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Cuban prospect Soler homers in debut as Cubs fall

CINCINNATI (AP) With his father watching from the stands, Jorge Soler had quite a Cubs debut.

Soler homered in his first at-bat in the majors and had an RBI single Wednesday night, but the Cincinnati Reds held on for a 7-5 victory behind Skip Schumaker's run-scoring double and single.

Soler, a 22-year-old prospect from Cuba, was called up Wednesday after getting a nine-year, $30 million deal from the Cubs in 2012. He started in right field and batted fifth.

"He looked very comfortable in the box, as we were told about him before he got here," manager Rick Renteria said.

After Luis Valbuena led off the second inning with a homer off Mat Latos (5-3), Soler hit a 2-1 pitch into the Reds' bullpen in center field. The last Cub to homer in his first at-bat also did it in Cincinnati - Starlin Castro off Homer Bailey on May 7, 2010.

He said his father, Jorge Sr., was in the stands for his debut.

"I felt real proud he was here," Soler said, with a coach translating. "I was very excited. I felt real comfortable."

Soler also had an RBI single off Jonathan Broxton in the eighth, cutting it to 6-5. Latos pitched into the eight and gave up four runs while fanning a season-high 10 batters.

Pinch-hitter Chris Heisey homered in the bottom of the inning. Aroldis Chapman escaped a two-on threat in the ninth, getting his 28th save in 30 chances. Javier Baez flied out to the warning track in center to end it.

"Baez put a good swing on that ball," Renteria said. "Everyone in the dugout thought it was going farther."

Jacob Turner (4-8) made his first start for the Cubs and lasted only 3 2-3 innings, giving up six runs - three of them unearned.

"I would have liked to have gotten a little deeper into the game," he said. "That part is frustrating."

The Reds took advantage of three Cubs errors and ended their four-game winning streak, one shy of their season high. The Reds are 24-10 against Chicago over the last two years, including 10-5 this season.

The Reds sent nine batters to the plate and scored four times in the fourth inning, taking advantage of fielding errors by shortstop Starlin Castro and Valbuena at third. Schumaker, Brandon Phillips and Devin Mesoraco had RBI singles.

Reds leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton had a pair of infield singles and stole his 50th base, becoming the ninth Reds player to reach the mark. Bob Bescher holds the club rookie mark with 54 in 1909.

The Cubs were missing first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who has a stiff lower back. Rizzo hit his 30th homer during a 3-0 win on Tuesday night but had to leave in the eighth inning because of the back problem.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Cubs: Outfielders Ryan Sweeney and Justin Ruggiano went on the 15-day DL. Sweeney pulled a hamstring on Tuesday. Ruggiano hadn't played since last week because of a sore left ankle. INF Logan Watkins was recalled from Triple-A Iowa.

Reds: 1B Joey Votto took ground balls for the first time since he went on the DL on July 8 with strained muscles above his left knee. Manager Bryan Price said it's unlikely he'll start a rehab stint before Sept. 4, when he's eligible to be reinstated.

UP NEXT

Cubs: Jake Arrieta (7-4) makes his second career start against the Reds. He beat them on June 24 at Wrigley Field, giving up two earned runs and three hits over seven innings of a 7-3 victory.

Reds: Dylan Axelrod (0-0) makes his second start of the season. He was the victim of a blown save on Aug. 17 in Colorado, a 10-5 loss.

LUCKY NUMBER

Soler is sticking with the No. 68 that he wore in the minors, even though big numbers are not all that common in the big leagues. Asked about it before the game, Soler said through a coach translating: "I don't know. I like that number."

BILLY'S SWIPES

Hamilton's 50 steals are the most by a Reds player since Deion Sanders stole 56 in 1997. The club record is Bescher's 81 steals in 1911.

