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Dallas Keuchel apologizes for 2017 Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scheme



Jan. 24 (UPI) — Former Houston Astros ace and current Chicago White Sox pitcher Dallas Keuchel apologized Friday for the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme used during their 2017 run to the World Series.

Speaking at a fan convention for the White Sox, Keuchel became the first member of the 2017 Astros to offer a public apology for the cheating scandal. He was both apologetic and surprised at the attention surrounding the sign-stealing operation.

“I think first and foremost, apologies should be in order … for everyone on the team,” Keuchel told reporters. “When the stuff was going on, it was never intended to be what it’s made to be right now.”

Keuchel pitched for the Astros from 2012 through 2018 before signing with the Atlanta Braves last season. He signed a three-year, $55.5 million contract with the White Sox in December.

Earlier this off-season, a league investigation confirmed the 2017 Astros cheated during the regular season and postseason of their World Series-winning 2017 campaign. According to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, the Astros used an illegal camera-based system to steal signs of opposing teams.

The sign-stealing operation led to the suspension and subsequent firing of Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch.

“When stuff comes out over the course of a big league ball season, it’s always blown up to the point of, ‘Oh my gosh, this has never happened before,'” Keuchel said. “I’m not going to go into specific details, but during the course of the playoffs in 2017, everyone was using multiple signs. For factual purposes, when there is no one on base, when in the history of baseball has there been multiple signs?

“There was probably six out of eight teams using multiple signs. It’s just what the state of baseball was at that point and time. Was it against the rules? Yes, it was, and I personally am sorry for what has come about, the whole situation.”

Former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers revealed the team’s sign-stealing operation in an interview with The Athletic in November. Keuchel was measured in his response when asked about Fiers’ role in revealing the scheme.

“A lot of guys are not happy with the fact that Mike came out and said something, or the fact that this even happened,” Keuchel said. “At the same time, there is some sorrow in guys’ voices. … This will be going on for a long time, but I’m sure in the back of guys’ minds, this is still fresh.

“I don’t think anyone is going to come out from other teams. They see what happens now. … It sucks to the extent of the clubhouse rule was broken and that’s where I’ll go with that. I don’t really have much else to say about Mike.”

The scandal also extended to other MLB teams. In the aftermath, the Boston Red Sox parted ways with manager Alex Cora, who served as the Astros’ bench coach in 2017, earlier this month for his role in the scheme.

The New York Mets did the same with Carlos Beltran, a veteran player with the 2017 Astros who was named the Mets’ manager in November. Manfred said the league is still investigating allegations that the 2018 Red Sox, under Cora, also used technology to steal opponents’ signs.

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Historic NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader highlights weekend sports schedule



July 3 (UPI) — NASCAR and IndyCar will race at the same track on the same weekend for the first time when the top motorsports tiers rendezvous Saturday and Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The trio of races highlight a packed live sports weekend.

The Fourth of July weekend sports slate also includes UFC fights, a PGA Tour golf tournament, NWSL women’s soccer matches, European soccer clashes and baseball games in Asia.

Drivers will first start their engines for the IndyCar’s GMR Grand Prix at noon EDT Saturday. That race was scheduled for May, but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NASCAR will host an Xfinity race after the GMR Grand Prix on the same track at 3 p.m. EDT with the Pennzoil 150 at The Brickyard. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s final weekend race will be the Cup Series Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400, which starts at 4 p.m. EDT Sunday.

No spectators will be allowed at the races.

NASCAR’s Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Truck Series have been back since May after they were suspended due to the pandemic. IndyCar started its season in early June after its start was postponed from mid-March.

Caesars has Cup Series leader Kevin Harvick as a +350 favorite to win Sunday’s race, which means a $100 bet would win a bettor $350, in addition to the wagered amount.

Kyle Busch (+400), Denny Hamlin (+500), Martin Truex Jr. (+800), Brad Keselowski (+1000) and Joey Logano (+1000) are also among the favorites for the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400.

UFC on Fight Island

A welterweight title bout between Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns highlights UFC 251 on Fight Island, a unique Yas Island venue Saturday in Abu Dhabi.

Usman (16-1-0) is the titleholder and hasn’t lost since 2013. Burns (19-3-0) is ranked No. 1 in welterweight and hasn’t lost since 2018. He knocked off former welterweight title holder Tyron Woodley on May 30 at UFC Fight Night. Usman beat Woodley on March 2 at UFC 235 to dethrone the champion.

