National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

Serena Williams runs US Open winning streak to 17

NEW YORK (AP) Bidding for a third consecutive U.S. Open title, Serena Williams moved into the fourth round by beating 52nd-ranked Varvara Lepchenko 6-3, 6-3 Saturday.

The No. 1-ranked and No. 1-seeded Williams has faced American opponents in all three of her matches this week while extending her overall winning streak at Flushing Meadows to 17.

Williams had some trouble dealing with the whipping wind in Arthur Ashe Stadium but eventually took control against Lepchenko, a 2012 Olympic teammate and occasional practice partner.

Williams, a 17-time Grand Slam singles champion, is hoping to avoid her first season since 2006 without reaching at least one major final. She lost in the fourth round at the Australian Open, second round at the French Open, and third round at Wimbledon.

Chelsea beats Everton 6-3 in Premier League

LIVERPOOL, England (AP) Chelsea scored twice inside the opening three minutes and three more times in a chaotic 11-minute spell in the second half on its way to a wild 6-3 win over Everton on Saturday, clinching a third straight Premier League victory.

Diego Costa began the rout with a goal after 34 seconds and ended it in the final minute to take his tally to four goals in three games since joining from Atletico Madrid over the summer.

Branislav Ivanovic added to Costa's early goal to leave Everton 2-0 down at Goodison Park but Kevin Mirallas reduced the deficit just before halftime.

Seamus Coleman's own goal made it 3-1, with Nemanja Matic and Ramires also scoring for Jose Mourinho's side. Steven Naismith and Samuel Eto'o we8re Chelsea's other scorers.

49ers' Aldon Smith apologizes for suspension

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith has apologized to the organization and its fans after receiving a nine-game suspension from the NFL for a series of off-field legal issues.

In a statement released through the NFL Players Association on Saturday, Smith said: "I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the entire 49ers organization and 49ers fans for not being able to contribute on the field for the next several weeks. Over the last year, I have learned a lot and I'm working hard to grow from my experiences.

"I want to thank my family and friends, my teammates, my union and the 49ers for supporting me during this process. I will be at work daily to participate in all permitted work activities, and to support my teammates, just as they have supported me."

The NFL announced Smith's suspension Friday. The league said in a statement Smith had violated its substance abuse and personal conduct policies.

Smith missed five games last season to undergo treatment at an in-patient facility following his DUI arrest Sept. 20. In November, he pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon, stemming from a June 2012 party at his home.

Smith also was arrested April 13 at Los Angeles International Airport for allegedly making a bomb threat. No charges were filed.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Tony Stewart back at the track, looking to heal

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) Tony Stewart took his seat on the podium - unshaven, his eyes glassy - and unfolded a sheet of paper. His voice quivered as he read, pausing to maintain his composure as he described the death of a driver he hit as "one of the toughest tragedies I've ever had to deal with."

This was a far cry from the brash driver known around the track as "Smoke."

Ninety minutes later, he climbed into his No. 14 car and sped toward the high-banked oval at Atlanta Motor Speedway, drawing a cheer from the crowd gathered around his garage. He quickly got up to speed, turning laps of nearly 190 mph, a racer back in his element.

Ready or not, Stewart is back on the track.

Describing himself as heartbroken but eager to heal, Stewart rejoined the race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship surrounded by those he considers a second family - his team, his crew, his rivals. He missed the last three races, going into seclusion after the sprint car he was driving struck and killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr., who had stepped on the track to confront him during a race.

He'll get back to work as an investigation continues in upstate New York. Authorities said Friday that the probe into the cause of the crash will last at least another two weeks. No decision has been made about whether Stewart will face charges.

"This is something that will definitely affect my life forever," Stewart said. "This is a sadness and a pain I hope no one has to experience in their life. That being said, I know that the pain and mourning that Kevin Ward's family and friends are experiencing is something that I can't possibly imagine."

He mentioned Ward's parents and three sisters by name, saying he wanted them "to know that every day I'm thinking about them and praying for them."

Stewart took no questions about Ward's death because of the ongoing investigation, and said he wasn't sure if he had the emotional strength to answer them anyway. But his timid, halting delivery presented a much different side to a racer whose infamous temper has sparked clashes with the media and fellow drivers.

