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Friday Sports in Brief

October 23, 2021 GMT

MLB

HOUSTON (AP) — Rookie Luis García showed the poise of an October ace, MVP Yordan Alvarez stayed hot at the plate and the Houston Astros earned yet another trip to the World Series, beating the Boston Red Sox 5-0 Friday night in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series.

The Astros advanced to the World Series for the third time in five seasons. They won the championship in 2017, a crown tainted by the team’s sign-stealing scandal, before losing to the Washington Nationals in seven games in 2019.

Manager Dusty Baker’s team will open the World Series on Tuesday night, either at Dodger Stadium or home against Atlanta. The Braves lead Los Angeles 3-2 in the NL Championship Series going into Game 6 Saturday night.

ATLANTA (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers say Max Scherzer will not start Game 6 of the NL Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday night.

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The Dodgers made the announcement on Friday night. They did not say why Scherzer will not start and did not say which pitcher will take his place.

Atlanta leads the series 3-2.

Scratching Scherzer was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

NBA

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Ben Simmons sat out the Philadelphia 76ers’ home opener on Friday night for personal reasons and the franchise does not know when the three-time All-Star guard will return.

Simmons was suspended for the first game of the season for conduct detrimental to the team after coach Doc Rivers threw him out of practice for refusing to participate in a drill. He returned Friday and addressed the team before the shootaround for the opener against Brooklyn. Rivers said it was a “productive day” and hoped the meeting was a start toward bringing Simmons back into the fold.

BOSTON (AP) — Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka said Friday night that he hasn’t talked to center Enes Kanter about the player’s criticism of the Chinese government that led to the team’s games being pulled off television there.

In a series of social media posts, Kanter proclaimed his support for Tibetan independence and called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “dictator.” Kanter also wore shoes with the phrase “Free Tibet” on them during the New York Knicks game on Wednesday.

Chinese broadcaster Tencent did not show the Celtics’ opener against the Knicks on streaming services that typically air the games, an apparent response to Kanter’s statements.

NHL

CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. (AP) — Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby still isn’t sure when he will be cleared to return after he had left wrist surgery last month.

Crosby skated with his teammates for more than an hour Friday in the latest step in his recovery from surgery in early September. The team announced at the time of the procedure that Crosby would miss a minimum of six weeks. The six-week mark passed on Wednesday with Crosby still inching his way back.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

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Southern Mississippi accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference on Friday, dealing another blow to Conference USA, which already had six members announce their departures this week.

Two people familiar with the decision told The Associated Press that Southern Miss had agreed to leave a conference it helped found in 1995 and join the Sun Belt at a date to be determined.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the Sun Belt was not yet prepared to make an announcement and was still working on more expansion moves that it did not want to address publicly.

— By College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo.

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has agreed to a new contract that will keep him on a perpetual five-year deal at his alma mater.

The OSU/A&M Board of Regents has approved the recommendation from Oklahoma State president Dr. Kayse Shrum and Oklahoma State athletic director Chad Weiberg. The school announced the agreement Friday in a news release that stated further terms will be provided at a later date.

Gundy has a career record of 143-67 in 17 seasons and has led the program to 15 consecutive bowl games. The 54-year-old former Oklahoma State quarterback has coached the Cowboys to four New Year’s Six bowl games since 2010, and the Cowboys have reached The Associated Press Top 10 poll in 10 seasons since 2008, including this season.

WOMEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Sixth-ranked Louisville and women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz have agreed to a contract extension through 2028.

Financial terms were not released. Walz’s previous deal was extended in 2018 through the 2024-25 season. Athletic director Vince Tyra said in a release that he was “excited” about the extension. The AD cited continuity in Walz’s coaching staff as key to the program’s status as a national championship contender and said the extension would solidify that continuity.

Louisville will begin the season on Nov. 12 against national runner-up Arizona in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

SOCCER

GENEVA (AP) — Europe’s top soccer leagues cautioned that FIFA’s biennial World Cup plan is still on the table and they vowed Friday to resist the proposed overhauls of the international match schedule.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino promised Wednesday to seek a global consensus during a longer period of consultation about the World Cup’s future. That was seen as him acknowledging the strength of European opposition to doubling the frequency of the World Cup.

The 33-nation European Leagues group was later briefed by FIFA officials, including Arsène Wenger, who shaped the proposal that includes biennial World Cups and fewer, but longer, breaks in domestic seasons to play national team games.

FIFA decided this week not to push for a December vote of its 211 member federations and instead to host online talks on Dec. 20 in what it called a “global summit.”

TENNIS

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — World No. 1-ranked Ash Barty won’t defend her season-ending WTA Finals title and is done for the year due to continuing COVID-19 travel and quarantine restrictions.

Barty hasn’t played since the U.S. Open in September and says her focus now is on preparing for another attempt at winning her home Australian Open in Melbourne in January.

The 25-year-old Barty won five titles this season, including a second major at Wimbledon in July, and is assured of ending as year-end No. 1.

Barty won the WTA Finals in Shenzhen, China in 2019 before last year’s edition was not played because of the pandemic.

ROWING

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Longtime U.S. rowing coach Mike Teti, who has been criticized by some of his former athletes as being emotionally abusive and using physical intimidation, has resigned but immediately accepted a position funded by a large donor leading a new high-performance training club that still has ties to the national program.

The Associated Press in July reported that American rowers under Teti feared his intense and intimidating style. An announcement from US Rowing CEO Amanda Kraus on restructuring within the program did not address the allegations but rather the need for immediate change after the U.S. team failed to win any medals at the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

Kraus, who took over in November 2020, said there will no longer be a formal relationship with Teti and she accepted his resignation last week. She expressed the sport’s commitment to new leadership and direction for the build up to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

GYMNASTICS

KITAKYUSHU, Japan (AP) — Zhang Boheng of China edged Olympic champion Daiki Hashimoto on Friday to win the gold medal in the men’s all-around at the gymnastics world championships.

Zhang, who didn’t qualify for China’s team for this summer’s Olympics, held a slim lead over local favorite Hashimoto heading into the final apparatus, the horizontal bar — an event Hashimoto won at the Tokyo Games.

Zhang scored 14.800 points while Hashimoto received 15.133 but it wasn’t enough to erase the deficit and the 21-year-old Zhang finished with 87.981 overall points to 87.964 for Hashimoto.

HORSE RACING

LOS ANGELES (AP) — UCLA coach Mick Cronin is a winner even before the college basketball season starts next month.

A 3-year-old filly co-owned by Cronin won the $63,000 feature at Santa Anita by three-quarters of a length on Friday.

Sent off at 6-1 odds, So Very Smart paid $14.40, $6.40 and $8.20

The victory, worth $37,800, increased So Very Smart’s career earnings to $84,860, with two wins in seven starts. Cronin and his Boom Racing own the filly in partnership with three other stables.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports