Friday Sports in Brief
HOUSTON (AP) — Justin Verlander looked every bit the October ace, Jose Altuve polished his postseason resume and the Houston Astros kept rolling, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 6-2 Friday to open their AL Division Series.
The Astros, who won a franchise-record 107 games for the best record in the majors, began their quest for a second World Series title in three years against a Rays team that downed Oakland 5-1 in the wild-card game this week.
Verlander kept up his dominant run this year when he posted an MLB-most 21 wins, allowing just a soft single in seven shutout innings. He struck out eight and improved to 8-0 in 12 career ALDS appearances.
Rays starter Tyler Glasnow had given up just three singles when he walked Josh Reddick on four pitches to begin the fifth. He struck out George Springer, but Altuve then tagged him for a two-run homer, lining a fastball into the left field seats.
NEW YORK (AP) — DJ LeMahieu homered and drove in four runs, Gleyber Torres broke a tie with a two-run double and the New York Yankees extended their October mastery of the Minnesota Twins with a 10-4 victory Friday night in the AL Division Series opener.
Aaron Judge made two diving catches in right field as the AL East champions handed Minnesota its major league-record 14th consecutive playoff defeat — 11 of them to the Yankees since 2004. The second grab thwarted a potential rally and left grateful reliever Zack Britton with both hands on his head to end the top of the seventh, when the Twins were still within striking distance.
Brett Gardner also went deep for the Bronx Bombers in a playoff matchup between teams that finished neck-and-neck this year for the most home runs in baseball history. Minnesota’s Bomba Squad socked 307, one more than New York as both clubs blew away the previous mark of 267 set by the Yankees last year.
Minnesota, the AL Central champion for the first time in nine years, was hurt by eight walks and hasn’t won a playoff game since Johan Santana beat Hall of Famer Mike Mussina 2-0 in the 2004 Division Series opener at Yankee Stadium.
ATLANTA (AP) — Mike Foltynewicz threw seven crisp innings before pinch-hitter Adam Duvall hit a two-run homer that carried the Atlanta Braves to a 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday, evening the NL Division Series at one game apiece.
Foltynewicz, who spent a good chunk of his summer in Triple-A after a miserable start, has been a different pitcher since returning from the minors. He went 6-1 with a 2.65 ERA over his last 10 starts — a dominating run that carried right into the postseason.
The best-of-five series now shifts to St. Louis, where Mike Soroka gets the ball for the Braves in Game 3 Sunday against Adam Wainwright.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Stephen Strasburg turned in another dominant October outing, Max Scherzer overpowered Los Angeles for an inning out of the bullpen and the Washington Nationals held off the Dodgers 4-2 Friday night to even their NL Division Series at a game apiece.
Scherzer struck out the side in the eighth, but Washington’s shaky bullpen still ran into trouble. Daniel Hudson labored through the ninth, loading the bases with two outs before striking out Corey Seager for the save. The tense final inning also included a twisting, falling grab by third baseman Anthony Rendon on Cody Bellinger’s pop fly in shallow left field, as well as a gutsy intentional walk by manager Dave Martinez that brought the winning run to bat.
Pitching on the shortest rest of his career, Strasburg took a perfect game into the fifth inning while outdueling Clayton Kershaw. Strasburg pitched one-run ball for six innings and struck out 10, lowering his career postseason ERA to 0.64 — the best in playoff history for players with at least four starts. He edged out Dodgers great Sandy Koufax (0.95 ERA), who watched from the front row.
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Browns star Odell Beckham Jr. was fined an undisclosed amount by the NFL for fighting Baltimore’s Marlon Humphrey. The wide receiver said the penalty would have been harsher if he had retaliated.
Beckham wouldn’t disclose how much he was fined Friday after joking it was $250,000.
The three-time Pro Bowler tangled with Humphrey several times Sunday and the two got locked in a heated brawl in the third quarter when the Ravens cornerback appeared to choke Beckham while he was on the ground.
Beckham said he had chances to strike back at Humphrey, but “I kind of just let the moment pass and I sort of regret letting the moment pass but I’ve come a long way.”
Beckham was aware the Ravens posted a video earlier this week claiming Humphrey’s innocence, but said he has moved on.
Rams coach Sean McVay revealed the injury Friday.
The Rams think Matthews was hurt late in the game Thursday night when Seattle running back Chris Carson inadvertently kicked him in the face.
Matthews needs surgery that will sideline him for at least a month, McVay says. The Rams have three more games before their bye.
Matthews is off to an excellent start in his first season with his hometown team following 10 seasons with Green Bay.
Matthews has six sacks in his first five games, including the only sack by either team in the Rams’ 30-29 loss at Seattle.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Running back Saquon Barkley is going to miss his second straight game with an ankle injury.