Caesars has Usman as a -245 favorite to beat Burns (+205), which means a bettor would need to wager at least $245 to win $100 on Usman and would win $205 on a $100 bet on Burns. BetOnline.AG also has Usman as a favorite at -235 with Burns at +200.

The main card for UFC 251 includes four other matchups. Amanda Ribas and Paige VanZant will open the main card at 10 p.m. EDT Saturday on ESPN+.

Jessica Andrade (20-7-0) will face Rose Namajunas in the second fight on the main card. Petr Yan will then clash against Jose Aldo in a bantamweight title bout. Featherweights Alexander Volkanovski will match with Max Holloway in the co-main event bout before Usman battles Burns.

Soccer from U.S. women, Europe

The NWSL Challenge Cup will continue Saturday and Sunday. More than a dozen players from the United States Women’s National Team are on the rosters for the National Women’s Soccer League teams.

Utah Royals FC will face the Sky Blue FC and the Houston Dash play the OL Reign Saturday in Herriman, Utah. The North Carolina Courage face the Chicago Red Stars and Portland Thorns FC plays the Washington Spirit on Sunday in Herriman.

Germany’s Bundesliga and England’s Premier League already have crowned champions, but Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A still await a winner. Rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona are in a tight race atop La Liga.

Two consecutive draws have led to Barcelona’s drop for the top spot. Real Madrid can increase their lead this week while Lionel Messi and Barcelona need to beat Villarreal Sunday to keep pace with their foes.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus lead Serie A by just four points over second-place Lazio. Both Italian squads will take the field Saturday with Lazio in a clash against Milan and Juventus in a matchup against Torino.

Premier League champion Liverpool follows their rivalry matchup Thursday against Manchester City with a game Sunday against Aston Villa. United States soccer star Christian Pulisic will attempt to keep the Blues in Champions League contention with a matchup against Watford Saturday in London.



KBO: Kiwoom Heroes vs. KT Wiz at 4:55 a.m. EDT on ESPN


Rocket Mortgage Classic: Third round featured groups from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. EDT on PGA Tour Live; 1 to 3 p.m. EDT on Golf Channel; 3 to 6 p.m. EDT on CBS


Serie A: Juventus vs. Torino at 11 a.m. EDT on ESPN+

NWSL Challenge Cup: Utah Royals FC vs. Sky Blue FC at 12:30 p.m. EDT on CBS All Access

Premier League: Chelsea vs. Watford at 3 p.m. EDT on NBCSN

Serie A: Lazio vs. AC Milan at 3:30 p.m. EDT on ESPN+

NWSL Challenge Cup: Houston Dash vs. OL Reign at 10 p.m. EDT on CBS All Access


NTT Series GMR Grand Prix at noon EDT on NBC


Xfinity Pennzoil 150 at The Brickyard at 3 p.m. EDT on NBC

UFC 251 on ESPN+

Amanda Ribas vs. Paige VanZant at 10 p.m. EDT

Jessica Andrade vs. Rose Namajunas after first fight

Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo after second fight

Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway after third fight

Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns after fourth fight



KBO: LG Twins vs. Samsung Lions at 3:55 a.m. EDT on ESPN


Rocket Mortgage Classic: Fourth round featured groups from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. EDT on PGA Tour Live; 1 to 3 p.m. EDT on Golf Channel; 3 to 6 p.m. EDT on CBS


La Liga: Real Madrid vs. Athletic Club at 8 a.m. EDT on beIN Sports

Premier League: Liverpool vs. Aston Villa at 11:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN

NWSL Challenge Cup: North Carolina Courage vs. Chicago Red Stars at 12:30 p.m. EDT on CBS All Access

Premier League: Southampton vs. Manchester City at 2 p.m. EDT on NBC

La Liga: Barcelona vs. Villarreal at 4 p.m. EDT on beIN Sports

NWSL Challenge Cup: Portland Thorns FC vs. Washington Spirit at 10 p.m. EDT on CBS All Access


Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 at 4 p.m. EDT on NBC

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Serpentine wins Investec Derby at 25-1



July 5 (UPI) — Serpentine, a 25-1 long shot, led the field a merry chase in the Investec Derby on Epsom Downs and kept on running, winning by 5 1/2 lengths to give both his trainer and his sire records for Derby wins.

