Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mets hammer Dodgers as Dickey wins 12th

LOS ANGELES — R.A. Dickey got a Hollywood beginning, but once again no such luck on the ending.

On a night the veteran knuckleballer dazzled — displaying no-hit-like stuff for the third time this month — but the Dodgers got a few balls to drop.

Dickey’s three-hitter over eight innings and big offensive nights by Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada let the Mets roll to a third straight victory, 9-0, before 49,763 Friday night at Dodger Stadium.

Dickey (12-1) allowed soft singles to Aaron Harang and A.J. Ellis in the third and seventh innings, respectively, before Tony Gwynn Jr. delivered a solid double in the eighth. Dickey finished with 10 strikeouts and one walk for his fifth double-digit strikeout performance of the season.

It ended a month for Dickey that he likely will never forget — one that included consecutive one-hitters before rebounding from a drubbing by the Yankees to pitch last night’s gem.

“I want to consistently give my team a chance to win every time out and be trustworthy,” Dickey said. “I’m glad to say in this last month I’ve been there, and that’s nice.”

Manager Terry Collins said he is expecting a phone call within the next day from Tony La Russa, who will manage the NL All-Star team, to discuss Dickey’s worthiness to start the Midsummer Classic on July 10.

“There’s going to be a lot of choices, but Dickey has certainly got to be in the mix,” Collins said.

The manager also threw out the possibility of starting Dickey twice in the next week — once on short rest before the break — but it likely won’t happen because it would mean skipping Johan Santana, and the lefty is against that idea.

Murphy and Tejada provided all of the offensive support needed. Murphy hit a three-run homer and finished with five RBIs, and Tejada had a 4-for-5 performance as part of the Mets’ 14-hit attack.

Dickey had a controversial one-hitter on June 13 at Tampa Bay. The Mets later appealed the scoring decision that gave B.J. Upton a first-inning single when David Wright missed in his attempt to bare-hand the ball, but the call was ultimately upheld by the commissioner’s office.

Five days later, Dickey pitched a one-hitter against the Orioles, with the lone hit coming on Wilson Betemit’s single in the fifth inning. That performance made Dickey the first pitcher since Toronto’s Dave Stieb in 1988 to pitch consecutive one-hitters.

Collins blamed the “hoopla” of pitching in the Subway Series for Dickey’s dud last Sunday, when he allowed five earned runs over six innings against the Yankees.

“I do believe when we played the Yankees there was too much going on for him,” Collins said, referring to the load of interview requests Dickey received from national media.

“I hope that right now he gets back into the routine he’s accustomed to and that’s getting ready to pitch. We try to keep these guys on track as far as their routines go, so every time you turn around they aren’t dragged away doing an interview somewhere, let them focus on their jobs.”

Murphy’s three-run homer against Blake Hawksworth in the seventh turned the game into a runaway, extending the Mets’ lead to 8-0. The blast — Murphy’s third since Wednesday — gave him five RBIs in the game, tying a career high. Tejada delivered an RBI single later in the inning, giving him four hits to tie a career high.

The Mets had seized control with three runs against Harang in the fifth to take a 5-0 lead. Murphy’s two-run double — the ball was misplayed on a bounce by right fielder Scott Van Slyke — gave the Mets their final runs of the inning.

Lucas Duda had snapped an 0-for-15 with an RBI single moments earlier. Tejada’s third hit of the game, a double with one out, began the rally before Wright was intentionally walked.

Wright’s RBI single in the third gave the Mets their first run before Ike Davis’ sacrifice fly made it 2-0. The RBI for Wright was his eighth in his last three games.

Andres Torres began the inning by reaching on Jerry Hairston Jr.’s fielding error before Tejada singled. Wright then delivered his single before Davis got his 42nd RBI of the season with his fly to left.

Kuroda strikes out 11, Granderson homers in Yankees win over ChiSox

Hiroki Kuroda tied a career high by striking out 11 and the New York Yankees backed him with three home runs, beating the White Sox 4-0 on Saturday and ending Chicago’s four-game winning streak.

A day after outfielder Dewayne Wise was perfect in his pro pitching debut during a mop-up role, he was perfect at the plate. He had three hits and homered, with Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano also connecting.

Kuroda (8-7) pitched three-hit ball for seven innings. Jake Peavy (6-5) struck out 11 in the loss.

First pics show Cruise in Iceland, days after Katie divorce shocker

He was left out in the cold — literally.

A day after Tom Cruise was dumped by wife Katie Holmes, the "Mission: Impossible" star was snapped flying over Iceland in a helicopter, en route to a movie shoot.

The 49-year-old actor wore a pair of aviator shades as he took off in a private helicopter from Reykjavik today. Cruise is in Iceland filming his new movie, "Oblivion," his rep said yesterday.

It is the first time the star has been seen in public since Holmes stunned the world by filing to end their 5 1/2-year marriage and seek sole custody of the couple's 6-year-old daughter, Suri, Thursday.

Meanwhile, a fight may be brewing over where the divorce takes place. While Holmes filed for divorce in Manhattan — the couple own a townhouse on West 12th Street — RadarOnline reports Cruise will file for divorce in California, where he is expected to have an easier time getting joint custody of Suri.

"There is absolutely no way that he is going let Katie have sole custody," a source told the celebrity-gossip website. "The lines are being drawn, and this is going shape up to be a very contentious custody battle."

Holmes, 33, allegedly filed for divorce because she didn't want her Scientologist hubby’s kooky “religion” or his pals to have any part in Suri’s upbringing or education now that she’s old enough to start school.

Cruise and Holmes were wed in a lavish ceremony at an Italian castle on Nov. 28, 2006.

This is the third marriage Cruise has seen go down in flames. His first marriage was to actress Mimi Rogers. It, too, was wrecked by his Scientology ties and ended in 1990 after three years.

Rogers, 56, told People magazine Cruise wanted to become a Scientology monk and he “thought he had to be celibate to maintain the purity of his instrument, whereas I like to play mine from time to time.”

Cruise was then married to Nicole Kidman, 45. That 11-year union ended in 2001.

Lawyer who allegedly murdered girlfriend claims her death was an 'accident'

Cops found two dramatic notes at Queens apartment where a 27-year-old woman was brutally beaten to death, in which the alleged killer repeatedly claims the crime was a drunken accident, authorities said today.

“It was an accident, it was an accident, it was an accident,” Jason Bohn, 33, allegedly wrote, according to a statement from Queens DA Richard Brown.

“I had been drinking and I was drunk when I got home. She was already asleep," the note said. "I woke up and there was fighting between us. When I woke up again she was unconscious. I am sorry.”

In the second note, he allegedly wrote, “Dani, I will love you forever.”

Police found the handwritten notes inside the Astoria apartment Bohn shared with slain Weight Watchers executive Danielle Thomas, 27, with whom he carried on a tumultuous and often violation relationship over the last year.

Bohn is to be arraigned this afternoon in Queens Criminal Court on charges he strangled and beat Thomas to death early Sunday morning.

After six days on the lam, Bohn was finally busted last night in a White Plains restaurant where he was having dinner with his mother and his lawyer. Cops said the arrest was not pre-arranged.

He faces up to 25 years in prison on charges of second-degree murder, aggravated criminal contempt, first-degree criminal contempt and tampering with physical evidence.

In the hours following the early Sunday morning murder, Bohn used Thomas’ cellphone to send her friends several text message pretending to be the dead woman hours after she was already killed, The Post reported exclusively.

He sent a a text to one of victim Danielle Thomas’s contacts early Sunday morning after her friends expressed concern over her well-being, a source said.

“Please trust me,” Bohn, 33, wrote in the text. He said that Thomas was “fine,” and even pretended that she was attending the gay-pride parade down Fifth Avenue on Sunday afternoon.

Sources said that Thomas was already dead when the messages went out and that Bohn kept her body on ice in their Astoria bathtub until cops found it on Tuesday night.

A guilt-ridden Bohn also used Thomas’s phone to confess by voice mail to an ex-girlfriend that he “got drunk” and killed Thomas by pushing her against a wall, another source said.

Weekend Bridge and Street Closures – June 30 – July 1

The Manhattan-bound roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge will be closed on Saturday from 12:01 am to 7 am and Sunday from 12:01 am to 9 am for rehabilitation of the ramps and approaches. Manhattan-bound motorists will be detoured to the Manhattan Bridge or may choose other crossings. The Brooklyn Bridge/Frankfort Street exit from the northbound FDR Drive will close at 11 pm on Friday. Motorists should use the prior South Street exit. The Brooklyn Queens Expressway eastbound exit to the Brooklyn Bridge will close at 11:30 pm on Friday. Motorists should proceed to the following Manhattan Bridge exit or use the prior Brooklyn Battery Tunnel (pay toll) exit for access to Manhattan.

The southbound FDR Drive exit onto the Civic Center/Pearl Street will be closed from 7 am Saturday to 6 am Monday. Access onto the Brooklyn Bridge is not affected. For local streets, motorists should use the prior South Street Exit 3 and follow the posted detour to Pearl Street.

On the Manhattan Bridge one lane will be maintained on the north upper roadway and on the lower roadway westbound to Manhattan from 7 am to 4:30 pm on Saturday. Eastbound traffic to Brooklyn will have two lanes open on the south upper roadway. This work is necessary to facilitate NYCDOT bridge rehabilitation work.

One lane on the eastbound (Queens-bound) upper level of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge will be closed on Saturday and Sunday from 6 am to 1 pm for the installation of new LED necklace lights.

59th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues in Manhattan will be closed Saturday and Sunday from 7 am to 4 pm to facilitate utility and trunk water main work by the Department of Design and Construction. Motorists should use 2nd Avenue southbound or 58th Street eastbound to access the lower level of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge.

During the early morning hours on Saturday the northbound Harlem River Drive exit ramp to East 125th Street will reopen. The temporary concrete barrier on the left side of the Harlem River Drive median will remain while NYCDOT completes the necessary field painting touch-up operations. The exit ramp has been closed during Willis Avenue Bridge construction activities.

