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Sept. 14, 2011 at 11:00 PM
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Phillies first to reach playoffs

HOUSTON, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Roy Halladay outdueled Houston's Bud Norris for a 1-0 victory Wednesday and locked up a playoff berth for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Halladay (18-5) gave up six hits in his first shutout of the year and 20th of his career. Halladay has seven complete games, which leads the National League. He walked one and struck out seven.

Norris (6-10) gave just four hits in seven innings. He walked one and struck out three.

However, the first two batters he faced each had hits. Shane Victorino doubled on the game's second pitch and, two pitches later, Placido Polanco singled up the middle driving in Victorino.

Norris retired the next 15 batters and pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the sixth.

But Halladay made the first-inning run stand up. He got out of a bases-loaded situation in the second by getting a ground out and a double play and didn't allow more than one runner each in any inning the rest of the way.

The win assured the Phillies of a spot in the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season.

With two weeks left in the regular season, Detroit extended its winning streak to 12 games with a 6-5 decision over the Chicago White Sox in 11 innings and Pittsburgh ensured its 19th consecutive losing campaign with a 3-2 setback to St. Louis.

The Tigers' winning streak is its longest in 77 years.

PGA Tour semifinals open Thursday

LEMONT, Ill., Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Webb Simpson, who has won two times in his last three events, will own the lead Thursday when the PGA Tour's playoffs begin their semifinal stage.

The 70 leading point earners in the yearlong FedEx Cup points chase will compete this week in the BMW Championship at the Cog Hill Golf and Country Club. Only 30 of them will move on to the season-ending Tour Championship next week in Atlanta.

Simpson has emerged as the tour's newest star thanks to his victories at the Wyndham Championship and the Deutsche Bank Championship. The first of those wins moved him into third place on the points list as the playoffs began and the second one vaulted him all the way to the top.

The points will be rearranged going into the Tour Championship and a victory in that event by any of the Top 5 will give that player the FedEx Cup and the $10 million that goes with it.

The first five spots on the points list at the start of the BMW Championship will be Simpson, Dustin Johnson, last year's FedEx Cup runner-up Matt Kuchar, world No. 1 Luke Donald and Brant Snedeker.

Nick Watney, who led the points race at the start of the playoffs, has fallen to seventh place.

The only players to have reached the Tour Championship in all four years the playoff system has been in place are Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, Jim Furyk and Ernie Els.

Stricker (currently No. 8), Mickelson (10) and Mahan (18) are certain to reach the final event again this year. Furyk, the defending FedEx Cup champion and ranked 35th this year, must finish at least 11th this week to advance. Els, in 68th place, has to be among the first three at the BMW Championship to play in Atlanta.

Simpson, Johnson and Kuchar will be paired together for the first two rounds at Cog Hill and will begin play Thursday on the 10th tee at 11:53 a.m. EDT.

OSU booster takes blame for penalties

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- A Cleveland executive and Buckeyes football booster says he's responsible for three Ohio State football players getting suspended for NCAA infractions.

Robert "Bobby" DiGeronimo, corporate secretary of Independence Excavating Inc., has admitted that his role in funneling "travel expense reimbursements" to running back Jordan Hall, cornerback Travis Howard and defensive back Corey Brown is what led to their suspensions, The Columbus Dispatch reported Wednesday.

DiGeronimo told the newspaper former Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor gave cash envelopes to his three teammates while they were attending a February charity fundraiser in Cleveland.

The Dispatch said DiGeronimo stopped short of admitting he himself provided the $200 cash payments and also asserted the charity, Bobby Tripodi Foundation Inc., didn't provide the cash.

"However Mr. Pryor got the money, I take responsibility," DiGeronimo said. "I am responsible for those kids coming up here from Columbus. I handled it wrong. I should not have handled it the way I did."

The players were reinstated to the team Tuesday by the NCAA and will be eligible for Saturday's game at the University of Miami.

Foster returns to practice for Texans

HOUSTON, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Houston's Arian Foster returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since aggravating a left hamstring pull Aug. 27 and is expected to play Sunday.

Foster led the NFL in rushing last season with 1,616 yards, 149 more than Kansas City's Jamaal Charles. Foster also scored 18 touchdowns and produced 2,220 yards from scrimmage.

He missed this season's opener against Indianapolis, a game Houston won 34-7. Derrick Ward started in Foster's place Sunday, although Ben Tate wound up leading the Texans in rushing with 116 yards and a touchdown.

"It felt good being back out there with the guys," Foster said. "You miss that camaraderie and that competition and just the whole atmosphere of football when you're away from it."

Houston will travel to Miami Sunday looking for its second 2-0 start in as many years. The Texans, who entered the NFL in 2002, are also hoping for their first playoff appearance in franchise history.

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