Tue, 21 Oct 2014 02:47:00 +0000

PITTSBURGH (AP) The deluge started with a desperation third-down heave, a trickle that turned into a downpour and led to another abrupt turn in the Pittsburgh Steelers' confounding season.

Good one week and lousy the next, Pittsburgh managed to be both in a 30-23 victory over the mistake-prone Houston Texans on Monday night.

Ben Roethlisberger passed for two touchdowns and wide receiver Antonio Brown added another on a gadget play during a decisive 73-second stretch late in the first half that moved the Steelers from down 10 to an 11-point lead.

"You stand on the sidelines long enough, you will see explosions such as that," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "It was good to be on the good side of it."

Roethlisberger finished with 265 yards passing. Le'Veon Bell racked up 145 yards of total offense, including a 43-yard catch-and-run with less than 2 minutes to go in the first half that became the spark the Steelers desperately needed.

"That provided the type of emotion the group needed," Tomlin said. "Then we kind of fed off that. The guys really capitalized on it."

Arian Foster ran for 102 yards for Houston (3-4), but just 29 over the final three quarters. Ryan Fitzpatrick was 21 of 32 for 262 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, but the Texans were undone by three turnovers, including consecutive offensive snaps that handed the momentum over to the Steelers.

"We had a terrible second quarter," Houston coach Bill O'Brien said. "We couldn't come back from it. Just too many turnovers. We just had a hard time overcoming all those things."

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt recovered a fumble and picked up his third sack of the season but was neutralized for most of the second half.

Pittsburgh was listless for the first 25 minutes, letting Foster and Fitzpatrick do whatever they wanted as the Texans raced to a 13-0 lead that seemed larger.

A 44-yard Shaun Suisham field goal with 3:08 left in the half gave the Steelers a minor boost.

A strike from Roethlisberger to Bell provided a much larger one shortly after the 2-minute warning. Roethlisberger hit the versatile back for a 43-yard gain - Pittsburgh's longest pass play of the season - to move the ball to the Houston 35.

Roethlisberger then found Martavis Bryant, who struggled staying healthy in the preseason and spent the first six weeks on the inactive list, with a beautiful rainbow that the rookie caught in the back of the end zone to make it 13-10 with 1:27 left.

"Everybody started clicking," Bryant said. "Everybody woke up. It was good to make the play to have the team wake up, get the momentum going."

The Steelers were just getting started.

Foster fumbled deep in Houston territory two plays after Bryant's score and the Steelers recovered. Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who has faced heavy criticism for his play-calling, went deep into his book to help the Steelers take the lead.

On first-and-goal, Roethlisberger flipped the ball to Brown, who was coming in motion. The Pro Bowl wide receiver then spun back around to his left and fired a strike to Lance Moore in the end zone.

"We worked on it like two times in practice," Brown said. "The first time was a little funny but the second time it panned out."

Houston's issues escalated on the next snap when Fitzpatrick's throw over the middle was deflected into the arms of Pittsburgh defensive end Brett Keisel. The 36-year-old took the second pick of his career to the Houston 8.

Roethlisberger found Brown for a 6-yard gain and then hit Bell - who was uncovered after going in motion - for a touchdown.

The turnaround left Heinz Field euphoric and the Texans and Watt stunned.

The Steelers methodically added on in the second half, extending the lead to 14 points on a pair of Suisham field goals before a late scoring pass from Fitzpatrick to Foster provided the final margin.

The end played in stark contrast to the beginning, when the Texans dominated.

Fitzpatrick found rookie running back Alfred Blue for an 11-yard touchdown pass to end a 10-play, 94-yard drive on the Texans' opening possession before Watt went to work.

The MVP candidate recovered a Roethlisberger fumble, leading to a 39-yard field goal by Randy Bullock that gave Houston a 10-0 lead. Watt later dropped Roethlisberger for his third sack of the year.

It was the third time this season that Watt had a fumble recovery and a sack in the same game. No other player in the NFL has more than one.

Still, it couldn't stop the Texans from extending a slide that has erased the positive vibes from their promising 3-1 start.

NOTES: Bell became the first player in Steelers history to start the season with seven straight games of 100 yards of total offense. ... Texans WR Andre Johnson caught five passes for 77 yards to move past Hall of Famer Steve Largent and into 14th place on the NFL's career yards receiving list. ... Steelers RT Marcus Gilbert left in the first half with a concussion and did not return. ... Watt's fumble recovery was the ninth of his career, a new franchise record. ... The Steelers host Indianapolis on Sunday. The Texans travel to Tennessee.

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 02:08:00 +0000

A position-by-position look at the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals going into the World Series, starting Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium:

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First Base:

Giants: Brandon Belt. After missing 96 games this year because of a broken thumb and concussion, Belt had the big hit that decided the longest postseason game in major league history. His 18th-inning homer sent San Francisco to a Game 2 win at Washington in the NL Division Series. He gives a good at-bat and provides some pop from the left side of the plate. Steady defense, too.

Royals: Eric Hosmer. Drafted third overall in 2008, Hosmer is talented but inconsistent so far. The 24-year-old cleanup hitter certainly has taken to October baseball, batting .448 in the playoffs with a crucial triple, eight RBIs and two homers, including an extra-inning shot against the Angels. A key piece of Kansas City's rebuilding project, Hosmer has developed into a vocal cheerleader. The life of the party - with a Gold Glove on his mantel.

Edge: Royals.

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Second Base:

Giants: Joe Panik. The 23-year-old rookie rescued San Francisco at second base this season in the absence of injured Marco Scutaro, a 2012 postseason star. Panik's strength is a short, compact swing that produces consistently solid contact. The line-drive hitter batted .305 with one home run this year, then went deep in the NLCS against St. Louis. When he's under pressure, it seems Panik never does.

Royals: Omar Infante. Signed to a $30.25 million, four-year contract before the season, Infante was brought in to be a veteran solution at a trouble spot for Kansas City. The 2010 All-Star can handle the bat, and his playoff experience is a plus. Infante went 5 for 15 (.333) in the World Series for the Tigers two years ago, when they were swept by San Francisco.

Edge: Even.

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Shortstop:

Giants: Brandon Crawford. A player on the rise, Crawford is blossoming into more than just a slick fielder. He had 10 triples this season and became the first shortstop in history to hit a postseason grand slam when he connected in the NL wild-card game at Pittsburgh.

Royals: Alcides Escobar. Acquired when the Royals traded ace Zack Greinke to Milwaukee in a fruitful deal, Escobar is wiry and athletic with excellent range at shortstop. His bat is coming around, too, enough to land him in the leadoff spot for a Royals team that loves to run. He was 31 for 37 on stolen bases.

Edge: Royals.

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Third Base:

Giants: Pablo Sandoval. The popular Kung Fu Panda, a switch-hitting cleanup man, is more dangerous from the left side of the plate. He's been at his best in October, reaching base safely in a team-record 23 straight postseason games while batting .375 with six homers and 14 RBIs during that span. He hit three homers in the 2012 World Series opener on the way to MVP honors. Another clutch performance could help him cash in as a free agent this fall.

Royals: Mike Moustakas. Drafted second overall in 2007, "Moose" has yet to live up to lofty expectations. But he and Hosmer form the Kansas City cornerstones at the corners of the diamond, and both have delivered in their first trip to the postseason. After a brief demotion to the minors this year, Moustakas rediscovered his power stroke with four playoff homers - two in extra innings. He also made two spectacular defensive plays in one ALCS game against Baltimore.

Edge: Giants.

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Catcher:

Giants: Buster Posey. Perhaps the closest thing to Derek Jeter the West Coast has to offer, Posey is chasing his third championship in five full seasons. Just about everything he does on the field comes right out of a textbook, and he's already won awards for NL Rookie of the Year (2010) and NL MVP (2012). The Royals' running game presents a challenge, though.

Royals: Salvador Perez. A two-time All-Star with a Gold Glove by age 24, Perez is already a respected backstop who adds thump to the lineup and keeps the clubhouse loose. He batted only .118 during the playoffs without an extra-base hit, but his 12th-inning single won an AL wild-card thriller against Oakland. One thing to watch: Perez is big for a catcher, and he keeps getting dinged in the head with backswings.

Edge: Giants.