It was business as usual when Stewart switched to his racing suit. He signed autographs. He talked with his crew about the car's setup. He chatted up Kurt Busch.

Behind the wheel, Stewart looked as though he had never been away. He advanced to the final round of qualifying before settling for the 12th starting spot in Sunday night's race with a speed of 187.907 mph. One of his teammates at Stewart-Haas Racing, Kevin Harvick, claimed the pole at 190.398.

Stewart went out ahead of Harvick and advised him to take a lower line on the track.

"He was definitely a big help," Harvick said. Afterward the two chatted briefly, a conversation Harvick described as "all racing."

If Stewart should win in Atlanta, or next week's race at Richmond, he would qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. While NASCAR requires its drivers to compete in every event to make the playoff, Stewart was granted a waiver that is normally applied to a driver who misses a race for medical reasons.

Mike Helton, president of the governing body, said NASCAR made the decision after consulting with third-party experts who "were relevant under these circumstances." He would not elaborate.

"We want to join everybody in racing in welcoming Tony back," Helton said. "He's a great asset to NASCAR. He's a great champion, a great participant in our sport."

There was no word from Ward's family on Stewart's return. A woman who answered Friday at the home of Kevin Ward Sr. said the family would not be commenting.

During an Aug. 9 sprint-car event in upstate New York, Stewart and Ward's cars bumped while racing into a turn, sending Ward's car spinning. Ward climbed from his wrecked machine and wandered onto a darkened track in a black racing suit, wanting to make his displeasure known to the three-time NASCAR champion.

One car appeared to swerve to avoid Ward, but he was struck by the back right tire of Stewart's car.

The 43-year-old Stewart pulled out of the race at nearby Watkins Glen the morning after Ward was killed, and then skipped events at Michigan and Bristol.

"I've taken the last couple of weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way," Stewart said. "It's given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted. I miss my team, my teammates and I miss being back in the race car, and I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time."

Asked if it was fair to make Stewart eligible for the Chase, rival driver Denny Hamlin wavered a bit.

"It's a very vague thing," he said. "It's tough to say what's considered medical and not."

Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood said the driver sent flowers and a card to Ward's family around the time of the funeral. He hopes to meet with them at some point.

"He's been very respectful of them and their time to grieve," Frood said. "It's important for Tony to spend time with the family. I do think that will happen at the appropriate time."

Stewart said he knows there are plenty of questions surrounding Ward's death. Many of those have focused on whether he was trying to frighten a young driver who had the nerve to challenge him over a racing crash. But he emphasized that the best way for him to heal was to put on his helmet.

"Being in that car," Harvick said, "cures a lot of problems for a short time."

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

49ers linebacker Aldon Smith suspended by NFL

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers have been preparing for months to play on without Aldon Smith over an extended period.

Now they know the exact timeframe: He is suspended for more than half the season.

The star linebacker received his nine-game penalty from the league Friday stemming from a series of off-field legal issues.

A statement from the NFL said Smith had violated the NFL's substance abuse and personal conduct policies.

Smith won't be eligible to return until Nov. 10, the day after the 49ers' game against the New Orleans Saints.

"Our organization has known this decision would come and we have prepared for it as a team," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. "Aldon has taken responsibility for his actions and has continued to show growth personally and professionally. We will continue to support him, but it is time to put this matter behind us and focus on the season ahead."

The 24-year-old Smith, one of the NFL's top pass rushers, missed five games last season to undergo treatment at an in-patient facility following his DUI arrest Sept. 20.

It was unclear whether Commissioner Roger Goodell would consider that absence toward time served. Smith was suspended two days after Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon's indefinite suspension by the NFL was upheld and he will miss at least 16 games for another violation of the league's substance abuse policy.

Just before training camp began last month, Smith was sentenced to serve three years of probation and to spend 11 days with a work crew after he pleaded no contest to drunken driving and weapons charges.

He has repeatedly said he has been sober since his DUI arrest last September. Smith played in a 27-7 home loss to the Colts on Sept. 22, two days after he was arrested and jailed on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession. After the game, he publicly apologized for his behavior and later announced he would leave for treatment.

While the Niners went on a five-game winning streak without him, Smith's menacing presence was sorely missed. The team still picked up his 2015 contract option this spring.

