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    Time is running out for Lionel Messi to bring Argentina a World Cup, which would give him the one thing that's missing from a career that ranks among the greatest. He turns 31 on Sunday, which means this World Cup could be his last chance. It also means that Thursday's match against Croatia is momentous. He has delivered for his club Barcelona — four Champions League titles, and nine La Liga championships in Spain — but still no World Cup title for Argentina. Messi missed a penalty — it was saved — in a disappointing 1-1 draw against Iceland in the opening group match. Argentina needs to beat Croatia to clear its path from the three-game group stage to the knock-out round of 16. 'We have to look at what we need to correct from the Iceland match, but we can't dwell on it,' Argentina defender Gabriel Mercado said. 'We have to look forward and win the next match against Croatia.' The Croatians opened with a 2-0 win over Nigeria, putting them in a better spot in Group D than Argentina when the teams meet on the banks of the Volga in Nizhny Novgorod. Jorge Sampaoli hasn't used the same lineup twice in the 12 games he's been in charge for Argentina. He's juggling again, this time likely to start 22-year-old Boca Juniors forward Cristian Pavon up front with Messi. Pavon is quick and can play on the right or left and is likely to replace Angel di Maria. As with all the Argentina coaches before him, Sampaoli has searched for the right partnership with Messi, who has often carried Argentina by himself and is always compared with Maradona, who brought Argentina its last World Cup title in 1986. 'I think that Jorge is looking at every position. We'll see what happens and what he decides on the day,' Pavon said. 'I feel confident and luckily things are going well for me, but I don't know yet if I'll be a starter.' 25-YEAR TITLE DROUGH It's hard to believe, but Argentina has not won a major title since taking the Copa America — the South American championship — in 1993. That's 25 years ago; a quarter century of drought for a country that sees itself as soccer royalty. What two-time champion Argentina has felt recently is only bitter defeat: the losing finalist against Germany in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and two more runner-up finishes in the 2015 and 2016 at the Copa America — both times against Chile. SENT PACKING Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has sent home striker Nikola Kalinic because he wouldn't come off the bench as a substitute against Nigeria. Kalinic, who plays for AC Milan, says he has a back injury although news reports in Croatia say he is unhappy being a substitute. Dalic said of Kalinic, 'I need players who are ready.' Croatia now has 22 players on the World Cup roster. OTHER ARGENTINA CHANGES Sampaoli experimented after the Iceland draw with using three defenders with Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi and Nicolas Tagliafico. Mercado would replace Marcos Rojo, who was sub-par against Iceland. Lucas Biglia is also likely to be dropped from midfield and replaced by Marcos Acuna. Giovani Lo Celso, Ever Banega and Enzo Perez are also possibilities. ___ More AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/WorldCup
  • Far from being discouraged about a heartbreaking opening loss to France, Australia is confident going into another tough World Cup match against Denmark. The plucky underdog label seems to inspire the Socceroos. Australia fell 2-1 to the French on Saturday in Kazan. But the scoreline didn't reflect the Australian team's gritty defensive performance against the 1998 World Cup champions and highest-ranked team in the group. Antoine Griezmann scored in the 58th minute following a contentious penalty — the first awarded at the World Cup under the video review system. The referee didn't pick up the initial foul, but awarded the penalty after watching a replay on a sideline TV monitor. Australia captain Mile Jedinak equalized from from the penalty spot before Paul Pogba's deflected shot hit the cross bar and crossed the line in the 81st to clinch the win for France. The goal was confirmed by goal-line technology, and FIFA later credited it as an own goal. While struggling to accept Griezmann's PK, Australia coach Bert van Marwijk remained positive overall heading into Thursday's match at Samara Stadium. 'When you see this game you must have confidence for the rest of the tournament,' van Marwijk said. But it's an admittedly difficult journey. France and Denmark lead Group C with wins, while Peru rounds out the group. Australia, the lowest-ranked team in the group at No. 36, is vying to advance out of the group stage for the first time since 2006. Denmark, returning to the World Cup after missing out on Brazil, is coming off a 1-0 victory over Peru on Saturday in Saransk. Yuffus Poulsen, who plays for German club RB Leipzig, scored the lone goal. The 12th-ranked Danes, who beat Mexico 2-0 in an exhibition before the start of the World Cup, reached the quarterfinals in 1998. The opening victory over Peru did have a cost: Starting midfielder William Kvist fractured two ribs and is likely to miss the rest of the tournament. Kvist was injured in a hard collision with Peru's Jefferson Farfan Australian defender Trent Sainsbury spoke to the media in Kazan before heading to Samara, reinforcing the team's confident outlook going into the team's second match. 