Mulberry Street between Canal Street and Broome Street and Hester Street between Mott Street and Baxter Street will be closed from 5:30 pm Friday to 9 pm Sunday through September 9 for the Mulberry Street Pedestrian Mall.

The following streets will be closed on Saturday:
  • 6th Avenue between 42nd Street and 56th Street in Manhattan will be closed from 11 am to 6 pm for the USO Avenue of the Americas Summer Festival and Global Role Models Festival.
  • Pitkin Avenue between Strauss Street and Amboy Street in Brooklyn will be closed from 11 am to 5 pm for Pitkin Avenue Summer Plaza (DOT Weekend Walks).

The following streets will be closed on Sunday:
  • Lexington Avenue between 42nd Street and 57th Street in Manhattan will be closed from 11 am to 6 pm for the Vanderbilt YMCA Festival.
The times listed for closures for street fairs are for the actual times of the street fairs themselves. The streets may be closed longer to allow for set-up and breakdown. Street fair organizers are generally permitted to begin set-up at 8 am and breakdown must be completed by 7 pm.

Detailed information on weekend street closures will be available on the DOT web site at:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Closer look at the ruling upholding ObamaCare

THE RULING: The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of President Obama's health care law, including the most disputed part: the mandate that virtually all Americans have health insurance or pay a fine. The mandate was upheld under the federal government's power to levy taxes.

The ruling put some limits on the law's plan to expand the Medicaid insurance program for the poor, a joint effort of the federal government and states. It says the US government cannot threaten to withhold a state's entire Medicaid allotment if it doesn't participate in the expansion.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court's four liberal justices — Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — to form the 5-4 majority.

THE CONTEXT: The decision affects nearly every American and marks a major milepost in a century of efforts to make health care available to all. The law is President Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement and perhaps the most polarizing issue of his re-election campaign. His Republican rival Mitt Romney and GOP lawmakers have promised to repeal Obamacare.

WHAT NOW?: The 2010 health care law will continue phasing in as planned. It's expected to bring coverage to about 30 million uninsured people, so that more than 9 in 10 eligible Americans will be covered.

Some parts are already in effect: Young adults can stay on their parents' insurance up to age 26. Insurers can't deny coverage to children with health problems. Limits on how much policies will pay out to each person over a lifetime are eliminated. Hundreds of older people already are saving money through improved Medicare prescription benefits. And co-payments for preventive care for all ages have been eliminated.

WHAT'S NEXT?: Starting in 2014, almost everyone will be required to be insured or pay a fine. There are subsidies to help people who can't afford coverage. Most employers will face fines if they don't offer coverage for their workers. Newly created insurance markets will make it easier for individuals and small businesses to buy affordable coverage. And Medicaid will be expanded to cover more low-income people.

Insurers will be prohibited from denying coverage to people with medical problems or charging those people more. They won't be able to charge women more, either. During the transition to 2014, a special program for people with pre-existing health problems helps these people get coverage.

An assortment of tax increases, health industry fees and Medicare cuts will help pay for the changes.

IS THE ISSUE SETTLED NOW?: Not necessarily. Although the court found it constitutional, the health care law still could be changed by Congress. Romney and Republican congressional candidates are campaigning on promises to repeal it if elected in November.

Some parts of the law are popular, but others — especially the mandate that virtually everyone have insurance coverage — are not.

Also, an estimated 26 million people will remain without health coverage once the law is fully implemented, including illegal immigrants, people who don't sign up and elect to face the fine instead, and those who can't afford it even with the subsidies.

Christie disappointed with health care ruling

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he's disappointed the US Supreme Court has upheld key parts of President Obama's federal health insurance overhaul.

But Christie did not say whether he would move ahead with a state health-insurance exchange called for under the federal law.

Christie vetoed an exchange last month, saying he wanted to wait for the court ruling before committing money to it. At the time, the governor said he would move ahead with the state's part of the deal if the law was upheld.

But in a statement Thursday, Christie did not reiterate that.

A spokesman would not elaborate immediately.

State Sen. Nia Gill on Thursday said she would reintroduce legislation to establish the exchange.

After 17-run outburst, Mets face ice-cold Dodgers

The Mets come into a four-game series with the Dodgers, which starts Thursday at Dodger Stadium, all of a sudden on quite an offensive roll after routing the Cubs to the tune of 17-1 Wednesday.

The Dodgers? Well, not so much.

The Mets, who have slipped to third place in the National League East standings, were muddling along and had lost the first two games of the series with the Cubs until Wednesday's explosion.

The Dodgers were shut out for the third straight game by the Giants on Wednesday, losing 3-0, and fell into a tie for first place in the National League West with their Northern California rivals.

The Dodgers were swept in the Bay Area for the second time in as many weeks after losing three straight at Oakland June 19-21.

The Dodgers have lost four straight games, eight of their last 10 and 10 of their last 13 games.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is more concerned with how his team is playing than the fact that it no longer is alone in first place in the NL West.

"I'm more concerned about our club than the standings," Mattingly said Wednesday. "We just need to take care of our business and not be concerned with anybody else.

"When a team is going really good, you're not as good as people think you are. And when you're going really bad, you're not as bad as people think you are."

However they go about it, the Dodgers need to regain some of their swagger, Mattingly said.

"We've just lost a little bit of confidence and the game is based on confidence," he said.

Mets manager Terry Collins had thought, or at least hoped, he would see more days like Wednesday from his team.

"We haven't had a lot of days were we had multiple guys in the lineup come up big," Collins said. "We kind of thought going into Spring Training we would have more of those. Hopefully, it's something that continues."

Collins says his team's inconsistency of late doesn't bother him.

"If this was a team that had huge expectations, it could bother you," Collins said. "Because we weren't expected to be very good, you can let some of the stuff go, because you know you're dealing with young guys. They're learning on the job here."

Mets: Young gets the start
Right-hander Chris Young will be Thursday's starting pitcher.

Young, who will be making his fifth start, is 1-1 with a 3.42 ERA and is coming off a solid performance in his last outing when he took the loss in 4-3 defeat at the hands of the Yankees Saturday.

He pitched six innings and gave up four hits and three earned runs.

  • The Mets hit four home runs Wednesday, with second baseman Daniel Murphy hitting two of them.
  • Four players -- Murphy, David Wright, Ike Davis and Scott Hairston -- drove in all 17 of the runs the Mets scored Wednesday.
Wright drove in five runs and Murphy, Davis and Hairston each drove in four.

In addition to Murphy's blasts, Davis and Hairston also homered.

Dodgers: Steady Capuano gets the call
Left-hander Chris Capuano, who has been the Dodgers' most effective starter of late, will be Young's mound opponent. Capuano is 9-2 with a 2.60 ERA in 15 starts.

Capuano pitched seven innings and gave up seven hits and one run in beating the Angels, 3-1, in his last start Saturday.

Worth noting
The Dodgers have not scored a run in 30 innings and things got more difficult Wednesday when Andre Ethier was removed from the game after the top of the first inning.

Eithier had walked and came up sore with a left oblique injury after being erased on an inning-ending double-play grounder by Juan Rivera.

It's unclear whether Eithier will be available for the Mets series.

Riding win streak, Yanks welcome White Sox to Bronx

Just when the streaking Yankees had their rotation in perfect working order, Wednesday's news threw a wrench into their plans.

The Bombers will enter Thursday night's series opener against the White Sox on a five-game winning streak, having won 15 of their past 18 and 25 of their past 32. They've won 11 of 15 at home, own the best record in the Majors and have swept four of their last six series.

But with CC Sabathia on the 15-day disabled list until after the All-Star break and Andy Pettitte out for at least six weeks, the rest of the Yankees will have to step up. That begins Thursday with right-hander Ivan Nova, who will square off with White Sox righty Dylan Axelrod, making his third start of the season.

"Obviously, tough day for us with two big lefties going down. But nobody's going to feel sorry for us," Alex Rodriguez said. "Everybody's got to carry their own weight around here and play good baseball. That's it.

"It's a good test. We've been tested a little bit more than we'd like to be tested around here. [Mariano Rivera] went down, and guys have stepped up. [Brett] Gardner went down, other guys stepped up. We'll have to do the same. It's a long season. When you come out of Spring Training and break camp, you don't expect to have 25 guys healthy the whole year. Today is another challenge, and I think we'll do fine."

Axelrod, meanwhile, is coming off an outing in which he allowed four runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings. He was tagged with a no-decision against Milwaukee on Saturday, but Chicago went on to win, 8-6.

The 26-year-old said he learned during that outing that he'll have to mix his pitches better, especially against a tough lineup like New York's. He is, however, excited to pitch under the lights at Yankee Stadium for the first time.

"I'm not building it up. It's just more of a gratifying thing to be able to pitch in that stadium. It doesn't get much better than that," Axelrod said. "It's just excitement. It's one of the biggest stages you can be on. ... But between the lines, it's the same dimensions, same field. So I'm not nervous in any way. I'm just really excited to have the opportunity to pitch there."

White Sox: Youkilis facing Yanks with new Sox
Kevin Youkilis has played the Yankees plenty of times in his career, but he'll be doing so Thursday for the first time in his new uniform.

The longtime Red Sox third baseman is entering on a hot streak, too, as his 3-for-4 performance Wednesday extended his hitting streak to seven games. He's batting .423 with three doubles in that span, and he's 5-for-12 since joining the White Sox.

"I'll take all the yelling at and screaming at for the whole team for four days," Youkilis said with a grin. "They'll probably hound me and get on me pretty good. I know they definitely don't hate me as much as they used to, once I changed teams. But it'll be fun."
  • Adam Dunn snapped an 0-for-24 skid in the fifth inning Wednesday with a home run, the 389th of his career, tying Johnny Bench for 56th on baseball's all-time home run leaderboard.

Yankees: Warren, Igarashi called up
Right-hander Adam Warren will make his Major League debut Friday in place of Sabathia. Warren is 5-5 with a 3.86 ERA at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Ryota Igarashi, who allowed five runs on six hits and four walks in two innings over three games this season, will also join the Yankees.

