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(St. Louis) (AP) – Restricted free-agent left wing Jaden Schwartz signed a two-year contract with the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We are excited to have Jaden in the fold for the next two seasons,” general manager Doug Armstrong said in a statement. “He is an exciting young talent that will play a key role in the success of our club.”

The 22-year-old Schwartz had 25 goals and 31 assists in 80 games last season. In 132 career regular-season games in parts of three seasons, he has 34 goals and 38 assists.

(Madison) (AP) – Doug Kalitta raced to his sixth No. 1 qualifying position of the Top Fuel season Saturday in the NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park.

Kalitta powered his Kalitta Motorsports dragster to a 3.758-second run at 325.45 mph to take the top spot away from rookie Richie Crampton in the final qualifying session.

“We kind of struggled in the first two Countdown races, but we know we can go rounds and we’re real confident about that and now we need to go out there and prove it,” said Kalitta, a three-time winner at Gateway. “We’re real excited for tomorrow. The car is running good, the track is holding up good, the lanes are both pretty even and the conditions are really good. I’m looking forward to it.”

John Force topped the Funny Car field, Erica Enders-Stevens was fastest in Pro Stock, and Eddie Krawiec was No. 1 in Pro Stock Motorcycle in the third of six events in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.

In Funny Car, the 65-year-old Force earned his sixth No. 1 of the season and 152nd of his career with his Friday run of 4.022 at 319.52 in a Ford Mustang.

Enders-Stevens’ Friday run of 6.513 at 212.90 stood, and Krawiec had a 6.810 at 194.60.

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy watches batting practice prior to a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Don Boomer)

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy watches batting practice prior to a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Don Boomer)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Hunter Pence jumped in the middle of a champagne party and started shouting an expletive-filled congratulatory speech to the playoff-bound San Francisco Giants.

The clean part: “Playoffs, baby! Come get some!”

Nearly 10 hours later, the real fun began for San Francisco.

The Giants secured a wild card when Milwaukee lost at Cincinnati on Thursday afternoon. Then they gave up a six-run lead in their own game against San Diego before rallying for a 9-8 victory over the Padres.

Once the game was over, fireworks went off from the center-field scoreboard and Giants players gathered in the middle of the diamond to pull on playoff shirts and caps as the remaining part of the sellout crowd cheered.

“They were just so determined to find a way to win that game so they could make this celebration that much sweeter,” manager Bruce Bochy said between swigs. “You’re up six runs and you cough that up, that’s disheartening but I thought that game was indicative of our season the way they fought back and found a way to get it done.”

Pitcher Tim Hudson received a phone call from his wife as he drove to the ballpark congratulating him for making the playoffs. Bochy followed the Brewers’ loss on his iPad.

It was a quirky way to clinch, and the Giants had no complaints.

The Brewers lost to the Reds 5-3 at about 1 p.m. Pacific time. San Francisco began its four-game series against San Diego on Thursday night still playing to host the one-game playoff Wednesday, a matchup featuring either the Cardinals or Pirates.

“We got our foot in the door,” Hudson said. “We’ve obviously still got some work ahead of us these next four days. We have to win out or win three out of four and we’ve got a chance to be playing here. We’re taking these games seriously and we have to win as many as we can.”

This clincher had a delayed party – as Bochy was all in favor of his players celebrating their accomplishment after Thursday night’s game, win or lose.

The Giants remained one game behind Pittsburgh for the top spot in the wild-card standings, and the Pirates – 10-1 winners at Atlanta – hold the tiebreaker if the clubs finish with identical records. The Giants have the tiebreaker with St. Louis.

“You do want this to get done, because it does allow you to do some things you might not be able to do if you’re not in,” Bochy said. “Sure, we would have loved to come crashing in the front door instead of sliding in the back door, but this works.”

Bochy hinted he is likely to skip 18-game winner Madison Bumgarner’s turn Sunday and save him to start Wednesday for a spot in the NL division series.