The 49ers, who went 14-5 last year and lost to the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in the NFC championship game, also are without injured All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman for at least half the season as he recovers from a left knee injury that required surgery after the NFC title game.

Coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio have expressed their confidence in the linebackers, who will be called upon to fill in with Bowman and Smith out - including rookie Chirs Borland, Dan Skuta, Michael Wilhoite and Corey Lemonier.

Third-round draft pick Borland made his case for a starting spot with a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown in Thursday night's 40-13 preseason win at Houston.

In his latest run-in with the law, Smith was arrested April 13 at Los Angeles International Airport. Police said Smith was randomly selected for a secondary screening and became uncooperative with the process, telling a TSA agent that he had a bomb. No charges were filed.

In November, he pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon, stemming from a June 2012 party at his home. Investigators said several shots were fired, two partygoers were injured and Smith was stabbed. In the subsequent investigation, prosecutors say detectives found five unregistered, illegal weapons in Smith's house.

Last season, Smith finished with 8 1/2 sacks and 34 tackles in 11 games with eight starts. He was initially worked back in slowly, but demonstrated he had stayed in shape while away.

Selected seventh overall in the 2011 draft out of Missouri, Smith had a franchise-record 19 1/2 sacks during the 2012 season for the 49ers, who lost to Baltimore in the Super Bowl after that season.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Change of plea hearing set for Colts owner Irsay

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (AP) A change of plea hearing has been set for Tuesday for Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, who faces drug-related charges following a March traffic stop.

Hamilton County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Andre Miksha said Friday that a not guilty plea had previously been entered on behalf of the 55-year-old Colts owner.

Miksha said in an email he cannot "provide any details of - or even verify the existence of - an agreement unless and until one" is filed Tuesday with Hamilton Superior Court or at a later date. Messages seeking comment were left Friday with Irsay's attorney, Jim Voyles.

Irsay was arrested March 16 near his suburban Indianapolis home after he was spotted driving slowly, stopping in the roadway and failing to use a turn signal. Officers said he had trouble reciting the alphabet and failed field sobriety tests.

A police report said an officer believed Irsay to be intoxicated, but not on alcohol. Various prescription drugs were found in his vehicle, along with more than $29,000 in cash.

Irsay was charged with driving while intoxicated and driving with a Schedule I or II controlled substance in his body. His trial had been scheduled for Thursday, but he requested and received a continuance.

Less than 48 hours after his March arrest, the Colts said Irsay had entered a treatment facility. He resumed his duties with the Colts at the NFL draft in early May.

Irsay acknowledged in 2002 he had become dependent on painkillers after several years of orthopedic operations. He said then that he had overcome the problem.

Irsay became the Colts owner in 1997 after the death of his father, Robert Irsay, and a lengthy legal battle with his father's second wife.

Kenny Football: Hill surpasses Manziel's mark

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Kenny Hill broke Johnny Manziel's single-game passing record with 511 yards and No. 21 Texas A&M beat No. 9 South Carolina 52-28 on Thursday night, ending the Gamecocks' 18-game home win streak.

Hill's performance in his first career start proved there is plenty of life in the Aggies' offense without Manziel, a Heisman Trophy winner and first-round selection in the NFL draft. Hill finished 44 of 60 with three touchdowns.

Hill was steady and confident in the pocket, leading Texas A&M (1-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) to a 31-14 halftime lead and finishing up with the most passing yards allowed in Steve Spurrier's 10 seasons with the Gamecocks (0-1, 0-1).

The Gamecocks played their first game since the departure of star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney - and it showed. South Carolina gave up seven TDs on A&Ms first 11 possessions.

USC backup RB quits, coach refutes racism claims

LOS ANGELES (AP) Running back Anthony Brown has quit Southern California's football team, and coach Steve Sarkisian was stunned Thursday by Brown's apparent accusations of racism against him on social media.

A photo of the words "Couldn't play for a racist man!!!!" was posted on what USC said was Brown's Instagram account. The posting was later deleted.

"Sark treated me like a slave in his Office," was posted in the caption to the photo, along with the hashtag "Fighton."