Freddy Garcia, who won Wednesday's game with 2 1/3 perfect innings, will start Monday in place of Pettitte.
  • Robinson Cano has homered in seven of his last 10 games and has 14 homers in his last 32 contests. In June, he's batting .345, with 10 home runs and 18 RBIs.
  • Closer Rafael Soriano is 17-for-18 in save chances this season, picking up a save Wednesday when he stranded the bases loaded in the ninth inning.

Worth noting
  • After roughing up the Twins, 12-5, at Target Field on Wednesday, the White Sox are 21-14 on the road.
  • The Yankees are the only team that has not lost more than three straight games this year.

NY health plans continue; US court OK'd Obama law

State health officials are moving forward with plans to establish an insurance exchange intended to help extend coverage to some 2.7 million New Yorkers without it.

In April, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order to establish the statewide exchange, where individuals and small businesses could tap up to $2.6 billion in federal tax credits and subsidies under President Obama's national health care overhaul.

Under Cuomo's order, issued after legislation to establish the exchange stalled in the Republican-controlled state Senate, health officials are planning to show by January that the state is ready to participate in the program.

Health Department spokesman Peter Constantakes says the goal is to have the exchange operating on Jan. 1, 2014.

Nats look to take third straight from Rox in finale

Offensive outbursts have helped the Nationals rebound from a recent lull that saw the club drop seven of 10 games. On Thursday, Washington will attempt to sustain the offense that led the club to consecutive double-digit performances and seek its first three-game winning streak since June 11-13.

"Our offense has been inconsistent all year, people injured and in and out," Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "We haven't done a good job of picking up runners. To get back-to-back nights like this and build some momentum going into the second half of the season."

"It's an opportunity to win another series," added Nats shortstop Ian Desmond.

However, while the Nationals' offense has left little doubt entering the series finale, scoring 23 runs over the past two games, Edwin Jackson has certainly left questions about his effectiveness at Coors Field.

The Mile High City has not been kind to the right-hander, who has been roughed up for 21 earned runs over three career starts (12 innings). Jackson has allowed 32 base runners in those 12 innings, while the opposition has hit .429 off him.

Despite his shaky history at Coors Field, Jackson is riding a hot streak. After going just 1-3 through his first 10 starts, the right-hander has rebounded to win three of his last four starts. During that stretch, Jackson has gone at least six innings in each start and allowed no more than two earned runs (2.30 ERA).

Squaring off against Jackson will be Josh Outman, who has endured his own struggles this season. Outman, who remains in search of his first victory of 2012, will make his sixth start of the season since moving into the rotation on June 1.

Stretching out the left-hander remains a goal for manager Jim Tracy. The Rockies skipper extended the previously mandated 75-pitch limit for Outman in his last start -- a guideline that was put in place for all starters when the club went from to a four-man rotation.

Instead, the southpaw reached 92 pitches in the outing. Outman has pitched five innings or fewer and has allowed at least four earned runs in each of his last four starts and has an 8.40 ERA as a starter.

Nationals: Harper won't be homering at the Derby
Matt Kemp, the National League captain for the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby, said on Wednesday that he will not choose rookie outfielder Bryce Harper to join in the competition.

Kemp told USA Today, "It's not because he's a rookie. It's just that there are other guys out there that are capable. He's going to have plenty of time to participate in many Home Run Derbies. Just not this year. Nothing against him. I love watching him play."
  • Ian Desmond is wrapping up another impressive month. The Nationals shortstop is hitting .296 (27-for-91) in June, with four home runs and 16 RBIs. Desmond's 12 home runs have already surpassed the eight he hit last season, and he is well on his way to exceeding the 27 doubles and 49 RBIs he tallied in 154 games in 2011. Desmond has 39 RBIs and 21 doubles entering Thursday.

Rockies: Rookie holding down the hot corner
Rookie third baseman Jordan Pacheco has yet to hit a speed bump during his transition to the full-time job at third base.

Pacheco notched his third three-hit game of the season on Tuesday and had another multi-hit game on Wednesday. He is now hitting .306 (53-for-173) on the season, which ranks first among all National League rookies.

Additionally, Pacheco's 48 hits since May 15 ranks second among all rookies behind the Angels' Mike Trout's 60.

Worth noting
  • The Nationals boast a 33-17 (.660) road record since Sept. 12, 2011, which is the best road mark in baseball during that span.
  • The Rockies are just 7-18 in day games this season.

Exclusive: 'Frisk' kid freed by court shot a man months after release: DA

From the New York Post

This is justice?

The teen thug who beat a gun rap because an appeals court said he was unfairly stopped and frisked had no trouble getting another gun three months later - and he used it to allegedly pump two bullets into a young dad he was trying to kill, The New York Post has learned.

The court's sympathy toward Darryl Craig, 14 — who was just starting his criminal career with his first gun arrest — infuriated NYPD cops, who rely on stop-and-frisk as a key tool for keeping illegal guns off the street.

“The ability of a police officer to stop, question and frisk an individual is a highly effective tactic when left to the discretion of a police officer,” said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.

Craig, 14, had the original gun-possession conviction overturned, even though he had been stopped in a high-crime area in the wake of two gang shootings and the cops had employed textbook NYPD procedure.

Craig’s run-in with cops came in February 2010, when Bronx Police Officer Orlando Colon stopped him on the street after seeing him put a black object in his pocket.

Colon found a handgun during a pat-down, and Craig was arrested for weapons possession and sentenced to 18 months’ probation — a conviction the appeals court threw out Tuesday after deciding that the cop had no legal grounds for the search.

Craig moved into his dad’s Queens home while serving probation — and it didn’t take long for him to get in more gun trouble.

On May 15, 2010, Craig and a pal confronted a gang rival outside a nearby Rosedale home, sources said.

The friend handed Craig a loaded pistol and he immediately opened fire on the victim, Calvin Williams, 26.

After taking a shot to the wrist, Williams tried to run, but Craig fired again, putting him on the ground with a shot to the leg, the sources said.

Craig then walked up to Williams for the kill shot, but was scared off when the man’s kids began screaming and his brother came to the door.

Craig was arrested three days later and charged with attempted murder.

The Queens DA’s Office lost its bid to try Craig as an adult — and the case was sealed.

“We did have a case with him out here, but he was granted youthful-offender status over our objections,” a DA spokesman said.

The city Law Department plans to appeal the ruling in The Bronx stop-and-frisk case.

Phillies hope to stop red-hot Burnett in finale

A day after James McDonald and the offense halted Pittsburgh's losing skid at three, Thursday's starter A.J. Burnett will do whatever he can to help the team gather some momentum and put together a little winning streak.

Burnett has been nothing but money for the Pirates this season, both with his performance on the mound and his presence in the locker room. The veteran righty has won each of his last seven starts, becoming the first Bucs hurler to do so since Dock Ellis in 1974. Another win in Philadelphia on Thursday, and Burnett will have tied the run Ellis enjoyed nearly 40 years ago.

"As long as we win, it's all good," Burnett said after beating Detroit at home last week. "No, I don't feel young. This doesn't do it. I do feel like I can make a pitch when I need to with [catcher Rod Barajas] back there. It's been nothing but a blast to work with him again."

Barajas won't be behind the plate for Burnett on Thursday. The catcher suffered a bone bruise on his left knee Monday, making room for Michael McKenry, who has starred in the batter's box during this week's series in Philadelphia.

Through three games, Pittsburgh's backup catcher is 7-for-11 with two home runs and six RBIs. He has never faced Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick.

Kendrick will toe the rubber Thursday looking to improve upon his most recent four starts, in which he's gone 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA. Although the Phillies won his last start, the righty hasn't added a tally to his personal win column since June 1.

Kendrick's finest performance this year came last month in St. Louis, when he threw a complete-game shutout, allowing seven hits and striking out four.

"We had a good game plan," Kendrick said after the win. "We mixed it up, kept them off balance a lot with first-pitch changeups, sinkers down. I knew they would be aggressive, so I tried to force some early contact and get some quick outs."

Pirates: Big games coming more frequently for Bucs
The Pirates scored 11 runs Wednesday evening as they snapped a losing streak and took the third game of a four-game set in Philadelphia. The output was their most in a game this season and it marked the eighth time in 2012 that they scored eight runs or more. Six of those games have come in the month of June.

Through 74 games, Pittsburgh has scored 267 runs, making for an average of 3.61 per game.

Phillies: Utley comes back, but won't play every day
Fan-favorite Chase Utley played his first game of 2012 on Wednesday, going 3-for-5 with a homer. Fans shouldn't look for the second baseman on Thursday, though, as the team has decided to give its star infielder a rest every third day as the All-Star Break approaches. Utley had been out all year with bilateral chondromalacia, a chronic issue with his left knee.

Worth noting
  • The Pirates are two games behind Cincinnati in the NL Central race, while the Phillies are nine games back of Washington in the NL East.
  • The season series between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia is tied at 3-3. Thursday's matchup will be the last time the two teams face each other, unless both sides of Pennsylvania experience playoff baseball, something that has never happened in the same year.

Justice Roberts joins majority as Supreme Court upholds key portion of health law

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court upheld ObamaCare today as constitutional in a landmark ruling that lets stand the law’s controversial provision requiring people get health insurance or pay a penalty.

A five-vote majority on the court ruled that the law’s “individual mandate” was allowable under the taxing power that the Constitution grants to Congress.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four most liberal justices in the ruling.

“The Affordable Care Act's requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax,” Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.

The Supreme Court upheld a key part of Obama's health care law.“Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness," he continued.

The law itself doesn’t call the mandate a “tax” — but rather a penalty.

Also kept in place are the law’s sweeping provisions that prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions, setting up new health exchanges, and letting young people get covered on their parents' plans.

President Obama plans to address the nation from the White House later today on the ruling, which upholds the centerpiece of his political agenda just months before he faces the voters.

The four liberals argued in their own separate opinion that the mandate was more broadly allowable under the Constitution's Commerce Clause, but what sustains the mandate is the five-vote majority upholding it as a taxing power.

