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Nationals Top Athletics, Win 7th Straight (AP)
AP - Livan Hernandez pitched eight strong innings to win his eighth straight decision, and Nick Johnson hit a three-run double to lead the Washington Nationals past the Oakland Athletics 4-3 Thursday night for their season-best seventh victory in a row.

Phillies Sweep 3-Game Series Vs. Rangers (AP)
AP - Pat Burrell homered twice and drove in four runs, helping the Philadelphia Phillies complete a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers with a 10-8 victory on Thursday night.

Mariners Shut Out Marlins, 8-0 (AP)
AP - Aaron Sele threw seven strong innings, Randy Winn celebrated his 31st birthday with his first homer of the year, and the Seattle Mariners used a six-run seventh inning to beat the struggling Florida Marlins 8-0 on Thursday night.

Reds Trounce Devil Rays, 14-5 (AP)
AP - Luke Hudson won his season debut with six solid innings on a steamy night, and the Cincinnati Reds completed a three-game sweep of baseball's worst road team, routing the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 14-5 on Thursday.

Gulbis, Davies Share Lead at LPGA Event (AP)
AP - Annika Sorenstam turned her head and studied the large leaderboard behind the green on her last hole Thursday in the LPGA Championship, seeing her name in a familiar position at the top. It didn't stay there long, but it was never far away.

Browns to Fund 9 Ohio H.S. Football Teams (AP)
AP - The Cleveland Browns are making a season-saving tackle for some high school football programs. The NFL club is donating $300,000 to fund nine city high school teams who otherwise would have had their 2005 football seasons canceled because of a lack of finances in one of the nation's most troubled school districts.

Chiesa to Take Nets' Ass't Coaching Job (AP)
AP - Gordon Chiesa has left the Utah Jazz after 16 years to take a similar job with the New Jersey Nets.

Astros Defeat Mets, 6-3 (AP)
AP - Morgan Ensberg hit an RBI double and Adam Everett added a two-run single in the 11th inning, and the Houston Astros won their second road series of the season by beating the New York Mets 6-3 Thursday night.

U.S. Closes in on Bid for 2006 World Cup (AP)
AP - When it comes to soccer, the United States is now in the same position as England, Italy, Germany and Brazil: It's expected to make the World Cup.

Cam Neely Elected to Hockey Hall of Fame (AP)
AP - Cam Neely was one of hockey's brawniest forwards, and Valeri Kharlamov was one of its swiftest. They are now both Hall of Famers. The former Boston Bruins star and the late Russian standout joined executive Murray Costello in being elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

NFL's smoothest moves
The Raiders' trade for Randy Moss and the Ravens' signing of Derrick Mason were wise decisions, but one offseason maneuver topped them.

Eagles still unsure if Owens will show (AP)
The Philadelphia Eagles still don't know if Terrell Owens will show up for training camp after he held out of offseason minicamps because he wants to renegotiate the seven-year deal worth almost $49 million he signed in March 2004. Coach and general manager Andy Reid said Thursday it's been a few weeks since he talked to Drew Rosenhaus, Owens' agent, but the Eagles stance hasn't changed.

Army again denies Tillman cover-up (AP)
The Army says the delay in reporting that former Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman died from friendly fire resulted from procedural mistakes, not a desire to cover up the truth. Tillman's parents have criticized the Army for waiting weeks to tell them their son's death in Afghanistan was accidental and did not result from enemy fire.

49ers to increase diversity training (AP)
The San Francisco 49ers are teaming up with the city's Human Rights Commission to improve their diversity and anti-harassment training in response to the release of an offensive video made by the team's former public relations director. The 15-minute film provided anonymously last week to the San Francisco Chronicle features racist jokes, lesbian soft-porn and topless blondes -- and even former PR...

Webb to retire as a Dolphin (AP)
Richmond Webb will retire as a member of the Miami Dolphins after the seven-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle signed on Thursday with the team that drafted him. The 38-year-old Webb will be placed on the Dolphins' reserve/retired list Friday, ending his career where he started it 15 seasons ago. ``I want to thank Mr.

Seymour holds out from Patriots minicamp (AP)
There's a problem on the NFL's most harmonious team. Richard Seymour, one of the few major stars on a New England Patriots team built to excel without them, was missing on the first day of the Super Bowl champions' mandatory minicamp Thursday. ``Unexcused,'' coach Bill Belichick said tersely when asked to classify Seymour's absence.