STATS

The Cubs have homered in 11 consecutive games for the first time since 2007. ... Valbuena's 13th homer gave him a career high, one more than his total from last season. ... Turner was acquired from Miami in a trade on Aug. 8 for a pair of minor league pitchers. He'd made two relief appearances with the Cubs. ... Chicago won a challenge in the fifth, when Kristopher Negron was initially ruled safe at first on a close play. The call was overturned on review. ... Heisey's homer was his third this season as a pinch-hitter and ninth career.

Thu, 28 Aug 2014 03:17:00 +0000
Kershaw gets 16th win, Dodgers beat Arizona 3-1

PHOENIX (AP) Clayton Kershaw allowed only an unearned run in eight innings to become the first 16-game winner in the majors, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-1 on Wednesday night.

Kershaw (16-3) allowed six hits, retiring 12 of the final 13 batters he faced, seven by strikeout, to improve to 13-1 in his last 16 starts.

The left-handed ace struck out 10 and walked two.

Scott Van Slyke hit a solo home run off Wade Miley (7-10) before leaving the game with an ankle injury in the fourth inning. Matt Kemp had a two-run double.

Kenley Janzen pitched a perfect ninth for his 38th save in 42 tries.

The Dodgers, sweeping the two-game series, climbed to a season-high 18 games above .500.

Kershaw reached double digit strikeouts for the third straight outing, pitching out of jams in the third and fifth innings. He has gone at least seven innings in all but one of his last 16 starts.

Arizona loaded the bases with one out in the third, but Aaron Hill popped out and Mark Trumbo struck out.

The Diamondbacks' Ender Inciarte tripled to lead off the fifth, then Kershaw retired the next 11 before Trumbo's two-out single in the eighth. Kershaw ended his night by striking out Alfredo Marte to end the eighth.

Los Angeles scored all three runs in the third.

Kemp doubled in two runs but was out by a considerable margin trying to stretch it to a triple. On Miley's next pitch, Van Slyke homered just over the left field wall. Van Slyke is 8 for 18 with five home runs against Miley this season.

Arizona's Marte doubled down the left field line to lead off the fourth. Jordan Pacheco followed with a single to left. Van Slyke fielded the ball and launched what should have been a routine throw back to the infield.

But he rolled his ankle as he threw, allowing the unearned run to score.

The Dodgers called it a "mild" sprain.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Dodgers: 1B Adrian Gonzalez had the night off with a stiff back. ... LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu, hip strain, pitched a simulated game Wednesday and is expected to rejoin the rotation Sunday or Monday.

Diamondacks: RHP Daniel Hudson, recovering from two Tommy John surgeries, pitched a perfect inning at Triple-A Reno Wednesday night.

ON DECK

Dodgers: Los Angeles has Thursday off before opening a three-game series at San Diego. Dan Haren (11-10, 4.44 ERA) goes for the Dodgers against Andrew Cashner (2-6, 2.43).

Diamondbacks: Arizona is off Thursday before beginning a three-game series against Colorado in a matchup of the teams with the two worst records in the National League.

Thu, 28 Aug 2014 04:43:00 +0000
Sloane Stephens upset in US Open 2nd round

NEW YORK -- Once a sure bet to stick around for a while at Grand Slam tournaments, Sloane Stephens suddenly can't even win there.

The 21-year-old American had her earliest loss at the U.S. Open, upset in the second round Wednesday by 96th-ranked Johanna Larsson.

Down a set and a break, Larsson rallied to win 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 to match her best performance at a major tournament. The 26-year-old Swede had been 0-4 at Flushing Meadows before this year.

When the match ended with her 63rd unforced error, the 21st-seeded Stephens was in such a hurry to leave Arthur Ashe Stadium that she briskly walked around the net to Larsson's side of the court for the handshake.

As Stephens had climbed the rankings, the knock on her was that she would shine in the big-time tournaments and slump in other events: Her Grand Slam record coming into Wimbledon this year was 32-12, while she's 58-57 everywhere else.

Stephens reached at least the fourth round at six straight major tournaments starting with the 2013 Australian Open, when she stunned Serena Williams to make the semifinals. The longest active streak at the time, it ended with a first-round loss at Wimbledon this summer.