Sarkisian was told about the apparent posts from Brown, who is black, shortly after USC finished practice Thursday. The visibly disturbed coach called them "ridiculous," saying Brown had shown no indication he felt slighted or insulted in their relationship.

"If you ask anybody in our building, any of our players ... that's about the furthest thing from the truth," Sarkisian said. "Quite honestly, I'm shocked."

Brown's acrimonious departure is another blow to a program already reeling from the bizarre saga of cornerback Josh Shaw, who was caught in a lie about the circumstances in which he sprained both of his ankles last weekend. Shaw has been suspended indefinitely.

Brown is a senior who played cornerback for the Trojans until this year, starting two games in each of his first three seasons. He played in only two games last year due to ankle injuries, racking up nine tackles at Notre Dame before missing the final eight games.

He switched positions to running back for his senior year, but Brown missed most of training camp with a hyperextended elbow.

"I had encouraged him to play," Sarkisian said. "I wanted him to play. I didn't want him to quit, and I thought he could get healthy."

Sarkisian said Brown asked the coaches to allow him to play running back this season, and the staff agreed with his move to a talent-rich position at Tailback U. After missing most of camp, he is listed sixth on USC's depth chart behind returning starters Javorius Allen and Tre Madden, as well as talented backups including Justin Davis.

"We thought he could be an asset to our team, especially when healthy," Sarkisian said. "(USC) really tried to make it a point to accommodate the position change. He wanted to move to running back. We did so. He unfortunately got injured and was working his way back in training camp, and decided he didn't want to play anymore."

Several current Trojans and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Matt Leinart immediately jumped on social media to defend Sarkisian. The first-year USC coach and former Trojans assistant hasn't even appeared on the Coliseum sideline this season before dealing with another dose of the turmoil that seems to follow this vaunted program.

"Coach Sark is who we all believe him to be," USC receiver George Farmer posted on his Twitter account. "Accusations like those couldn't be more untrue."

After Rice, NFL increases domestic violence bans

NEW YORK (AP) Acknowledging he "didn't get it right" with a two-game suspension for Ravens running back Ray Rice, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced tougher penalties for players accused of domestic violence, including six weeks for a first offense and at least a year for a second.

In a letter sent to all 32 team owners Thursday and obtained by The Associated Press, Goodell never mentions Rice by name but makes clear references to the Baltimore player who was charged with assault after being caught on video dragging his then-fiancee off a casino elevator.

"My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values," Goodell wrote. "I didn't get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will."

Since January 2000, 77 players have been involved in 85 domestic violence incidents with six being cut by their teams, according to USA Today's NFL Arrests Database. The NFL suspended six players for one game each, and Rice was the second player to be suspended for two games.

Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was convicted in July of assaulting his ex-girlfriend and has appealed for a jury trial set for November. His league punishment has not been announced. Goodell's letter doesn't state clearly how the league will handle pending cases and NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email, "Each case will be addressed individually on its merits."

Outrage over Rice's punishment prompted three members of Congress to write to the commissioner asking him to reconsider Rice's suspension; the governor of Maine also threatened to boycott the league, and numerous groups that advocate for women and families condemned the penalty as too lenient.

The commissioner told teams to distribute his memo to all players and to post it in locker rooms. It reads in part: "Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They are never acceptable and have no place in the NFL under any circumstances."

The memo says that violations of the league's personal conduct policy "regarding assault, battery, domestic violence and sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to enhanced discipline."

The NFL Players Association said it had been informed of the increased punishments.

"As we do in all disciplinary matters, if we believe that players' due process rights are infringed upon during the course of discipline, we will assert and defend our members' rights," the union statement said.

The personal conduct policy is not subject to collective bargaining with the players' union, and the commissioner has leeway to impose punishments for such off-field violations. Goodell's statement also did not stipulate whether the commissioner would act before a player is formally charged.

"We particularly applaud your decision to impose tougher penalties, and to give serious consideration to circumstances that may warrant even harsher consequences," said Esta Soler, chief executive of the advocacy group "Futures Without Violence," who met last week with Goodell.

"We know that this is not an issue that can be addressed overnight, and intimate partner violence will not be eliminated by tougher game penalties alone," the statement continued. Goodell promised more training and education for staff and players.