The Giants won the World Series in each of their last two postseason trips, most recently in 2012.

And many of these players, like Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Pence, have experience in pressure-packed elimination games.

In 2012 against the Reds, they became the first team in major league history to come back from a two-game deficit in a five-game series by winning three consecutive road games. San Francisco then won three more elimination games to beat the Cardinals in the NLCS.

On Thursday, Bochy went with a lineup he said could be a preview of what he’ll go with Wednesday.

“With the wild-card situation in place and the Pirates and the Giants battling, I think both the Pirates and Giants want that home game,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “It won’t surprise if the Giants, and the Pirates from afar, are going to play these next few games as hard as they can.”

The Giants opened the series with San Diego having lost five of six and eight of 11 after watching rival Los Angeles clinch the division at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night. San Francisco has stumbled in September and been limited to two or fewer runs in nine of 11 games, but arrived back at AT&T Park having won 10 of its last 12 by the bay.

This is a little different way than the Giants did it in 2010 with the Padres in town to end the season, clinching the NL West title on the season’s final day. San Francisco went on to capture the city’s first World Series championship and the first for the franchise since moving West from New York in 1958.

The Giants won another division title on the way to capturing the 2012 World Series.

“It’s definitely a little bit different, because we didn’t actually win to get in,” shortstop Brandon Crawford said. “But we’re one of the 10 teams to get in the postseason and that’s the goal at the start of the year, to get in the postseason and eventually win it all. We’re excited, no matter how we got in.”

CHICAGO (AP) — Whether it’s through a wild card or the AL Central title, Lorenzo Cain doesn’t care how the Kansas City Royals reach the playoffs.

He just wants to get there.

Eric Hosmer homered and drove in two runs, Cain had four hits and scored twice, and the Royals put themselves on the verge of a playoff spot with a 6-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Thursday night.

One more win for Kansas City, or a loss by Seattle, will send the Royals to the postseason for the first time since George Brett led them to a World Series championship in 1985.

Kansas City remained two games behind Detroit in the Central and moved one up on Oakland in the wild-card standings.

“We definitely want to win the division, but any way we can get in (the playoffs), we’ll take it,” Cain said.

The Royals aren’t about to be picky considering how long it’s been and all the losing for the franchise along the way. They were September contenders last season for the first time in a decade on the way to 86 wins.

Now they are right on the postseason doorstep, poised to barge in.

“I think this team’s learned a lot,” starter James Shields said. “I think we’ve got a mix of good veterans in here to keep this team loose. We’re really loose and having fun right now and that’s what it’s all about.”

Hosmer had three hits, including an RBI single in the first and a tying solo homer off Jose Quintana in the sixth.

The White Sox held retiring captain Paul Konerko out of the lineup, but he expects to start the final three games. He has been playing through a broken bone in his left hand and was a little sore after playing two of the previous three games in Detroit.

The Royals went ahead after back-to-back singles by Cain and Hosmer put runners on first and third in the eighth.

Jake Petricka relieved Quintana, and it looked as if the White Sox would get out of it when Billy Butler sent a grounder to shortstop.

But second baseman Marcus Semien bounced the relay to first after catching the throw from Alexei Ramirez. That allowed Cain to score the go-ahead run, and Alex Gordon followed with an RBI single to make it 5-3.

That made a winner of Kelvin Herrera (4-3), who worked a scoreless seventh after Shields went six innings.

Wade Davis pitched the eighth and Greg Holland worked the ninth for his 45th save in 47 chances.

Shields allowed three runs and five hits, including a two-run homer by Josh Phegley.

Quintana (9-11) gave up five runs and 11 hits over 7 1-3 innings.

“He threw a good game,” Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. “We had a shot there to get out of it for him, and we didn’t. You’ve got to be able to do that.”