Now her stay at her home Grand Slam event is over quickly after she had advanced to at least the third round in three previous trips to the U.S. Open.

On the verge of breaking into the top 10 last fall, Stephens has slid to No. 24 in the rankings.

"Everyone goes through times like this," she said. "I'm not the first person and won't be the last."

Larsson has now reached the third round at a major tournament twice this year after breaking through at the French Open.

"I just was trying to really tell myself to go for it," she said. "You won't win matches by holding back. Also, a lucky shot every here and there."

Her victory was the second big women's upset of the day. Peng Shuai beat fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, the first top-10 player knocked out of the tournament.

The 39th-ranked Peng won 6-3, 6-4, giving China a big win in the tournament with third-ranked Li Na out with a knee injury.

"It's an amazing time for me," Peng said.

The U.S. Open is the only Grand Slam tournament in which Radwanska, the 2012 Wimbledon runner-up, has failed to reach the quarterfinals.

"I really want to know the answer," Radwanska said. "Then maybe I will find a way to play better here and just try another way to be in the second week."

Peng had been 3-22 against top-five opponents, the last victory coming in 2011. That year was also the last time the 28-year-old made the third round at the U.S. Open.

On Wednesday, she won a 27-point rally with a sizzling backhand winner down the line to set up her third match point, then clinched victory with another backhand winner deep into the corner.

Wed, 27 Aug 2014 20:38:36 +0000
Serena Williams beats American teen at US Open

NEW YORK (AP) After a rough-for-her Grand Slam season, Serena Williams came into the U.S. Open with a new approach.

So far, so good.

Unable to make it past the fourth round at any of the first three major tournaments in 2014, Williams began her bid for a third consecutive U.S. Open title with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over American teen Taylor Townsend on Tuesday night.

Afterward, Williams was asked whether she changed anything about her preparation for this tournament, which she has won five times overall.

"I've decided I'm not going to overthink it. I think I've overthought every Grand Slam so far this year. It didn't really work out great for me," Williams said. "So worst-case scenario, I'm just going to stay positive and do the best I can. That's all I can do."

The No. 1-ranked and No. 1-seeded Williams' best was pretty good in the all-American matchup against Townsend, an 18-year-old who is ranked 103rd and was given a wild card into the draw.

Williams made only eight unforced errors and needed only 55 minutes to wrap up the victory.

She is trying to become the first woman to win the U.S. Open three years in a row since Chris Evert took four straight trophies from 1975-78.

Not since 2006 has Williams failed to reach at least one final at a year's four Grand Slam tournaments. But she lost in the fourth round at the Australian Open, the second round at the French Open, and the third round at Wimbledon.

She'll face another American, Vania King, in the second round at Flushing Meadows.

Townsend acknowledged afterward she was a tad overwhelmed by the occasion. Not only was this her U.S. Open debut, but she was facing a 17-time major champion under the lights in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the largest arena in Grand Slam tennis.

"It was just a lot of different emotions and feelings that were coming. It was hard to deal with," said the gregarious Townsend, who beat a seeded player en route to reaching the third round at the French Open in her Grand Slam debut this year.

"Being nervous," Townsend said, "I'm like, `Oh, my God, she's going to smack the ball at me in my face, so get ready."'

Townsend said that she and Williams developed a rapport during the U.S. Fed Cup team's matches in Delray Beach, Florida, in April 2013. Townsend didn't play, but was invited to be with the team, and she got a chance to chat with Williams and her older sister Venus during a rain delay.

"We didn't even talk about tennis," Townsend recalled. "We started talking about hair and nails, of course."

After losing Tuesday, Townsend referred to her 32-year-old opponent as one of her "tennis idols."

"She's an African-American woman from Compton, California, who has won 17 or 16 Grand Slam titles. Like, who would have thought? Anything is possible. She's paved the way for me and not only African-American girls but girls in general, people in general," Townsend said. "Just has changed the game of tennis. I think I've just learned, like, from her story that anything is possible."