Rice's suspension begins Saturday. He has never said exactly what happened in the elevator, and he and the woman in the video are now married. Rice apologized publicly and said his actions were "totally inexcusable."

An initial domestic violence offense will draw a six-week ban without pay, although the memo says "more severe discipline will be imposed if there are aggravating circumstances such as the presence or use of a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child."

A second offense will result in banishment from the league, but a player will be allowed to petition for reinstatement after a year.

"There is no assurance that the petition will be granted," the memo says.

Goodell's letter notes other steps the league will take to "strengthen our policies on domestic violence and sexual assault," including efforts to educate all NFL employees on the subject.

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

Stewart returning to competition after fatal crash

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Tony Stewart will return to Sprint Cup competition Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway, ending a three-race hiatus taken after he struck and killed a fellow driver during a dirt-track race.

The three-time NASCAR champion has not raced since his car hit Kevin Ward Jr. at an Aug. 9 sprint car event in upstate New York. Stewart pulled out of the NASCAR race at Watkins Glen the next morning, then skipped races at Michigan and Bristol Motor Speedway.

Stewart, who was described by police as "visibly shaken" the night of Ward's death, has been in seclusion ever since. Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood has said the emphasis was on giving Stewart time needed to get him "in a better place than he is."

Stewart's only comment since the crash was a statement the day after the crash in which he said "there aren't words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr."

Ward had climbed from his car after it had spun while racing for position with Stewart. The 20-year-old walked down onto the racing surface waving his arms in an apparent attempt to confront Stewart.

Authorities said the first car to pass Ward had to swerve to miss hitting him. The front of Stewart's car then appeared to clear Ward, but Ward was struck by the right rear tire and hurtled through the air. He died of blunt force trauma.

Stewart will return with a decision pending on whether he will be charged in Ward's death. Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero has said investigators did not have any evidence to support criminal intent by Stewart. Povero said Thursday the investigation is still ongoing.

Meanwhile, the 43-year-old NASCAR superstar will move forward with his career and attempt to salvage his season.

NASCAR released a statement saying that Stewart was eligible to return because he "has received all necessary clearances required to return to all racing activities." NASCAR said it would have no further comment until President Mike Helton speaks Friday afternoon.

Stewart, who has 48 career Cup wins in 542 starts, is one of the biggest stars in the garage. His peers have been protective of him as questions emerged in the aftermath of the crash, and it pained them that Stewart was grieving in private and had cut off communication with so many of them. He will talk to the media for the first time since the fatal crash on Friday.

NASCAR rules state a driver must attempt to either qualify or race the car in every points-paying event to be eligible for Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, unless a waiver is granted. There was no immediate word if NASCAR would grant that waiver.

Since Ward's death, NASCAR has announced a rule that prohibits drivers from exiting from a crashed or disabled vehicle - unless it is on fire - until safety personnel arrive. Last week, Denny Hamlin crashed while leading at Bristol and stayed in his car until safety personnel arrived.

But Hamlin then exited his vehicle and angrily tossed a safety device at Kevin Harvick as he passed by moments later. He was not penalized.

Giants' Petit retires 46 straight for MLB record

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) San Francisco Giants right-hander Yusmeiro Petit has set a major league record by retiring 46 consecutive batters.

Petit set down the first eight Colorado hitters he faced Thursday, setting the record by striking out Charlie Culberson and drawing a standing ovation at AT&T Park. That broke the mark held by Mark Buehrle with 45 in a row for the Chicago White Sox in 2009.

The streak ended when the next batter, Rockies pitcher Jordan Lyles, doubled to left field.

Petit's string covered eight games, six of them in relief.

The 29-year-old journeyman from Venezuela fell one out shy of a perfect game against Arizona last September. Petit made this start in place of struggling Tim Lincecum, who was recently sent to the bullpen.

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.

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.

USC's Shaw admits to lying about injuries, rescue

LOS ANGELES (AP) Southern California cornerback Josh Shaw confessed that he lied to school officials about how he sprained his ankles last weekend, retracting his story about jumping off a balcony to save his drowning nephew.

The school swiftly suspended him Wednesday from all team activities and acknowledged his heroic tale was "a complete fabrication."