It was no surprise that Serpentine got off to the lead in Saturday’s race. But as the lead kept getting bigger and bigger, it suddenly became clear the Galileo colt — a maiden winner just seven days earlier — wasn’t about stopping and the others had given him far to much rope.

With Emmett McNamara along for the ride, Serpentine nailed down the 25-1 upset win by an easy 5 1/2 lengths with Khalifa Sat edging Amhran No Bhfiaan for second. The favorites, Kameko and English King, were fourth and fifth.

Serpentine gave trainer Aidan O’Brien his record eighth Derby win and his sire his record fifth.

O’Brien had six of the 16 runners in the Derby, including Kameko and Amhran No Bhfiaan, but neither he nor McNamara seemed too surprised that two of his longer chances finished in the top three.

“We try to give every horse their best chance to win and we ride them accordingly,” O’Brien said by ZOOM from his base in Ireland. “It was exactly the way we planned.”

McNamara said with his huge lead, he couldn’t hear the other horses and, with no spectators allowed at Epsom, he silence was “surreal.”

“I never looked behind me. I couldn’t hear a thing,” he said. “All I could hear was my horse breathing and he was in a very good rhythm.”

McNamara answered frankly, “No,” when asked if he expected to win the race. But, he quickly added, O’Brien “had a huge amount of confidence in the horse. It wasn’t a complete surprise.”

Serpentine, produced by the Danehill Dancer mare Remember When, was having just his fourth start. He won for the first time June 27 in a maiden event at the Curragh in Ireland.

O’Brien said the colt is a proper stayer and did not rule out a try in the Group 1 St Leger or even the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, though he did say he would not want Serpentine “going deep into the heavy ground” often typifying the going in the French fixture.

O’Brien also said the Coolmore lads, Serpentine’s owners, are eyeing a shot at the Group 1 Japan Cup in Tokyo on November, though more likely with one of their 4-year-olds. He mentioned, without a trace of irony, Japan might be a chance for the Japan Cup.

The Serpentine is a lake in London’s Hyde Park, created for Queen Caroline in 1730 — 50 years before the first Derby.

Two races earlier, O’Brien also saddled the winner of the Investec Oaks. Love, another Galileo product, rallied from well back for jockey Ryan Moore and quickly drew off to win by 5 lengths.

Ennistyman, another Galileo filly, held off second-favorite Frankie Darling, with Frankie Dettori up, for second.

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Jorge Masvidal, Kamaru Usman agree to UFC 251 fight



July 5 (UPI) — Kamaru Usman will defend his welterweight title against Jorge Masvidal after both fighters agreed to terms Sunday to fight at UFC 251 this weekend at “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Masvidal, who must pass a coronavirus test before the fight can take place, will step in as a late replacement for Gilbert Burns, according to ESPN and MMA Fighting. Burns — originally set to face off against Usman — was forced to withdraw from Saturday’s UFC 251 fight card due to a positive COVID-19 test result.

According to ESPN, Usman is traveling to Las Vegas on Sunday, while Masvidal — who took a private jet from South Florida to Las Vegas — landed earlier in the day. Once they are in Las Vegas, both fighters must check in to the host hotel, take a coronavirus test and then self-quarantine.

If the UFC stars pass the test, they will be cleared to travel to Abu Dhabi, according to ESPN. The fighters are expected to fly to the country Monday if the tests come back clean, but the fight won’t happen if there is a positive result.

The UFC and Masvidal were engaged in contract talks over the last two months to make the Masvidal-Usman fight happen. But the promotion opted to walk away from negotiations about a month ago and gave the title bout to Burns, who recently beat former champion Tyron Woodley.

Afterward, Masvidal criticized the UFC for its business practices and demanded his release from the promotion.

Once Burns was forced to withdraw from the fight late Friday night, momentum started to build for the initial plan. Masvidal was expected to fight Usman for the welterweight belt this month before negotiations between Masvidal and the UFC collapsed.

Masvidal — considered one of the most popular fighters in the UFC — picked up impressive wins over Ben Askren, Darren Till and Nate Diaz last year. Usman last fought at UFC 245 in December and successfully defended his welterweight title against Colby Covington.

In addition to the welterweight title fight, the UFC 251 card also features a rematch between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway for the featherweight title and a fight between Petr Yan and Jose Aldo for the bantamweight belt.

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