Royals: INF Christian Colon (broken middle finger) played six innings and had two hits in his first rehab game in the Arizona instructional league, general manager Dayton Moore said. Moore had no comment when asked how Colon’s finger felt, and it’s not clear if he will be on the postseason roster.

White Sox: White Sox OF Avisail Garcia left the game because of a stiff lower back. He lined out in the second inning and was replaced in right field by Moises Sierra before the top of the third. He is day to day, although Ventura expects him to sit out Saturday. … 2B Carlos Sanchez was out of the lineup with his wife set to have a baby.


The Royals send RHP Jeremy Guthrie (12-11, 4.28 ERA) to the mound, hoping to wrap up a playoff berth. RHP Hector Noesi (8-10, 4.39) pitches for Chicago.


There was quite a scene in the visiting clubhouse before the game. Royals RHP Liam Hendricks was on all fours while leading the charge to capture a mouse hiding in one corner. He eventually trapped it in a box and took it to the bullpen for the game, with the players dubbing it the “Rally Mouse.”

Hendricks hopes to find the same mouse – or another one – before Saturday’s game and keep it in the bullpen.

“Whatever works, man,” manager Ned Yost said.

St. Louis Blues' Cody Beach, left, and Columbus Blue Jackets' Thomas Larkin fight during the second period of a preseason NHL hockey game Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

St. Louis Blues’ Cody Beach, left, and Columbus Blue Jackets’ Thomas Larkin fight during the second period of a preseason NHL hockey game Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Mark Letestu had a goal and an assist and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the St. Louis Blues 5-4 on Thursday night to improve to 4-0-0 in exhibition play.

Letestu opened the scoring and Jared Boll, Ryan Craig, Fedor Tyutin added power-play goals in the first period. Dana Tyrell also scored for the Blue Jackets.

Curtis McElhinney stopped 23 of 25 shots in the first two periods, and Anton Forsberg made seven saves on nine shots in the third.

Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice for St. Louis (0-2-1), and David Backes and Joakim Lindstrom added goals. Paul Stastny, making his Blues debut after signing a free-agent deal, assisted on Lindstrom’s goal. Brian Elliott made 17 saves.

Chicago White Sox designated hitter Paul Konerko (14)  shakes hands with Detroit Tigers first base coach Omar Vizquel (31) while being honored before a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. Konerko will be retiring after the season. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Chicago White Sox designated hitter Paul Konerko (14) shakes hands with Detroit Tigers first base coach Omar Vizquel (31) while being honored before a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. Konerko will be retiring after the season. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

CHICAGO (AP) — Paul Konerko wasn’t quite sure what to expect this weekend as he prepared to wrap up one of the most successful careers by a Chicago White Sox player.

He figured the emotions will hit him. He’s just not quite sure how he will handle them.

“There’s a lot of little pieces to this,” Konerko said. “I’m just trying to take it as it comes. I’m not trying to get ahead of myself. You know it’s going to come. … You just kind of go along with it.”

Konerko decided to re-sign for one more season rather than retire a year ago. Now, as he wraps up a 16-year run in Chicago and a career that began with the Dodgers in 1997, he has “no doubt” it’s time to put away the bat and glove.

He was out of the lineup Thursday as the White Sox opened a four-game series against Kansas City, but he expected to start the final three games of the season.

He will be honored by the team on Saturday. On Thursday, he thanked the fans in his own special way, in a similar vein as Gatorade’s 90-second tribute to Yankees great Derek Jeter.

The White Sox released a 3-minute, 20-second video that begins in black and white with Konerko in his white uniform pants and black warmup jersey picking up scattered balls and tossing them in a duffel bag.

Then, it shows him penning a letter to fans, his dubbed over voice reading, “Dear Chicago, than you for allowing me to make so many memories here.”

Then it goes back and forth from the black-and-white video of Konerko picking up balls in the cage to a collage of full-color clips, starting with his first home run as a member of the White Sox.

