Thursday Sports in Brief

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The Associated Press
·7 min read
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BASEBALL

NEW YORK (AP) -- Major League Baseball and the players' union agreed Thursday to expand the playoffs from 10 teams to 16 for the pandemic-delayed season, a decision that makes it likely teams with losing records will reach the postseason.

The agreement was reached hours before the season opener between the New York Yankees and World Series champion Washington Nationals. The deal applied only for 2020 and included a surprise benefiting the Yankees the most: Collection of baseball's luxury tax will be suspended this year, a person familiar with the details told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcement was made.

Sixteen of the 30 teams will advance to a best-of-three first round: the first- and second-place teams in every division and the next two clubs by winning percentage in each league. Those winners move on to the best-of-five Division Series, where the usual format resumes. The final four teams are in best-of-seven League Championship Series, and the pennant winners meet in the best-of-seven World Series.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw went on the injured list because of a back issue hours before he was scheduled to start Thursday night for Los Angeles against the San Francisco Giants on opening day of the shortened season.

The Dodgers beat the Giants 8-1.

Manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw's back stiffened up in a weight room workout two days ago. He's been receiving treatment ever since, but the training staff advised against the 32-year-old three-time NL Cy Young Award winner making his ninth opening day start.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Washington Nationals slugger Juan Soto tested positive for COVID-19 and was put on the injured list Thursday, hours before the 2019 World Series champions were scheduled to face the New York Yankees on opening day.

Major League Baseball is the first of the four major North American team sports playing regular-season games amid the coronavirus outbreak, which is getting worse in some parts of the U.S. In their opener, the Yankees beat the Nationals 8-1, in a game shortened to 6 innings due to rain.

Soto, a 21-year-old left fielder who was a breakout star of last October after producing 34 homers and 110 RBIs during the regular season, will be sidelined until he can come up negative on two consecutive coronavirus tests.

FOOTBALL

WASHINGTON (AP) - The NFL team formerly known as the Redskins will go by the Washington Football Team for at least the 2020 season, giving the organization time to choose a new, full-time name.

Gone is the Indian head logo and the name Native American advocates have called a dictionary-defined racial slur. Here to stay are the burgundy and gold colors that are synonymous with the franchise's storied history.

Executive vice president and chief marketing officer Terry Bateman, hired Monday to oversee the name change and rebranding process, called the temporary design ''a nice link between the history and the future.''

HOCKEY

SEATTLE (AP) - The NHL's newest team finally has its name: the Seattle Kraken.

The expansion franchise unveiled its nickname Thursday, ending 19 months of speculation about whether the team might lean traditional or go eccentric with the name for the league's 32nd team.

''The Kraken is a name born of the fans. It was suggested and championed by the fans,'' Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke said.

In opting for the sea creature of Scandinavian folklore, Seattle bypassed options like Sockeyes, Evergreens or Metropolitans, the last of which would have been a nod to Seattle's hockey history. There was even a push from some fans for the team to try to acquire the Thunderbirds name from the local junior team.

But Kraken was a clear favorite among fans.

AUTO RACING

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Denny Hamlin raced to his his series-leading fifth NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season Thursday night, passing Kevin Harvick in the closing laps and holding off Brad Keselowski to make it back-to-back victories at Kansas Speedway.

Hamlin had struggled the past three weeks, failing to finish better than 12th. But after showing good speed early, his Joe Gibbs Racing team made all the right calls during a crash-filled final stage to win in front of empty grandstands.

Keselowski finished second and Martin Truex Jr. came across third. Harvick wound up sliding to fourth and Erik Jones, who hadn't been quiet all night, rounded out the top five to cap a banner night for the Gibbs boys.

BOXING

CARSON, Calif. (AP) - Mike Tyson is coming back to boxing at age 54.

The former heavyweight champion will meet four-division champion Roy Jones Jr. in an eight-round exhibition match on Sept. 12 at Dignity Health Sports Park.

Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history when he won the title in 1986 at age 20 and for a time was the most feared fighter in boxing. But his career became littered with distractions and he hasn't boxed since 2005 after losing his second straight fight.

He has occasionally teased a return with workout videos and it's finally scheduled to happen.

TENNIS

Eleven mens and women's tennis tournaments planned for China in October and November -- including the WTA Finals -- were canceled Thursday amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Rather than try to move or reschedule any of those events, the ATP and WTA tours announced they were scrapping all of them after China's General Administration of Sport said that country would not host any international sporting events the rest of this year because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Called off were seven women's tournaments; the ATP wiped four men's events, including its only Masters 1000 tournament in Asia.

SOCCER

NEW YORK (AP) - Former Spanish star striker David Villa was accused of harassment by a former New York City FC intern, an accusation he denied.

The Major League Soccer team said it will investigate.

A person with the Twitter name Skyler B made the charge in posts on July 17.

Villa refuted the charge in a statement Wednesday issued through his agency, VOS USA.

HORSE RACING

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) - Irad Ortiz Jr. won five races at Saratoga on Thursday, equaling his feat of a year ago.

He won the second, fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth races from his eight mounts at the upstate New York track. Last July 31, Ortiz Jr. also won five races.

The victories moved Ortiz Jr. into a tie for second in the jockeys' standings with his brother, Jose.

Ortiz Jr. was the leading rider at Saratoga in 2015 and 2018.

COURTS

NEW YORK (AP) - A former men's college basketball assistant coach was sentenced Thursday to three years of probation, community service and a fine for fatally punching a man in New York City who pounded on his car's window.

Former Wake Forest assistant coach Jamill Jones, 37, was sentenced in a Queens court video conference to probation, 1,500 hours of community service and a $1,000 fine. Jones, for the first time, apologized to the victim's family and spoke through tears while addressing the court, the News & Observer reported.

Jones, of North Carolina, was convicted in February of misdemeanor assault for the punch that killed 35-year-old Sandor Szabo in August 2018.

OBITUARY

John Blake, the former Oklahoma football player and coach who was the school's first Black head coach in any sport, died Thursday. He was 59.

Blake's wife, Freda, said he had a ''heart-related emergency'' at his home in Dallas on Thursday morning. She said attempts to revive him at home failed and he died at Baylor University Medical Center.

Blake was hired as the Sooners' head coach in December 1995. He had a 12-22 record in three seasons, but his recruiting success laid the foundation for the program's resurgence.

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