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Wednesday’s Sports Minute

Wednesday’s Sports Minute

PIRATES IN POST-SEASON: Pittsburgh Pirates' Starling Marte, second from left, gets doused with champagne by Jose Tabata, left, and hitting coach Jason Branson while an unidentified person joins in the celebration in the locker room after the Pirates defeated the Atlanta Braves 3-2 in a baseball game to clinch a playoff berth, Tuesday, Sept. 23, in Atlanta. Photo: Associated Press/John Bazemore

Here is a look at the top sports stories making headlines today, Wednesday, Sept. 24.

Pencil the Pittsburgh Pirates in baseball’s postseason dance.

Gerrit Cole retired the final 17 hitters he faced, and the surging Pirates clinched a spot in the playoffs with a 3-2 win over the free-falling Atlanta Braves. The Pirates’ win combined with Milwaukee’s 3-1 loss to Cincinnati assured Pittsburgh of no worse than an NL wild card. The Pirates wrapped up their berth exactly one year after clinching a place in the 2013 playoffs.

The Pirates, still in the hunt for the NL Central title, have won 11 of 13.

The Bucs reacted to the final out with little emotion. The Pirates exchanged high-fives in a line on the field before sharing hugs in front of their dugout.

The Pirates still could be NL Central champions. They moved within a game and a-half of St. Louis. The Chicago Cubs played spoiler against their arch-rivals by knocking off the Cardinals 4-3 in 10 innings. Wellington Castillo’s line-drive single in the 10th drove in Anthony Rizzo with the winning run off reliever Pat Neshek. Castillo also homered.

Elsewhere in the majors:

  • The Dodgers’ have dropped their magic number to one for clinching the NL West after Justin Turner hit a pair of solo homers and Matt Kemp added a two-run shot in a 4-2 win over second-place San Francisco. Zack Greinke added two runs and six hits in eight innings as Los Angeles dropped the Giants one game behind the Pirates for the first wild-card slot. San Francisco also failed to clinch a playoff berth.
  • Johnny Cueto kept his hopes of a 20-win season alive, and Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco hit back-to-back homers in the Cincinnati Reds’ 3-1 victory over Milwaukee. Cueto is 19-9 with one more start scheduled Sunday against Pittsburgh.
  • The Angels managed to turn just three hits into a 2-0 victory at Oakland as Wade LeBlanc combined with four relievers to blank the Athletics. Erick Aybar scored the opening run during a rundown between first and second before Gordon Beckham homered. The outcome leaves the A’s tied with the Royals for the AL’s two wild-card berths.
  • NL East champion Washington beat the New York Mets for the 14th time in 17 meetings, 4-2 as Tanner Roark won his 15th game. Adam LaRoche clubbed his 26th homer, a three-run shot. New Nats closer Drew Storan earned his 10th save, including nine in a row. The Nats have won 13 of their last 16 overall.
  • Detroit blew a 3-0 lead in the ninth before Miguel Cabrera’s RBI single in the bottom half lifted the Tigers to a key 4-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox. The victory keeps the Tigers a game up on Kansas City in the AL Central race.
  • Rookie Yordano Ventura blanked Cleveland’s punchless offense for seven innings as the Royals kept pressure on first-place Detroit in the AL Central with a 7-1 win over the Indians. Ventura is 14-10.
  • Dalton Pompey hit his first major league homer and the Toronto Blue Jays roughed up Seattle ace Felix Hernandez for a career worst-tying eight earned runs in a 10-2 rout that dented the Mariners’ wild card hopes. The Mariners are three games off the AL wild-card pace with five games to play.
  • Mets re-up GM through 2017

    General manager Sandy Alderson and the New York Mets have completed a contract extension that runs through 2017.

    Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon says the team has exercised Alderson’s option for next season and added two years to his deal. Alderson confirmed that manager Terry Collins will return next year. Collins is under contract through next season, with an option for 2016.

    With one more loss, New York will suffer its sixth consecutive losing season since moving into Citi Field.

    In other baseball news:

  • San Francisco Giants outfielder Angel Pagan will have season-ending surgery Thursday to repair a bulging disk in his back. Recovery is expected to take about three months, so Pagan would not be available if the Giants reach the postseason.
  • Looks as though there might be rain when Derek Jeter ends his reign in the Bronx. The retiring New York captain is scheduled to play his final game at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night against Baltimore and the National Weather Service says there’s a 70 percent chance of showers during the day, tapering off to 20 percent at night.
  • Mo’ne Davis to donate jersey to BB Hall of Fame

    Philadelphia Little League sensation Mo’ne Davis is headed to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    Davis, the first girl to win a game at the Little League Baseball World Series, will donate the jersey she wore during the game to the museum on Thursday. She’ll be accompanied by teammates from both her Little League World Series team and the travel team she’s played on since she was 7.