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Left Field:

Giants: Travis Ishikawa. The most unlikely star of this postseason, Ishikawa sent the Giants to the World Series with the first home run to end an NLCS in Game 5 against St. Louis. He batted .385 with seven RBIs in the series after beginning the season as Pittsburgh's opening-day first baseman. A true journeyman, Ishikawa was a part-time role player on San Francisco's title team in 2010. Now he's back, carving out a spot in left field while Michael Morse was injured.

Royals: Alex Gordon. Drafted second overall in 2005 out of Nebraska, Gordon is probably the nearest Kansas City gets to having an MVP contender. The converted third baseman has three Gold Gloves, and his brilliant defense was on full display in the ALCS. A two-time All-Star, Gordon had a team-high nine RBIs in eight playoff games.

Edge: Royals.

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Center Field:

Giants: Gregor Blanco. Filling in for injured Angel Pagan, Blanco is a fine defender who has struggled offensively in the leadoff spot. Following a pretty solid season, he went 7 for 44 (.159) in the playoffs with one extra-base hit. He does have a sharp eye, though.

Royals: Lorenzo Cain. A smooth glider in the outfield, Cain batted .301 with 28 steals this season and is just beginning to tap into his prodigious talent. He made a string of sensational playoff catches and hit .533 with five runs during the ALCS to earn MVP honors. Not bad for a guy who didn't even know the rules or how to hold a bat when he first turned out for organized baseball as a sophomore in high school. Kansas City obtained him in the same trade that brought Escobar.

Edge: Royals.

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Right Field:

Giants: Hunter Pence. The durable Pence gets plenty of attention for his odd style and quirky ways, but don't forget how good a player he is. Pence signed a $90 million, five-year contract last offseason to stay with San Francisco and made his third All-Star team. A health nut and vocal leader for the tried-and-tested Giants, he has played in 383 consecutive games.

Royals: Nori Aoki. A pesky contact hitter, Aoki has a .353 on-base percentage in three major league seasons since arriving from Japan. He was acquired last December in a trade with Milwaukee and can become a free agent after the World Series. Not much power this season, but he can still run and play defense.

Edge: Giants.

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Designated Hitter:

Giants: Michael Morse. In his first season with San Francisco, Morse got off to a strong start before fading and finished with 16 homers and 61 RBIs. He has only six at-bats since Aug. 31 because of a strained oblique, but he tied the NLCS clincher with a pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning. He offers legitimate right-handed power and seems a good fit for DH in Kansas City.

Royals: Billy Butler. Another first-round draft pick (2004) and homegrown fan favorite, Butler is a right-handed bopper in the middle of the lineup who knows how to knock in runs. His power and slugging numbers were down this season, but the 2012 All-Star remains dangerous. Butler probably will be relegated to the bench under National League rules in San Francisco.

Edge: Royals.

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Starting Pitchers:

Giants: After riding their splendid rotation to championships in 2010 and 2012, the Giants return this time with a much different group. Madison Bumgarner is now the workhorse ace, supplanting injured Matt Cain and inconsistent Tim Lincecum. Bumgarner, an 18-game winner and the NLCS MVP, gets the ball on regular rest in Game 1 after going 2-1 with a 1.42 ERA in four playoff starts. He'll try to extend his postseason streak of 26 2-3 scoreless innings on the road, a major league record. The big left-hander has thrown 15 shutout innings in World Series play, winning both his starts while allowing a total of five hits. Hard to believe he's only 25. The other aging starters may not be asked to go as deep. Fired-up Jake Peavy, acquired in a late July trade, is back in the World Series after making it with Boston last year. Veteran newcomer Tim Hudson is set to pitch in his first Series at 39. Ryan Vogelsong is 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA in six postseason outings, including a scoreless Series win in 2012. His only October blip came in the NLCS this year against St. Louis. The starters had a 2.40 ERA in 10 playoff games.

Royals: James Shields gave the staff an experienced No. 1 starter when he was obtained from Tampa Bay for several top prospects before the 2013 season. "Big Game James" will pitch the Series opener on 10 days' rest, hoping to improve his postseason numbers. The right-hander, who can become a free agent this fall, went 1-0 with a 5.63 ERA in three playoff starts and is 3-4 with a 5.19 mark in nine career postseason games. He's also the rare Royals player with World Series experience. Shields pitched 5 2-3 scoreless innings for the Rays in a 2008 win over Philadelphia. Hard-throwing rookie Yordano Ventura was 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA this season. He had a 4.85 ERA in three playoff outings, though one of them came in an unfamiliar relief role. Ventura left his ALCS start with shoulder tightness, but he's had plenty of time to rest. As expected, left-hander Jason Vargas was a steady presence after the Royals signed the free agent to a $32 million, four-year contract last offseason. Veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie has pitched only once all month, but he threw five effective innings in the ALCS.

Edge: Giants, barely, thanks to Bumgarner.

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Bullpen:

Giants: Many faces are the same from San Francisco's two title runs this decade, but a couple of key roles have changed. Santiago Casilla was promoted from setup man to closer during the season when Sergio Romo struggled. Romo is now setting up Casilla, on a dominant roll dating to September. Casilla has four postseason saves and hasn't permitted a run in 6 2-3 innings. Romo is 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA in seven games. Experienced southpaws Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez are very tough on lefties. Affeldt has made 18 consecutive scoreless appearances in the postseason, Casilla 17 and Lopez 15. Fireballing rookie Hunter Strickland has been prone to the home run ball. Lincecum, an October relief weapon two years ago, was bumped to the bullpen again this year but has not pitched in the postseason. Yusmeiro Petit provided a huge boost in long relief during the playoffs, going 2-0 with 11 strikeouts in nine shutout innings of two-hit ball.

Royals: The nasty 1-2-3 punch of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and All-Star closer Greg Holland (46/48 saves) in the final three innings gave Kansas City a winning formula all season. The playoffs were no different. Holland has six saves and a 1.13 ERA in eight postseason games. Davis is 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA, and Herrera has a 1.08 mark in seven appearances. All three have struck out 10. Jason Frasor also is effective and 21-year-old lefty Brandon Finnegan, who pitched for TCU in the College World Series in June, has showed poise out of the `pen. Danny Duffy, normally a starter, is ready in long relief if needed.

Edge: Royals, barely.

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Bench:

Giants: A relatively inexperienced group that includes Juan Perez, Matt Duffy and catcher Andrew Susac. Veteran infielder Joaquin Arias is still around, and Morse or Ishikawa would provide a power threat back home in San Francisco. There's some speed here, but it would still be a stretch to call this unit a strength.

Royals: Speedy reserve Jarrod Dyson stole 36 bases this season and often subs in center field, shifting Cain to right. Dyson made a big throw in the AL Division Series against the Angels and had a huge steal in the wild-card game against Oakland. Watch out for him swiping third when he gets the chance. Lightning-fast track star Terrance Gore comes on as a pinch runner when the Royals play for one. Josh Willingham and Butler (in San Francisco) can supply right-handed power to counter those lefties in the Giants' bullpen.

Edge: Royals.

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Manager:

Giants: Bruce Bochy. Seeking his third World Series ring in five years, the unassuming Bochy is building a Hall of Fame resume. His masterful use of the bullpen has been a consistent theme throughout San Francisco's run of 15 wins in its last 17 postseason games. Nobody has a better feel for his team.

Royals: Ned Yost. Once fired by Milwaukee in the middle of a September playoff race, Yost guided Kansas City to its first postseason berth in 29 years and the franchise's third pennant overall. Must be pretty satisfying. Some of his puzzling moves have left Royals fans up in arms, but Yost pushed the right buttons against Baltimore in the ALCS and now he's the toast of the town. We'll see if it stays that way.

Edge: Giants.

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Pick: Giants in 6.

Mon, 20 Oct 2014 21:49:00 +0000

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Percy Harvin has been called lots of things during his NFL career.

Talented but injury prone. Explosive on the field and combustible off. A playmaker but a troublemaker.

The New York Jets' newest wide receiver doesn't deny he has had some issues. But he also wants to be judged from what he does starting now, not just his checkered past.

"I'm definitely not a perfect person," Harvin said after his first practice with his new team Monday. "I have a lot of things that I wish I could have done a little differently. But I'm moving forward. I'm learning from those lessons.

"I'm happy to be here right now and looking to make the most out of it," he said.

The Jets and Seattle Seahawks completed a deal Saturday in which New York sent a conditional draft pick to Seattle for Harvin. Jets general manager John Idzik thought the potential payoff in acquiring a player with Harvin's type of versatility and game-breaking skills outweighed the risks involved.

