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UPI NewsTrack Sports

Sept. 30, 2011 at 11:00 PM   |   Comments

Rays carry momentum into playoffs

ARLINGTON, Texas, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Matt Moore, the least experienced starting pitcher in major-league playoff history, threw seven shutout innings Friday to bring Tampa Bay a 9-0 win over Texas.

The Rays continued the momentum gained from the late-season surge that earned them a wild-card playoff berth and dominated every phase of American League Division Series opener.

Texas and Tampa Bay have faced each other six times in the playoffs over the last two years and the visiting team has won every game. The Rangers will host Game 2 of the best-of-five series Saturday.

Seven of the Tampa Bay runs came on homers, two of the blasts by Kelly Shoppach, but Moore stole the show by giving up just two hits with two walks while striking out six.

Moore, 22, spent four years in the minors before making his first and thus far only regular-season start in the majors Sept. 22 against the New York Yankees. He went five innings in that game, allowing four hits and striking out five to get the victory.

He became the first pitcher to start a major league post-season contest after having no more than one start in his career.

Moore was given the surprise start for Game 1 by Manager Joe Madden because Tampa Bay's rotation had been fully extended during the final week of the season. The Rays won the wild-card berth by coming from seven runs behind against the Yankees on Wednesday for an 8-7 triumph in 12 innings.

The only two hits off Moore came from Josh Hamilton -- a two-out single in the first and a leadoff double in the fourth. Moore became the youngest American League pitcher in 40 years to start his team's playoff opener.

Johnny Damon delivered a two-run homer during a three-run second, Shoppach delivered a three-run blast in the third and then added a two-run shot in the fifth.

Tampa Bay roughed up Texas starter C.J. Wilson for six runs on seven hits in five innings.

The Rays cooled off a team that ended the regular season with six straight victories and had won 14 of its final 16 contests. Texas also led the majors in batting this year.

Tampa Bay will start ace James Shields on Saturday. In two starts against Texas over the past two months Shields allowed just one earned run in 17 innings.


Francona released by Red Sox

BOSTON, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Terry Francona won't return as manager of the Boston Red Sox in 2012, ending a relationship that included two World Series titles and a titanic collapse.

Francona and Red Sox ownership met early Friday with General Manager Theo Epstein saying there were no immediate plans for an announcement.

However, by late afternoon the team said the Red Sox were going to make a change.

The team statement said: "Tito (Francona) said that after eight years here he was frustrated by his difficulty making an impact with the players, that a different voice was needed, and that it was time for him to move on. After taking time to reflect on Tito's sentiments, we agreed that it was best for the Red Sox not to exercise the option years on his contract."

The Red Sox had until Oct. 8 to exercise the option, with a reported $4.25 million, on Francona's contract for 2012.

Francona took over as the manager in Boston for the 2004 season. Over eight seasons the team was 744-552. The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 -- their first world championship in 86 years -- and again in 2007. They also made the playoffs in 2005 and 2008.

In 2011, Boston led Tampa Bay by nine games for the final American League playoff spot but went 7-20 over the last month and was eliminated Wednesday, the final day of the regular season.


Goodell upholds suspension, lectures Pryor

NEW YORK, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Friday the five-game suspension of Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor had been upheld.

In a stern condemnation of Pryor's actions that led to his leaving Ohio State this year, Goodell refused to grant the quarterback's appeal of his suspension.

Pryor was selected by Oakland in the third-round of the NFL's supplemental draft. The quarterback was originally suspended for five games by the NCAA for his part in rules violations that led to the dismissal of Coach Jim Tressel.

Rather than serve that suspension, Pryor made himself eligible for the supplemental draft. Goodell then ruled that the NCAA suspension would be carried over to the NFL.

"Based on Mr. Pryor's actions, I believe it is a fair conclusion that he intentionally took steps to ensure that he would be declared ineligible for further college play and would be able to enter the NFL via the supplemental draft," Goodell said. "Taken as a whole, I found that this conduct was tantamount to a deliberate manipulation of our eligibility rules in a way that distorts the underlying principles and calls into question the integrity of those rules.

"Mr. Pryor, not Ohio State or the NCAA, made the judgment that he was ineligible for college play. He then took a series of affirmative steps that were intended to, and had the effect of, accomplishing that result.

"Moreover, Mr. Pryor did so in order to avoid the consequences of his conduct while in college, conduct to which he had admitted and for which he had accepted a suspension, and to hasten the day when he could pursue a potentially lucrative professional career in the NFL.

"This smacks of a calculated effort to manipulate our eligibility rules in a way that undermines the integrity of, and public confidence in those rules.

"I conclude that Mr. Pryor's actions warranted imposition of conditions on his entry into the NFL, namely that he serve the same five-game suspension that he had previously agreed to while at Ohio State."


Na part of three-way tie on PGA Tour

LAS VEGAS, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Kevin Na, who earlier this year needed 16 shots to finish a single hole, shared the lead Friday at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

Na joined Jhonattan Vegas and Charlie Wi at the top after 36 holes of the first of the four PGA Tour Fall Finish tournaments. On a typical day of low scoring at the TPC-Summerlin course, Hunter Haas flirted with a 59 before shooting a 61 and Na turned in a 63 that included seven birdies on the back nine.

Wi shot a 66 and Vegas, seeking his second victory in his rookie season, had a 67.

The three leaders stood at 12-under 130. Tied for fourth at 131 were Brendan Steele, Tim Herron and Kris Blanks.

Haas was among those at 132 after a round that included an eagle at the par-4 15th. Haas began on the back nine and made the turn in 6-under 30. He then birdied four of the first five holes on the front side and needed two birdies over the last four to shoot 59. A bogey at the par-4 sixth wiped out those hopes.

Na has finished in the Top 10 on five occasions this year, including a tie for 10th at the PGA Championship, as he seeks his first PGA Tour victory.

He received his largest share of publicity this year, however, in April for his struggles on the par-4 ninth hole at the TPC-San Antonio course during the opening round of the Texas Open.

He hit his tee shot deep into a thicket of trees to the left of the fairway and he kept trying to get the ball out of trouble. He hit shot after shot in the trees before finally escaping. When the round was over he watched a television replay of the incident in an attempt to determine how many shots he had taken.

Na and the officials finally decided the correct number was 16. He played the other 17 holes in 4-under and wound up shooting an 80.

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