It shows Konerko hitting a grand slam and pumping his fist in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series against Houston. It shows him catching the throw from Juan Uribe in Game 5, giving Chicago its first championship since 1917, and the rally in the city a few days later.

There are more than highlights, though. Konerko insisted on showing his struggles and the pain he experienced at times.

So there he is on the ground, clutching his right knee, in one clip and getting hit in the face by a pitch from the Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija in another.

The video ends in black and white with Konerko saying as he finishes writing the letter, “I promise you they will always be with me.”

He walks toward the door of the cage, the duffel bag slung over his shoulder, and turns off the lights on the way out. The video wraps with Konerko signing the letter with his initials “PK” and cuts to him walking out the door.

It was shot before a doubleheader against Minnesota on Sept. 13, and team spokesman Scott Reifert said it was certainly a “Paulie Production.”

Konerko wrote the letter. He helped decide which clips to include and was in favor of using the black-and-white shots.

“What you see is 100 percent genuine,” Reifert said.

Wearing “Dig for a Cure” shirts above are, front row from left, Grizzlies Alyssa Aldag, Brianna Zebert and Gabby Edmondson; back row:  Breanna Taylor, Penny Liu, Guro Froberg, Zori Curry, Kaili Simmons, Ashley Bishton, Susannah Kelley and Pulotu Manoa.  (Photo provided)

Wearing “Dig for a Cure” shirts above are, front row from left, Grizzlies Alyssa Aldag, Brianna Zebert and Gabby Edmondson; back row: Breanna Taylor, Penny Liu, Guro Froberg, Zori Curry, Kaili Simmons, Ashley Bishton, Susannah Kelley and Pulotu Manoa. (Photo provided)

(West Plains) -  Members of the Grizzly Volleyball team at Missouri State University-West Plains invite everyone to join them as they “Dig for a Cure” against breast cancer at their 6 p.m. match Thursday at the West Plains Civic Center.

The match and the fundraiser are being sponsored by Physical Therapy Specialists Clinics. “Dig for a Cure” T-shirts will be sold at the match for $14-$16, with all proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks. T-shirts also may be purchased by calling 417-256-5669.

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CHICAGO (AP) — Preparing for the final weekend of the regular season, the St. Louis Cardinals hoped to easily move past the non-contending Chicago Cubs.

Instead, they ran into Chicago’s buzzsaw – Jake Arrieta.

Arrieta (10-5), coming off a one-hit shutout against Cincinnati last week, limited St. Louis to two hits and an unearned run while striking out 10 in seven innings, leading the Cubs to a 3-1 victory.

“He’s got swing-and-miss stuff in the strike zone and he’s got the ability to get it out of the strike zone as well, and that makes him tough,” Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter said. “Anytime you got a guy with that type of electric stuff, you kind of feel like you’re on defense up there. Anytime he gets ahead of you, you’re in a bad spot.”

Arrieta outdueled St. Louis’ John Lackey (3-3), both on the mound and at the plate. After Lackey intentionally walked Logan Watkins in the fourth inning, Arrieta hit a two-run triple – the first triple of his career and the first by a Cubs pitcher since 2012. The Cubs never surrendered the lead.

“It’s amazing that that at-bat is the one that does it,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.

Lackey gave up two runs and five hits in 6 2-3 innings. He struck out eight, his most since joining the Cardinals at the trade deadline.

The Cardinals, who clinched a playoff berth earlier in the week, remained 1 1/2 games ahead of Pittsburgh in the NL Central. The Pirates lost at Atlanta, reducing St. Louis’ magic number to three for clinching the division title.

“I’m tired of looking up there and waiting for somebody else to help us,” Matheny said following the game. “Nobody’s helped us all season long. Why are they going to start now?”

The Cardinals’ loss assured NL East champion Washington will open a division series at home.

The Cardinals were held without a hit through four innings but managed two singles in the fifth. Yadier Molina came in to score on Welington Castillo’s throwing error, cutting the Cubs lead to 2-1.