Browns release LT Ross Verba (AP)
Ross Verba can now try to convince some other team that he's worthy of being paid like one of the NFL's best left tackles. Unhappy and feeling disrespected, Verba paid back a $465,000 roster bonus to the Cleveland Browns, who then released him on Thursday. ``We felt this decision was in the best interest of both the Browns and Ross,'' general manager Phil Savage said in a statement.

Sanders signs one-year deal with Ravens (AP)
Deion Sanders signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens after passing his physical Wednesday, then announced himself ready for another season. ``Feeling good, looking good,'' Sanders said. ``If women weren't present, I'd take off my shirt and show you how good I look. Trust me, 37-year-olds can't do what I do.'' ``I don't have personal, selfish goals,'' he added.

Sneak preview
Game 1 of the NBA Finals will give us a glimpse of just how intense the series will be.

Spurs' Duncan starts push for ring No. 3 (AP)
As soon as Ben Wallace flung away his headband in disgust, Game 1 of the NBA Finals got away from the defending champion Detroit Pistons, too. Manu Ginobili started the game's decisive surge by bowling over Wallace early in the fourth quarter, a play that led to a blocking foul and a technical on Wallace that started the San Antonio Spurs on their way.

Jackson says he's talking to Lakers (AP)
Phil Jackson expects to decide in ``another day or two'' whether he will return to coaching the Los Angeles Lakers or some other NBA team next season. Jackson said Thursday night that he's talking to some teams about their vacancies, but giving first priority to the Lakers. ``There's been some talking going on, but nothing has been determined,'' he said from El Segundo on ABC's pregame NBA Finals...

Clutch Horry hopes to add another title (AP)
Robert Horry knows he probably could have been a better player during the first 47 minutes of most games in his career. He could have scored more points, earned more accolades and made more money. But in the final minute, few have ever been better -- particularly in the playoffs, where the Detroit Pistons are the latest team to dread seeing the ball in Horry's hands late in a close game.

Rasheed roars into another finals (AP)
Gregg Popovich can't think of many ways Glenn Robinson could play a big role in the San Antonio Spurs' championship drive. ``You know, people foul out and get hurt,'' Popovich said Thursday before Game 1 of the NBA Finals. ``That's about it.'' Even though the Big Dog was one of the league's better pure scorers of the previous 10 seasons, Popovich doesn't think the recently acquired veteran forward...

Bowen ready to apply pressure in Finals (AP)
Bruce Bowen has already done a lot of defensive heavy-lifting this postseason. In the first round, the San Antonio Spurs' perimeter ace covered Carmelo Anthony, and after that, it was Ray Allen and then Shawn Marion. The result has been the same -- each of these prolific scorers saw his production drop, which helped the Spurs win each series and advance to the NBA Finals.

Resilient Pistons set to defend title (AP)
The Detroit Pistons had to get past more than just the Miami Heat to have a chance to defend their title in the NBA Finals. They had to respond to reports and rumors about coach Larry Brown's next move; deal with his two health-related absences; experience one of the worst brawls in U.S. sports history and the fallout from it; and rise above a tendency to be complacent.

Spurs expect defense to dominate (AP)
Gregg Popovich has long credited Larry Brown for bringing him into the NBA and teaching him much of what he knows about basketball. That's why the NBA Finals between Popovich's San Antonio Spurs and Brown's Detroit Pistons is creating mixed feelings. ``It will be a strange situation,'' Popovich said Tuesday, ``trying to beat somebody up and hoping they do well at the same time.'' Not too well.

Nuggets' Vandeweghe waits for extension (AP)
While in Chicago to attend pre-draft workouts this week, Denver Nuggets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe had an informal conversation with the Cleveland Cavaliers about the team's president position. With one year left on his contract and negotiations for an extension yet to get underway, Vandeweghe is keeping his options open in case things don't work out with the Nuggets.

Betting banned on Vegas All-Star game? (AP)
Casino regulators Thursday recommended suspending bets by bookmakers on the 2007 NBA All-Star game, if Las Vegas is awarded the event. The league will not consider the city's bid without the ban. Nongambling revenue from fans, players and media coming to the city would outweigh any losses to bookies, Gaming Control Board chairman Dennis Neilander said.

Stumped by the suits
We should be watching playoff hockey. Instead we're left with "Stump The Schwab."

Neely, Kharlamov elected to Hockey's Hall of Fame (AP)
Cam Neely was one of hockey's brawniest forwards, and Valeri Kharlamov was one of its swiftest. They are now both Hall of Famers. The former Boston Bruins star and the late Russian standout joined executive Murray Costello in being elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame on Wednesday. They beat out the likes of Glenn Anderson and Kevin Lowe, who were stars on the great Edmonton teams of the 1980s, Steve...