Supporters of the law were concerned that if the mandate got struck down, the entire law could fall apart because of its interlocking provisions like those requiring insurance companies to cover people with preexisting conditions.

Besides the mandate, the court ruled on ObamaCare’s major expansion of Medicare — putting millions of uninsured Americans on the rolls by offering states added resources and requirements — but yanking funding if states don’t accept the laws new regulations and structures.

"Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the ACA to expand the availability of health care, and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use,” Roberts wrote.

“What Congress is not free to do is to penalize states that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding,” the court ruled.

Four justices, including swing vote Anthony Kennedy, penned a fiery dissent saying the ruling would extend federal power “to virtually anything.” Also opposing the ruling were Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito.

"In our view, the entire act before us is invalid in its entirety,” Kennedy wrote.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Taking flight: Six-run first helps Sox pound Jays

BOSTON -- The Red Sox didn't need any late-inning heroics on Wednesday afternoon.

After waiting six innings to score their first run on Tuesday night, the Red Sox had a six-run first inning and beat the Blue Jays, 10-4, on a pleasant afternoon at Fenway Park. Boston won its fifth straight series and wrapped up a nine-game homestand at 7-2 that began with a three-game sweep of Miami.

"It was a good homestand for us. We got off on the right foot against the Marlins and just kept going," said outfielder Cody Ross. "Scoring runs, pitching well, playing good defense -- it's nice to play like that at home."

The Red Sox improved to 9-2 in their last 11 games and scored at least 10 runs for the 12th time this season, the most in the Majors. They will begin a seven-game road trip on Thursday in Seattle.

Since blowing a 9-0 lead vs. the Yankees on April 21 that prompted manager Bobby Valentine to say the club hit rock bottom, the Red Sox are 36-25 and trail only the Bombers for the most wins in that span. Valentine said things could only improve after that collapse, and he's been correct so far.

"I believed it. I wasn't sure of it, but I believed it," Valentine said. "Things were going so wrong and we couldn't catch a break that we had to have a season full of bad things happen. I think things turned around because the guys believed it too and they played hard every night that they came out."

Said second baseman Dustin Pedroia: "We've been playing a ton better since that game. That was definitely a low point in the season, but we've bounced back from that and played good ball."

That painful loss seems long gone. With Wednesday's victory, the Red Sox have now climbed out of last place in the American League East and are tied the Rays for third place at 40-35.

Boston jumped all over Toronto starter Ricky Romero in the first, scoring four runs before the left-
hander recorded an out. This was in response to the Jays scoring in the first inning for the third time in the three-game series.

Staked to a 6-1 lead, Jon Lester won his second game in five starts this month. The lefty scattered seven hits over seven innings, allowing four runs. He threw 100 pitches (64 strikes) and improved to 5-1 vs. the Blue Jays at Fenway Park in his career. Lester struck out four, his fewest since a four-inning outing on May 25, but he walked none.

The Red Sox hadn't scored more than four runs in any of Lester's last five starts, but they gave him plenty of support from the start.

"It takes some pressure off, especially after they come out in the first and put one on the board," Lester said. "It's big to have our offense go out there and do that. You can't ask for more from those guys."

David Ortiz launched a solo home run in the fifth. It was his 21st homer this season and No. 399 in his
career, moving past Dale Murphy and into a tie with Andres Galarraga and Al Kaline for 49th on the all-time list. Still, the slugger says No. 400 isn't weighing on his mind.

"Right now, that's something I don't really think about," said Ortiz, who went deep five times on the
homestand. "I know at some point, when I'm not playing, you start realizing how good a career you probably had. Right now, my focus is just on contributions for this ballclub, trying to win some games and put ourselves in a better situation."

Romero was pulled after he allowed nine runs on seven hits in three-plus innings. He lost just his second game and had his shortest outing of the season. In his last start vs. the Sox, Romero threw 8 1/3 innings of one-run ball on April 11 in Toronto. He never found a groove on Wednesday, though, and walked six.

"Bad day," Romero said. "Didn't locate, didn't throw strikes. Can't give free passes to a team like that. Can't give free passes to anyone. Just a bad day. Just disappointed I wasn't able to come through for the team. We had a chance to take the series."

The Red Sox put up some gaudy offensive numbers while moving a season-high five games over .500.
Adrian Gonzalez drove in three runs and had two hits. Ortiz walked three times and tied a career-high with four runs. Ross went 2-for-3 and scored twice. Mike Aviles had two hits and two RBIs.

Gonzalez extended his hitting streak to eight games with an RBI single in the second inning. During the streak he's 12-for-33 (.364) with two doubles, one home run and seven RBIs.

"He's as aggressive as he was before, but he's been a little more selective and he's hitting the ball hard now," Valentine said.

Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista crushed a solo home run over the Green Monster to lead off the fourth inning. It was the slugger's second homer in the series and the 25th this year, tops in the Major Leagues.

Darnell McDonald robbed Toronto second baseman Kelly Johnson of a home run with a leaping grab at the right field fence in the ninth inning.

"I was visualizing like a Hail Mary pass back in the way where you have to go up and try to go get it," McDonald said. "It just landed in my glove."

Romero's wild outing grounds Blue Jays

BOSTON -- Ricky Romero's season hit a new low on Wednesday as he surrendered eight earned runs in the Blue Jays' 10-4 loss to the Red Sox in a matinee affair at Fenway Park.

Romero's struggles began almost immediately after the first pitch of the game. The southpaw allowed the first four batters he faced to reach base as he battled an inconsistent command of the strike zone.

With one run already in, Adrian Gonzalez followed with a sharply hit ground ball that went under the glove of Edwin Encarnacion at first base. Instead of a potential double play, two runs came around to score and Romero's living nightmare had officially begun.

Boston's Mike Aviles followed with a two-run single past the outstretched glove of Brett Lawrie at third base. When the inning finally came to an end, Romero had surrendered six runs on two walks and four hits as the Red Sox sent 10 batters to plate.

Romero then attempted to eat up some innings to save Toronto's overworked bullpen, but that also didn't work out as planned. The Blue Jays' ace allowed an RBI single to Gonzalez in the second and then allowed the first two batters he faced in the fourth to reach base.

When it was all said and done, Romero allowed nine runs -- eight earned -- on nine hits and six walks while striking out just one batter in three-plus innings of work. The eight runs matches a career high, which dates back to July 3, 2010, against the Yankees, while the six walks are just one off his career mark.

The disappointing outing also saw his season ERA rise from 4.34 to 4.94. Romero has now surrendered at least four runs in each of his past seven outings while his career ERA against Boston
rose to 7.12 in 15 games.

The lone bright spot for the Blue Jays came on a pair on monster home runs by Jose Bautista and Encarnacion. Bautista's came on a 3-1 pitch from left-hander Jon Lester to lead off the fourth inning.

His 25th of the season cleared the seats on top of the Green Monster and dented the top of an SUV in a parking lot across Lansdowne Street.

Encarnacion followed with a two-run shot in the sixth inning. His shot also cleared the seats on top of the Green Monster in left-center field for No. 22 on the season. Bautista and Encarnacion have now combined to hit 47 homers this season, which is the most by any duo in the Major Leagues.

Toronto finished its three-city, nine-game road trip with a 4-5 mark and failed to pick up a series victory over Boston after winning the first of the three-game set on Monday night.

Yankees' Pettitte out 6 weeks with broken fibula; Sabathia on DL, too

The Yankees rotation took a big hit on Wednesday with Andy Petitte set to miss at least six weeks after breaking his fibula in his start against the Indians, and CC Sabathia going on the disabled list with a strained left abductor.

Hours after manager Joe Girardi announced that Sabathia went on the 15-day DL , Pettitte took a Casey Kotchman one-hopper off his left leg to lead off the fifth inning. The ball hit Pettitte squarely, sending the lefty to the ground.

He threw three warmup pitches with Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue looking on and stayed in the game. But he came up hobbling on his first pitch to the next batter, Lou Marson and Girardi promptly removed him with the Yankees holding a 2-1 lead. Pettitte was replaced by Cody Eppley.

“No one’s going to feel sorry for us,” Girardi said.

Pettitte, who will be put on a boot, now figures to be out until at least mid-August. The injuries could force the Yankees to be active in the starting pitching trade market. The Cubs’ Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster are available (though Dempster is on the DL at the moment), while the Phillies’ Cole Hamels and the Brewers’ Zack Greinke may hit the market as well. The trade deadline is July 31.

For now, Freddy Garcia will take Pettitte's spot in the rotation after throwing 2 1/3 scoreless innings in the Yankees' 5-4 win today. Adam Warren will be called up from the minors to start for Sabathia on Friday.

Girardi said the Yankees ace “felt a little tug” during the fourth inning of Sunday night’s start against the Mets at Citi Field. Sabathia did not tell anyone and continued pitching. But the lefty then had a bullpen session Tuesday.

“After the Tuesday session, he knew that it was something more than maybe just a twinge,” Girardi said.

Sabathia alerted the team, and GM Brian Cashman said the pitcher had an MRI exam Tuesday night. The strain is Grade-1, so it’s the least severe.

“We feel that after the All-Star break he’ll be back,” Girardi said.

That’s the lone fortunate part: Sabathia’s injury is not overly serious and that he’ll only miss two starts. Still, Cashman admitted that when Sabathia does come back after the break, he might not be ready to simply start the Yankees’ first game of the second half. Instead, Cashman said Sabathia might have to wait a few games before he’s ready.

“He’s a competitor. He wants to be out there,” Cashman said. “If this were the September stretch run, it would be a different story. But we don’t want to mess with it.”

The news will also remove Sabathia from All-Star consideration. He’s 9-3 with a 3.45 ERA this year, again having a strong season. Sabathia has been brilliant since the Yankees signed him after the 2008 campaign, posting averages of 20 wins and a 3.18 ERA in his first three years in The Bronx.

“There’s no doubt that we’re gonna miss him,” Girardi said, “but we have a pretty experienced club.”

Butler's homer lifts Royals to sweep of Rays

KANSAS CITY -- The next players on the field at Kauffman Stadium will be All-Stars but the Royals must have had some of that all-star feeling on Wednesday -- especially Billy Butler.

Butler's eighth-inning home run snapped a tie to give the Royals a 5-4 victory and a three-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-2, with 19,228 fans braving the 101-degree temperature. Then they headed off an 11-game trip to clear the way for Major League Baseball to prepare the stadium for the July 10 All-Star Game.

Right-hander Burke Badenhop had just relieved Rays starter Matt Moore with one out in the eighth when Butler caught hold of a 2-1 pitch and drove it over the left-field wall, his 15th homer. The Rays had just gained a 4-4 tie in the top of the inning.

It was the Royals' third series sweep this season and their first over the Rays since 2001. They also swept a two-game series at Texas and won all three from Milwaukee in Kansas City.

Everett Teaford, called up from Omaha to make this start, watched as Mike Moustakas gave him a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Moustakas pounded the first pitch he saw from left-hander Moore into the right-field Party Porch for his 13th home run.

Alcides Escobar got into the home run spirit in the third inning, clearing the left-field fence as he led off against Moore. It was Escobar's second of the season.

The lead was bumped to 4-0 in the fifth inning when newly-arrived Jason Bourgeois walked, Escobar doubled to left and both scored as Yuniesky Betancourt bounced a single over the third baseman.

When Teaford walked B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena singled to open the Rays' sixth, he'd reached the 89-pitch mark and manager Ned Yost decided it was time for a change. He replaced the left-hander with right-hander Kelvin Herrera but righty hitter Jeff Keppinger foiled the strategy with an RBI single to right. Brooks Conrad rapped into a double play but Ben Zobrist drove in a second run with a single.

Both runs were charged to Teaford.

The inning ended when catcher Salvador Perez threw out Zobrist trying to steal second base, the first runner he's nailed since his return last weekend.

First base umpire Brian Gorman was struck in the face when a ball glanced off Eric Hosmer's glove in the eighth inning. Blood was wiped off the area around his nose and, after a short delay, Gorman remained at his post.

But Hosmer's error led to two runs that enabled the Rays to gain a 4-4 tie. Reliever Tim Collins walked Keppinger and gave up a two-run triple to right field by Zobrist.

Right-hander Aaron Crow took over and pinch-hitter Will Rhymes hit a roller to Escobar, pulled in at shortstop. He threw out the sliding Zobrist at the plate but there was a scare for the Royals when Perez had a concern about his left knee after the play. That's the knee that was surgically repaired in March. However, after being checked by a trainer and Yost, Perez stayed in the game.

Moore, Rays can't solve Royals in series finale

KANSAS CITY -- Despite rallying back to tie the game in the eighth, the Rays couldn't avoid a sweep at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday, falling 5-4 to the Royals.

The Rays had just plated a pair on a Ben Zobrist triple to knot the score at 4, but Rays reliever Burke Badenhop gave up a solo home run to Billy Butler in the bottom of the inning. It was the first time that Tampa Bay was swept by Kansas City since 2001.

Trailing, 4-2, heading to the eighth, the Rays struck against Royals reliever Tim Collins. Carlos Pena reached on an error and Jeff Keppinger walked. Two batters later, Zobrist smashed a triple into the right-field corner, scoring both runners.

Rays starter Matt Moore predicted a pitcher-friendly game with temperatures above 100 degrees, but unfortunately for him, the game was friendlier to Royals starter Everett Teaford, who was called up from Triple-A to make the start. Teaford held the Rays to two runs on four hits in five innings.

The Royals scored early off Moore, smashing a pair of solo home runs. Mike Moustakas launched the first pitch he saw from Moore in the first inning 409 feet to give the Royals a 1-0 lead, and Alcides Escobar made it a two-run deficit with a blast in the third.

Kansas City struck again in the bottom of the fifth, picking up two more runs on a Yuniesky Betancourt single.

The Rays eventually got on the board in the top of the sixth. B.J. Upton walked to lead things off, and Carlos Pena singled through the shift to chase Teaford from the game. Reliever Kelvin Herrera allowed the next batter, Keppinger, to single to center field, bringing home Upton to make it 4-1.

After Brooks Conrad bounced into a double play, Zobrist singled up the middle to bring home Pena and make it a 4-2 deficit.

Moore allowed four runs in a start for the fifth time this season. The lefty went 7 1/3 innings and surrendered four runs on 10 hits and two walks. Badenhop took the loss.

Manhattan philanthropist behind alleged madam's $250K bond post

Anna Gristina is the latest charity case of a well-respected Manhattan philanthropist.

Do-gooder Bonnie Lunt is the mystery hero who put up $250,000 collateral to spring the accused hockey mom madam from Rikers last night, court records show.

The 65-year-old Lunt -- a top New York headhunter who has been dubbed the “Jerry Maguire of the communications industry”-- posted her own Upper East Side home to help Gristina make bail, according to bail documents.

Lunt’s East 76th street pad is just around the corner from the tiny East 78th Street apartment prosecutors claim Gristina used as headquarters for an alleged multi-million dollar prostitution operation.

On bail documents, Lunt listed herself as a “family friend.” Sources told The New York Post that the kind-hearted Lunt is a friend of Gristina’s sister.

Gristina’s lawyer, Norm Pattis, declined comment on the family relationship, but said, “We are extremely grateful for Bonnie Lunt’s generosity. It restores my faith in people.”

The generous offer by Lunt came through at the 11th hour, after a hoped-for bail package with one of Gristina’s in-laws failed to materialize.

Pattis said celebrity bail bondsman Ira Judelson jumped through hoops to make Lunt’s package acceptable to prosecutors.

“None of this would have been possible without Mr. Judelson’s creativity,” Pattis said.

Lunt, whose eponymous recruiting agency places women in high-profile professional jobs, is known for her charity work. Her organization, People Helping People, supports an Ecuadorian village with medical care and education. She founded the group in the wake of Hurricane Andrew in 1993, getting her well-heeled advertising pals to donate millions for relief efforts.

Thanks to Lunt, Gristina -- who is charged with a single count of promoting prostitution - walked out of jail and into the arms of her family last night.

“Thank you, everybody,” Gristina told reporters as she walked out of Manhattan Criminal Court shortly after 9 p.m., pony- tailed and blinking in the camera lights, her arm locked tight around her youngest kid, 9-year-old Nick.

The boy presented his mom with a bouquet of red roses; bail bondsman Judelson presented her with a court-mandated ankle-bracelet monitor that will let her travel in the tristate area.

“I just can’t believe I’m home,” she exclaimed later, after entering her upstate house. “I keep thinking I’m going to wake up tomorrow and I’ll be in Rikers.”

Gristina had been at Rikers Island since prosecutors pulled her screaming off a Midtown street in February, unable to make her initial bail of $2 million and struggling to post a bond even when appellate judges lowered it two weeks ago to a $250,000.

“She kept saying, ‘Is it really true? Is it really true?’ " Pattis told The New York Post of the moment she learned she was finally making bond. “Moments like that are why you go to law school.”

Pattis and Gristina faced the microphones briefly before the family drove off to their 200-acre pig-rescue farm in upstate Monroe.

“The nightmare of her bond ends today, and trial preparation begins tomorrow morning,” Pattis said.
Judelson — who has posted bonds for Lil Wayne and Dominique Strauss-Kahn — said Gristina’s bracelet will allow her to visit her lawyer in Connecticut and court in lower Manhattan.

“I don’t want her going to Queens, near any of the airports, but I feel she’s not a flight risk,” Judelson said. “She wants to be home with her 9-year-old.”

Gristina had been scrambling to put together a bail package since June 18, ever since booting her “family lawyer,” Peter Gleason, because she felt the $250,000 collateral he personally was offering to provide came with too many strings attached. They included his insistence on guiding her media and legal decisions, multiple sources have told The New York Post.

Gristina, who’s charged with promoting prostitution, almost posted bail later last week, but a package secured by collateral provided by some of her in-laws fell through.

Prosecutors say Gristina’s Manhattan-based, $2,000-an-hour call-girl ring made $15 million over the last decade — and operated with the guidance and protection of powerful johns and unspecified members of law enforcement.

They’ve flipped her alleged money launderer and two of her alleged call girls to bolster their five-year investigation, which has yet to haul a single john or lawman to court.

Gristina counters that she ran a dating service for married men — and that prosecutors have promised to go easy if she rats on her well-placed collaborators or clients, which she has refused to do.

Samardzija, 'pen hit hard in loss to Mets

CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo couldn't save the Cubs on Wednesday.

David Wright drove in five runs, Scott Hairston hit a grand slam, Daniel Murphy hit two home runs and Ike Davis added a three-run shot to power the Mets to a 17-1 victory over Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs.

Samardzija (5-7) gave up nine runs on six hits and four walks over 4 1/3 innings, and now has not won since May 29. In his last five starts, he's been charged with 27 earned runs over 23 1/3 innings.

Wright hit a sacrifice fly in the first, and Luis Valbuena tied the game with an RBI double in the second, driving in Darwin Barney, who had singled.

With one out in the New York fourth, Samardzija walked Lucas Duda and he scored on Davis' double.

Murphy then belted his first homer in 352 at-bats to open a 4-1 lead. They were just getting warmed up.

Samardzija walked pitcher Jonathon Niese to open the fifth, and one out later Ruben Tejada doubled, then scored, along with Niese, on Wright's double. Duda walked and Davis smacked his home run to chase Samardzija.

Before the game, Cubs manager Dale Sveum threw batting practice to his son, Rustin. He saw how the wind favored the hitters at Wrigley Field. He hoped Samardzija saw it as well.

"He's just got to throw strikes and keep the ball down, and today, he better keep it down," Sveum said.

The Mets took advantage, sending 10 men to the plate in the sixth against Casey Coleman, and added six more runs, including Hairston's grand slam. It was more than enough for Niese (6-3), who struck out six over seven innings and picked up the win. The Cubs are now 4-17 against left-handed starting pitchers.

The 17 runs were the most by an opponent against the Cubs this season, topping the 11 scored by the Twins on June 9.

