Dominicans win 3-1, forceU.S. into must-win game Friday
The Dominican Republic made itself at home in Miami by beating the United States 3-1 on Thursday night to earn a berth in the final round of the World Baseball Classic.
Pinch-hitter Erick Aybar singled home the go-ahead run in the ninth for the Dominicans, who improved to 5-0. They're assured of a spot in the semifinals beginning Sunday in San Francisco, where two-time defending champion Japan and the Netherlands have already advanced. The United States must play Puerto Rico on Friday, with the winner earning a trip to San Francisco and the loser ousted.
■ Cardinals manager Mike Matheny returned to the club Thursday in Jupiter, Fla., after undergoing back surgery Monday in St. Louis. Matheny was suffering from severe pain for several days, stemming from a ruptured disk in his back.
Spurs seal rare sweep of Mavericks
Tim Duncan had 28 points and 19 rebounds and the host San Antonio Spurs escaped with a 92-91 victory over Dallas on Thursday, sweeping their season series with the Mavericks for the first time in 15 years.
San Antonio has the Western Conference's top record at 50-16.
Dirk Nowitzki had 21 points and 11 rebounds for Dallas, which had a four-game winning streak snapped.
■ Kobe Bryant got treatment on his sprained left ankle in hopes of staying on the court to continue the Los Angeles Lakers' playoff push. The fifth-leading scorer in NBA history was hurt when he landed on the foot of Atlanta Hawks guard Dahntay Jones with 3 seconds left in the Lakers' loss Wednesday night. Bryant tweeted Thursday that his ankle was "still very swollen."
Rookie Stefani leads in Tampa with 65
In breezy conditions on a tough golf course, PGA Tour rookie Shawn Stefani never came close to making a bogey until his final hole Thursday in the Tampa Bay Championship. He rolled in a par putt from just inside 5 feet to complete a 6-under 65 and take a two-shot lead over Brian Harman.
Only 13 players broke 70, and 25 players broke par.
Harman came up short and into a bunker on the ninth hole and closed with his lone bogey for a 67. Harris English finished on 18 and also hit sand, except he three-putted from 40 feet and double-bogeyed. His 68 tied him with Brendan Steele and Tag Ridings.
Geoff Ogilvy, at No. 49 in the world and needing to stay in the top 50 the next three weeks to get into the Masters, was in the large group at 69 that included Lucas Glover and a pair of past champions in Vijay Singh and K.J. Choi. Defending champion Luke Donald opened with a 70 and was angrier than usual.
■ Ai Miyazato took the LPGA Founders Cup lead on a hot afternoon in Phoenix, playing a late four-hole stretch in 5 under for a tournament-record 9-under 63. Miyazato is returning from a whiplash injury sustained in a five-vehicle crash in Thailand.
■ Chinnarat Phadungsil of Thailand made eight birdies on the back nine to shoot an 11-under 61 for a five-stroke lead in the first round of the Avantha Masters in India.
Falcons lure Jackson to replace Turner
The Falcons replaced Michael Turner with another proven running back. Steven Jackson, the top running back in free agency, agreed to a three-year, $12 million deal with Atlanta on Thursday.
Also getting new deals were backup quarterback Matt Cassel in Minnesota, pass rusher Cliff Avril in Seattle and cornerback Keenan Lewis in New Orleans. The New York Giants signed defensive backs Ryan Mundy and Aaron Ross.
Jackson, 30, moved on from St. Louis after his eighth straight 1,000-yard season. Jackson would have earned $7 million in 2013 before he opted out of his contract. His 10,135 yards rushing for his career are the most of any active player.
■ Detroit Lions tackle Jeff Backus is retiring, ending a 12-year career in which he missed only one game.
■ The New England Patriots have agreed with receiver Danny Amendola on a deal that would reportedly pay him $31 million over five years, moving quickly after the loss of Wes Welker. As a Ram in 2009, Amendola led the NFL with 66 kickoff returns and 1,618 kickoff return yards. In 2010, he led the NFL with 2,364 all-purpose yards, catching 85 passes for 689 yards and three touchdowns.
■ Former Bears player Chris Zorich pleaded guilty Thursday to federal tax charges in Chicago, admitting to the judge that he didn't file "in a timely fashion." The 43-year-old faced four misdemeanor counts of not filing federal income tax returns from 2006 to 2009.
■ Denver Broncos safety Quinton Carter is facing felony charges in Las Vegas following his arrest last weekend on allegations that he cheated at a casino craps game. Carter was arrested late Saturday at the Texas Station casino after officials reported he added money to his bets after the dice had already rolled.
Kim wins short program in return
Kim Yu-na reminded everyone of what they'd been missing Thursday in London, Ontario, winning the short program in her first appearance at the World Figure Skating Championships since 2011.
Kim showed no signs of rust or nerves, performing with the same elegance and class that won her the Olympic gold in Vancouver — and pretty much every other title the two years before that. With a score of 69.97, she's more than three points ahead of defending world champion Carolina Kostner (66.86) and Kanako Murakami of Japan (66.64) going into Saturday's free skate.
■ Meryl Davis and Charlie White spoiled Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir's homecoming, beating the Olympic and world champions in the short dance and taking a big step toward winning their second title at the World Figure Skating Championships.
Two UK divers make championships
UK divers Greg Ferrucci and Christa Cabot earned berths to the 2013 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships Thursday with their performances on the first day of the Zone C Diving Championships in West Lafayette, Ind.
Ferrucci will advance to the third NCAA Championships of his career with his first-place finish on the 1-meter springboard, finishing with a 825.75. Cabot will be making her first career appearance in the NCAAs with her fourth-place finish on the 3-meter board. She scored a 623.10 to earn the final spot of the 3-meter qualifiers.
■ The NHL Board of Governors has approved realignment, meaning the new layout of the league will take effect next season.
The realignment was precipitated by the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg before the 2011-12 season. The Jets have remained in the Southeast Division the last two seasons.
Winnipeg goes to the new Western Conference while the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings move to the East. In doing so, it creates a problem of unbalanced conferences. The East now has 16 teams, the West 14. With eight teams from each conference still getting playoff berths, it means teams in the West have better mathematical odds of reaching the playoffs,
The last word
Taxidermist Jacky Scott thawed James R. Bramlett's huge striped bass for a reweighing at the Centreville (Ala.) Post Office Tuesday morning. The striper tipped the scale for its new official world-record weight at 69 pounds, 9.8 oz. Said postmaster Sherry Burt:
"People oohed and ahhed as the number was announced and everyone scrambled to get their cellphones to take pictures. ... It drew a crowd from the time Jacky Scott pulled into the parking lot until he left with it. The whole thing was exciting."