The tale began to unravel soon after the team captain was lauded for his heroics in a story on the team's website Monday. In the account, Shaw described how he instinctively jumped from a balcony, with no one around, to rescue his 7-year-old nephew in a pool in his hometown of Palmdale, California. The school said a day later callers questioned the story, and began vetting it.

But the biggest question remains unanswered: What was he doing, and how did he injure his ankles?

"We are extremely disappointed in Josh," USC coach Steve Sarkisian said. "He let us all down. As I have said, nothing in his background led us to doubt him when he told us of his injuries, nor did anything after our initial vetting of his story."

The Los Angeles Police Department has confirmed that a man named Joshua Shaw was mentioned - but not as a suspect - in a report involving a break-in at a downtown apartment building Saturday night. The department has not made the report public.

Shaw is a fifth-year senior, a captain and a key starter in USC's defensive secondary. He is widely considered a solid teammate and an important leader for the 15th-ranked Trojans, who begin their first season under Sarkisian at the Coliseum on Saturday against Fresno State.

Shaw issued a short statement through criminal defense attorney Donald Etra on Wednesday after being suspended.

"On Saturday, August 23, 2014, I injured myself in a fall," Shaw said. "I made up a story about this fall that was untrue. I was wrong not to tell the truth. I apologize to USC for this action on my part. My USC coaches, the USC athletic department and especially Coach Sarkisian have all been supportive of me during my college career and for that, I am very grateful."

Etra didn't respond to a request for further details about the cause of Shaw's injuries.

Shaw didn't attend practice Wednesday, missing his second straight day of workouts. Although he is barred from team activities, his injuries also would keep him out of workouts for at least a few weeks.

Shortly after Shaw's yarn was made public, the football program received phone calls contradicting Shaw's version of his injuries. Sarkisian has not said who made the calls, but the school acknowledged the discrepancies Tuesday morning and began investigating Shaw, who initially stuck to his story.

"I appreciate that Josh has now admitted that he lied and has apologized," Sarkisian said. "Although this type of behavior is out of character for Josh, it is unacceptable. Honesty and integrity must be at the center of our program. I believe Josh will learn from this. I hope that he will not be defined by this incident, and that the Trojan Family will accept his apology and support him."

It's unclear whether Shaw could face additional discipline from USC for lying to school officials. A USC spokesperson didn't immediately return a request for clarification about the school's student conduct policies.

Shaw and the school still haven't acknowledged any connection to the LAPD report from officers who responded to a woman screaming in a downtown apartment complex Saturday. USC is on the south end of downtown.

Officers interviewed several people at the building, and a woman told the police that someone had pried open a window, entered the third-floor apartment and fled, but nothing was taken. The woman also acknowledged "a relationship" with Shaw, according to LAPD Lt. Andy Nieman.

Sarkisian insisted the situation won't be a distraction for the Trojans, but still allowed only two of Shaw's defensive teammates to speak with the media after practice Wednesday morning.

Linebacker Hayes Pullard and defensive lineman Leonard Williams both acknowledged surprise at the situation that developed after Shaw's account was challenged, but remained supportive of their fifth-year senior captain.

"We were pretty shocked," said Williams, who hasn't spoken to Shaw. "Josh Shaw is a pretty loyal guy. I would never expect him to make up a story. I would never expect that out of him as a team leader."

Shaw's leadership and character were widely praised throughout his first two seasons of play at the school. He transferred back to his native Los Angeles area from Florida, in part to help out his ailing grandfather with the family landscaping business.

"Josh has been a great guy," Pullard said. "He has great character. I've never known him to lie about anything ... so it's surprising. This is exactly when our leadership roles come in. We talk to guys and let them know what's expected, and we'll keep us focused on our team."

NFL suspends Browns star WR Gordon for 2014 season

CLEVELAND (AP) Josh Gordon's wait is over, and so is his 2014 season. Now the star wide receiver's career is in peril.

The Browns learned Wednesday that Gordon's indefinite suspension by the NFL has been upheld and he will miss at least 16 games for another violation of the league's substance abuse policy. A repeat drug offender, Gordon had appealed the penalty, hoping it would be reduced so he could play this season.

The NFL, though, came down hard on Gordon, who must now pay the price for stepping out of bounds.