Rizzo, promoted Tuesday from Triple-A Iowa amid much hype, went 1-for-4, hitting a double off the ivy-covered wall in right center field with two outs in the third.

Murphy snaps homerless skid with two in Mets' rout

CHICAGO -- Scoring 17 runs is an easy way to halt a losing streak before it reaches a season-high five games.

The Mets' offense awoke in a frenzy Wednesday to prevent a sweep by the Cubs, scoring a combined 15 runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings in a 17-1 thrashing.

Daniel Murphy launched his first long ball since July 16, 2011, and recorded his first multi-home run game, Scott Hairston blasted a grand slam, Ike Davis added a three-run home run and David Wright knocked in four runs on two hits in that three-inning span, in which the Mets recorded 25 plate appearances.

The Mets, who totaled four runs through the first two games of the series, left just two batters on base through six innings Wednesday. They left 12 runners on base in Tuesday's 5-3 defeat.

Murphy and Davis combined for five extra-base hits in their first three at-bats, while Wright totaled five RBIs in his first four at-bats.

Six Mets runs crossed the plate in the fifth and sixth innings. Right fielder Lucas Duda walked in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, scoring on each occasion. After a baserunning blunder Tuesday, Duda again held up after a Davis double in the fourth inning, but had enough time to score the first of three runs in the frame.

Starter Jonathon Niese went seven innings after being handed a 15-run cushion. He entered Wednesday 3-0 with a 1.99 ERA in seven day-game starts this season.

Niese put two runners on base in the first, second and third innings, but held the Cubs to one run in that span on an RBI double by third baseman Luis Valbuena and helped move the Mets to 19-10 in day games this season.

The Mets hadn't scored more than 11 runs in a game this season and hadn't scored more than six runs since a 9-6 win on June 14.

Bernie Madoff's brother to plead guilty in connection with massive Ponzi scheme

The brother of Ponzi scheme king Bernard Madoff is scheduled to plead guilty in New York in the criminal case resulting from the multibillion-dollar fraud, court papers say.

Peter Madoff is the former chief compliance officer at the private investment arm of Bernard Madoff's business.

Court papers signed by a federal judge in Manhattan on Wednesday show Peter Madoff will plead guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and other offenses including falsifying records.

Madoff also agreed to the criminal forfeiture of $143 billion, including all of his real and personal property.

Madoff agrees to serve 10 years in prison. His attorney didn't immediately return an email seeking comment Wednesday.

Bernard Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence in Butner, N.C., after revealing in December 2008 that he cheated thousands of investors of roughly $20 billion for years, using money from new investors to pay returns to existing clients.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

With or without support, Masterson finding top form

When Justin Masterson starts, he knows he has to be on top of his game. The Indians righty often faces an opponent's ace and says he has gotten used to receiving just 4.90 runs of support per start.

Masterson pitched well enough in his last start, against the Reds, that run support hardly mattered, and he'll try to continue his recent success when he faces the Yankees in the second act of a three-game set on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. New York took the first game of the series, 7-1.

Masterson, who has won consecutive decisions for the first time this season, didn't allow an earned run in his complete-game victory on Wednesday. The sinkerballer gave up only three hits, struck out nine and walked none in his best performance of the season. He even got strong run support in the Indians' 8-1 win.

"It's nice," Masterson said after the game. "I think it's nice for them, too. I think they just feel good because I think sometimes they wear themselves out when they're not scoring as many runs for me, or anybody."

Masterson is just 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA, but he's improved of late. The righty is 2-2 with a 1.24 ERA in his last four starts and hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 20 1/3 innings.

Masterson isn't alone; the Indians have scored only five runs in their last four games, and they've lost three in a row.

The Yankees will counter with righty Phil Hughes who was in a groove before his last start, against the Braves. After winning four consecutive decisions, Hughes gave up six runs -- including four homers -- over 4 1/3 innings in defeat.

Hughes struggled to locate his fastball and paid dearly.

"I'm a fly-ball pitcher," Hughes said after the game. "I don't get ground balls very often, and if I don't have my best fastball, they're not popups or swing-throughs, they're hit hard in the air. Especially here [at Yankee Stadium], that's not a good combination."

Hughes is 7-6 with a 4.94 ERA on the season, but like the rest of the Yankees' starters, he has fared better in June, going 3-1 with a 3.51 ERA in four starts.

Indians: Gomez optioned
The Indians optioned righty Jeanmar Gomez to Triple-A Columbus prior to Monday's game, and to fill his roster spot, Cleveland recalled lefty reliever Scott Barnes from Columbus, expanding the bullpen to eight arms.

Cleveland is expected to make another move and recall righty Zach McAllister for Thursday's start at Baltimore. McAllister last started for the Indians on May 23, and he is 1-1 with a 3.96 ERA in four starts this season.

"This is not a one-and-done type of thing," manager Manny Acta said. "When Zach came up earlier, he threw the ball well for us."
  • Acta said on Monday that designated hitter Travis Hafner could make a Minor League rehab assignment within the "next couple of days." Hafner, who is on the disabled list after undergoing arthroscopic right knee surgery, hasn't played since May 23.

Yankees: A-Rod gets day off
Manager Joe Girardi left third baseman Alex Rodriguez out of Monday's lineup in an effort to keep him healthy. The Yankees don't have another scheduled off-day until July 5.

"I'm just trying to stay proactive," Girardi said.

Girardi plans to continue to give other veteran players an occasional day off as the season progresses.
  • On Monday, Catcher Russell Martin missed his second game in as many nights due to back tightness. Girardi said Martin was feeling better and will likely return to the lineup on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Worth noting
  • Hughes is 2-1 with a 3.52 ERA in four career starts against the Indians.
  • Derek Jeter is hitting .328 (187-for-570) with 31 doubles, 12 home runs and 73 RBIs in 143 career games against the Indians.
  • Indians leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo went 2-for-4 on Monday and is hitting .379 (11-for-29) with six doubles in his last seven games.

Knicks' Amar'e fined $50,000 for anti-gay slur on Twitter

Knicks star Amar’e Stoudemire has been fined $50,000 for using what the league termed "offensive and derogatory language'' in a Twitter message, NBA disciplinarian Stu Jackson announced Tuesday.

Last week, in a direct message that has not seen by the public, Stoudemire responded to a fan with a homosexual slur after the fan tweeted that the forward needed step up next season.

Stoudemire also used a curse word in the direct message that was handed over to a website and made public.

Stoudemire later apologized in a private direct message to the fan.

It was another incident in a string of unfortunate episodes for Stoudemire. Stoudemire's role on the team decreased, his brother died in a car accident and he needed hand surgery after smashing a glass-enclosed fire extinguisher after a Game 2 loss in Miami.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mom recalls heartbreaking moment she knew her girls had died in Christmas Day blaze

A tearful Madonna Badger recalled the heart-breaking moment she knew her three young kids were probably lost in a deadly house fire that also killed their grandparents.

The ad executive pleaded with paramedics to tell her what happened to 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah and 10-year-old Lily -- and the rescuers’ silence told the sad tale.

“I begged and begged them. There was an ambulance, and the walkie-talkies are going on, and I’m yelling at them, ‘Where are my kids? Where are my babies?’ “ Badger told NBC’s “Today” in an interview set to air Thursday.

“Somebody said, ‘Turn off the radios, turn off the radios!’ I knew they must’ve… I don’t know what happened. Something really bad.’’

Badger’s $1.7 million Victorian home in Stamford, Conn., went up in smoke in the early hours of Christmas morning. Badgers’ parents Lomer Johnson, 71, and Pauline Johnson, 69, perished in the tragic blaze.

A smouldering bucket of embers left in a hallway sparked the fire.

Badger, 47, a former Calvin Klein art director, recalled how thick the black smoke was that morning as rescuers rushed her away from the burning house.

“My teeth were black and my mouth was black from the smoke,’’ the sobbing Badger said.

“They took me away quickly because they were worried about smoke inhalation. Evidently, something can happen to you, [so] they said I had to go right away.”

Badger and her boyfriend, contractor Michael Borcina, were the only people in the house to survive the blaze.

Yankees eye 11 wins in a row behind Kuroda

The Yankees have won 10 games in a row and 14 of 16 this month, and you need to look no further than the men on the mound to figure out why.

With CC Sabathia allowing only two runs in a complete-game victory over the Braves on Monday night, the Yankees locked up their first 10-game winning streak since 2005. The entire Yankees rotation has been simply dominant, putting together a 12-1 record and 1.97 ERA (114 1/3 IP, 25 ER) with 114 strikeouts to 25 walks in June and a 2.09 ERA (69 IP, 16 ER) during their current winning streak.

Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda will look to continue that dominant stretch Tuesday night against the Braves and right-hander Tim Hudson, who took the loss when these two pitchers squared off Wednesday in Atlanta.

"I just think they're pitching the way they're capable. They're making pitches when they have to, they're locating pitches, they're mixing well," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I just think they're on a roll right now, and they're feeding off each other. No one wants to be outdone by the guy before."

Kuroda will have a hard time topping Sabathia's outing, but he has pitched well as of late. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning on June 8, then struck out a season-high eight batters Wednesday as he allowed two runs over six innings. Kuroda hasn't lost since May 21.

Hudson wasn't so fortunate his last time out, as he pitched well against the Yankees on Wednesday then allowed a two-run homer in the sixth inning that proved to be his undoing. Still, he allowed only three runs over six innings while striking out eight, and that was coming off a five-hit shutout in Miami on June 5.

"It seemed like every time Kuroda needed to make a pitch or get a strikeout, he got it," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said Wednesday. "We just couldn't break through with the big hit to get the game tied. We got the big hit to take the lead, and they came right back to hit one of Huddy's few mistakes."

Braves: Beachy diagnosed with partially torn UCL
Right-hander Brandon Beachy underwent an MRI in Atlanta on Monday, and the results revealed a partially torn ulner collateral ligament in his right elbow. Beachy, who leads the Majors with a 2.00 ERA, will visit Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday. Beachy left his start Saturday due to discomfort in his elbow, and it doesn't appear he'll be returning to the Braves' rotation anytime soon.