'Coming away from the France game, it's refueled us and we can tango with the best,' Sainsbury said. 'I know the boys are running on a high at the moment, but I don't think that's going to change until after the last game against Peru and we'll see where we are then.' SIDE TRIP Danish defender Jonas Knudsen made an unexpected side trip home following the victory over Peru. That's because wife Trine gave birth to the couple's daughter — who wasn't due for a few more weeks. Knudsen's teammates funded the private plane to whisk him back to Denmark for a day to meet his child. He rejoined the team on Monday. KERR WEIGHS IN Australian women's national team forward Sam Kerr took a look at the Socceroos in a piece for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's ABC Grandstand. 'I really wasn't sure how we would do this tournament, I didn't know where our team was at and had no idea how the other teams would show,' she wrote. 'After watching our game and the Peru-Denmark game I am pretty confident we can advance from our group.' Kerr has seen her own World Cup success. The Matildas, as Australia's women's team is known, advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2015 World Cup in Canada. YOUNGEST Australia midfielder Daniel Arzani is the youngest player at the World Cup, at 19 years and five months. He said the magnitude of the occasion hit him when the boisterous yellow-clad Australian fans all sang the nation's national anthem before the match against France. 'Your heart is pumping through your chest and you realized the gravity of the situation — you're here representing the whole nation on the biggest stage,' he said. 'It is emotional but I'm also very proud to be a part of it.' STREAK Denmark is unbeaten in its last 16 international matches. The last loss was in October 2016 against Montenegro (1-0 in Copenhagen).
  • The Latest on Tuesday at the World Cup (all times local): 11:45 a.m. Officials say an engine of a Russian plane carrying the Saudi Arabia team to a World Cup host city caught fire during landing. Russia's federal agency for air traffic says in a statement that the Airbus airplane flying from St. Petersburg to the southern city of Rostov-on-Don landed safely Monday night and did not require any emergency procedures. Tuesday's statement says the passenger plane landed with both of its engines working and the passengers disembarked normally. An investigation into the incident has begun. The Saudi Arabian Football Federation posted pictures of the players exiting the plan on Monday night and a statement on Twitter saying it 'would like to reassure everyone that all the Saudi national team players are safe, after a technical failure in one of the airplane engines that has just landed in Rostov-on-Don airport, and now they're heading to their residence safely.' The Saudis were beaten 5-0 by Russia in the World Cup opener in Moscow last week and play Uruguay in Rostov-on-Don on Wednesday. ___ 11:30 a.m. Brazil's jailed former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has made his debut as a football pundit. Behind bars, he wrote a column for Worker's Party TV on Monday criticizing Brazil's performance in the 1-1 draw against Switzerland at the World Cup 'Qualifying is one thing. The World Cup is different,' da Silva wrote. 'Switzerland was strong in defense, playing rough, and didn't allow Brazil to perform. They also stopped Neymar by fouling him again and again.' Da Silva, who started serving a 12-year sentence for corruption in April, can still appeal his conviction, which he calls politically fabricated. Da Silva also said 'the first week of the World Cup proves Germany is not unbeatable and, among the top players, only Cristiano Ronaldo proved his value.' ___ 10:40 a.m. Senegal President Macky Sall is in Russia and will attend his country's World Cup game against Poland in Moscow. Senegal is returning to the World Cup for the first time since a thrilling run to the quarterfinals on its tournament debut in Japan and South Korea in 2002. The president's office says Sall will watch Senegal play Poland at Spartak Stadium on Tuesday during a three-day visit to Russia . He'll also hold meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Sall was invited to the World Cup by FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura, who is from Senegal. Senegal is Africa's last chance of getting a win in the first volley of games at the World Cup. Egypt (1-0 to Uruguay), Morocco (1-0 to Iran), Nigeria (2-0 to Croatia) and Tunsia (2-1 to England) all lost their group openers.
  • An engine burst into flames during the landing of a Russian plane carrying the Saudi Arabian soccer team to a World Cup host city, but nobody was hurt, officials said Tuesday. Russia's federal agency for air traffic said in a statement that the Airbus airplane flying from St. Petersburg to the southern city of Rostov-on-Don landed safely Monday evening and no emergency procedures were required. The aircraft landed with both of its engines working and the passengers disembarked normally, the agency's statement said. An investigation into the incident has begun. Rossiya Airlines, the flight's operator, said that the malfunction was likely caused by a bird strike. 'The A319 landed using two engines. The passengers' safety was never compromised,' Rossiya said in a statement. 'The airplane landed normally, the airport did not declare a state of emergency.' Saudi Arabia plays Uruguay in Rostov-on-Don on Wednesday. Russia is hosting the World Cup in 11 cities.
  • A look at what's happening around the majors Tuesday: VERLANDER DAY Houston tries for its 13th straight win with AL ERA leader Justin Verlander on the mound against Tampa Bay. The Astros' ace is 9-2 with a 1.61 ERA, though he's posted a 3.79 ERA over his past three starts and matched a season high with two homers allowed last time out in a 7-3 win over Oakland. Rays lefty Blake Snell (8-4, 2.58) will try to slow down Houston after the Astros beat Tampa Bay 5-4 on Alex Bregman's game-ending two-run double Monday. ON THE MEND The defending NL champions are beginning to get healthier. Rich Hill comes off the DL to start for the Dodgers in the nightcap of a doubleheader against the Cubs in a rematch of last year's NL Championship Series. Hill (1-2, 6.20 ERA) went on the disabled list May 20 with a blister on his left middle finger, a recurring problem for the veteran left-hander. He will be opposed by fellow lefty Mike Montgomery (2-2, 3.31), who is 2-1 with a 1.14 ERA in four starts since moving into the rotation after Yu Darvish was sidelined by right triceps tendinitis. Hill's return comes one day after Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw threw a three-inning simulated game at Wrigley Field, taking another step forward in his recovery from a strained lower back. The three-time Cy Young Award winner said he felt really good and plans to pitch somewhere in four or five days, either in a minor league rehab start or for the Dodgers. Veteran second baseman Chase Utley, sidelined by sprained left thumb, is expected to come off the DL with Hill. And rookie right-hander Walker Buehler, one of baseball's top pitching prospects, is scheduled for a bullpen session Saturday in New York, continuing his comeback from a right rib microfracture. MEASURING STICK One of baseball's biggest surprises, the Seattle Mariners (46-26) embark on a 10-game road trip to the East Coast that should serve as a tough test. They open with three games against the New York Yankees followed by three in Boston — the top two teams in the majors. Marco Gonzales (7-3, 3.42 ERA) attempts to win his fifth straight decision when he pitches against Yankees rookie Domingo German (1-4, 5.23), who is coming off his first major league win. TIME TRAVELER Juan Soto's feats are piling up. The latest from the 19-year-old rookie sensation: homering in a game played before he made his major league debut. Soto hit a tiebreaking, pinch-hit, two-run shot in the sixth inning of a game that began and was suspended because of rain last month, five days before Soto was called up from the minors for the first time. Soto's sixth homer in 24 games lifted the Nationals over the Yankees 5-3. Washington is set to open a home series against Baltimore. The team will be joined this week by reliever Kelvin Herrera, who was acquired from Kansas City for three minor leaguers Monday. BAEZ BACK? Javier Baez may return to the Cubs' starting lineup two days after being hit on the left elbow by a pitch. Baez was out of the lineup before Monday's game against the Dodgers was postponed and said the elbow was still swollen, but the team decided no X-rays were needed. Baez leads Chicago with 14 home runs. The teams will play a day-night doubleheader at Wrigley after Monday's game was delayed due to rain and a limited power outage. ___ More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
  • Thanks, Vegas. That's what NHL general managers are saying this offseason after the success of the expansion Golden Knights contributed to what's expected to be a healthy increase for the salary cap. With elite center John Tavares, No. 1 defenseman John Carlson and a strong group of free agents available soon, the ceiling for player spending will rise to between $78 and $82 million from $75 million. 'The higher the better,' Washington Capitals Stanley Cup-winning GM Brian MacLellan said. 'It makes it a lot more fun.' Gentlemen, open your wallets — players like Tavares, Carlson and forwards James van Riemsdyk and Paul Stastny won't come cheap. They're just a few of the big-name players who could be on the move this offseason. With GMs meeting Thursday in Dallas and around each other this weekend at the draft, trade talk is percolating before free agency opens in July. Ottawa forward Mike Hoffman, Buffalo center Ryan O'Reilly, Pittsburgh forward Phil Kessel, Montreal captain Max Pacioretty and Washington backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer could all be on the move in the next several days. Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson is the star who will go to the highest bidder if the Senators are willing to trade the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman with one year remaining on his contract. GM Pierre Dorion is in a tough spot, potentially having to deal either Karlsson or Hoffman after it was revealed last week that Karlsson's wife Melinda has filed an order of protection against Hoffman's girlfriend, Monika Caryk, alleging harassment and bullying. Decisions are far more immediate for the Islanders and Capitals. New York should probably make a move to re-sign Tavares before its face of the franchise can begin speaking with other teams June 25, and recently hired president of hockey operations Lou Lamoriello has to hire a new coach. The Islanders might've gotten a fortunate bounce there when Barry Trotz resigned from his job with Washington less than two weeks after lifting the Cup. Re-signing Tavares and hiring a replacement for fired coach Doug Weight go hand-in-hand. If it doesn't work out and Tavares hits the open market, a contract with a salary approaching Connor McDavid's $12.5 million isn't out of the question. Nashville GM David Poile said cap situations put five or six teams in position for top-end free agents and knock about half the league out of the running. 'We all have different commitments already of contracts,' Poile said. 'Some teams have a lot of room. Some teams don't have very much room.' Big-revenue teams with money to spend include the retooling New York Rangers and the rising Toronto Maple Leafs. The Rangers are among several teams linked to Russian Olympic MVP Ilya Kovalchuk, who's looking to return to the NHL after five seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League. Former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov, who won an Olympic gold medal with Kovalchuk, is back in the U.S. and could also be on the way to returning. Voynov was convicted of domestic abuse and is suspended indefinitely by the NHL, which makes it unclear how a team will pave the way for him to play. Even excepting Voynov, hundreds of current free agents don't know where they'll be playing next season. Beyond Tavares, Carlson is the most in-demand pending free agent after leading all defensemen in regular-season and playoff points. Carlson plans to have his day with the Stanley Cup in Washington, but because of the uncertainty of the offseason, there's no guarantee he'll be there this fall. 'We'll see what happens,' Carlson said. 'We'll talk and go from there. I don't really know what else to say other than that. I love it here and all that, I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.' ___ Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SWhyno ___ More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey
  • A letter signed by 120 sexual abuse victims of former sports doctor Larry Nassar on Tuesday urged Michigan State University's governing board to oust interim president John Engler, saying he had reinforced a 'culture of abuse' at the school. The women and girls issued their joint statement three days before the board of trustees' next meeting and after a week in which demands for Engler's resignation reached a fever pitch. Engler, a former governor who took over on an interim basis in February after the previous president resigned amid fallout from the Nassar scandal, has resisted pressure to step down. Media outlets last week reported that he sent emails to another university official in April criticizing lawyers for Nassar's sexual assault victims and suggesting the first woman to go public with her accusations was probably getting a 'kickback' from her attorney. Among those who signed the letter are Olympic gymnastics gold medalist Aly Raisman, and Rachael Denhollander, a former gymnast who has been one of the most vocal critics of Engler. In their lengthy written statement, the 120 'sister survivors' said they stand together against 'character attacks' and that Engler 'has only reinforced the culture of abuse at MSU.' Current and future victims of sexual abuse 'should know they can raise their voice without being characterized as pawns too foolish to know they are manipulated,' they said. 'There is no debate: President Engler has failed miserably,' they said in the letter. 'Nothing at MSU - none of the mindsets that allowed Larry Nassar to abuse children for decades - have changed. Therefore, it is our position that MSU cannot move forward and become an institution of integrity and safety until John Engler is no longer president.' Two of the university's publicly-elected trustees, Democrats Brian Mossalam and Dianne Byrum, have called for the resignation of Engler, who served as the state's Republican governor from 1991 through 2002. A portion of the statement is directed at the six other trustees, four Republicans and two Democrats, asking them to 'stand for what is right.' 'Unfortunately, and with great regret, John Engler's tenure as interim president has continued the bleeding rather than stem it,' Brian Mosallam said in a statement released Friday morning. Trustees hired Engler after the former president, Lou Anna Simon, suddenly resigned in January in the wake of the Nassar scandal. Nassar himself was fired from Michigan State in 2016, two years after he was the subject of a sexual assault investigation. Under Engler's tenure, Michigan State has agreed to a $500 million settlement with 332 women and girls who said they were sexually assaulted by Nassar, a former campus sports doctor who also worked with the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. Nassar now is in prison. Of that, $75 million will cover future claims. 'We stood against our abuser. We stood against an abusive culture. Now we are asking you to stand against it too and lead MSU forward into real change,' the letter said in its conclusion.