Molina has hit safely in seven consecutive games and 12 of his past 14.

Chris Valaika had a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth to extend the Cubs lead to 3-1.

The Cardinals mounted a two-out rally in the ninth, but Hector Rondon worked out of the jam for his 13th consecutive save and his 27th in 31 opportunities this season.

After the game, Arrieta took pride in playing the role of spoiler.

“To pitch well against them, at this time of the season with the implications on the game that are there, it’s meaningful,” Arrieta said. “It’s just another positive thing to use moving forward into the offseason.”

Arrieta has allowed two or fewer runs in 19 of 25 starts this season.


Cubs: SS Starlin Castro will miss the remainder of the season, according to manager Rick Renteria. Castro injured his left ankle sliding into home against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sept. 2.

Cardinals: OF Jon Jay missed Wednesday’s game due to a personal matter. He will rejoin the team on Friday in Arizona.


Cubs: LHP Eric Jokisch (0-0, 1.74) will make his first career start on Friday when the Cubs open a three-game set at Milwaukee.

Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (5-6, 3.18), who missed approximated three months earlier this season with a stress reaction in his throwing shoulder, starts for the Cardinals on Friday against Arizona.


Now that the Cubs’ regular-season schedule is over, improvements and renovations at the 100-year-old ballpark – including constructing a large video scoreboard in left field – are expected to begin soon. The scoreboard and other outfield signs are expected to be in place by the start of next season, but the new home clubhouse isn’t slated to be completed until 2016.

Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas falls after going for a foul ball hit by Cleveland Indians' David Murphy in the eighth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, in Cleveland. Moustakas was not able to get to the ball. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Kansas City Royals’ Mike Moustakas falls after going for a foul ball hit by Cleveland Indians’ David Murphy in the eighth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, in Cleveland. Moustakas was not able to get to the ball. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Royals can almost touch the postseason. It’s taunting them, teasing them, their first trip into October in 29 years is just one win away.

“We’re close,” designated hitter Billy Butler said.

So close.

Kansas City lost ground in the AL Central race but stayed safely ahead in the wild-card standings Wednesday night despite a 6-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians, who kept their own faint playoff pulse beating.

Yan Gomes hit a three-run homer, Michael Brantley got three more hits and Cleveland avoided elimination for at least one more day.

The Royals, who haven’t made the playoffs since 1985, fell two games behind first-place Detroit, which beat the Chicago White Sox earlier in the day.

Still, the Royals remain tied with Oakland for the wild-card spots, three games ahead of Seattle and 3 1/2 games up on Cleveland with four games left. Kansas City can clinch a spot with a win over the White Sox starting Thursday.

“I don’t let myself think about it,” Butler said. “I know things are close. We’ve got four games left. If we could do it right now, we’d be in a playoff spot. You can’t help but realize that’s right around the corner, but you have to keep grinding and keep your head down.”

Zach McAllister (4-7) pitched 2 1-3 scoreless innings and Cody Allen worked the ninth for his 23rd save.

The Royals trailed 3-0 after Gomes homered off starter Jason Vargas, but Kansas City scored once in the fourth and added three in the fifth to take a 4-3 lead. However, the Indians rallied for two in the fifth against rookie Brandon Finnegan (0-1) and added a run in the sixth on pinch-hitter David Murphy’s sacrifice fly.

In the fifth, Vargas hit Michael Bourn with a pitch to open the inning and Royals manager Ned Yost pulled the left-hander, who has just one win in his last seven starts.

Jose Ramirez doubled off the wall and the speedy Bourn, waved around by third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh, scored the tying run on a headfirst dive into the plate, reaching in with his left hand to avoid catcher Salvador Perez’s tag. Ramirez moved up on a fielder’s choice and scored on Santana’s grounder.

Yost hasn’t given up hope on dethroning Detroit in the Central.

