Monday's Sports In Brief - NBC Sports

Monday's Sports In Brief
September 24, 2013, 4:37 am

BASEBALL

CHICAGO (AP) After 20 consecutive years of losing, the Pittsburgh Pirates clinched at least a National League wild card when they beat the Chicago Cubs and Washington lost to St. Louis.

It will be Pittsburgh's first trip to the postseason since Barry Bonds, Jim Leyland and Co. won three straight NL East titles from 1990-92. Bonds then left for San Francisco as a free agent, and the small-budget Pirates piled up two decades of losing records - the longest streak in the four major professional sports.

Starling Marte hit a tiebreaking homer in the ninth inning, and the Pirates threw out a runner at the plate for the final out.

CINCINNATI (AP) - No champagne. No curtain call in front of joyous fans. No celebrating at all, really. The Cincinnati Reds clinched a playoff spot with hardly any notice.

If anything, they were a little bummed out.

Shin-Soo Choo drove in the winning run with a single off the left-center field wall in the 10th inning, and the Reds secured their third playoff spot in four years shortly after beating the New York Mets. Eight minutes later, St. Louis Cardinals beat Washington, clinching an NL wild card for Pittsburgh.

Bummer.

The Reds were pulling for first-place St. Louis to lose. Instead, the Cardinals retained their two-game lead over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in the NL Central.

PRO FOOTBALL

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - The San Francisco 49ers are prepared to go forward without star linebacker Aldon Smith for as long as it takes for him to get clean, healthy and improve his life.

Smith was placed on the reserve non-football injury list as he enters rehab for substance abuse and begins what team CEO Jed York has termed an indefinite absence. The NFL said there is no minimum number of games Smith must miss on the reserve non-football injury list, and he can return when ready.

On whether he expects Smith to return this season, coach Jim Harbaugh said only, "there's a process, we're going to respect that process."

Smith played Sunday and had five tackles just two days after he was arrested and jailed Friday morning on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession.

AMERICA'S CUP

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Skipper Jimmy Spithill accelerated his 72-foot catamaran off the starting line and steered defending champion Oracle Team USA to its fifth straight win against Emirates Team New Zealand to stay alive in the America's Cup.

The 34-year-old Spithill and his brain trust of Olympic gold medalists - British tactician Ben Ainslie and Australian strategist Tom Slingsby - kept the American-backed boat ahead the whole way around the five-leg course on San Francisco Bay for a 33-second victory.

Oracle's remarkable comeback from what seemed like certain defeat has closed the Kiwis' lead to 8-6.

Oracle Team USA, owned by software tycoon Larry Ellison, has won eight races. But it was docked two points - the harshest penalty in the 162-year history of the America's Cup - for illegally modifying boats in warmup regattas called the America's Cup World Series, so it needs three more wins to keep the Auld Mug.

PRO BASKETBALL

MIAMI (AP) - So long, James, Allen, Pierce and Garnett.

King James, Jesus Shuttlesworth, The Truth and KG may be headed to the backs of NBA jerseys.

Some members of the Miami Heat have been told the NBA is considering having them and the Brooklyn Nets wear "nickname jerseys" in at least one of their four matchups this season. The NBA has not announced the plan, but teams apparently have been aware of the likelihood of it happening for at least several weeks.

For now, only the Heat and the Nets would be taking part. It's unclear how many times those teams would wear the nickname jerseys, or if they would ever wear them against other opponents.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Shaquille O'Neal is joining the ownership group of the Sacramento Kings.

The Kings announced O'Neal has acquired a minority stake in the team under new owner Vivek Ranadive. The Kings will introduce the four-time NBA champion at a news conference Tuesday in Sacramento.

O'Neal tormented the Kings during the height of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, even dubbing the franchise the "Sacramento Queens." He also handed Sacramento its biggest blow by rallying the Lakers from a 3-2 deficit to win the 2002 Western Conference finals.

HOCKEY

NEW YORK (AP) - Toronto forward David Clarkson was suspended 10 regular-season games without pay for leaving the bench to take part in a fight during the Maple Leafs' game against the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night.

Clarkson's automatic suspension, which also includes the rest of the preseason, results from the game misconduct penalty he received for joining the brawl during the third period of Toronto's 5-3 win over Buffalo.

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