

“It’s disappointing,” Shields said. “We had the game right in our grasp, right in our hands and we didn’t come out of it.”

Wade Davis replaced Shields and struck out the side in the eighth to run his scoreless streak to 25 2-3 innings, the longest active streak in the majors. He has allowed just one run in his 49 innings, lowering his ERA to 0.76.

INDIANS WINNING WAYS

The Indians have won five straight series and are a season-best six games above .500. They have won eight of their past 10 road games. They are 17-9 in August for their fourth straight winning month.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Indians: DH Jason Giambi (left knee inflammation) and OF Ryan Raburn (right wrist soreness) are on a rehab assignment with Double-A Akron. Giambi is eligible to come off the disabled list Monday and Raburn on Tuesday.

Royals: DH-OF Josh Willingham was unavailable with a stiff back. .1B Eric Hosmer (fractured right hand) went 2 for 6 with two RBIs and struck out twice in his first rehab game with Triple-A Omaha. … 2B Omar Infante (right shoulder inflammation) started after missing four games.

UP NEXT

Indians: Rookie LHP T.J. House, who won his first big league July 5 over the Royals, is coming off a rocky outing, giving up five runs Tuesday in a no-decision against the White Sox.

Royals: LHP Danny Duffy’s 2.47 ERA ranks third in the American League, but he has a losing record at 8-11.

Minnesota Twins' Brian Dozier (2) is caught stealing second by Kansas City Royals second baseman Christian Colon during the ninth inning of a baseball game Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Minnesota Twins’ Brian Dozier (2) is caught stealing second by Kansas City Royals second baseman Christian Colon during the ninth inning of a baseball game Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals have optioned rookie infielder Christian Colon to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, opening a roster spot for infielder Jayson Nix.

The moves were made before Saturday’s game against Cleveland.

Colon batted .302 in 19 games with the Royals. Nix was claimed off waivers Thursday from Pittsburgh and arrived in time for Saturday’s game.

The 32-year-old Nix hit .111 in 16 games with the Pirates. He began the season with Philadelphia.

Colon, who started seven games at second base and three at third, was the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft out of Cal State Fullerton. Kansas City plans to recall him Tuesday after Northwest Arkansas’ season ends and major league rosters can be expanded to 40.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri got the win it wanted.

Still, everyone knew the Tigers have a lot of work to do yet.

“I thought we did pretty well,” quarterback Maty Mauk said after the 24th-ranked Tigers defeated South Dakota State 38-18 on Saturday. “We came out fast and that showed. We scored in a minute and came down and scored after that. We just had a lot of inconsistency we have to clean up and that is stuff we can fix.”

Mauk finished with 178 yards and three touchdowns and seemed at ease early, finding receiver Darius White crossing behind the Jackrabbits’ defense for a 44-yard touchdown catch just 50 seconds into the game. The Tigers extended their lead to 21-10 at halftime and never trailed against South Dakota State, which fell to 0-7 against FBS teams since moving to Division I in 2004.

The Tigers’ early 7-0 lead lasted only one play thanks to a 75-yard touchdown run by South Dakota State’s Zach Zenner, who finished with 103 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. But Mauk found White again on the third drive, this time for a 39-yard pass in the corner of the end zone behind safety Anthony Sherrils. White finished with two receptions for 83 yards and two touchdowns.

“Last go-around,” said White, a senior who transferred from Texas in 2012. “I feel like I have a lot to prove to people, and I feel like I did a little bit of that today.”

Missouri added another score in the first quarter on Russell Hansbrough’s 10-yard run that featured a missed tackle and a bit of misdirection. Hansbrough started after backing up Henry Josey last year, finishing with 20 carries for a career-high 126 yards.

“He’s got great quickness and explosiveness. Sometimes great athletes make great plays just because they’re great athletes,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “And that’s what he did, he made a great play.”

Safety Duron Singleton set up the touchdown with his first career interception for Missouri, pulling in Austin Sumner’s pass at South Dakota State’s 29-yard line and returning it 19 yards. The play marked the 45th consecutive game in which the Tigers forced a turnover, the longest such streak in the country.

Sumner left the game in the first quarter and did not return, giving way to Zach Lujan, who went 21 of 28 for 239 yards and an interception.

Coach John Stiegelmeier said Sumner, who holds school records in completions (633), attempts (1,089) and passing yards (7,831), caught his spikes in the turf during a scramble. He walked to the sideline gingerly before being helped to the locker room while placing no pressure on his right foot.

Stiegelmeier said Sumner is expected to miss six to eight weeks.

“I’m praying for Austin,” Lujan said. “He’s been a four-year starter and any time you lose a guy like that – your team captain and a four-year starter – it’s a huge loss, but at the same time at any position a guy can go down and the next guy has to step in.”

After Justin Syrovatka converted a 39-yard field goal with 3:58 remaining in the first half, the Jackrabbits pulled to within 21-18 on their first drive in the third quarter thanks to a 3-yard touchdown run by Zenner and a subsequent two-point conversion. A 6-foot, 220-pound senior, Zenner needs just 114 more yards to tie Western Illinois’ Herb Donaldson for the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s career rushing mark at 4,746.