Phantoms 2, Wolves 1 (AP)
The Phantoms are one win away from bringing a championship to title-starved Philadelphia. OK, so it's not the Super Bowl, the World Series or even the Stanley Cup. But the Phantoms' 2-1 win over the Chicago Wolves in Game 3 of the Calder Cup finals Wednesday night has the Flyers' top AHL affiliate a win away from a title.

Report: NHL, Players Association agree on salary cap (SportsTicker)
NEW YORK (Ticker) - The lengthy NHL labor dispute may be on the verge of coming to an end.

NHL group will recommend changes tried during research camp (AP)
A select group of NHL club executives will mull over experiments to bring more offense into the game. A three-day research camp concluded Wednesday, and several recommendations for rules changes could come out of the camp. Use of shootouts during the regular season, reintroduction of tag-up offsides, stiffer obstruction rules and smaller equipment for goaltenders have the strongest chance of being...

Neely, Kharlamov named to Hockey Hall of Fame (SportsTicker)
TORONTO (Ticker) - Injury problems may have shortened the career of Cam Neely, but it didn't keep him out of the Hockey Hall of Fame. The wait continues for Dino Ciccarelli

Anderson a top candidate for Hockey Hall of Fame (AP)
Glenn Anderson should be an automatic choice for the Hockey Hall of Fame, his former coach Glen Sather says. ``I don't even think there should be a debate about him,'' Sather said. Anderson left the NHL in 1996 after scoring 498 regular-season goals and 93 playoff goals and earning six Stanley Cup rings, including five when Sather ran the Edmonton Oilers.

Minor league player pleads guilty in stick-swinging assault (AP)
A minor league hockey player pleaded guilty Tuesday to assault causing bodily harm for swinging his stick at an opponent who was left bleeding and convulsing on the ice. Hamilton Bulldogs forward Alexander Perezhogin agreed to the plea bargain, which was being reviewed by a judge and called for a conditional discharge with one year's probation.

Shootouts, smaller goalie equipment coming to NHL whenever it restarts (AP)
When the NHL finally returns to the ice, the tie game will probably be a thing of the past. ``If they don't have a shootout, I'll be shocked,'' New York Islanders general manager Mike Milbury said Tuesday. ``That's an easy one. ``The fans want it, and it's the least we can do after spitting at them for the last 12 months.'' Fans in the AHL and other minor leagues have grown to enjoy shootouts.

Oilers ask permission to suspend operations of AHL team for one year (AP)
The Edmonton Oilers have asked the American Hockey League for permission to suspend operations of their top minor league team for one year. Club officials said Monday the Edmonton Road Runners, who also play in Rexall Place, could affect the Oilers' ticket sales next season if the NHL resumes play this fall.

Good show
ROSSBURG, Ohio – Tony Stewart and friends enjoyed themselves and wowed the fans during Wednesday night's dirt track race.

Skinner wins second straight pole at Texas Motor Speedway (SportsTicker)

Skinner has another record qualifying run at Texas (AP)
Mike Skinner claimed another NASCAR trucks pole at Texas Motor Speedway with a fast lap of 182.902 mph Thursday night, breaking his track qualifying record set last fall.

Notes: Crocker being coached by veteran Elliott (AP)
Erin Crocker spent her first day testing at Michigan International Speedway under the watchful eye of former...

Martin easing along in final season (AP)
Mark Martin is sixth in Nextel Cup points, but that's not something that interests him much at this point in his...

Co-founder of Bristol Motor Speedway dies (AP)
Larry Carrier, who helped start the race track now known as Bristol Motor Speedway, died Tuesday after a long illness. He was 82. A developer, Carrier worked with Carl Moore and R.G. Pope in building the half-mile oval track, which opened in 1961. Carrier bought the track out of bankruptcy in 1985, gave ESPN exclusive rights to broadcast Bristol's night race for years, and built the seating capacity...

Crew chief Ford to work with Leffler (AP)
Joe Gibbs Racing has hired crew chief Mike Ford to oversee the No. 11 NASCAR Nextel Cup Chevrolet driven by Jason Leffler.

Mike Ford takes over as Jason Leffler's crew chief (SportsTicker)
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (Ticker) - Less than a month after being bounced as Dale Jarrett's crew chief, Mike Ford has found work with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Biffle dominates to win NASCAR MNBA RacePoints 400 (SportsTicker)

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