"With these things, you kind of have a sense of it when they happen," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "It's kind of hard to be real optimistic right now."

  • Atlanta is hoping Freddie Freeman will return to the lineup Tuesday. Freeman, who has been dealing with a swollen left index finger since getting hit by a Jose Reyes throw on June 7, hasn't been in the Braves' starting lineup since last Tuesday and received two cortisone shots Saturday night.
"I'm going to have to play through pain the rest of the year," Freeman said. "But we've got to get it to a point where I can play through it."

Yankees: Swisher's bruised thigh improving
After bruising his left thigh in a home-plate collision Saturday and sitting out Sunday, Nick Swisher tried to take batting practice Monday but couldn't do so without discomfort. Swisher said his thigh felt "improved, but I'm not quite there yet." Girardi didn't know before Monday's game whether Swisher would be available to pinch-hit but was optimistic Swisher he will be back soon.

"It's a bone bruise. It's going to go away," Girardi said. "Is it another day after [Monday]? Possibly. Do I expect to have him in the next couple days? I do."

  • Outfielder Brett Gardner is hopeful that he'll rejoin the Yankees shortly after the All-Star break, and Girardi wasn't opposed to that projection. Gardner has played in only nine games this season and has been out since April 17 due to a strained right elbow.

Worth noting
  • The Braves have been held to two runs or fewer in five of their last seven games.
  • Monday night was the Yankees' 22nd comeback win of the season and their 10th straight victory against an above-.500 opponent.

Secret Service agents got 'Animal House' reputation on Obamas' Vineyard vacation

MARTHA'S VINEYARD, Mass. -- Long before Secret Service agents were found partying with prostitutes in Colombia, members of the elite team earned an "Animal House" reputation at the blueblood vacation mecca of Martha's Vineyard.

Local residents say wild parties, fights and late-night carousing involving Secret Service members have become commonplace in recent years at the Vineyard, a favorite getaway for the First Family.

Trashed rental homes, bad behavior and barroom brawls that have required the local police to step in have some disgusted Martha's Vineyard homeowners vowing never to rent out to the Secret Service again.

One resident called police in the early morning on Aug. 18, 2011, about a party that went on until well past 4:00 a.m. on the day President Obama arrived for a nine-day vacation.

According to a police report obtained by, a local cop who arrived on the scene was told the partiers were working the presidential vacation.

In response to's request for comment, Secret Service spokesman Max Milien said the agency "has not received any complaints or information regarding alleged misconduct of its personnel operating in Martha's Vineyard during the summer of 2011. Any information brought to our attention that can be assessed as credible will be followed up on in an appropriate manner."

But at least one Vineyard homeowner says that is not true.

She said her husband called the Secret Service in Washington last year to complain about the rowdy behavior of agents and damage they caused to their home, but his gripe was dismissed by officials who told her "that's what they do on vacation" -- even though the agents were on assignment at the Vineyard.

The owner of a six-bedroom home rented out for the past two summers to Secret Service agents said the men told him details of presidential security plans.

"They left ammo behind, they told me things they shouldn't have been telling me, things they shouldn't be telling anyone about the details about how they protect the president," said the man.

A woman who spent time with a group of agents last summer said detailed information about the protection plans for the president was on all of their cellphones.

Glen Caldwell, the general manager of Offshore Ale in Oak Bluffs, told about an incident last summer when one of his staff found a Secret Service badge on the floor after the bar had closed at the end of the night. The commission book also included a list of emergency phone numbers.

"You didn't call any of those numbers did you?" the agent nervously asked when he arrived to claim the badge.

Others on the island say Secret Service agents should be allowed to party, as long as they keep the First Family safe.

"Boys will be boys," said Peter Martell, owner of the Wesley hotel in Oak Bluffs, which has hosted Secret Service agents since 1993.

"They work their butts off, these guys, and they do a hell of a job. If they want to have a little fun here, what's the harm?" Martell said.

To read more, go to Fox News.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wood comes up just shy in duel with Verlander

CHICAGO -- Justin Verlander gave Tigers fans who packed into Wrigley Field plenty to cheer about, and Cubs hitters plenty to think about.

Verlander struck out eight, Prince Fielder hit an RBI double, and Austin Jackson had three hits, including a two-run homer, to power the Tigers to a 5-3 victory Thursday over the Cubs, and take the Interleague series.

"We had to face a tough pitcher today," Chicago's Alfonso Soriano said.

Verlander (6-4) scattered five hits over eight innings, and ended a personal three-game losing streak with the win. He's now 17-2 in Interleague Play.

"My first at-bat, he was throwing it seemed like [batting practice] fastballs, they were like 90 miles an hour, and sometimes you would look up at the board and he was throwing 97 [mph]," the Cubs' Tony Campana said. "Adding and subtracting, that keeps us off balance -- that's good pitching."

For the Cubs, the loss was the 22nd in the last 28 games, and they dropped to 2-7 in Interleague Play this season.

"We're battling each game, we're right there each game," Cubs starter Travis Wood said. "I think we'll keep battling and start winning some ballgames here."

Jackson doubled to lead off the game against Wood (0-3), and scored two outs later on Fielder's double. Ryan Raburn, recalled from Triple-A Toledo prior to the game, added an RBI double in the second to open a 2-0 lead, much to the delight of the thousands of orange-clad Tigers fans in the crowd of 42,292, the biggest of the season at Wrigley Field.

"I love it here," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "It's a great atmosphere. I've always said a Cubs game is more than a game, it's a happening. It's kind of a neat atmosphere. Fortunately, we came in and won two out of three."

The series drew 124,782, the largest mid-week, three-game series in the ballpark's history.

"They'll spend a lot of money to take their vacations and come to a landmark stadium like this, and spend a lot of money for their tickets," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Tigers fans. "It might be the last time a lot of fans get to see their team at Wrigley."

Verlander, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner and Most Valuable Player, isn't used to hitting, and after he reached base on a fielder's choice in the second, he didn't seem quite the same in the next half-inning. Soriano and Bryan LaHair both singled in the second, and one out later, Darwin Barney hit an RBI double. LaHair scored on Luis Valbuena's groundout to tie the game at 2.

Verlander then settled into a groove, giving up two hits over the next six innings.

"After the second, I started to get my rhythm a little bit," Verlander said. "I started throwing my breaking ball for strikes and keeping guys off balance."

One of the hits off the Tigers' right-hander was by Wood, who singled with two outs in the fifth, but was thrown out at second trying to stretch his hit. Barney singled to lead off the eighth but was snuffed out when Valbuena grounded into a double play.

"The stuff is obviously there, and whenever he gets in trouble, he basically gets to another level," Sveum said of the Tigers' ace. "We had had a couple chances and we took advantage, and got two runs off him early, and that's a lot against those kind of guys. Then boom, here comes the breaking balls, here comes the full package to shut you down."

Jackson hit an RBI single in the seventh and homered off Shawn Camp in the ninth, driving in pinch-hitter Don Kelly, who had tripled, dropping the ball over a diving Campana in center.

"If I make the catch, then there's nobody on base and everybody is talking about it, and if I don't [catch it], then everybody is talking about it and there's a guy on third base," Campana said.

The leadoff man got on in every inning against Wood, but he did limit the Tigers to two hits with runners in scoring position.

"For me, I was a little more amped up going agianst a guy like Verlander," Wood said. "You know you have to be on top of your game. Even if he doesn't have his 'A' game, he's still a great pitcher. I think everybody was bringing their 'A' game, or at least, that's what their mindset was. We battled all
game, and it wasn't our day."

Verlander finds groove to get back in win column

CHICAGO -- Manager Jim Leyland described baseball at Wrigley Field as more of a happening than a game. The audible Detroit fans contributed more than a portion of the largest mid-week attendance ever in a three-game series at Wrigley, loudly cheering the Tigers to their second consecutive road series win.

Even four-time All-Star pitcher Justin Verlander couldn't believe the intensity of the crowd as he began warming up before tossing eight innings to earn his first win since May 18 against Pittsburgh in a 5-3 victory Thursday afternoon.

"The fans were incredible," Verlander said. "I got chills out in the outfield running when I was warming up. I just jogged out to center and back, and they went nuts. The whole outfield bleachers was really loud."

Verlander admitted the Thursday crowd of 42,292 -- the largest of the season at Wrigley Field -- may have fired him up too much before he grounded into a fielder's choice in his first at-bat.

After allowing two runs in the second inning, Verlander settled down on the mound and at the dish.

He didn't allow another Cubs player to reach scoring position over the next six innings, and placed down two perfect sacrifice bunts, the second moving Ryan Raburn into scoring position in the seventh inning.

Verlander was content remaining hitless in 22 career Major League at-bats.

"I said, 'I hope I go 0-for-0 with four sac bunts,'" Verlander said. "In reality, it's fun to swing the bat, but I want guys on base and I want our team to have the opportunity to score runs."

That attitude allowed center fielder Austin Jackson to break a 2-2 tie by knocking Raburn in on the next at-bat with an RBI single to left field for his second hit of the game, giving the Tigers a lead they would not relinquish.

Jackson knocked in two essential runs in the ninth inning on his seventh home run of the season to increase the Tigers' lead to 5-2, scoring pinch-hitter Don Kelly, who reached on a triple past a diving Tony Campana in center. The win provided the insurance Detroit needed, as Jose Valverde allowed one run in the ninth inning before striking out Alfonso Soriano to earn his 13th save.

"It's a lot more fun when you have fans cheering you on, when you hear that, 'Let's go, Tigers,' chant on the road," Jackson said. "It's a really good feeling."

The rival chants between the three-game combined total of 124,782 Cubs and Tigers fans continued throughout the series.

"All you had to do was look," Leyland said. "There was so much orange around the ballpark. It was really a neat atmosphere."

Verlander earned his first win in five starts to give the Tigers the series victory. He had suffered a loss in his three previous decisions before Thursday, marking the first three-game losing streak he's had since September 2008.