Marcus Murphy extended Missouri’s lead back to 10 on the ensuing kickoff, returning it 102 yards for a touchdown and starting a 17-0 run for the Tigers to end the game. Missouri moved to 14-0 all-time against Football Championship Subdivision teams and has won 13 consecutive season openers.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Veteran kicker Ryan Succop’s tenure with the Kansas City Chiefs is over.

Succop was released on Saturday as the Chiefs trimmed their roster to the NFL’s 53-man limit, beaten out for the job by undrafted free agent Cairo Santos in a decision that may have ultimately come down to how much each of them would have been paid.

Succop was due to make $2 million this season. Santos will instead make $422,000.

Along with their cuts, the Chiefs also placed quarterback Tyler Bray and wide receiver Kyle Williams on injured reserve, defensive end Mike Catapano on the non-football injury list and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and right tackle Donald Stephenson on the reserve-suspended list.

Bowe will miss the opener as punishment for his arrest last November, and Stephenson is suspended for the first four games of the regular season for violating the league’s drug policy.

Bray and Williams were hurt in the Chiefs’ preseason finale against Green Bay.

“As a collective football operation, coaches and scouts have held numerous discussions on each player during the evaluation process,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said. “We had excellent competition at every position and that’s a great thing, but today we had to make some difficult decisions to narrow our roster to 53.”

Malcolm Bronson, who was given a shot to earn the starting safety job that Kendrick Lewis left vacant in free agency, and linebacker Nico Johnson, a fourth-round pick a year ago who never seemed to get up to speed, were among the players who were released.

Also waived were defensive backs Jonathon Amaya, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Justin Rogers; linebackers Alonzo Highsmith and Devan Walker; defensive linemen Kyle Love, Kona Schwenke and Dominique Hamilton; offensive linemen Ricky Henry and J’Marcus Webb; wide receivers Mark Harrison and Fred Williams; fullback Jordan Campbell and running back Charcandrick West.

The biggest eye-opener, though, was undoubtedly the kicking competition.

Born in Brazil, Santos starred at Tulane before signing with the Chiefs as competition for Succop, who missed a costly field goal last season against San Diego. The two of them engaged in a sometimes entertaining duel for the job, often ending practice with a World Cup-style shootout while the entire Chiefs team watched from the sideline.

Succop, who hit 81 percent of his field goals over the past five seasons, may have been slightly more accurate. Santos clearly had the stronger leg. Combine that with all the financial ramifications of the decision and Santos got the nod.

The 5-foot-8, 175-pound Santos also becomes the smallest player on the roster.

“Size really has nothing to do with it,” Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub said. “He’s got so much power in his leg. He’s pretty explosive as small of stature as he is.”

Santos wasn’t the only undrafted free agent to make the team. Wide receiver Albert Wilson and safety Daniel Sorenson both earned jobs at two positions where the Chiefs were thin.

The moves likely aren’t over, either.

Last season, the Chiefs had the first pick on the waiver wire and claimed seven players who were released by other teams. After going 11-5 last season, they will no longer have such a plum spot in line, but they are still expected to scour the available players for help.

The Chiefs still have questions at wide receiver, defensive back and offensive line.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals didn’t have much trouble getting runners on base. They just had a tough time scoring runs.

The Royals stranded 12 men on base, went 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position and failed to score until the ninth inning in a 6-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Friday night.

Alex Gordon, Billy Butler and Salvador Perez went a combined 1 for 14 as Royals starter Danny Salazar threw five scoreless innings, but did not come back out after a 44-minute rain delay in the sixth.

“Salazar was throwing 96 miles per hour fastball and spotting it well,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We just couldn’t get anything going offensively.”

Alcides Escobar had four of the Royals’ nine hits and drove in Christian Colon in the ninth for their lone run. The loss cut Kansas City’s lead to a half-game over Detroit in the AL Central.

Cleveland’s Carlos Santana, who homered five times at Kauffman Stadium in a series last month, hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning. It was his 22nd home run, and helped Cleveland win for the fifth time in six games.

Boosted by his big four-game set in July, Santana is 14 for 26 with six homers, 13 RBIs and a 1.269 slugging percentage this year in Kansas City. Santana, who also had an RBI single, is hitting only .229 overall this year.

Salazar (5-6) pitched four-hit ball for five shutout innings.

Jason Vargas (10-7) gave up 10 hits and four runs in six innings.

Zach Walters hit an RBI double in the second to put Cleveland ahead.

Tyler Bolt led off the Indians’ three-run third with a bunt single. Santana and Jose Ramirez had RBI singles and Michael Brantley, who had three hits, scored on Jeff Kipnis’ groundout.

“Those two innings need to be tightened up more than they were,” Vargas said.

Salazar gave up four singles, walked two and struck out three in five innings. After his exit, there was a parade of six Cleveland relievers, with left-handers Kyle Crockett and Marc Rzepczynski each throwing just one pitch.

Crockett hit Mike Moustakas and Rzepczynski retired Gordon on a grounder.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Indians: C Yan Gomes was activated from the concussion list after missing six games. … OF David Murphy (strained right oblique) took batting practice. … C-IF Chris Gimenez was placed on the paternity list.

