Wednesday Sports in Brief

BASEBALL

Major League Baseball hitters punctuated a power-packed year by shattering the record for most home runs in a season.

Jonathan Villar of the Baltimore Orioles connected Wednesday night for the 6,106th homer. That topped the mark of 6,105 set in 2017.

There are plenty more to come, too — the record was broken with 18 days left in the regular season. The rise in home runs during recent seasons has been tied to changes in the baseballs that have made them fly farther.

Villar’s three-run shot off Caleb Ferguson of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camden Yards was the 22nd home run of the night. It was Villar’s career-high 21st homer. Baltimore entered Wednesday having allowed a record 279 home runs.

New York Mets rookie Pete Alonso began the day with a major league-leading 47 home runs.

The Minnesota Twins led the majors with 277 after Jorge Polanco connected in the third inning against Washington ace Stephen Strasburg at Target Field. The Twins’ total is the most for a team in a single season.

In August, big league batters broke the monthly home run record for the third time this year when they hit 1,228 home runs, the Elias Sports Bureau said Sunday. That surpassed the 1,142 in June and 1,135 in May.

There were 5,585 home runs last year.

In 2017, Alex Gordon hit the record-breaking 5,694th homer of the season. That topped the mark set in 2000 at the height of the Steroids Era.

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) —Cleveland Indians All-Star closer Brad Hand was sent back to Cleveland on Wednesday for an MRI on his left arm.

Manager Terry Francona said after the Indians’ 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels that the MRI on the left-hander was clean.

However, Francona added that Hand — who is second in the AL with 34 saves — will likely not be available for this weekend’s series against AL Central leader Minnesota.

NFL

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Patriots receiver Antonio Brown practiced with the team for the first time on Wednesday, a day after his former trainer filed a civil lawsuit in Florida accusing him of sexually assaulting her on three occasions.

Before the practice session, coach Bill Belichick declined to answer numerous questions about Brown, including his status for Sunday’s game at Miami. He deferred to the Patriots’ statement late Tuesday in which they said they were aware of the lawsuit and “take these allegations very seriously.”

“Antonio and his representatives have made statements, so I’m not going to be expanding on any of those,” Belichick said. “They are what they are. We’ve looked into the situation. We’re taking it very seriously all the way through the organization. I’m sure there are questions, but I’m not going to enter into the discussion about that.”

Brown has denied the allegations. Darren Heitner, a lawyer representing Brown, told The Associated Press his client plans to countersue. The NFL has declined to comment but will be opening an investigation into the matter.

COLLEGES

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA Board of Governors wants California Gov. Gavin Newsom to reject a new attempt to pay college athletes.

And it is prepared to take the fight to court if necessary.

In a six-paragraph letter released Wednesday, the board urged Newsom not to sign the legislation known as the Fair Pay to Play Act, which would allow college athletes to be paid for the use of their names, likenesses and images. The move comes two days after approval of the measure by the California Assembly, with the state Senate expected to consider the measure later this week.

The board warned that California schools may be declared ineligible for NCAA competition if the bill becomes law because they would have an unfair recruiting advantage.

The NCAA said the measure would affect more than 24,000 athletes in the nation’s most populous state.

Should the bill pass, Newsom would have 30 days to sign or veto it. If he does nothing, the bill would become law. It would be the first measure of its kind and the outcome is being closely watched as one of the biggest challenges in years to the NCAA’s longstanding and far-reaching model of amateur sports.

BASKETBALL

DONGGUAN, China (AP) — The U.S. has been ousted from medal contention by France at the World Cup, failing to capture gold at a major international tournament for the first time since the 2006 world championships.

Evan Fournier scored 22 points, Rudy Gobert added 21 points and 16 rebounds and France beat the U.S. 89-79 in the World Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday, rallying from a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit to pull off the upset.

The U.S. had won 58 consecutive tournament games in FIBA and Olympic competition, starting with the bronze-medal game at the 2006 world championships and continuing through every FIBA Americas, World Cup and Olympics event since. It was bidding to become the first nation to win three consecutive World Cups, after winning three straight Olympic golds in that span.