  • Bartolo Colon has reached one goal he set for himself this season and is within two wins of another. Colon earned his 244th victory, passing Hall of Famer Juan Marichal for the most by a pitcher born in the Dominican Republic, and the Texas Rangers beat the skidding Kansas City Royals 6-3 on Monday night. Adrian Beltre hit a three-run homer for the Rangers, who won their third straight game. The 45-year-old Colon (4-4) allowed three runs and nine hits in six innings to break a tie with Marichal on the career wins chart. Only right-hander Dennis Martinez has more victories among pitchers from Latin America. Martinez, a native of Nicaragua, won 245 games in the majors. 'Now that I've won the 244, I see that it's close to Dennis Martinez, but with health and enough time, I'm ready to be able to pass him and be the first Latin with more wins,' Colon said through a translator. 'I feel happy, of course, to pass a Hall of Famer, the first Dominican in the Hall of Fame.' The Royals have lost seven straight and 13 of 14. They've dropped 27 of 37 games at Kauffman Stadium, the worst home record in the majors. Kansas City is 2-14 in June, having been outscored 95-35. Colon was 1-3 with a 9.51 ERA in his five previous starts. Kansas City loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, but the portly and popular right-hander affectionately nicknamed Big Sexy got out of the inning when Hunter Dozier grounded into a double play. 'They've wanted to get this win for him for some time now,' Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. 'It's just incredible to watch. He's such a humble guy. No real fanfare whatsoever. Kind of just a great humility. But, these guys fought hard for him and were able to get him some runs and he fought hard for it tonight.' Keona Kela tossed a spotless ninth for his 16th save in 16 chances. Beltre homered in the third off Ian Kennedy, with Elvis Andrus and Nomar Mazara aboard, to give the Rangers a 5-0 advantage. Mazara had three hits. Kennedy (1-7) is 1-13 in his last 28 home starts. He is winless in 13 starts since an April 7 victory at Cleveland. The right-hander gave up a home run to Shin-Soo Choo on his fourth pitch, a drive that just cleared the Royals' right-field bullpen fence. Choo reached base five times, including a double and three walks. Kennedy yielded five runs and four hits, two of them homers. He walked three. 'Just one really bad inning and it cost us the game,' Kennedy said. 'One pitch, I hung a curveball and the three-run homer was the big swing and it cost us the game. I felt like I pitched better than the line. I really felt like we were going to come back and win.' Adalberto Mondesi had an RBI double in the Kansas City third and scored on Mike Moustakas' sacrifice fly. Rosel Herrera had a run-scoring triple in the fourth for his first extra-base hit and RBI, trimming the lead to 5-3. Delino DeShields' bunt single in the eighth scored Jurickson Profar for the final Texas run. HERRERA TRADED Just before the game, Royals manager Ned Yost broke the news to closer Kelvin Herrera that he had been traded to the Washington Nationals for three minor league prospects. 'It was one that was a little emotional,' Yost said of the conversation. 'I've seen him throw every pitch he's ever thrown in the big leagues. I've seen him come up as a rookie and be a part of one of the best bullpens (with Wade Davis and Greg Holland) in recent history, to be an All-Star and a world champion. We knew this day was coming someday down the road. It's a chance for him to go play for a winner.' STRUGGLING Royals SS Alcides Escobar is in a 3-for-45 drought in his past 12 games. ROSTER MOVES Rangers: Andrus was activated after missing 59 games with a broken right elbow. RHP Ricardo Rodriguez was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock, where he had allowed one unearned run in 13 1/3 innings. C Jose Trevino was optioned to Double-A Frisco after hitting a game-ending, two-run single in the ninth on Sunday. RHP Deck McGuire was designated for assignment. TRAINER'S ROOM Royals: Whit Merrifield was in the lineup as the designated hitter after leaving in the second inning Sunday with a bruised left knee after fouling a pitch off his leg. UP NEXT Rangers: LHP Cole Hamels (3-6, 3.69 ERA) starts Tuesday night at Kansas City. Royals: RHP Jason Hammel (2-7, 4.89) is winless in his last eight home starts. ___ More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
