Update on the latest in sports:

July 21, 2017 - 10:41 am


Cubs, Pirates gaining ground; Panda returns

Rolling into Wrigley

UNDATED (AP) — The Cubs have won six straight and are just a game behind slumping Milwaukee in the NL Central as they begin a home series against St. Louis.

Chicago right-hander Jake Arrieta (9-7, 4.17) has trimmed half a run off his ERA over his past four starts and can reach double digits in victories for the fourth straight season.

All-Star Carlos Martinez (6-8, 3.36) counters for the Cardinals seeking his first victory since June 16, a span of five starts. The Brewers have been alone atop the division since June 6.

In other MLB news:

— Starling Marte is back from his 80-game steroids suspension and Pittsburgh is making a charge in the NL Central. After completing a four-game sweep of division-leading Milwaukee, the Pirates begin a nine-game road trip out West when they visit Colorado. Pittsburgh right-hander Trevor Williams (3-4) faces fellow rookie Jeff Hoffman (6-1) in the opener.

— Pablo Sandoval is expected to sign a minor league contract to return to the Giants, two days after the Red Sox released the husky third baseman. Sandoval was a two-time All-Star and a World Series MVP during his seven years with San Francisco.

— Among the 2017 All-Stars on the mound are Texas right-hander Yu Darvish, Boston newcomer Chris Sale, Minnesota's Ervin Santana, Washington Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and Dodgers lefty Alex Wood, who tries to improve to 12-0 when he faces Atlanta. Darvish starts at Tampa Bay — he is 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA and 40 strikeouts in five career games against the Rays.

— Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre is 15 hits shy of 3,000 heading into a three-game series at Tampa Bay. He is tied with Sam Rice for 31st place on the career list.

— After finishing a four-game sweep of the Rangers, outfielder Adam Jones and the Orioles welcome Houston to Camden Yards. Mike Fiers (6-4, 3.75 ERA) pitches for the AL-leading Astros against Ubaldo Jimenez (4-5, 7.01). Baltimore's big hitters combined for 10 home runs in the series against Texas and outscored the Rangers 34-11.


Kuchar gets out of the wind and posts a target

SOUTHPORT, England (AP) — Matt Kuchar set the score everyone else has to chase in the wind at the British Open.

Kuchar made a bogey on the 18th hole and had to settle for a 1-over 71 in the second round, though that was a good score in 25 mph gusts that put a premium on making par. He was at 4-under 136.

Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka, who teed off in the afternoon, were at 5 under.

Richie Ramsay of Scotland posted a 70 and was at 2-under 138.


Froome into final stretch on Stage 19 of Tour de France

SALON-DE-PROVENCE, France (AP) — The 19th Stage of the Tour de France, the longest of this year's race, is underway with Chris Froome in the overall lead.

The 222.5-kilometer ride from Embrun in the Alps through Provence has three moderate climbs but should pose no major difficulties for the top riders and is likely to end with a mass sprint at the finish in Salon-de-Provence.

The last major challenge standing between Froome and a fourth Tour title is a time trial on Saturday, a discipline the Briton excels in.

He has a lead of 23 seconds over French rider Romain Bardet and 29 seconds over Rigoberto Uran of Colombia. The race ends Sunday in Paris.


Nastase banned from Fed Cup and Davis Cup until 2019

LONDON (AP) — Ilie Nastase (EE'-lee nah-STA'-see) has been banned from the Fed Cup and Davis Cup until 2019 because of his foul-mouthed comments and bad behavior as Romania's captain during a Fed Cup match against Britain.

In addition to the ban, the International Tennis Federation says the 1973 French Open champion will not be able to work in an official capacity for a further two years, until 2021.

The 71-year-old Nastase was also fined $10,000. He has three weeks to appeal the decision.

The ITF says, "Mr. Nastase made a comment about Serena Williams's unborn child that was highly inappropriate and racially insensitive." Natase had speculated about the shade of brown Williams' baby would be.


UEFA closes Hajduk Split stadium for fans' racist chants

NYON, Switzerland (AP) — UEFA has ordered Hajduk Split to play its next Europa League home game in an empty stadium as punishment for racist chants by fans.

UEFA says its disciplinary panel also fined the Croatian club 50,000 euros ($58,000).

Hajduk will serve the ban when it hosts Brondby on Aug. 3 in the second leg.

The racist behavior was identified during Hajduk's 1-0 win over Levski Sofia in the second qualifying round last week.

UEFA says it also fined Hajduk 5,000 euros ($5,800) for fans throwing objects at the game.


Fault! New York town's new $3.5M tennis courts too short

MELVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — A New York town has padlocked the tennis courts in a brand new $3.5 million park because they were built improperly.

The two courts at the recently opened Sweet Hollow Park in Melville don't have enough clearance between the baseline and the fence. The truncated courts caused at least one player to run into the fence.

The U.S. Tennis Association recommends courts have 21 feet behind the baseline. The new courts in the hamlet in Huntington have less than 10 feet, while the sides are about 2 feet short of the recommended 12 feet.

The blunder was brought to the attention of Huntington officials by a resident who played on the new courts earlier this month.

The town says the courts will be closed while they're renovated.


Veterans nearly miss Pirates game after bus gets stuck

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Some veterans out to see the Pittsburgh Pirates made it to the game, although their bus didn't.

Police officers and nursing home staff pushed the veterans in wheelchairs a half mile after the bus carrying them from the Pennsylvania Soldiers and Sailors Home in Erie became trapped under an overpass in Pittsburgh.

The group was heading to the game Thursday when their bus took a detour.

As the driver drove under the overpass, the roof of the bus tore off and the bus got, stuck tilting on two wheels.

Police and emergency services were able to stabilize the bus and free the veterans. Officials say no one was injured in the crash.

The vets made it to the game and got to see the Pirates beat the Milwaukee Brewers 4-0.

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