“It just makes it a little more difficult but it’s not impossible,” Yost said. “There’s a lot of things that can happen in the last four games. Again, we’ve talked about this a couple of times but you don’t know what’s going to happen. You just go play them, play `em out.”

Trailing 3-1, the Royals scored three runs in the fifth to chase Indians starter Trevor Bauer, who coasted through three innings and was fortunate to escape trouble in the fourth.

Eric Hosmer hit an RBI single and Butler doubled in two runs.

Gomes’ two-out shot, his 21st homer, to straightaway center gave the Indians a 3-0 lead in the first.


Kansas City is 10-5 against the White Sox, including a 5-1 mark in Chicago.


Yost managed in his 771st game with the Royals, moving him past Dick Howser for the most in club history. Yost is 370-401 with Kansas City.


Outfielder Alex Gordon threw Indians catcher Roberto Perez at second trying to stretch a single in the fourth. It was Gordon’s 62nd career assist, the most in the majors since 2011.


Royals: INF Christian Colon (broken right middle finger) has been sent to the instructional league in Arizona. The Royals may still include him on the postseason roster. Colon was placed on the DL on Sept. 7 after fractured his finger tip while fielding a grounder at third on Sept. 2.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Tavon Austin could return to the St. Louis Rams lineup after the bye week.

Perhaps Shaun Hill, too.

The Rams (1-2) can use the help given the struggles on defense.

Though Austin Davis has had two interceptions returned for touchdowns, they’ve given up 34 points twice.

Both Austin and Hill got work in the first of two practices Wednesday. Austin was wearing a brace to stabilize the right knee injury that sidelined him last week.

“We’re going to see how it goes, but so far I’ve made a lot of progress,” Austin said. “I keep being positive that I’ll bounce back.”

Coach Jeff Fisher maintains the 34-year-old Hill is his starter if healthy, and Hill believes he’s closer to being ready for the Oct. 5 game at Philadelphia.

“I feel good,” Hill said. “My expectations are to be ready any week, that’s just the mind-set I always take. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.”

Fisher described players working through a “fussy” stage reviewing video of their collapse against the Cowboys before getting their minds straight. Dallas rallied from a 21-0 deficit to win 34-31.

“They got back, we had a really good session,” Fisher said. “We’re looking at some things that we need to do better.”

After one more practice, the coach encourages them to escape.

“Once we finish up here tomorrow, it’s about getting away from football,” Fisher said. “Go back to your alma mater, watch the game, do something, but get away.”

Many players planned on sticking around during a break that serves as a pause button and allows time to reflect on a disappointing start. They’ll be gearing up for the 13-week grind to follow, too.

Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said there’s no satisfaction in succeeding on defense, except for the handful of plays that got the team beat.

“You can’t keep coming in on a Monday being like `Man, if we eliminate those four or five plays then guess what, they only have X amount of yards and this and this,’” Laurinaitis said. “Those four or five plays make a difference.”

Hill hasn’t played the past two games with a left quadriceps injury, but has felt good enough in both to be the backup.

If he’s ready for next week, Fisher might have to make a tough choice.

Hill said the team made the right call in taking him out at halftime of the opening loss to the Vikings.

On his last pass, an interception that led to a touchdown, Hill was trying to throw it out of bounds. He said he’d been injured a few plays earlier on a bootleg that was called back.

“Honestly, you try to fight through things especially in the position that I’m in,” Hill said. “Somebody else has to get you out of the game.

“I wasn’t going to be able to help the team out there.”

Hill totaled just 16 passes as the backup in Detroit in the three previous seasons. He took over after Sam Bradford’s season-ending knee injury in the third preseason week and the opener was his first start since 2010.

Fisher is getting other players into the mix this week including running back Tre Mason, a third-round pick who hasn’t played yet due to pass blocking issues. Fisher said Mason was doing a “nice job” on special teams.

Earlier this week, Fisher said cornerback Trumaine Johnson could return from a knee injury sustained in the preseason. But Johnson didn’t practice Wednesday.