The league announced that arbitrator Harold Henderson supported Gordon's yearlong suspension for marijuana use. The Pro Bowler, who was subject to more frequent testing, will begin serving his suspension immediately and the league said in its statement that his "eligibility for reinstatement will be determined following the 2014 season."

In the meantime, Gordon is not allowed to practice with the team, attend meetings or other club functions.

Browns general manager Ray Farmer expressed some disappointment at the decision, but said the team has no choice but to move ahead without Gordon.

"While we may have strong feelings on the timing and the process of this decision, we have also consistently communicated that we will focus on what we can control in our day to day approach," Farmer said in a statement. "Right now that is preparing our team for the 2014 season and at the same time, supporting Josh however we are able under NFL guidelines during his suspension."

The Browns had feared for months this would be the outcome, and now that it's official, the club will have to somehow make up for the league-leading 1,646 yards, 18.9 yards per catch and nine touchdowns Gordon produced last season.

"I'd like to apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Cleveland Browns organization and our fans," Gordon said in a statement. "I am very disappointed that the NFL and its hearing office didn't exercise better discretion and judgment in my case. I would like to sincerely thank the people who have been incredibly supportive of me during this challenging time, including my family, my agent, my union, my legal team, and the Cleveland Browns staff."

While he's out, Gordon, who served a two-game suspension for a drug violation last season, will need to pass drug tests, comply with treatment and apply for reinstatement with Commissioner Roger Goodell before he plays again. Gordon could possibly return inside a year if he stays clean.

Gordon met with league officials in New York on Aug. 4 to appeal his suspension. As the days past, there was growing speculation he might not be punished to the letter of the collective bargaining agreement. But Henderson sided with the league's initial ruling after an exhaustive process.

The Browns have known Gordon could be banished for some time and they've been eager for a resolution to his case, which hung over their training camp. He continued to practice and played in Cleveland's first three exhibition games.

Gordon fought the suspension by hiring attorney Maurice Suh to represent him at the appeal hearing. Suh, who had successfully gotten a suspension reduced for Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, argued that Gordon tested positive for marijuana due to secondhand smoke. Gordon's representatives also said test results of his samples were inconsistent and should be thrown out.

There was speculation the league might go softer on Gordon following the public outcry after Baltimore running back Ray Rice was suspended for two games on a domestic violence charge. Instead, the league put Gordon on the sideline for all 16 games and will wait to see how he behaves before deciding whether to let him back.

Gordon didn't help his cause with two legal issues as his case dragged on. He was charged with drunken driving after his arrest in Raleigh, North Carolina, on July 5. In May, he was stopped for speeding in Strongsville, Ohio, and one of the passengers in his car was cited for marijuana possession.

The talented 23-year-old led the league with 1,646 yards receiving last season despite being banned from the first two games for a failed drug test. It was his second known violation as a pro and Gordon said he had inadvertently taken codeine contained in a prescription cough syrup.

Gordon's loss is a crippling blow to Cleveland's offense, depriving the Browns of their best big-play threat. Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron is now the team's primary target, and he may find himself double-teamed and without open spaces to run routes now that Gordon is missing.

The Browns took a risk in selecting Gordon in the 2012 supplemental draft, forfeiting a second-round pick to take the speedy 6-foot-3, 225-pounder who failed at least three drug tests in college for marijuana abuse.

The team has vowed to do all it can to help and support Gordon. During training camp, owner Jimmy Haslam said the team never considered cutting him.

As he awaited word from the league, Gordon was noticeably different. He dropped passes and seemed detached during an exhibition game in Washington. Recently, he posted a photo on Instagram of himself on the practice field catching a pass from rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel. Gordon captioned the photo, "Only place I can find peace."

It's been taken away.

Gordon's on his own.

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.

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."

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

Sarkisian: USC looking into Shaw's heroic story

LOS ANGELES (AP) Southern California coach Steve Sarkisian says the school is investigating defensive back Josh Shaw's claim that he injured both of his ankles jumping off a balcony to save his nephew from drowning.

Sarkisian said USC has received several calls contradicting Shaw's story about the circumstances leading to his two high ankle sprains. Shaw's story was told in a detailed post on the Trojans' website Monday hailing the team captain's heroism, but Sarkisian acknowledged USC isn't exactly sure what happened.