A trip to Wrigley Field against the last-place Cubs is just what Verlander needed, as he improved to 17-2 in 23 career games Interleague Play.

"You don't take anybody for granted at this level," Verlander said. "They've got a lot of pieces.

They've got that little scrappy leadoff guy [Campana]. He gets on base and wreaks havoc. That's the guy, for me, today, that I focused on."

Campana went 0-for-3 off Verlander before doubling and scoring off Valverde.

"My first at-bat, he was throwing it seemed like [batting practice] fastballs, they were like 90 miles an hour," Campana said. "Sometimes you look up at the board and he was throwing 97. Adding and subtracting, that keeps us off balance -- that's good pitching."

The Tigers spotted their starter two runs in the first two innings on RBI doubles by first baseman Prince Fielder and second baseman Raburn. Fielder entered the game hitting .545 with runners in scoring position since May 25.

Detroit grounded into three double plays in the next four innings before taking the lead in the seventh.

The most double plays turned against the Tigers this season was four, by Minnesota on May 26.

Raburn made his first appearance at Wrigley Field, joining the club from Triple-A Toledo for the series finale when the Tigers sent pitcher Drew Smyly to the 15-day disabled list. He added an infield single in the seventh inning, scoring the go-ahead run on Jackson's single.

"It's really a good game for your team," Leyland said. "It wasn't like the big guys just carried you this trip. You can't expect them to carry you all the time."

Tiger in contention; little-known Thompson in lead at U.S. Open

SAN FRANCISCO — Any comfort Michael Thompson took looking up at the leaderboard at The Olympic Club and finally seeing his name at the top fizzled fast when he saw the player one spot below.

Tiger Woods.

Thompson shot a 4-under 66 in the first round of the U.S. Open on Thursday, taking a three-shot lead in the clubhouse over the hard-charging Woods and David Toms.

The 2007 U.S. Amateur runner-up at Olympic Club sure played as though he knew the course, finishing with seven birdies to go with three bogeys in an aggressive and fearless round. The 27-year-old former Alabama standout still couldn’t feel satisfied with 54 holes remaining and a familiar face lurking behind in another major.

“Give Tiger the spotlight,” Thompson said. “I don’t care. I’m going to go out and play my game. If I go out and putt the way I did today, I’ll be in contention.”

What a way for this championship to begin.

Woods birdied consecutive holes late in his round and played the undulating Lake Course with the kind of confidence that has made him a 14-time major champion. He bogeyed his second-to-last hole and finished with a 1-under 69 to blow away playing partners Phil Mickelson (76) and Bubba Watson (78).

That’s a stirring start for one of the world’s most watched — and scrutinized — athletes of any
generation considering who he played at the last major. Woods never broke par in four rotten rounds at the Masters in April.

“I felt very pleased with every facet of my game today and I stayed very patient out there,” Woods said. “I was very pleased how I executed my game plan.”

That could be a scary for the rest of the field.

The morning fog that blanketed the tight, twisting grounds lifted by the time the group of Woods, Mickelson and Watson made the turn. Not that Woods needed faster and firmer conditions under the sun against longtime nemesis Mickelson and reigning Masters champion Watson.

All the roars belonged to Woods.

Twirling his clubs instead of kicking them, Woods was in complete control of his game, finding fairways, sticking greens and avoiding the thick rough and towering trees that line the course built on the side of a hill across the street from the Pacific Ocean. He opened with five straight pars until his approach on the par-4 14th bounced off the tiny green and into the thick rough, forcing him to settle for bogey.

That was one of the few mistakes he made.

With the marine layer hovering above the grounds and San Francisco’s steep hills in the backdrop until mid-morning, Woods surgically worked his way through the course. He holed a 45-foot birdie putt on the par-4 fifth, giving a small fist pump and bringing the gallery roaring to its feet the way only he can.
“I know I can hit the ball this way and I know I have been hitting the golf ball this way,” Woods said.

“And I was able to put it together in a major championship. I’m going to need it the next three days. This golf course is only going to get faster.”

Thompson was anything but conservative on this course.

After all, he knows it well.

Thompson lost 2 and 1 to Colt Knost in a grueling 36-hole finale at the U.S. Amateur at Olympic five years ago, and hadn’t played a meaningful round on the Lake Course until after he qualified for the U.S. Open last week.
Thompson had three bogeys on his front eight — the USGA sent players off holes Nos. 1 and 9 instead of the usual 1 and 10 during the first two rounds because of the close proximity to the clubhouse — and looked lost for long stretches. Instead, he found his groove with a powerful punch at the end.

Thompson had four birdies in his final eight holes, including a putt on 18th that brought the fans from the grandstand to those sitting up the steep hill below the clubhouse to their feet. He gently tossed the ball into the gallery and waved to the crowd.

If not for a few misses, Woods might be the one on top already.

Woods missed birdie putts on the first and second holes on the — yanking the latter off the lip from about 4 feet — and followed with another par. He stuck his approach within 8 feet on the par-4 fourth and sunk another birdie putt to bring some of those roars back to Olympic for the first time since the club last hosted the event in 1998.

The round was the first time Woods and Mickelson were paired in the U.S. Open since Torrey Pines in 2008. That’s when the U.S. Golf Association grouped players off the world ranking, and also the last time Woods won a major.

While Woods never lost his composure, his playing partners never found it.

Mickelson and Watson turned thousands of spectators in the gallery into moving targets. On the 14th, Mickelson apologized to the fans in the gallery when he retrieved his ball. The fan said he wasn’t hit — Mickelson jokingly told him to walk ahead before his next shot.

Lefty also hooked his first tee shot way right and the towering cypress trees gobbled it. After a five-minute search for the ball, Mickelson had to tee off again for one of three straight bogeys.

“It’s sometimes a tendency that I’ll have in a U.S. Open,” said Mickelson, who has been a runner-up a record five times in this championship. “I’ll make tentative swings because of what could happen as opposed to making aggressive, confident swings.”

Defending champion Rory McIlroy, top-ranked Luke Donald and Lee Westwood had an afternoon start.

McIlroy shattered U.S. Open records last year at rain-softened Congressional when he reached double figures under par before he even turned in his second-round scorecard. He finished at 268 to break the 72-hole record by four shots, and his 16-under total was four better than Woods’ mark at Pebble Beach in 2000.

“This is not like it was last year,’” Woods said. “This is a tough one. This is tough to make birdies.”

Hellickson, Rays sunk in finale by Mets' power

ST. PETERSBURG -- From the very start, it was Kirk Nieuwenhuis' day, and not Jeremy Hellickson's.

The rookie center fielder blasted a pair of home runs to help send the Rays to a 9-6 loss, securing the Mets' sweep at Tropicana Field on Thursday.

On Hellickson's second pitch of the game, Nieuwenhuis blasted his fourth homer of the year over the right-field fence. It was the first leadoff home run of his career as well as the Mets' first in 2012.

In the top of the second, Jason Bay hit his own dinger -- his fourth on the year and first since April 20 -- to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.

Matt Joyce responded in bottom of the inning, when his double scored Hideki Matsui and Ben Zobrist, tying the game. Three batters later, Elliot Johnson brought him in with a single to put the Rays ahead by one run.

That lead didn't last for long, as Lucas Duda hit a sacrifice fly with runners on second and third and one out in the third, scoring a tagging Jordany Valdespin. Ike Davis followed with a single that brought in David Wright to make it 4-3.

Zobrist came through in the bottom of the frame with a two-out double that scored Matsui to make things even yet again.

But Nieuwenhuis drilled a 1-2 pitch from Hellickson for a long ball that gave the Mets the lead for good in the fourth, this time to make it 6-4. After Valdespin was hit by a pitch and Wright walked, Duda picked up another pair of RBIs with his double. Rays manager Joe Maddon then elected to go to the bullpen, ending Hellickson's start after 3 2/3 innings. Hellickson allowed eight runs on nine hits, including three homers.

The Rays had a chance to get back into the game in the bottom of the sixth after Mets starter Johan Santana loaded the bases with no outs. Mets manager Terry Collins brought in reliever Jon Rauch, who struck out Sean Rodriguez and pinch-hitter Jose Lobaton before forcing Johnson to ground out to third.

Santana went five-plus innings, allowing four runs on six hits and four walks with six strikeouts.

Nieuwenhuis leads Mets' charge in sweep

ST. PETERSBURG -- What a bizarre, unpredictable and ultimately resilient team these Mets are turning out to be. They lost five of six to the Nationals and Yankees, dropping several wrenching games that threatened to undo so much of their early-season success.

And now this.

The Mets capped their most difficult road trip of the season with a three-game sweep of the Rays at Tropicana Field, taking Thursday's finale, 9-6, on the strength of three home runs. After scoring a total of seven runs in three games last weekend at Yankee Stadium, the Mets plated no fewer than eight in
each of their three wins at Tampa Bay.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis was the offensive star in Thursday's finale, hitting the first leadoff homer of his career against Jeremy Hellickson and notching his first multihomer game. After Nieuwenhuis opened the game with a line shot to right field, the rookie outfielder took Hellickson deep again in the fourth inning for a two-run homer, this one to left.

In between, Jason Bay logged a solo home run, just his second hit in 22 at-bats since returning from the disabled list last week.

The Mets finally put the game out of reach -- and knocked out Hellickson -- on Lucas Duda's two-run double in the fourth. Every Mets starter hit safely in the game except for Daniel Murphy, who was 0-for-4.

Even with all the offense, Mets starter Johan Santana put the game in doubt when he loaded the bases on two singles and a walk with no outs in the sixth. But reliever Jon Rauch entered in a four-run game, recording two strikeouts and a groundout to squelch the Rays' best threat.

Tampa Bay took its only lead in the second inning, when Matt Joyce doubled home two runs against Santana and Elliott Johnson followed with a two-out RBI single. But after Ben Zobrist plated the Rays' fourth run with a run-scoring double in the third inning, Santana settled into a groove until the sixth.

In his second start since throwing the first no-hitter in franchise history, Santana allowed four runs in five-plus innings, striking out six and walking four.