But the best the Americans can do now in China is finish fifth.

HORSE RACING

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Times says Justify won the 2018 Triple Crown after a failed postrace drug test at a California track that could have kept the horse out of the Kentucky Derby.

The newspaper reported Wednesday that Bob Baffert-trained Justify tested positive for the drug scopolamine after winning the Santa Anita Derby, one of the final prep races for the Kentucky Derby. Justify went on to win the Derby and took the Preakness and Belmont stakes to complete the Triple Crown.

The Times said instead of a speedy disqualification, the California Horse Racing Board took more than a month to confirm the results. The newspaper also reported that instead of filing a public complaint, the board made decisions behind closed doors as it moved to drop the case and lighten the penalty for horses found to have scopolamine in their systems.

The newspaper said test results, emails and internal memorandums show how California regulators waited nearly three weeks, until the Kentucky Derby was only nine days away, to notify Baffert of the positive test. Then, two months after the Belmont victory, the board disposed of the inquiry altogether during a closed-door executive session.

A California Horse Racing Board spokesman said the organization would have a further statement Thursday.

The Times said Baffert didn’t respond to multiple attempts seeking comment.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — A filly by 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah has sold for a record $8.2 million in the final Book 1 session of Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale.

The price Wednesday was a September sale record for a filly and the auction’s fourth highest for a yearling. The filly is a half-sister to four-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder and Grade 1 stakes winners Mendelssohn and Into Mischief. Whisper Hill Farm bought the Clarkland-bred filly by dam Leslie’s Lady, who was sired by stakes winner Tricky Creek, with plans to train her in Florida.

Buyer Mandy Pope called the filly “perfectly balanced” in a release and added, “She’s gorgeous — not too big or small.”

GOLF

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Rory McIlroy has been voted PGA Tour player of the year over Brooks Koepka after posting the most top-10 finishes and winning the FedEx Cup.

It’s the third time McIlroy has won the Jack Nicklaus Award, and the first without having won a major.

McIlroy had three victories among his tour-best 14 finishes in the top 10, including The Players Championship. He also won the Canadian Open and the Tour Championship, giving him the FedEx Cup for the second time.

The tour does not release vote totals. PGA Tour members who played at least 15 times may vote. Koepka also won three times, including the PGA Championship and a World Golf Championship. He was runner-up in two majors and tied for fourth in the other.

WNBA

CHICAGO (AP) — Diamond DeShields scored 25 points and the fifth-seeded Chicago Sky used a dominating second half for a 105-76 win over the eighth-seeded Phoenix Mercury in a first-round, winner-take-all playoff game on Wednesday night.

Astou Nadour and Stefanie Dolson added 16 points apiece for the Sky, who play at fourth-seeded Las Vegas on Sunday in the single-elimination second round. Allie Quigley had 15 points, Cheyenne Parker had 11 off the bench and Courtney Vandersloot had nine points to go with 11 assists as Chicago was making its first playoff appearance since 2016.

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — Jordin Canada scored a career-high 26 points and the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm beat the seventh-seeded Minnesota Lynx 84-74 Wednesday night in a first-round, winner-take-all playoff game.

With Jewell Loyd adding 22 points, the No. 6 Storm, who play at third-seeded Los Angeles on Sunday in the single-elimination second round, got 48 out of their backcourt. Minnesota had one point from starting guards Odyssey Sims and Danielle Robinson. Mercedes Russell contributed 13 points for Seattle.

OBITUARY

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Sam Davis, the guard who helped the Pittsburgh Steelers win four Super Bowls in the 1970s, has died. He was 75.

Davis was found dead Tuesday at New Life Personal Care in McKeesport southeast of Pittsburgh. Davis, who suffered from dementia and was legally blind, had been reported missing from the facility earlier in the day. There was no evidence of foul play according to the McKeesport Police Department’s Facebook page .

Davis played 168 games with the Steelers from 1967-79, helping pave the way for Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris and protecting Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw during Pittsburgh’s run atop the NFL in the 1970s. Davis started in all four of the team’s’ Super Bowl victories in the 1970s.