  • Jose Altuve upped the pressure on Alex Bregman as he walked to home plate with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning. 'Altuve told me ... that he's not bringing his bat or batting gloves to the on-deck circle, so I better get the job done,' Bregman said. 'So I had to find a way.' Bregman hit a game-ending two-run double and the Houston Astros beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 to match a franchise record with their 12th straight win. Houston trailed 4-0 after three innings but cut the lead to one entering the ninth. Sergio Romo (1-2) walked Marwin Gonzalez to start the ninth, then allowed a single to Max Stassi. Tony Kemp's sacrifice bunt moved both runners up, and Houston loaded the bases when George Springer reached on interference by catcher Wilson Ramos. Bregman then drove a ball that bounced off the wall in left-center. He lifted both arms as he trotted into second base, and teammates mobbed him in the infield. It was Houston's second game-ending hit of the season, and the other also came off Bregman's bat April 7 against San Diego. Bregman also walked off Houston with a single in Game 5 of the World Series last season. 'You do it as often as Alex has done it, we know it's going to be a good at-bat,' manager A.J. Hinch said. 'Whether it ends in our favor or not is baseball, but he's a guy we want up there.' Romo declined to speak to reporters after the game, but manager Kevin Cash discussed his work. 'He's the guy who's been out there and got the experience,' Cash said. 'He's done it here as of late. It lined up right; it just didn't work.' Collin McHugh (2-0) struck out two in a scoreless ninth for the win on a night Gerrit Cole walked a career-high five to help the Rays build the early lead. Houston also won 12 straight in 2004 and 1999. The Astros will go for No. 13 on Tuesday with ace Justin Verlander on the mound. 'The only thing that matters to these guys is winning,' Bregman said. Romo was the seventh pitcher the Rays used as they employed a reliever as a starter for the 16th time in 30 games. Cole walked Jake Bauers with one out in the first before Ramos launched a fastball into the seats in right field to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead. Matt Duffy drew a walk with one out in the third, stole second base and took third on an error by catcher Brian McCann. Cole, who hadn't walked more than three in a game this season, walked Bauers and Ramos to load the bases. A two-out single by Joey Wendle came next to score two and push the lead to 4-0. Altuve, who finished with three hits, singled with one out in the fourth, and Carlos Correa followed with a double. Houston got within 4-1 on a groundball single by Yuli Gurriel which scored Altuve. The Astros made it 4-2 when Correa scored on a sacrifice fly by Josh Reddick. Altuve doubled and reached third on an error by Johnny Field to start Houston's sixth. A one-out single by Gurriel scored Altuve to cut the lead to 4-3. Gonzalez singled with two outs, but Diego Castillo came in and retired pinch-hitter Evan Gattis to end the inning. TRAINER'S ROOM Rays: OF Kevin Kiermaier will be activated from the disabled list Tuesday after sitting out since April 15 after tearing a ligament in his right thumb which required surgery. He wasn't supposed to be reinstated until Friday, but was feeling good after a rehabilitation stint in the minors and wore Cash down with incessant text messages saying he was ready. 'I was sick of hearing from him so I called the general manager and said: 'Please get him up here,'' Cash joked. ... RHP Chris Archer (abdominal strain) has been playing catch and is scheduled to throw a bullpen Friday. Cash said he'll need to make some rehabilitation starts before returning to the team. Astros: RHP Joe Smith (right elbow inflammation) felt fine after playing catch Sunday but likely won't return from the disabled list until Houston's next homestand, which begins on July 5. LATE SCORING With their two runs in the ninth on Monday night, the Astros have scored a major league best 137 runs in the seventh inning or later this season. Monday's four-run deficit is the largest they've overcome to win this season, outdoing the two-run deficit they came back from for a victory on Sunday at Kansas City. UP NEXT Verlander (9-2, 1.61 ERA) opposes Tampa Bay's Blake Snell (8-4, 2.58) in the second game of the series Tuesday night. Verlander yielded two homers and three runs in seven innings in his last start to extend his winning streak to five games. Snell looks to get back on track after he had a four-game winning streak snapped by allowing five hits and four runs in five innings of a loss to the Yankees his last time out. ___ More AP baseball: www.apnews.com/tags/MLBbaseball