"I look at it," Idzik said, "as this could be a potential coup for the New York Jets."

Harvin was "shocked" by the trade and it came as a surprise to most in NFL circles. After all, the Seahawks parted ways with a player who helped them win a Super Bowl last season.

But at 26, Harvin has been traded twice already now, including by Minnesota, the team that took him in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft. The Jets were extremely interested in Harvin during that draft process before trading up to take quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Harvin has played in 60 games with only 47 career starts. He was traded to the Seahawks in 2013 for a 2013 first-round and seventh-round draft choice and a 2014 third-rounder, but appeared in just one regular-season game in 2013 because of hip surgery. But Harvin ran back a second-half kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown in Seattle's 43-8 rout of Denver in the Super Bowl.

Harvin is also a player who is injury prone and has had some questions about his character and interactions. Harvin acknowledged that he had "incidents" in the locker room with former Seahawks teammates Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin, but declined to give details.

"The way I go about my business is by keeping everything in-house, but for whatever reason, they decided to unleash things," Harvin said. "Some things did happen. That's in the past. We've moved forward and I've talked to Golden and Doug. We've all moved forward from it. I'm here now and I'm moving on."

Jets right tackle Breno Giacomini, Harvin's teammate in Seattle last season, said the incidents are being "blown up for no reason" and "wasn't like it was this big, huge boxing match."

"Almost everybody in this locker room has been in a fight before," Giacomini said. "We play football, you know what I'm saying? Oh, it happened twice? Who cares? He's a good competitor. That's what it is. I know it was squashed right away with Golden because I was there, and I heard the same thing about Doug. I think it's being blown up."

Harvin said he was "frustrated" about the way the Seahawks were using him in the offense.

"Not that I didn't like what I was doing, I just wanted to do a little bit more," he said. "As a receiver, I wanted to just get downfield just a little bit more than I was doing."

Harvin did not approach his coaches about his unhappiness, but also didn't request a trade - and insisted he harbors no ill will toward the Seahawks.

"They brought me a Super Bowl," he said.

Idzik said he had thorough discussions with Seahawks general manager John Schneider, a close friend whom Idzik has known before their days working together in Seattle, and was comfortable that Harvin wouldn't become a disruptive force in the Jets' locker room.

So was coach Rex Ryan, who didn't even want to discuss Harvin's past issues.

"I don't think I need to," Ryan said. "To me, things happen and every single guy has had something, but to me, it's just all about right now and moving forward."

Idzik said he had "substantive talks" with Seattle last week before the Jets' game at New England last Thursday night, but the discussions "crystallized" after the team's 27-25 loss - its sixth straight.

"It became evident that this was a real possibility," Idzik said, "and eventually we pulled the trigger."

Idzik insisted the move was to help the 1-6 Jets improve - not a result of public pressure or criticism. The GM has been highly criticized for not providing second-year quarterback Geno Smith and the rest of the offense enough playmakers in the offseason.

"I think it brings an explosive talent to our team," coach Rex Ryan said. "It should be fun to watch."

Ryan said Harvin will serve as the team's kick returner on Sunday against Buffalo, and his involvement in the offense would be based on how quickly he picks up Marty Mornhinweg's system.

"It's definitely a place I want to be for a long time," Harvin said. "I'm here, I'm glad I'm here and I'm going to make the most of the opportunity."

Mon, 20 Oct 2014 20:53:00 +0000

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida coach Will Muschamp is getting at least another game to turn things around.

Athletic director Jeremy Foley said Monday that he will continue to evaluate the season - and likely Muschamp's future - "as it plays out."

That means Muschamp will be on the sideline when the Gators (3-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) play ninth-ranked Georgia in Jacksonville on Nov. 1.

Foley released a 40-word statement that did little to sway belief that Muschamp's job is in serious jeopardy following consecutive home losses to teams that previously struggled in SEC play.

"At the beginning of the season we said we would evaluate the season as it plays out," Foley said. "We will continue to do so. Our sole focus right now is supporting our coaching staff and players as they prepare for Georgia."

The Gators are coming off back-to-back losses to LSU and Missouri. The latest one, a 42-13 debacle to Mizzou on Saturday night, was one of the most embarrassing losses in Muschamp's three-plus years in Gainesville.

Florida committed six turnovers, including two that were returned for touchdowns, and allowed two special teams scores. Chants of "Fire Muschamp" started in the third quarter and could be heard throughout an emptying Florida Field the rest of the night.

The defeat was Florida's second straight on homecoming, the first time that's happened in Gainesville since 1947.

It dropped Muschamp's record to 25-19, including 15-14 in conference play.

And it could be worse. The Gators could be 0-5 in league play considering they eked out a win against Kentucky in triple overtime and edged Tennessee 10-9 two weeks ago.

Missouri's victory was never in doubt.

The Tigers returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and cruised from there. They also returned a punt for a touchdown, returned a fumble for a score and returned an interception for a touchdown and a 42-0 lead.

Florida allowed just seven first downs and 119 total yards, but lost for the second time in Muschamp's tenure when giving up less than 120 yards. No other Football Bowl Subdivision team has done that even once in the last decade.

Foley voiced strong support for Muschamp late last year, backing him during the team's seven-game losing streak that led to the program's first losing record since 1979.

Muschamp responded by firing two offensive coaches, a move that got him another year to change the team's direction.

Muschamp opened this season by telling anyone and everyone that this was the most talented offensive team he's had in four years. He changed his tune somewhat Saturday, saying the offensive line isn't good enough to protect for quarterback Jeff Driskel.

"We've got to identify some things that we can be consistent with offensively," Muschamp said on his weekly television show Sunday. "In our first six games, we have not done anything offensively. We did against Kentucky a little bit, got some ball movement. We did against LSU at times. But against Tennessee, against Alabama and (Saturday), we couldn't get anything going."

Driskel has 12 turnovers in his last four games and has clearly lost confidence.

The Gators used a two-quarterback system with Driskel and freshman Treon Harris, who fumbled and threw an interception. The Gators have a bye this week, and it's unclear what they will do before facing Georgia.

The Bulldogs have won three in a row in the series.

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 01:36:00 +0000

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) LeBron James was the star attraction but Kyrie Irving stole the show with 28 points to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 107-98 win against the Chicago Bulls in an exhibition game Monday night at Ohio State.

Irving had 20 points in the second half. James had 18 points in 31 minutes in his first game in Columbus since rejoining the Cavaliers this summer from the Miami Heat.

Derrick Rose led Chicago with 30 points.

Chicago was without guard Jimmy Butler (thumb). His replacement in the starting lineup, Kirk Hinrich, had two points in 16 minutes.

Sat, 18 Oct 2014 17:20:00 +0000

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) The New York Jets announced Saturday they have acquired wide receiver Percy Harvin from the Seattle Seahawks for a conditional draft pick.

Making official a trade that was reported Friday, the Jets get a star from last season's Super Bowl but a player who is injury prone. Harvin brings versatility and game-breaking skills to the Jets, who have lost their last six games to fall to 1-6.

New York released receiver David Nelson to make room for Harvin.

General manager John Idzik called Harvin a "dynamic player who has been productive on offense and special teams." Seahawks general manager John Schneider noted Harvin's contributions to the Super Bowl and called the decision to trade him "extremely difficult."

"We are constantly evaluating our team and believe at this time that this is in our best interest to move the team forward," Schneider said.

The 26-year-old receiver has played in 60 games with only 47 career starts since being a first-round pick by Minnesota in 2009. He was traded to the Seahawks in 2013 for a 2013 first-round and seventh-round draft choice and a 2014 third-rounder.

He appeared in just one regular-season game in 2013 because of hip surgery. But Harvin ran back the second-half kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown in Seattle's 43-8 rout of Denver in the Super Bowl.

Harvin has battled a thigh injury and was listed as questionable for the Seahawks' game at St. Louis this weekend before the trade was completed. The Seahawks have tried to find ways to use him - runner, receiver and special teams - but the injury woes slowed their plans.

This season, Harvin has 22 receptions for 133 yards, with 12 of those catches coming behind the line of scrimmage. He has only one catch on a ball thrown more than 10 yards, according to STATS. Harvin's average of 6 yards per catch is last among all wide receivers in the NFL averaging at least two receptions a game.

He also has 11 runs for 92 yards and a touchdown, and 12 kickoff returns for 283 yards.

New York's offense has struggled. Harvin figures to team with Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley as the Jets' main weapons in a so-far weak passing game with Geno Smith at quarterback.

As a rookie, he made the Pro Bowl and the Offensive Rookie of the Year. Harvin's best season was 2011, with 87 receptions for 967 yards and six TDs. He also rushed for 345 yards and two scores, and averaged 32.5 yards per kickoff return.

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AP Sports Writer Dennis Waszak Jr. contributed to this report.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Sun, 19 Oct 2014 04:08:00 +0000

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Jameis Winston prevailed after another week of controversy and threw for 273 yards and two touchdowns to lead No. 2 Florida State to 31-27 win over No. 5 Notre Dame on Saturday.

The Seminoles (7-0, 5-0 ACC) used a second-half comeback with the season on the line to topple the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame (6-1) is the last ranked team FSU's schedule and the win may be its last chance to make a decisive impression on the College Football Playoff selection committee.

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns, but Winston won the duel in the second half as he completed his first 13 passes against a defense that had Florida State flustered for the first 30 minutes.

The Irish moved to the 2-yard line on the final drive, but an offensive pass interference call killed the drive.

Florida State said this week it was investigating whether Winston received benefits for autographs being sold online.

Sat, 18 Oct 2014 23:05:00 +0000

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Blake Sims passed for 268 yards and three touchdowns and scored on a 43-yard run while leading No. 7 Alabama to 35 second-quarter points and a 59-0 pummeling of No. 21 Texas A&M on Saturday.

The Crimson Tide (6-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) shut down the nation's No. 4 offense and dominated a game that had produced two straight thrillers.

Led by Sims, T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper, Alabama outgained the Aggies 602-172. Texas A&M (5-3, 2-3) has lost its past three games, all to teams now ranked in the top 10.

Alabama set a school record for most points in a quarter and matched the second-most scored in a half while racing to a 45-0 halftime lead.

Yeldon had 114 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries, all in the first half. Cooper gained 140 yards on eight catches with a pair of touchdowns.

Sat, 18 Oct 2014 22:31:00 +0000

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) The reliable southpaw is getting the ball for another important Game 1.

Left-hander Madison Bumgarner will pitch the World Series opener for the San Francisco Giants at Kansas City on Tuesday.

Manager Bruce Bochy made the expected announcement Saturday as his team worked out under sunny skies, one day before traveling. Bumgarner, an 18-game winner, was voted NL Championship Series MVP as the Giants beat the St. Louis Cardinals in five games.

Despite MadBum's high innings, Bochy wasn't worried about the 18-game winner. Bumgarner didn't get a decision in the pennant clincher against the Cardinals on Thursday night.

"I think I would've insulted him if I checked with him," Bochy said. "He's a big, strong guy. His last game I thought he had great stuff. It's not like he's thrown 120-130 pitches. His workload has been under control."

Bochy is keeping his rotation the same as the first two rounds of the postseason. Right-hander Jake Peavy will pitch Game 2 on Wednesday, followed by 39-year-old right-hander Tim Hudson in his World Series debut Thursday at AT&T Park and then righty Ryan Vogelsong.

Yusmeiro Petit, who has twice provided a huge lift as a long man, will stay in his role as Bochy stuck with Vogelsong in the rotation.

"Petit in the job he's done in that role that we've had him in, you go back to Washington and without Petit it's hard to say what would have happened," Bochy said. "In St. Louis he went out there and gave us three big innings. He's a great swingman. Vogey, he threw a great game against Washington. He had a little bit of a hiccup but no, I didn't think about changing."

Unused two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum will make the roster. Bochy didn't expect to make any changes from the 25 players used in the NLCS.

Lincecum pitched the Game 5 World Series clincher at Texas in 2010, then held a key role as a reliever in the 2012 championship run. Lincecum pitched his second no-hitter June 25 against San Diego but hasn't pitched since Sept. 28.

"I've been thinking about Timmy, trust me," Bochy said. "Timmy's done a lot for us, and we know that."

Lincecum was undergoing treatment for a a problem that developed overnight.

"Timmy's got a stiff neck right now but we talked about him throwing to hitters today," Bochy said. "He'll be back tomorrow, but he's still on the roster. I don't think it's serious. ... I'm pretty sure at some point he'll be in the game."

Bochy didn't announce a designated hitter, though Michael Morse is the obvious candidate. He has been unable to play left field and hasn't started since late August because of an oblique injury, but hit a tying pinch homer in the 6-3 Game 5 NLCS win.

"I haven't got the order set, DH," Bochy said. "Right now we don't have any plans to change our roster. Now that doesn't mean we can't change our mind as we look at this further."

Sat, 18 Oct 2014 20:16:00 +0000

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) Clint Trickett threw three touchdown passes and West Virginia surprised sloppy No. 4 Baylor 41-27 Saturday.

The Mountaineers (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) earned their first win over a top five opponent since the Fiesta Bowl after the 2007 season.

West Virginia sacked Baylor's Bryce Petty four times and limited the Bears to one touchdown after halftime.

Baylor was penalized 18 times for a Big 12-record 215 yards. Seven were for pass interference.

Trickett went 23 of 35 for 322 yards, his eighth straight 300-yard game going back to last season.

Baylor (6-1, 3-1) couldn't overcome a double-digit deficit as it did in a 61-58 victory against TCU last week.

Sat, 18 Oct 2014 23:35:00 +0000

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) Trevone Boykin threw for a career-high 410 yards with three touchdowns, two on long plays to Josh Doctson in the first quarter, and No. 12 TCU emphatically bounced back with a 42-9 victory over No. 15 Oklahoma State on Saturday.

Doctson had seven catches for 225 yards, a yard short of TCU's school record even with the scores of 77 and 84 yards. B.J. Catalon ran for 102 yards and two scores for the Horned Frogs (5-1, 2-1 Big 12).

Oklahoma State (5-2, 3-1), which had won five in a row, was outgained 676 to 258 and held without a touchdown for the first time since a 27-0 loss to Oklahoma in the 2009 regular season finale.

TCU quickly erased any notion of a hangover effect from its wild 61-58 loss at Baylor a week earlier, jumping ahead 21-3 on Doctson's early touchdowns.

Sat, 18 Oct 2014 04:30:00 +0000

Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and the go-go-go Kansas City Royals played perfect ball to zip through the playoffs. Plus, they recently flattened Buster Posey and his Giants.

So how come this bunch that's rapidly become a fan favorite all across the country isn't the favorite against San Francisco in the World Series?

"When I look at the Royals, I see a team on a terrific run. There was magic on their side, where everything they did went absolutely right," said Las Vegas oddsmaker Johnny Avello, head of the sports book at the Wynn.

"But I don't get into the `darling' stuff," he said Friday. "I have to encompass everything and figure out who's the better team, and that's the Giants."

We'll see what's next in this tight, tense postseason starting Tuesday night when the seasoned Giants visit the fresh Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

A pair of teams with dominant bullpens, the talent to make tremendous catches and a touch for grinding out key runs.

Both of them wild-card teams, too. Of course, come this late in October, no one is really a wild card anymore.

Reigning NL Championship Series MVP Madison Bumgarner, former World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval and Giants manager Bruce Bochy are aiming for their third ring in five seasons.

At 39, Tim Hudson is headed with them, going to his first World Series. A four-time All-Star with 214 wins, he left his longtime home in Atlanta and signed with the Giants last November.

Hudson was swayed by an intangible that he'd seen from the other side - San Francisco's knack for playing especially well at this time of year.

"They know how to win when it matters. There's something different whenever this team gets in the playoffs. They know what buttons to push. They know what guys need to do in certain situations. That's all that matters," Hudson said.

"That's why I'm playing, that's why I'm here, that's why I decided to come to the Giants," he said.

Already 8-0 this postseason, the Royals are back in the Series for the first time since George Brett and Bret Saberhagen helped them win it all in 1985.

There were a lot of lean years in the interim.

Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt, the winning pitcher in the NLCS clincher Thursday night against the Cardinals, played for Kansas City from 2002-06 - the Royals lost 100 games in three of those seasons.

"Well, I'm sure there's a lot of excitement," Affeldt said. "There's a lot of people that have been fans for a long time in that area and been waiting to see this since 1985."

"When I played there, I think they thought they were overdue then, and that was, I don't know, seven, eight years ago," he said. "There's going to be some energy in that stadium. And they have remodeled it ... it's pretty impressive to see the amount of blue in these seats during those games."

Affeldt and the Giants got a close-up at these Royals in August, getting swept in a three-game series at Kansas City.