    Selig says he’s working on it

    Baseball officials have started meeting with groups as the sport starts a process that could lead to revising its domestic violence policy.

    Commissioner Bud Selig didn’t specify which groups when he spoke at a news conference but did say “we’re doing a lot of work ourself now” and “it’s a subject very much under scrutiny.”

    Esta Soler, president of Futures Without Violence, said last week that MLB reached out to her group, which works to prevent domestic and sexual violence and child abuse.

    Ex-players say bench alleged violators

    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and chief assistant Troy Vincent were told by 11 former players that the league must act immediately when someone is accused of domestic violence.

    At a 3 1/2-hour meeting to discuss ways to improve the league’s personal conduct policy, the former players also said teams must be held accountable when players misbehave.

    Vincent, the NFL’s vice president of football operations says, “One question asked around the room was, when an arrest occurs, do you take them off the field or let them play and let the due process take care of itself?” Vincent says, “To a man, they said, ‘Take them off the field, pay them, and let due process take care of itself.'”

    At the meeting were Hall of Famer Mike Singletary, plus Matt Birk, Eddie Mason, Patrick Kerney, Willie McGinest, Roman Oben, Marty Lyons, Charles Way, Tony Paige, Scott Turner and Robert Porcher. More weekly meetings are planned among league officials and former players, current players and team owners.

    The NFL has faced heavy criticism of its personal conduct policy after incidents this year involving Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, Ray McDonald and Jonathan Dwyer.

    Police: Cardinals Dwyer broke wife’s nose in head-butt

    Police say Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer broke his wife’s nose with a head-butt during an argument that began after she learned about his recent phone contact with another woman.

    That’s according to search-warrant records made public Tuesday. The police say the July 21 argument came after Dwyer’s wife came to believe her husband was cheating. Dwyer was arrested last week after his wife told police her husband assaulted her on July 21 and 22 at their Phoenix apartment.

    Depleted Steelers sign linebacker James Harrison after talk on domestic violence

    So much for James Harrison’s retirement. The Pittsburgh Steelers are bringing back the volatile five-time Pro Bowler to add a veteran presence to a depleted linebacker group.

    Steelers coach Mike Tomlin spoke to the 36-year-old Harrison about the “climate change” around domestic violence before re-signing him.

    Harrison was arrested in 2008 on assault and criminal mischief charges following an altercation with his then-girlfriend. The charges were dropped after Harrison completed anger management classes. He was not suspended by the team.

    The Steelers need pass rushing help after losing linebackers Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones to injury in Sunday night’s win

    Panthers fullback Tolbert to miss at least 8 games

    Panthers All-Pro fullback Mike Tolbert will miss at least eight games with a hairline fracture in his left leg. The bruising fullback was injured on a tackle involving ex-Panthers safety Mike Mitchell in Carolina’s 37-19 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday night. Tolbert was placed on the injured reserve/designated to return list. Under that designation, Tolbert can practice after six weeks, but isn’t eligible to play until Nov. 30 at Minnesota.

    NCAA big says leave it up to schools

    NCAA President Mark Emmert believes it is the responsibility of individual schools to handle issues of domestic violence and sexual assault, and that a spate of recent cases reflects greater societal problems. Just this week, Tennessee dismissed a freshman running back who reportedly struck an ex-girlfriend at a party over the weekend.

    Emmert also stood by his recent pronouncement to a group of Division I faculty athletic representatives that the Penn State scandal was handled as well as it could have been “under the circumstances.”

    Bird anchors 12-women roster

    Sue Bird became the first American player to make four world championship teams when USA Basketball announced its roster. Bird won gold medals in 2002 and 2010 and a bronze medal in 2006.

    Joining her on the final roster were veterans Diana Taurasi, Candice Dupree, Tina Charles, Angel McCoughtry, Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus. All seven of them have world championship experience, with Augustus playing on the 2006 team and the other six on the 2010 team that won a gold medal in the Czech Republic.

    Brittney Griner, Nneka Ogwumike, Odyssey Sims and Breanna Stewart will make their first appearance at the world championship, which begins Saturday in Istanbul.

    NASCAR sets testing ban that includes Daytona 500

    According to the rules package released to all teams NASCAR will ban all private testing in 2015, including the annual Daytona 500 test.

    The only testing allowed next season will be sessions conducted by NASCAR or Goodyear. The penalty for teams caught testing on their own will be a P6 — the highest penalty on NASCAR’s new punishment scale, and that carries a loss of 150 points, a minimum $150,000 fine and a six-week suspension for the crew chief and other crew members.

    The qualifying formats will be tweaked everywhere, including the season-opening Daytona 500. The front row will now be set through group qualifying instead of single-car runs.

    NASCAR is also reducing engine horsepower from 850 to 725 and cutting the rear spoiler to 6-inches.

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