Coach Pat Shurmur announced Friday that Barkley and linebackers Alex Ogletree (hamstring) and Tae Davis (concussion) will not play for the New York Giants (2-2) against the Minnesota Vikings (2-2) Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Shurmur also said linebacker Lorenzo Carter is questionable with a neck issue.
Barkley sustained a high sprain to his right ankle against Tampa Bay on Sept. 15. He worked out with trainers on Wednesday and Thursday and was limited in practice Friday.
The Giants’ next game is at the New England Patriots on Thursday night.
Third-year pro Wayne Gallman is expected to start again. He also has had a sore neck this week.
NEW YORK (AP) — Sam Darnold’s return will have to wait at least another week.
The New York Jets quarterback was ruled out for the team’s game at Philadelphia on Sunday as he continues to recover from mononucleosis.
Darnold was originally scheduled to have medical tests Friday, but the doctors instead ran them Thursday night.
Darnold was diagnosed with mononucleosis on Sept. 11, three days after the season-opening loss to Buffalo. The initial hope was the 22-year-old quarterback might be ready to play again this week, but doctors have been monitoring Darnold’s spleen, which became enlarged, a common symptom of mononucleosis. A swollen spleen could rupture — a potentially life-threatening situation — if the area takes a hit, leading to the caution with which the doctors and team are using.
TRACK AND FIELD
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Dalilah Muhammad set a world record of 52.16 seconds in winning the women’s 400-meter hurdles, narrowly beating fellow American Sydney McLaughlin.
Muhammad had set the earlier record of 52.20 when she beat McLaughlin to win the U.S. national title in July in Des Moines, Iowa.
McLaughlin closed down Muhammad on the back straight, but Muhammad showed strong speed on the exit of the second turn and held her lead to the line to win by .07 seconds.
Rushell Clayton of Jamaica took bronze in 53.74.
The Olympic bronze medalist Ashley Spencer briefly looked on course to seal a U.S. podium sweep — something no country has managed at these championships — but faded on the final stretch and was sixth.
CINCINNATI (AP) — Ahmad Gardner returned an interception for a go-ahead touchdown and Cincinnati clamped down on freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel and No. 18 UCF’s high-scoring offense Friday night for a 27-24 victory that ended the Knights‘ streak of 19 conference wins.
After getting blown out their last two games against the two-time defending American Athletic champs, the Bearcats (4-1, 1-0) gave themselves an early edge in the race. And it came by way of a defense that’s had trouble keeping up with UCF (4-2, 1-1).
In addition to Gardner’s 16-yard interception return, the Bearcats picked off Gabriel’s passes at the Cincinnati 2 and 6 as they took control and closed it out.
UCF’s Tre Nixon turned a short pass into a 45-yard touchdown that cut it to 27-24 with 3:11 to go, but the Bearcats ran out the clock, converting a fourth-and-1 at midfield in the closing seconds.
PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Washington State defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys has resigned two weeks after the Cougars gave up 50 points in the second half of an epic 67-63 loss to UCLA.
Coach Mike Leach announced the resignation Friday. The school said Roc Bellantoni and Darcel McBath will run the defense on an interim basis.
The meltdown against UCLA was one of the biggest blown leads in college football history. Washington State led 49-17 early in the third quarter but UCLA stormed back, scoring seven touchdowns in eight possessions, many fueled by Cougars turnovers. The Cougars followed up by losing 38-13 at Utah last week.
Claeys was formerly the head coach at Minnesota and was hired by Washington State in January 2018.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Sparks fired general manager Penny Toler after her postgame tirade when the team lost Game 2 in the second round of the WNBA playoffs.
The team announced Friday that Toler was dismissed. She had also served as executive vice president. Eric Holoman, the team’s managing partner and governor, will replace her on an interim basis while a national GM search is conducted.
The Sparks finished atop the Western Conference with a 22-12 regular-season record. But they were swept in three games by the Connecticut Sun in the postseason.
ESPN reported Thursday that Toler entered the Sparks’ locker room after the loss on Sept. 19 and launched into an obscenity-laced speech that included racial slurs. Toler acknowledged using the slurs but told ESPN they weren’t directed at any of the players.
FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Claressa Shields’ long-awaited fight in her hometown has been called off after her opponent’s trainer was injured in an altercation before the weigh-in.
Shields was supposed to fight Ivana Habazin of Croatia on Saturday night, but that bout was called off after Habazin’s trainer was hospitalized after Friday’s incident. Salita Promotions said the remainder of the event would go on as scheduled, and Showtime would televise a two-fight card.
It was supposed to be Shields’ first pro fight in her hometown of Flint. The two-time Olympic champion has won titles at the super middleweight level, and she unified the middleweight belts with a victory over previously unbeaten Christina Hammer in April. She took this fight at 154 pounds, trying to become a three-division champion.