Gordon homered twice in the series, outfielder Nori Aoki threw out two runners in an inning, the Royals stole seven bases in a game and they beat Bumgarner, Hudson and Tim Lincecum.

"It doesn't matter what it was," Royals manager Ned Yost said Friday. "This is a whole different ballgame now. This is the World Series. This isn't a three-game series in August."

Yost, by the way, grew up in the Bay Area rooting for the Giants.

Even though they met two months ago, there's not a lot of history between the teams. They faced each other only twice in spring training in Arizona, and the Royals haven't played in San Francisco since 2005, back when Barry Bonds was the biggest name in town.

Closer Greg Holland, Mike Moustakas and the Royals will be at AT&T Park for Game 3 on Friday night. It was 25 years ago that an earthquake minutes before Game 3 rattled Candlestick Park and postponed the World Series between the Giants and Oakland Athletics. The Series shift means no designated hitter in the NL park, costing Royals DH Billy Butler a spot. Yost spent most of his career in NL, coaching in Atlanta and managing in Milwaukee.

"It's a fun style. I've never really managed two styles in one series," Yost said. "It's a different type. There are a lot more things that are involved."

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 22:56:00 +0000

LOS ANGELES (AP) In the middle of Andrew Friedman's introduction as the Los Angeles Dodgers' president of baseball operations, a question was asked from a corner of the room.

"Are you looking to acquire a younger, faster, stronger first baseman?" someone queried.

Friedman swiveled his head to see who was speaking, and then he laughed. The question came from incumbent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who lives in Southern California during the offseason.

Gonzalez can count on other outsiders being brought in under Friedman, who plans to hire a new general manager and to retain Don Mattingly as manager.

Friedman was introduced at Dodger Stadium on Friday, and he said he's having conversations about hiring a GM to work under him but offered no timetable. Ned Colletti was shifted from the GM job to senior adviser to team president and CEO Stan Kasten.

A 37-year-old former Wall Street analyst, Friedman was hired this week from the Tampa Bay Rays, where he guided the team to four postseason appearances, including division in titles in 2008 and 2010.

Friedman said has spoken twice with Mattingly, and they plan to meet next week. He said Mattingly will "definitely" be the manager next season and he tamped down speculation that close friend, Rays manager Joe Maddon, would follow him to Los Angeles.

"I'm going into it with the mindset that we're going to work with Donnie for a long time," Friedman said. "We're very aligned on a lot of things philosophically."

Mattingly has two seasons remaining in his three-year deal, while Maddon has one year left in his contract.

In Tampa Bay, Friedman oversaw one of the major leagues' lowest payrolls. With the Dodgers, he will have baseball's highest payroll at his disposal, one that rose to a record $256 million this year.

"It's obviously different," he said. "Our focus is going to be on constructing the best team we possibly can. There are things that will make much more sense here than in other markets."

Friedman was short on specifics, and he repeatedly said it was premature to comment on such things as GM, farm director, coaches and the roster, including whether free-agent shortstop Hanley Ramirez would be given a $15.3 million qualifying offer.

Friedman opened his comments by reading from several prepared pages.

"I've been busting him a little bit for having to write a speech. It's not something we're used to, but he wanted to make his points," Kasten said. "I think he did pretty well."

Friedman name-checked some of his famous predecessors in the job, including Buzzy Bavasi and Branch Rickey, while also saluting such former Dodger greats as Sandy Koufax, Tom Lasorda and Don Newcombe, who was on hand. He also thanked the Rays and Colletti.

"It feels great to be a Dodger today," Friedman said, smiling. "I fully recognize the magnitude of the job ahead of me."

The Dodgers won 94 games and the NL West title but lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs in Colletti's last two seasons as GM. They were beaten in four games in the NL Division Series, a year after losing in six games in the NL Championship Series.

"I have a ton of personal and professional respect for Ned," Friedman said. "He's got a lot of institutional knowledge. I'd be foolish not to tap into it."

Friedman repeatedly used the words "process," "collaboration" and "information is king" in describing his approach to the job.

"All I care about is getting more decisions right than wrong," he said.

Friedman is known for his use of analytics, and he acknowledged those will blend with traditional scouting in building the roster.

"We do a lot of digging on people we're going to acquire," he said. "People are going to know exactly what we're thinking."

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 17:05:00 +0000

CHICAGO (AP) Beth E. Richie is a professor and a college administrator. She has written articles and books about feminism, battered women and the prison system, and provided training for police, judges and other groups.

So when the NFL called to ask for help with its domestic conduct policy, Richie wanted to make sure it was more serious than window dressing.

"The players and the teams are one thing that almost could be easily managed," said Richie, the director of the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at Illinois-Chicago. "I wanted to know are they interested in the fan base, the sponsoring organizations, the other corporate interests?

"We almost haven't had a moment like this in the work to end violence when such power, such attention, such resources could go to prevention, changing culture, bystander education, those kinds of things."

Intrigued by the possibilities, Richie joined a high-profile effort that is hoping to have an impact on domestic violence beyond the sports world. Richie is one of five senior advisers recently hired by the NFL to help shape the league's policy on abuse.

Any action by the league after the Ray Rice scandal will be closely watched by the other sports. But the NFL's new group of advisers believes the process also could have a more far-reaching impact.

"I think that they have the opportunity to model some cutting-edge policies and protocols or guidelines, and I'm excited at the opportunity for that reach to go beyond just the NFL, but into all of corporate America," said Jane Randel, a co-founder of No More, a campaign against domestic violence and sexual assault.

Randel and the other advisers had a hand in a 40-minute educational presentation at last week's NFL meetings in New York. The presentation focused on the dangers of spousal abuse, child abuse, sexual assault and other domestic violence topics.

Richie praised the NFL owners for their attentiveness, and Randel said it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Richie and Randel said the owners seemed serious.

"You can see what people in the room are doing, and they were watching and engaged and taking notes and doing all the things that you would want them to do," she said, "because these things really only work if they start from the top."

Randel's background is in cause marketing and corporate communications. She helped start No More in 2009 in an effort to raise awareness and money for organizations working to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

Lisa Friel, another senior adviser, was the head of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit in the New York County District Attorney's Office for more than a decade, and Rita Smith is the former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Tony Porter is a co-founder of A Call to Men, an organization dedicated to ending violence against women.

"The first thing that we're going to look at is the league's personal conduct policy and how we can educate people about that," Friel said at the owners' meetings. "In a perfect world, the hope is you never have to use the disciplinary end of that policy, right? That you have your standards of behavior, you educate people about them and they don't violate your policy. That's what we're hoping to do."

Sports have been a part of Richie's family life for a long time. She learned more about the business and organizational side of sports when her sister Laurel became president of the WNBA in 2011.

Laurel Richie said in an email to The Associated Press that the NFL made a smart choice in asking Beth for help.

"As a researcher, service provider, and advocate, my sister is one of the nation's leading experts on domestic violence and sexual assault in the African-American community," she wrote.

Beth E. Richie was the last addition to the NFL panel, and her appointment was announced after the Rev. Jesse Jackson and a leading black women's group criticized the league for not including any African-American women in the group of consultants.

It was clear the NFL was "looking for someone to fill that particular niche of race and community accountability," Richie said.

The league is mulling over when to act in cases of domestic violence and sexual assault, particularly when criminal cases drag on.

"I emphasize really, when possible, alternatives to only relying on the criminal legal system because in black communities that's been such a difficult tension," Richie said.

"My instinct has always been to try to find ways that communities can hold people accountable, and only rely on the criminal justice system when communities can't hold people accountable."

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AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg and AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner in New York contributed to this report.

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Online:

No More: http://nomore.org

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: www.ncadv.org

A Call to Men: www.acalltomen.org

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 19:42:00 +0000

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Jeff Banister is a baseball lifer who calls Texas home. He grew up there and played his entire amateur career there before getting drafted.

Now the former catcher who got a pinch-hit single in his only major league at-bat, who was temporarily paralyzed from the neck down after a home-plate collision in junior college and who overcame bone cancer with multiple surgeries in high school is a big-league manager in the Lone Star State.

Banister was introduced Friday as the new manager of the Texas Rangers after 29 years in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization as a player, coach and instructor at all levels.

"The best opportunities to come along are the ones you're not looking for," Banister said. "Have I prepared myself for this opportunity? Yeah, from the day that I stopped playing until now, I've truly dreamed and wanted to and tried to. I got to a point in my life that I told myself that I wasn't going to chase it. If it happened, it happened."