  • Washington Nationals closer Sean Doolittle was going through his usual routine Monday, preparing if needed for a save, when general manager Mike Rizzo sought him out. Rizzo wanted to discuss two things: The Nationals were trading for two-time All-Star reliever Kelvin Herrera, and Doolittle was going to keep his ninth-inning job. Getting a jump on the trade deadline, the Nationals picked up right-hander Herrera from the Kansas City Royals for three minor leaguers, adding him to a back end of the bullpen that already includes the lefty Doolittle and righties Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler. 'It's almost their way of saying, 'Here's some help. Here's some reinforcements.' I think it's one of those situations where you can't have too many options down there,' Doolittle said. 'You get a guy who's pitched in every high-leverage role from the seventh inning on. He's won a World Series. ... We're planning on playing some really meaningful games down the stretch and making a run into the playoffs. We're gonna need some help. I think it's awesome.' As for the effect on his role, which the Nationals say won't change, Doolittle called it 'definitely a confidence boost' to hear that it's 'still my job.' 'You want to add some stuff, but you don't want to have too many cooks in the kitchen,' Doolittle said. 'It's not necessarily that guys are super-attached to their roles, but they like to know what to expect — when they're going to pitch in a game, when to get ready, that sort of stuff.' The Nationals sent infielder Kelvin Gutierrez, outfielder Blake Perkins and 17-year-old pitcher Yohanse Morel to Kansas City in the deal announced during Washington's doubleheader against the New York Yankees. Gutierrez heads to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, Perkins will be assigned to Class A Wilmington, and Morel goes to rookie ball. Herrera has 14 saves and a 1.05 ERA this season. He's allowed three earned runs in 25 2/3 innings while striking out 22 batters and walking two. 'It's just a moment you don't want to see,' Herrera said about leaving his only major league home. 'It's always hard. I was born and raised (as) a player here.' The 28-year-old helped Kansas City win the 2015 World Series — and is among the last players left from that title team. He is 23-27 with 57 saves and a 2.75 ERA across 442 games in relief over eight seasons in the majors. 'We've known Kelvin since he signed with us when he was 16 years old. He's one of the very best competitors that I've ever been around, probably that this organization has seen,' Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. 'Without him, there is no way we can ever make it to the World Series, win a World Series.' Kintzler, the usual seventh-inning man for Washington, went on the disabled list June 10 with a right forearm flexor strain, and Madson spent time on the DL earlier this season. Madson was a teammate of Herrera's on the 2015 champions. 'He's a bulldog,' Madson said. 'I take it with welcoming arms. Let the old horse rest a little bit.' Instead of waiting to make moves at the July 31 non-waiver deadline, the Nationals opted to strike now. They are the two-time reigning NL East champions but have never won a postseason series. Washington also currently stands in second place in the division, entering Monday 3½ games behind the Atlanta Braves. The Royals, meanwhile, are way out of contention in the AL Central in last place and 22-49 going into the day. They already shipped Jon Jay to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a pair of minor leaguers earlier in June. 'We'd like to be holding onto our players longer,' Moore said, 'but where we are in the standings and what we're faced with and how we're playing, if we can get the right move, it's important to move.' ___ AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta and freelancer Alan Eskew in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report. ___ More AP Baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball