Weekend Sports in Brief
HOUSTON (AP) — George Springer hit a career-high three homers, Justin Verlander posted his MLB-leading 20th win and the Houston Astros clinched their third straight AL West title in grand fashion, routing the Los Angeles Angels 13-5 on Sunday.
A crowd at Minute Maid Park that was cheering from Verlander’s first pitch got even louder as Springer homered three times in the first four innings. The Astros kept breaking away and improved to 102-54, a half-game ahead of the New York Yankees for the best record in the majors.
After the final out, the Astros held a bouncing group hug in the middle of the diamond and posed for a team picture. It hasn’t been determined who they will face in the playoffs as they try for their second World Series championship in three years.
CHICAGO (AP) — Paul Goldschmidt hit a tiebreaking double in the ninth inning and the St. Louis Cardinals clinched a playoff spot by rallying past the Chicago Cubs 3-2 on Sunday for their first four-game sweep at Wrigley Field in almost a century.
NL Central-leading St. Louis qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2015 and stayed three games ahead of Milwaukee. It was the fifth consecutive win for the Cardinals, who came back for a 9-8 victory Saturday on consecutive homers by Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong against Craig Kimbrel in the ninth.
The time, Chicago manager Joe Maddon sent a dominant Yu Darvish (6-8) back to the mound for the ninth to go for his first complete game since 2014. But the result was the same in the Cubs’ fifth consecutive one-run loss.
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Andy Green was fired as manager of the San Diego Padres on Saturday morning, about 12 hours after one of their worst losses this season seemed to sum up their second-half collapse.
General manager A.J. Preller said Green, in his fourth season, was fired because the team had regressed in the second half.
San Diego was 45-45 at the All-Star break but has played poorly since. The Padres have lost eight of their last nine, including an ugly, mistake-filled 9-0 loss to Arizona on Friday night that dropped them to 69-85. They became the first team to change managers this season.
Green was 274-366 since he was hired ahead of the 2016 season. San Diego lost 90 or more games in each of his three full years and is assured of its ninth straight losing record.
Rod Barajas, in his first season as bench coach, takes over on an interim basis. A former big league catcher, he managed many of the current players in Triple-A.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Antonio Brown says he is finished with the NFL.
In a Twitter rant on the morning his most recent team was getting ready to play without him, the former New England Patriots receiver says, “Will not be playing in the NFL anymore.” He went on to take shots at other people in football who have been accused of sexual misconduct, including Patriots owner Robert Kraft and longtime Steelers teammate Ben Roethlisberger.
Brown was traded out of Pittsburgh and released in Oakland after his off-field antics became too much for those teams. The Patriots signed him anyway, and just days later a woman filed a civil lawsuit accusing him of rape. He played in one game, then was released after the team learned he tried to intimidate a second woman who accused him of sexual misconduct.
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Wide receiver Aaron Matthews hit quarterback Kenny Pickett on a 3-yard, fourth-down touchdown pass with 56 seconds remaining and Pittsburgh stunned No. 15 UCF 35-34 on Saturday.
The Panthers (2-2) ended UCF’s 25-game regular-season winning streak on a play head coach Pat Narduzzi called the “Pitt Special” in a nod to the Philadelphia Eagles, who ran a similar play two seasons ago in their Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots.
Pitt trailed by six when Pickett drove the Panthers to the UCF 3. Running back A.J. Davis took a direct snap with Pickett going in motion. Davis handed the ball to Matthews, who rolled to his right and hit Pickett in the end zone. UCF’s last-gasp drive went nowhere.
VIRGINIA WATER, England (AP) — Danny Willett won a European Tour event on home soil for the first time in his career with a three-shot victory at the BMW PGA Championship.
The 31-year-old Englishman finished three strokes ahead of nearest challenger Jon Rahm in the final round.
Willett shot a 5-under 67 to finish 20 under overall and collected his seventh European Tour title. He dropped only one shot Sunday on the par-4th 11th which could have been much worse.
Rahm shared the overnight lead with Willett and finished second after a 2-under 70.
Rory McIlroy followed up his third-round 65 with a 67 to finish tied for ninth.
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Sebastian Munoz of Colombia made a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to force a playoff, and then beat Sungjae Im with a par on the first extra hole to win the Sanderson Farms Championship for his first PGA Tour victory.
Munoz, who closed with a 2-under 70, made it two straight weeks for South American winners, following Joaquin Niemann winning last week at the Greenbrier.
Im, the PGA Tour rookie of the year last season, birdied three straight holes on the back nine of the Country Club at Jackson for a 66 that looked like it might be enough for his first victory until Munoz delivered his clutch birdie.
They finished at 18-under 270.
With the victory, Munoz earned a spot in the Masters next April.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Rocco Mediate birdied his last two holes for a 6-under 64 and won the Sanford International on Sunday when Ken Duke took double bogey on the final hole.
Mediate won by two shots for his first PGA Tour Champions title in three years.
Duke was tied for the lead until taking four shots to reach the green on the closing hole at Minnehaha Country Club. He closed with a 69 and tied for second with Colin Montgomerie and Bob Estes, who each shot 67.
Mediate finished at 9-under 201. It was his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory, and first since the Senior PGA Championship in 2016.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. passed Kyle Busch with 25 laps to go and won his second consecutive NASCAR Cup Series playoff race Saturday night.
The victory completed a redemptive finish for Truex, the championship leader coming into the race. He was leading with 87 laps remaining when Ricky Stenhouse Jr., running on fresher tires, spun him out, allowing Busch to sail by for the race lead.
But Truex dropped only to third under caution, then gradually reeled his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate in and pulled away.
Gibbs cars won for the 15th time in 28 races this season, and finished in the top four spots, a first for the car owner.
Busch hung on to finish second, followed by teammates Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones. Pole-sitter Brad Keselowski was fifth.
MONTEREY, Calif. (AP) — Josef Newgarden won his second championship in three years with a smooth drive in the IndyCar season finale, where he played it safe and watched rookie Colton Herta dominate the road course at Laguna Seca.
Newgarden needed only to finish fourth or better to give Roger Penske his 16th IndyCar title and his drive clearly indicated he wouldn’t get aggressive and risk throwing it away. The American from Tennessee finished eighth Sunday — good enough to beat teammate Simon Pagenaud by 25 points in the championship race.
He jumped into the arms of his waiting crew and broke down in tears in a rare display of emotion.
SINGAPORE (AP) — Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel took advantage of an early pit stop to win the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday and end a 13-month winless streak in Formula One.
Vettel, who started third on the grid, crossed the finish line at the 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) Marina Bay street circuit 2.641 seconds ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc.
It was the four-time F1 champion’s first win since the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third while championship leader Lewis Hamilton was fourth.
BENSALEM, Pa. (AP) — Math Wizard won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at 31-1 odds, edging Mr. Money by a neck in a race missing disqualified Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security.
Ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., Math Wizard ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.94 on Saturday at Parx Racing.
Maximum Security, who crossed the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby but was the first horse disqualified for interference in 145 years, was scratched earlier in the week because of a colon problem.
Trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., Math Wizard paid $64.20, $12 and $4.80.
Mr. Money returned $3.60 and $2.60, while War of Will was another length back in third and paid $4 to show.
War of Will was interfered with by Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby.
Improbable, the 6-5 favorite trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, finished fourth after acting up in the starting gate.