Royals: 1B Eric Hosmer (broken right hand) will report Saturday to Triple-A Omaha to begin a minor league rehab assignment. … 2B Omar Infante (right shoulder inflammation) was not in the lineup for the fourth straight game.

UP NEXT

Indians: RHP Trevor Bauer, who gave up four hits and struck out nine in six scoreless innings in beating Houston in his previous start, will start the middle game of this series.

Royals: RHP James Shields has won his past three starts against the Indians with a 1.80 ERA in that 20-inning span.

SO LONG

The Royals designated LHP Bruce Chen for assignment one day after he gave up six runs on five hits, three for extra-bases, and two walks in the 10th inning of a loss to Minnesota. This was Chen’s sixth season with the Royals and he led the club in victories in three straight seasons, 2010-12. “He’s been here a long time,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “I’ve watched him win a bunch of ball games. His presence on the field well as well off the field has been great for all of us.” RHP Louis Coleman was summoned from Triple-A Omaha, taking Chen’s roster spot.

ESCOBAR SIZZLES

Escobar matched a career high with four hits, his fourth career four hit game. His previous was Aug. 18, 2012 against the White Sox.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Yadier Molina returned from a 40-game absence and guided Shelby Miller through seven innings. There was no helping fellow All-Star Pat Neshek.

“We’ve all been there. You’re kind of down in the dumps, but it’s part of the game,” Neshek said after a rare rough outing in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 7-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Friday night. “It’s how you rebound. It’s a long season.”

Jorge Soler homered for the second straight at-bat and fellow rookie Javier Baez had a tiebreaking, two-run double in the eighth inning off Neshek.

Neshek (6-1) led NL relievers with an 0.81 ERA entering the game and exited with a 1.45 ERA after giving up four runs, matching his career worst, while getting only two outs. It was 2-all when he came in to begin the eighth, and he gave up hits to the first three batters.

“Soler got me really good,” Neshek said. “It was interesting because he’s never seen me before and he was hacking like that. Yeah, I missed that pitch really bad.”

Neshek had allowed five earned runs this season, and no more than one in a game, prior to Friday night.

Molina had been out since July 9 because of a torn ligament in his right thumb, and went 0 for 3 and was hit by a pitch.

The crowd at Busch Stadium gave Molina a standing ovation when he walked in from the bullpen after pregame warmups, and another cheer before he batted in the first inning.

“I love watching him behind the plate, the little things he does all the time,” manager Mike Matheny said. “He changed the course with Shelby right in mid-stream and helped him get back on track and really helped maximized his stuff.”

Miller allowed two runs on four hits in seven innings.

“The toughest thing about it was giving up a homer in the seventh,” Miller said. “I thought it gave them a little momentum.”

Neil Ramirez (2-1) allowed two hits in a scoreless seventh.

Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks worked six solid innings in his bid to become the franchise’s first rookie to win five games in August.

Soler hit his second homer of the season on Miller’s first pitch of the seventh to tie it at 2. In his next at-bat, Soler hit a two-run shot in the eighth.

Soler finished 3 for 3.

Luis Valbuena and Arismendy Alcantara also homered for the Cubs, with all four Cubs drives estimated at 400-feet plus. They entered with 30 homers this month, tied for most in the NL.

Cubs reliever Justin Grimm struck out four in the ninth. One of the batters reached on Grimm’s wild pitch.

Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta had RBI singles in the St. Louis first. After Peralta’s hit, Hendricks retired 11 in a row.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cubs: LHP Felix Doubront (straight right calf) will be activated off the DL Saturday and make his Cubs debut as the Game 1 starter of a day-night doubleheader. He’s been out since Aug. 1.

Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (shoulder) is set to make a rehab start Sunday and could rejoin the rotation after that. Wacha was the NL championship series MVP last fall as a rookie but has been sidelined since mid-June.

UP NEXT

Cubs: Rookie Tsuyoshi Wada (4-1, 2.56), who took a no-hitter into the seventh of his last start, works the second game of the doubleheader. Doubront was 2-4 with a 6.07 ERA in Boston.

Cardinals: Justin Masterson is (2-2, 7.43) may be pitching to save his spot in the rotation in Game 1. Rookie Marco Gonzales (0-2, 7.07) will be recalled from Triple-A Memphis to start in Game 2.

Liberty_Eagles_Logo(Springfield)- The Mountain View/Liberty Eagles were undefeated during last year’s 2013 regular season and for the first two games of this season they have placed the correct foot in front of the other both games; including Friday nights win against the Springfield Catholic Fighting Irish 70-7.

The voice of the Eagles Dave Quinn has your Mountain View/Liberty Friday Night Football Follow-Up:

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Once again the Eagles defeated or otherwise killed the Springfield Catholic Fighting Irish in Friday’s game, leaving Springfield with a 70-7 victory and a 2014 season record of 2-0. Next week the Eagles will be going up against the Thayer Bobcats with a home field advantage. The Bobcats held a 7-5 record for their 2013 season, which included going 4-3 through the South Central Association for a third place finish.