"We're looking at it," Sarkisian said after practice Tuesday morning. "Josh is adamant with what occurred, and we'll continue to vet some of the other stories that have come across our desk or across our phones, and see where we can go from there."

Lt. Andy Neiman of the Los Angeles Police Department also said Tuesday afternoon that a man named Joshua Shaw was mentioned - but not as a suspect - in a report involving a Saturday night break-in at a downtown apartment building.

Sarkisian said he had "no history to not believe Josh and his story," but acknowledged the situation was increasingly murky. The first-year USC coach declined to discuss the discrepancies in detail, or the identity of the callers who contradicted the story. Shaw, a fifth-year senior, wasn't made available to reporters, and he didn't return a phone call.

Shaw apparently told the school he was at a family party in Palmdale, California, when he saw his 7-year-old nephew, Carter, struggling in a pool. According to the website post, Shaw jumped from a second-story balcony onto concrete before dragging himself into the pool and rescuing his nephew, who doesn't know how to swim.

Although Shaw's injuries aren't expected to keep him out for the season, Sarkisian still wants to know exactly how they happened.

"I think it's important to know your players," Sarkisian said. "Josh Shaw has been a good leader for us. He's given me no reason not to believe what he has told us that occurred, but we do need to know. I think it's important to know in the direction we're headed."

In another layer to the confusion, Neiman said LAPD officers answering to a report of a woman screaming in a downtown apartment complex Saturday interviewed a woman inside and several witnesses. USC is on the south end of downtown.

"There is a mention of a Joshua Shaw in this report but not in terms of him being a suspect," Neiman said. "To make any link at this point would be premature."

The woman told officers that someone had pried open a window, entered the third-floor apartment and fled, but nothing was taken, he said.

"The victim acknowledged that she had a relationship with a Mr. Shaw," Neiman added in an email.

The 15th-ranked Trojans open their season Saturday at home against Fresno State.

Shaw, a starting cornerback, is widely regarded as a solid teammate who leads by example, although several Trojans recalled a handful of fiery in-game speeches from Shaw last season. The Florida transfer is a key component of USC's secondary, considered one of the nation's best groups.

Shaw had four interceptions while starting 14 games last season, his second with the Trojans. He has played both safety and cornerback, moving around a defense with little depth due to NCAA sanctions.

Shaw is out indefinitely, but Sarkisian said X-rays and MRI exams on the defensive back's ankles all showed no structural damage. Chris Hawkins and Kevon Seymour will fill in for Shaw during his absence, with freshman Adoree Jackson likely serving as the third cornerback.

Donovan to play final match for US team in Oct.

CARSON, Calif. (AP) Landon Donovan says he will make his final appearance for the U.S. national team Oct. 10 in a friendly against Ecuador.

Donovan announced the plan Tuesday.

Donovan is the top scorer in U.S. history with 57 goals and 58 assists in 156 appearances, but he wasn't chosen for his fourth World Cup roster earlier this summer by coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

Earlier this month, the 32-year-old Donovan announced he will retire from the LA Galaxy after the season. The five-time MLS champion is the North American league's career goals leader.

The U.S. team will face Ecuador at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut.

Klinsmann expressed excitement about Donovan's final appearance in a post on his Twitter account.

UNC probing report of alleged hazing incident

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) North Carolina is investigating a report of an alleged hazing altercation that left a walk-on receiver with a possible concussion.

"We are aware of an incident involving members of the UNC football team that took place earlier this month," team spokesman Kevin Best said in a statement Tuesday. "We take this allegation seriously and the university is conducting a thorough review."

The statement was released in response to a Yahoo Sports report which stated that the alleged hazing involved several players and resulted in redshirt freshman Jackson Boyer being injured. Yahoo Sports reported the incident occurred in Boyer's room at the hotel where the team stayed for preseason camp.

Boyer is from Chapel Hill. His father, Rob, declined to comment when reached by Yahoo Sports.

The school did not identify any players it is investigating and did not confirm it was a hazing incident. Best declined to reveal specifics of the incident in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday evening, though he said Boyer has been practicing with the team.

The No. 23 Tar Heels open their third season under Larry Fedora on Saturday night against Liberty. It marks the first time UNC has opened the season ranked in the Top 25 since 2010.

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