---

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

Wed, 27 Aug 2014 04:36:00 +0000
Love struck: Kevin Love pledges commitment to Cavs

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) Kevin Love's phone rang in July and LeBron James asked the All-Star forward if he wanted to play with him in Cleveland.

"I'm in," Love told James.

For the long haul.

Getting used to a new city and new team after being acquired by the Cavaliers on Saturday, Love said he's committed to winning an NBA title with the Cavaliers - however long it takes.

Love, who didn't make the playoffs during six sometimes rocky seasons with Minnesota, can opt out of his contract and become a free agent next summer. But 25-year-old Love, regarded as the game's top "spacing" forward, said he intends to stay with James and the Cavs.

"I'm committed to this team, committed long term to the end goal and that's to win championships," he said.

Cleveland is smitten with its newest superstar.

Love was introduced Tuesday by the Cavs, who acquired him in a blockbuster, three-team trade that instantly turned Cleveland, which won just 33 games last season, into an NBA championship favorite. The deal also gives the team a star-powered trio in Love, James and Kyrie Irving.

Love and James became friends two summers ago as U.S. Olympic teammates in London. It was there, while chasing a gold medal together, that James began recruiting Love, who wasn't sure what to make of the four-time league MVP's overtures.

"Sitting next to me, a locker really close to me and he would always tell me how good he thought I was," Love said. "For me I would just kind of brush it off and shake it off because I was standoffish because I didn't know him well."

James persisted and after more conversations, Love realized there could be a time when their careers could intersect again.

"I thought that one day maybe I could play with LeBron James," he said.

And now that Love is gone, the Timberwolves are left to rebuild around No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins and last year's top pick, Anthony Bennett, two young players they were able to pry from Cleveland.

Love didn't leave the Timberwolves on the best of terms. He was the face of the franchise, and Minnesota is where he developed into one of the game's top rebounders and scorers, a dual threat from inside and out. But the years of losing wore on him and it was no secret that he wanted out.

Still, Love said he'll look back on his first NBA home as a positive experience.

"The people of Minnesota were great, the fans were great, they showed up, win, lose or draw, and I really developed a lot of relationships all the way down through the organization," he said. "It was a great six years, and I enjoyed my time, and I can't say enough good things about it."

While Love was saying good things about his former team, his old boss wasn't as warm about him.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor isn't sure Love fits in Cleveland as well as many believe.

"I question Kevin if this is going to be the best deal for him because I think he's going to be the third player on the team," Taylor said. "I don't think he's going to get a lot of credit if they do really well. I think he'll get blame if they don't do well.

"He's around a couple guys that are awful good. I'm not saying Kevin isn't good. I think where maybe he got away with some stuff not playing defense on our team, I'm not sure that's how it's going to work in Cleveland. I would guess they're going to ask him to play more defense - and he's foul prone."

The Cavs know nothing is certain, and there's risk in bringing aboard Love. But with James, Love, Irving, guard Dion Waiters, relentless rebounder Anderson Varejao and newly signed veterans Shawn Marion, Mike Miller and James Jones, the Cavs have the makings of a championship team - this season and for many more to come.

"This is culmination of a year and a half of conversations to trade for Kevin," general manager David Griffin said. "This is a player that, quite frankly, fits us as well as any player could have."

Love will wear No. 0 for the Cavs. His No. 42, the number he wore in college and with the Timberwolves, was worn by Nate Thurmond and retired in Cleveland. He considered No. 11, his Olympic number, but that was worn by Zydrunas Ilgauskas and also hangs from the rafters at Quicken Loans Arena. So he went with 0, the number he first wore as a kid in Beaverton, Oregon.

"I thought this was a chance to start fresh," Love said, "and pick a new number that would suit me. I just decided that 0 was the right fit for me."

And so was the chance to play again with James.

---

AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

Tue, 26 Aug 2014 21:51:00 +0000

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