The 50-year-old Banister, who lives in the Houston area, was the bench coach the past four seasons for Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, whose only season as the Rangers' hitting coach was when they went to their first World Series in 2010. Banister's introduction came six weeks after manager Ron Washington's resignation for personal reasons.

Texas gave Banister a three-year contract with an option for a fourth season. The injury-ravaged Rangers are coming off a 67-95 season, their worst since 1985, after reaching the World Series in 2010-2011 and becoming a trendy postseason pick each year.

Banister got the job ahead of two other finalists, interim manager Tim Bogar and Cleveland Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash.

Another of the eight candidates interviewed for the job was Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux, who Banister met with Friday morning. He has also spoken with Bogar, the Rangers first-year bench coach who went 14-8 as interim manager, and hitting coach Dave Magadan. He didn't get into specifics on plans for his staff.

"It's a process that all of us are going through at this time," Banister said. "Out of respect for the process, I will just leave it that we have had some conversations."

Banister was born in Oklahoma, but went to high school, junior college and college in Texas before getting drafted in the 25th round by the Pirates in 1986. The Rangers believe he is the first manager in club history to attend high school or college in the state.

While in high school in 1980, Banister had seven operations on his left ankle and leg for bone cancer and an infection of the bone or bone marrow. The temporary paralysis happened while playing for Baytown Junior College in 1983.

"The impact is I don't take any day for granted. When I wake up every morning and put my feet on the floor or I sit up in the bed, I thank God I have another day," said Banister, the son of two educators. "I understand perseverance, I understand what hard work means, that pain is one of those things we're given to let us know we're alive from time to time."

Banister said much of his passion for the game stems from nights in a hospital bed when he couldn't get up, but could dream and think and challenge himself that he would play again.

"It gave me joy in a time when there was no joy," he said. "That burning desire, that internal fire that burns inside of me to have success to pass on, to push forward, was melded a long time ago in a couple of different hospitals."

His coaching career began as a player-coach with Double-A Carolina in 1993, and his first managerial job was in the New York-Penn League in 1994. He had a 299-330 record in five seasons as a minor league manager, before serving as field coordinator for the Pirates from 1999-2002 and then as the club's minor league field coordinator for eight years after that.

In 515 games in Pittsburgh's minor league system from 1986-93, he was a .247 hitter. In his only major league appearance, he got a hit on July 23, 1991, and the most emotional he got Friday was when he was asked about that.

"There are a group of people who prop you up and take care of you, try to motivate you on a daily basis - it's tough to be motivated," he said. "To be able to walk into a major league game when everybody told you that you couldn't, you shouldn't, you wouldn't ... now you get an opportunity to do it, it happens, you're on top of the mountain for one day, one moment in time and you carry those people with you, it's the best thank you that you can give. That's what it meant."

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 18:17:00 +0000

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Timing had been the only question about Nashville hosting the NHL All-Star game, and the league finally has the answer.

Music City will be hosting the league's showcase event in 2016 on Jan. 30-31 at Bridgestone Arena - home to the Nashville Predators.

"It's not too far back to remember that Nashville was a terrific host for the 2003 NHL draft, and we know if that's any indication of what to expect it's going to be wonderful," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday.

The Predators hosted the NHL's entry draft in 2003 and have been on a short list to host the All-Star game. But Nashville needed a bigger downtown convention center to host all the surrounding festivities.

Bettman said officials both with the Predators and Nashville have been asking him about Music City hosting the All-Star game for years. The only issue was working out logistics with hotels and opening the city's new convention building, the Music City Center, in May 2013.

With Bridgestone Americas CEO Gary Garfield on hand, Bettman said he knows the next question he'll be asked is when Nashville hosts a Winter Classic game.

"Let's do them one at a time," Bettman said. "Let's get through the All-Star game first, and then we can have that discussion."

An expansion club that started play in 1998-99, Nashville becomes the last of the league's Southern franchises to host the All-Star game. Florida, which had a franchise-low 7,311 in attendance Monday night, staged the game in 2003. Tampa Bay hosted in 1999, and Carolina had the game in 2011.

Even Atlanta, which later lost the Thrashers to Winnipeg, hosted the 2008 All-Star game.

Nashville was the site of the Women's Final Four in April and is a finalist to host again between 2017 and 2020 at Bridgestone Arena, home of the Predators since their inaugural season in 1998-99. The arena also is to host the Southeastern Conference men's basketball tournament nine of the next 10 years starting in March.

The arena also is the venue for the annual Country Music Association Awards each November, where Nashville rolls out an actual red carpet for the music industry. Singer Vince Gill was on hand for the announcement, and Predators chief executive officer Jeff Cogen promised the singer will be involved in the festivities during All-Star weekend.

"We look forward to rolling out the red carpet in 2016 for our visitors and using our Southern hospitality to welcome them in a way that only Nashville can," Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said.

This is validation for local ownership that bought the Predators in 2007 amid speculation over the franchise's future in Nashville. Original owner Craig Leipold had a deal to sell the team to Canadian Jim Balsillie that fell through when the billionaire started taking season ticket deposits in Hamilton.

Predators chairman Tom Cigarran said he stepped up that year to keep Nashville from losing a major league franchise. Cigarran said there haven't been questions about struggling attendance or whether the team would leave Nashville in at least three years.

"It's hard to imagine or think back to 2010," Cigarran said. "This franchise was struggling, and it's come a long way. We're no longer struggling. This franchise is going to be in this city forever."

The Predators sold out two of their first three home games to start this season. Bettman said the local ownership has been great.

"We were never as concerned as some of the speculation was about the future of the franchise," Bettman said. "We knew with Tom and his partners we were in good hands."

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 03:26:00 +0000

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Travis Ishikawa hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning, sending the San Francisco Giants to the World Series with a 6-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night.

These every-other-year Giants clinched the NL Championship Series in Game 5 and now will face the Royals in an all wild-card Fall Classic that begins Tuesday night in Kansas City.

Pablo Sandoval singled to start the ninth against Michael Wacha, making his first appearance of the postseason for the Cardinals. After an out, Brandon Belt walked to bring up Ishikawa, who drove a 2-0 pitch into the elevated seats in right field.

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 05:38:00 +0000

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) The big man they call MadBum is a playoff MVP.

Madison Bumgarner was chosen Most Valuable Player of the NL Championship Series on Thursday night following his latest display of postseason poise for the San Francisco Giants.

The 25-year-old lefty tossed eight solid innings in Game 5 and took home the prize after San Francisco rallied for a 6-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Travis Ishikawa's three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.

"I'm thankful and blessed to have the opportunity for this. I don't know that I'm 100 percent deserving of it," Bumgarner said. "There's plenty of guys that deserve it, also. We're just excited to be moving on."

Bumgarner pitched shutout ball in a Game 1 win at St. Louis, getting the Giants off to a fast start in a best-of-seven series they won 4-1.

Now, they're headed back to the World Series for the third time in five years, looking to add to the championships they captured in 2010 and 2012.

Bumgarner and the Giants will open the Fall Classic in Kansas City on Tuesday night.

"I really like the group of guys that we have here, and it's going to be a fun series," said Bumgarner, who earned a $75,000 bonus for winning the award.

He gave up two homers in Game 5 against St. Louis but retired his final 13 batters to keep the Giants close, winding up with a no-decision.

"He's just so consistent, he really is," catcher Buster Posey said. "It doesn't matter the situation, that's what makes him so good."

Aside from an uncharacteristic blip in Game 3 of the NL Division Series against Washington, the shaggy-haired southpaw has been stellar in his third postseason.

The Giants' remarkable 10-game postseason winning streak ended on one bad toss by their best pitcher when Bumgarner's wild throw past third base after fielding a bunt helped the Nationals rally.

San Francisco still advanced, and Bumgarner went 7 2-3 innings for a 3-0 victory in the NLCS opener at Busch Stadium.

"He's unbelievable," third base coach Tim Flannery said. "He didn't have his best stuff tonight, but he battles and he competes. You can hear it on the bench when he comes in, it's like, `If we hold `em, we're going to win.' Then all you need is a little momentum."

The 18-game winner has thrived in this postseason for a Giants team down a pair of pitching stars that helped carry them to their previous two titles. Right-hander Matt Cain is recovering from elbow surgery, and Tim Lincecum was demoted to the bullpen and has not been used in October.

At 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, Bumgarner is a huge reason the Giants keep winning.

He tossed a four-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts in an 8-0 victory at Pittsburgh in the NL wild-card game, and has kept that momentum going.

Now, he gets to lead the Giants into the World Series for a third time - and he has certainly shined on that stage before.

The two-time All-Star has thrown 15 scoreless innings in World Series play, winning both his starts while striking out 14 and yielding five total hits.

Pretty dominant stuff.

"We've got a lot of guys that's been through this," Bumgarner said. "They know what to expect and they are not afraid of the moment."

Just like MadBum.

Thu, 16 Oct 2014 00:57:00 +0000

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) James Shields led thousands of fans in a celebratory chant. Lorenzo Cain pranced along the warning track, cradling his newborn son. Ned Yost finally allowed himself to smile.

After nearly three decades spent as one of the game's biggest laughingstocks, the Kansas City Royals are once again baseball royalty. They are headed to their first World Series since 1985, finishing a four-game sweep in the AL Championship Series with a 2-1 victory Wednesday over the Baltimore Orioles.

In a perfect postseason, the Royals are intent to relish every moment.

"It's hard to explain," said Cain, whose clutch hits and dramatic catches earned him the series MVP award. "We're clicking at the right moment right now."

There's no doubt about that.

Now, the Royals will carry an 11-game playoff win streak into the World Series, one shy of the major league record. That includes their first eight this season, something that had never been done in postseason history. Kansas City beat Oakland in a 12-inning wild-card thriller to start things off, then swept the Los Angeles Angels in the Divisional Series.

Kansas City will open its first World Series since 1985 on Tuesday against the winner of the NLCS between the Giants and Cardinals. San Francisco leads that series 2-1.

Coincidentally, it was the Cardinals who the Royals beat for their only World Series title.

"It's been an amazing run," Royals outfielder Alex Gordon said. "It's nothing better than when you win. Today, same old story: good pitching, good defense and scratch out a win."

Same old story for the Orioles, too: Solid pitching, good defense - and just not enough offense. They managed seven hits over the last two games against Kansas City, resulting in the first sweep for the franchise in 21 postseason series.

"You saw how close the games were," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It's more a testament to what they did. They were playing great defensively."

After holding the Orioles to three hits in Game 3, Jason Vargas and the Royals bullpen held them to four hits Wednesday night. Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis got the game to Greg Holland, who matched Dennis Eckersley's record with his fourth save of the best-of-seven series.

Holland got J.J. Hardy to ground out to third base for the final out, and the Royals spilled onto the infield in a wild celebration. Fireworks shot over the crown-shaped scoreboard in center field, and a blue-clad sellout crowd that included Royals greats George Brett and Brett Saberhagen let out a roar while cars on nearby Interstate 70 honked their horns.

"That's what you dream of as a kid," Holland said. "Punch your ticket to the World Series, especially before your home crowd. These fans have been waiting a long time. They deserve it."

The Orioles, meanwhile, will limp into the offseason after a 96-win season in which they overcame injuries and suspensions to several key players along the way.

"I think it's not what we didn't do. It's more what they did," said the Orioles' Ryan Flaherty, whose home run represented their lone run. "We played good baseball."

Making his first start in nearly two weeks, Vargas shut down the vaunted Orioles lineup in Game 4. The only damage he allowed came in the third inning, when Flaherty went deep.

By that point, the Royals had already manufactured a pair of runs.

Alcides Escobar singled off Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez to open the game, and Nori Aoki was drilled on the right knee a couple pitches later. Yost then opted to bunt with Cain, one of his hottest hitters, to advance both of the runners.

It was a questionable decision so early in the game. But like almost every unorthodox move that Yost has made, it worked out perfectly - for the first sacrifice of Cain's career.

Eric Hosmer followed with a chopping groundball, and first baseman Steve Pearce went home with it. Escobar slid safely and the ball bounded away from catcher Caleb Joseph, allowing Aoki to follow his teammate home and giving the scrappy, small-ball Royals a 2-0 lead.

After that, it was up to their defense and bullpen.

Escobar turned a pair of double plays early in the game to help Vargas escape jams, and Gordon made a spectacular catch while crashing into the left-field wall to rob Hardy of extra bases leading off the fifth inning. In the sixth, second baseman Omar Infante was in perfect position to snag Nelson Cruz's line drive and leave runners on the corners.

Herrera breezed through the seventh and Davis handled the eighth, just as they have all season, and Holland slammed the door on his fourth save of the series.

And set off of a raucous celebration that had been 29 years in the making.

In the midst of it all was Yost, the often-criticized Royals manager who has guided a collection of budding young stars to baseball's grandest stage. In doing so, Yost became the first manager in major league history to win his first eight postseason games.

Now, just four more wins stand in the way of an improbable World Series championship.

"These guys are willing to play selfless baseball where all they're concentrating on is winning the game," Yost said. "Nobody is looking to be a hero right now, they're just looking to win a ballgame, and they've done a tremendous job."

TIGHT GAMES

The Royals' win was the 14th decided by one run this postseason, topping the record set in 2011 and tied last year. That includes the last two games of the ALCS.

STACKING UP

Kansas City did well this season against both potential World Series opponents.

The Royals swept a three-game series from the visiting Giants in August, beating Madison Bumgarner, Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum. KC hasn't played at San Francisco since 2005.

The Royals went 3-1 against St. Louis, sweeping two games at Busch Stadium and splitting back at Kauffman Stadium.

UP NEXT

Royals: The Royals are in the World Series for the third time in franchise history. "It's been incredible to watch," said Saberhagen, one of the star pitchers on the `85 title team.

Orioles: It's on to the offseason for a team that overcame a series of injuries (Matt Wieters, Manny Machado) and suspensions (Chris Davis) to reach the ALCS. Baltimore still has not made it back to the World Series since 1983.

Thu, 16 Oct 2014 01:45:00 +0000

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Lorenzo Cain capped the AL Championship Series with his best catch yet: an MVP trophy.

The smooth center fielder snagged MVP honors after helping the Kansas City Royals to a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles with a 2-1 victory Wednesday.

Along with making a series of splendid defensive plays, Cain batted .533 in the series and scored five runs. He had eight hits, matching the franchise record for an ALCS set by Willie Wilson - who also wore No. 6 and roamed center field - in 1985 against Toronto.

"Unbelievable feeling," Cain said. "I've enjoyed every moment of it."

Indeed, what a month it's been for Cain, who went home to Oklahoma between playoff series to be with his wife, Jenny, for the birth of their first child, Cameron Loe.

Cain rejoined the team in plenty of time to torment the Orioles all week, and held his newborn son, dressed warmly in a baseball-styled stocking cap, on the Kauffman Stadium warning track during the victory celebration that followed Game 4.

"I told him, a player that's had setbacks with injuries and frustrations, the way he's dedicated himself in the offseason and persevered, I'm proud of him," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "He keeps giving great effort."

Cain matched a Royals record with four hits in Game 2 on Saturday, and scored their first run in Game 3 on Tuesday night. He also laid down a key sacrifice bunt - the first of his career - that helped Kansas City take a 2-0 lead in the first inning Wednesday.

He had two doubles, two walks and the team's only stolen base in the series. After hitting only five homers during the regular season, he slugged .667 with a .588 on-base percentage.

"I'm just trying to do whatever it takes. Get on base - whatever it takes to find a way to help this team win ballgames," Cain said. "I'm just going to try to continue to do that throughout the World Series, as well."

The 28-year-old Cain did not play organized baseball until sophomore year in high school. Cut from the basketball team, the talented athlete showed up without any equipment and didn't even know the rules or how to hold a bat.

He was drafted in the 17th round by Milwaukee in 2004 out of Tallahassee Community College and traded to the Royals in December 2010 along with shortstop Alcides Escobar and two pitching prospects for ace Zack Greinke and infielder Yuniesky Betancourt.

"Definitely started playing a lot later than a lot of guys on our team - or anybody," Cain said. "But I was determined to be a great ballplayer. And a lot of hard work, a lot of great coaches and family also to push me to be the player that I'm becoming. It's been a lot of fun."

Now, he's a huge reason the Royals are 8-0 this postseason. They're headed back to the World Series for the first time since rallying to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985, the last time Kansas City even reached the playoffs.

"We're just clicking at the right moment now," Cain said.

