MLB-NATIONAL LEAGUE WILD CARD
Rarity in the Steel City
PITTSBURGH (AP) — For the first time in 21 years, they're playing postseason baseball in Pittsburgh.
The Pirates are playing the Cincinnati Reds in a one-game wild card playoff to see who plays NL Central champion St. Louis in the best-of-five National League division series starting Thursday. The Pirates got on the board first with solo home runs from Marlon Byrd and Russell Martin in the second inning.
The Pirates have 16-game winner Francisco Liriano (leer-ee-AH'-noh) on the mound. He finished his first season with the Pirates with a 16-8 record and an earned run average of 3.02. He had 163 strikeouts. On the mound for the reeling Reds is Johnny Cueto (KWAY'-toh), who gets the start because Mat Latos (LAY'-tohs) is injured. Cueto was 5-2 this season with a 2.82 ERA. In two previous starts this season in Pittsburgh, Cueto allowed just one run and three hits.
All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips is in the Reds lineup, batting cleanup. He left Saturday's game with a leg injury.
The American League wild card game is tomorrow night in Cleveland as the Indians play host to Tampa Bay, which beat Texas Monday night in the wild card play-in game.
Tigers and A's name starters
DETROIT (AP) — Max Scherzer will start Detroit's AL division series opener Friday night at Oakland, with star Justin Verlander following in Game 2. The 21-3 Scherzer was baseball's lone 20-game winner this year and started for the American League in the All-Star game. The Athletics have tabbed 40-year-old Bartolo Colon (bar-TOH'-loh koh-LOHN') as their Game 1 starter with rookie Sonny Gray going in Game 2.
The Tigers won the AL Central for a third straight year, thanks to an exceptionally deep rotation. Anibal (AH'-nih-bahl) Sanchez, the AL's ERA leader, won't pitch until Game 3 against the Athletics. Doug Fister starts Game 4. Jarrod Parker will pitch for Oakland in Game 3 in Detroit and Dan Straily goes in a potential Game 4 for the A's.
Yost coming back... Yanks want Girardi back
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Ned Yost (yohst) is coming back to manage the Kansas City Royals. He led the team to its best record in 24 years and for that the club has rewarded him with a two-year contract extension. The Royals finished third in the American League Central with a mark of 86-76 this season. Down the stretch after the All-Star break the Royals were 43-27.
NEW YORK (AP) — The Yankees want Joe Girardi to return as manager next season.
Girardi was hired after the 2007 season, and his contract expires at the end of October. Crippled by injuries, New York had its poorest record since 1992 and finished tied for third in the AL East at 85-77.
NEW YORK (AP) — Fewer fans went to Major League Baseball games this season. The average attendance fell 1.2 percent with the Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies experiencing big drops.
Total attendance of 74.03 million was down from 75.86 million last season, but it was still the sport's sixth-highest.
The Marlins saw a 29 percent fall-off in attendance, from 2.2 million last year to just 1.6 million in a season in which the club lost 100 games.
The Phillies lost more than a half million fans in total attendance, falling to just over 3 million in a year in which the team had its worst record since 2000.
The Los Angeles Dodgers led the majors with 3.7 million fans showing up at the ballpark.
Major league batting average drops to .253, 40-year low
NEW YORK (AP) — The major league batting average dropped to .253 this season, its lowest level since hitters combined for a .244 average in 1972.
This year's average was down from a recent peak of .270 in 1996.
The big league earned run average of 3.86 was at its low point since a 3.74 ERA in 1992, according to STATS. And the average of 4.17 runs per team per game was the smallest since 1992, while team strikeouts per game set a record at 7.55.
New pact for Kessel
TORONTO (AP) — Forward Phil Kessel has come to terms on an eight-year, $64 million contract extension with the Maple Leafs. Kessel had 20 goals and 32 assists in 48 games last season. He has 379 points in 504 regular-season games over seven seasons with Toronto and Boston.
Surgery for Westbrook... T-Wolves forward has surgery
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook will miss the first 4-6 weeks of the NBA season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. The three-time All-Star also had surgery in May to repair cartilage in his right knee after he was hurt in Game 2 of Oklahoma City's first-round playoff series with Houston. He had never missed a game in his five NBA seasons before the injury.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Chase Budinger of the Minnesota Timberwolves has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and is out indefinitely. Budinger had a similar injury last season that caused him to miss more than four months.
The Wolves say they cannot put a specific timetable on Budinger's recovery time until they see how his knee responded to the procedure.
Veteran player retires
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Former Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian (nal-BAN'-dee-uhn) of Argentina has announced his retirement from professional tennis due to injuries. The 31-year-old achieved a career-highest ranking of No. 3 and was the runner-up at Wimbledon in 2002, losing to Lleyton Hewitt of Australia. He reached the semifinals or better at all four Grand Slam tournaments.
Sports programs at service academies on hold
WASHINGTON (AP) — Army, Navy and Air Force might be forced to skip their football games this weekend because of the partial government shutdown.
The Defense Department temporarily suspended sports competition at the service academies Tuesday as a result of the budget impasse in Congress.
A Pentagon spokesman says the decision is being reviewed by lawyers considering a series of legal questions, including whether money that comes from sources other than Congress could be used to pay for sports during the government shutdown.
In the meantime, the suspension put a pair of college football games in jeopardy: Army at Boston College, and Air Force at Navy.