It took time for Cain to establish himself as a productive major leaguer, and once in a while he still looks raw. But he blossomed this season with a .301 batting average and 28 stolen bases in 133 games, inspiring enough confidence to become the club's regular No. 3 hitter.

And with his all-around performance against Baltimore, Cain joined Hall of Famer George Brett (1985) and All-Star second baseman Frank White (1980) as the only Kansas City players to be chosen MVP of the ALCS.

Pretty royal company.

Thu, 16 Oct 2014 20:27:00 +0000

A neutral arbiter is expected to decide early next week whether NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should testify during an appeal of Ray Rice's indefinite suspension, a person familiar with the case told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Goodell said last week he'd leave the decision to former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones. She was picked by the commissioner and the players' union to hear Rice's appeal earlier this month. The hearing is tentatively set for November.

"I think Judge Jones is the one who ultimately is going to make the rules and determinations," Goodell said at the owners' meetings in New York.

The person who informed the AP of the timing spoke on condition of anonymity because details about the hearing haven't been released.

The union is appealing Rice's suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. The former Baltimore Ravens running back was suspended after video of him hitting his then-fiancee in an elevator was publicly released.

Union officials said in announcing the appeal that Goodell and his staff's testimony is a central reason why it pushed to jointly select an outside arbiter.

Goodell said in appointing Jones that she would have "our full cooperation as she hears and decides this appeal." Jones is a partner in a private law firm and is also a former Department of Justice attorney.

One month after Rice was initially suspended two games, Goodell said he didn't get things right and announced tougher penalties for future domestic violence incidents. But the penalties didn't apply to Rice. Once the video was released, the Ravens cut Rice and the league banned him indefinitely, with the league saying it considered the video new evidence.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Rob Maaddi can be reached on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ap-robmaaddi

Thu, 16 Oct 2014 21:15:00 +0000

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) The Oklahoma City Thunder say star forward Kevin Durant had successful surgery Thursday to address a bone fracture in his right foot and will be out at least six weeks.

General manager Sam Presti said the procedure was performed at a clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina, after the team, Durant and his representatives "jointly decided" surgery was needed. Durant will be re-evaluated in six weeks.

The reigning NBA MVP was diagnosed over the weekend with a "Jones fracture," a broken bone at the base of his small toe.

The Thunder open the season Oct. 29 at Portland. A six-week absence could have Durant back for the start of December, with about 65 games remaining.

Thu, 16 Oct 2014 18:41:00 +0000

MIAMI (AP) The former owner of a South Florida anti-aging clinic pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of illegally providing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes including high-profile Major League Baseball players, most notably New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez.

Anthony Bosch, former owner of the Biogenesis of America clinic in Coral Gables, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute testosterone before U.S. District Judge Darrin P. Gayles. Bosch, who was not a medical doctor yet called himself "Dr. T," faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence but is likely to get far less because of cooperation with prosecutors and with MLB's investigation into player drug use.

"The message is clear: cheating doesn't pay and individuals like Bosch, who distribute performance enhancing drugs to athletes and, more importantly, to our children, will be held accountable for their actions," said Miami U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer, noting that some customers were high school age.

Defense attorney Guy Lewis said Bosch, 51, provided key information to MLB investigators that led to suspensions of 14 players, including the record season-long suspension handed to Rodriguez for this past year. Bosch also met numerous times with federal prosecutors and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, Lewis said.

"He was faithful in terms of appearing each and every time he was requested to," Lewis said. "Each and every time he appeared, answered questions and was available."

Rodriguez has denied taking illegal substances while with the Yankees but did admit to doing so earlier in his career with the Texas Rangers. He remains on the Yankees' roster for next season.

MLB previously sued Bosch and his clinic but withdrew the lawsuit in February. The league had accused Bosch and others with conspiring to violate player contracts by providing them with banned substances.

In a plea agreement, Bosch admitted to providing testosterone to baseball players, from professionals to high school athletes. Six other people are charged in the case, and Bosch has agreed to testify against them if they go to trial.

"We are quite satisfied with what he promised he would do," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael "Pat" Sullivan.

Earlier this month, Gayles revoked Bosch's $100,000 bail because he twice tested positive after his August arrest for cocaine use and had missed appointments at drug treatment programs. On Thursday, Gayles agreed to release Bosch on bail with several new conditions, including a requirement that Bosch attended a 24-hour inpatient drug treatment program.

Prosecutors did not object, and Lewis said Bosch needs the treatment badly.

"You have before you an individual who does need counseling. We recognize that. He's begging for it," Lewis said.

When Bosch is not in the treatment program, he will remain on house arrest with electronic monitoring, Gayles said. Sentencing for Bosch is set for Dec. 18.

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Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 01:42:00 +0000

CHICAGO (AP) Construction equipment is starting to take big bites out of Wrigley Field's exterior outfield walls.

The demolition of the famous bleachers at the historic ballpark in Chicago is part of a project to build a large electronic sign and six other outfield signs.

Chicago Cubs spokesman Julian Green said Thursday that the affected walls won't be rebuilt for several weeks. He says the ivy-covered outfield wall will not be taken down.

The work is part of the Cubs' privately funded $575 million renovation project. The Cubs started the project despite a legal fight involving owners of rooftop businesses across the street.

Those businesses fear their views of the field will be blocked. They have sued the city.

Wed, 15 Oct 2014 20:40:00 +0000

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Jim Irsay wants to be a better team owner.

Six days after his six-game suspension ended, the 55-year-old Colts owner broke his silence by telling a small group of reporters that he's excited about the season, feeling well and is ready to move on.

"I've always said I've felt the role of a steward here and that you learn from your mistakes," Irsay said during a 30-minute news conference Wednesday. "You move on, think you can be a better person and be better at everything you do."

For Irsay, it was a tough, painful lesson.

Just days before Indianapolis' season opener in Denver, Irsay pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated and acknowledged he was under the influence of the painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone when he was arrested March 16 near his home in suburban Carmel. Within hours of his court appearance, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down the suspension, which prevented Irsay from having any contact on football matters with the team or media.

Some players contended Irsay got off light as his three daughters helped oversee the day-to-day football operations. He didn't address those concerns, saying only that he accepted the restrictions and followed them to the letter.

But for a man who had never missed a Colts game after his father moved the team from Baltimore to Indy in 1984, there was nothing easy about the punishment.

He watched intently as Indianapolis (4-2) lost its first two games, the longest losing streak of the Andrew Luck era, then watched gleefully as the Colts won four straight to move back into the AFC South lead after Thursday's win at Houston, just in time for his return to the office.

All the while, Irsay watched the games nervously with family and friends, pacing anxiously as he waited to return to owner's office he's had since 1997.

"I missed being there. It was tough not being with the guys before the game and praying with the guys before games. That was tough," he said, laughing as he acknowledged he talked with his daughters and relied on some of his favorite music to help him get through the tough times. A Jerry Garcia guitar was encased on the wall behind him.

"I really made up my mind to be positive about it," he added.

The absence taught Irsay something else: He has to continue his recovery.

In 2002, before the league's personal conduct policy applied to team executives, Irsay acknowledged he had become dependent on painkillers after several years of orthopedic operations. He later claimed that after entering rehab, he had stayed clean and sober for years.

So less than 48 hours after his March arrest, team officials said Irsay had voluntarily re-entered a treatment center. He returned to the team in time for NFL draft weekend in May, then showed up several times at training camp. Players and coaches continually offered to support the man who signed their paychecks, even as details - various prescription drugs and more than $29,000 in cash were found in his vehicle - trickled out.

Irsay didn't address the details of the arrest, but noted that being away did give him a different perspective on life in the NFL.

"When you're away from the team for something like that, you grow to appreciate it even more when you're back," Irsay said.

Irsay was so eager to get back, he returned to the team complex within the first hour he could. And he was welcomed warmly.

"I couldn't even imagine how hard that was," punter Pat McAfee said. "You're talking about a guy who's been around the Colts his entire life, who personifies the Horseshoe. I was suspended one game years back and it was the worst, so I can't even imagine what six games must have been like for him."

So after six excruciating weeks away from his team, Irsay plans to watch Sunday's game, against the AFC North-leading Bengals (3-1-1), from the owner's suite at Lucas Oil Stadium.

And he's determined not to let anything force him to miss another game as long as he owns the Colts.

"I really am motivated to show up and do well every day," said Irsay, who still recounts his early days with the team as a ball boy for John Unitas. "There's no question great things are to be grabbed from the difficulties you go through."