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(West Plains) – All participants in the summer 2014 Pee Wee (Junior) Zizzer Cheer Camp are invited to participate in a pre-game exhibition at Zizzer Stadium on Friday, September 12.

Pee Wee/Junior Camp participants will receive free admission to the Zizzer football game that evening.

It is recommended that participants wear their camp t-shirt and shorts or pants comfortable for the weather.

Arrive at 6 PM and meet the Cheer Coaches and the Zizzer High School cheerleaders on the track. A warm-up and practice will be held before the game.

The Pee Wee/Junior Camp participants will perform chants, cheers and stunts learned at the summer camp around 6:15 PM. The performance will be concluded by 6:30 PM in order to allow for the regularly scheduled pre-game activities.

Contact Susan York 417-256-6150 or 417-293-9675 for additional information or with questions.

(West Plains) – After two weeks on the road, the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team will host its 2014 season home opener at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 3, in the West Plains Civic Center arena.

The 12th-ranked Grizzlies, 4-4 on the season, will host the Indian Hills Community College Warriors from Ottumwa, Iowa. The match is being sponsored by The Fish Shack in West Plains.

“We’re excited about our first home match,” Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann said. “Indian Hills is 5-0 coming in, having played in one tournament and one individual match so far this season. Traditionally, they’re a good team, and they’re going to be good. We’ll have to be ready for them.”

Prior to the match, which will have free admission, members of the Grizzly Booster Club will host their annual Fall Picnic at 5 p.m. in the civic center arena. All are invited to the free meal, which is being provided by Stacy Johnson of The Fish Shack, and to hear about the upcoming athletics seasons from volleyball head coach Paula Wiedemann, basketball head coach Yancey Walker and cheer team coach Keena Simpson.

The Grizzly Volleyball team will enter the match after posting a 2-2 record Friday and Saturday, Aug. 29 and 30, at the Salt Lake Community College Invitational in Salt Lake City, Utah. On Friday, the Grizzlies fell to No. 6 Western Wyoming Community College of Rock Springs 17-25, 25-21, 14-25, 21-25 but bounced back to defeat North Idaho College of Coeur d’Alene 25-22, 21-25, 25-16, 25-18. Saturday, they lost to No. 2 Iowa Western Community College of Council Bluffs 21-25, 21-25, 11-25 before defeating Casper (Wyo.) College 25-22, 16-25, 25-23, 25-6.

“I think we played pretty well, for the most part,” Wiedemann said. “We played better as a team. Individually, we may have had a couple of players struggle a bit, but we improved defensively, which is what we wanted to see, and we had better, more sustained communication among the players on the court at times.”

Wiedemann said the Grizzlies didn’t play aggressively enough in their losses to Western Wyoming and Iowa Western. “We didn’t let them know we were in front of them. That’s a communication issue that can be corrected. When we let teams know we are there, we play great. When we don’t, that’s when things start to break down.

“Defensively, our blocking picked up. We blocked much better,” she added. “Whenever you’re blocking more, digging more balls per game and scoring more points off your block, you’re showing the kind of improvement you should at this stage of the season. We still have room to improve, but it’s good to see us move in the right direction.”

Statistically, the Grizzlies were led defensively by sophomore middle attacker Lee Lee Barrett, who had 15 blocks, eight of which were solos; and sophomore libero Alyssa Aldag, who had 96 digs for the tournament to average 6.4 per game. Offensively, the Grizzlies were led at the net by freshman outside attacker Penny Liu, who had 41 kills on 93 attempts with 13 errors for an attacking percentage of .301. Freshman setter Susannah Kelley led the team in assists with 77. Sophomore outside hitter Kaili Simmons and freshman outside hitter Gabby Edmondson each had three service aces. Barrett led the team in points earned with 42.

“We need to take lessons from each week, and I feel like we are doing that,” Wiedemann said. “The more we do, the quicker our improvement.

For more information about the Grizzly Volleyball team, visit the team’s website at http://wp.missouristate.edu/grizzly/vb/. Complete team statistics can be found at http://stats.njcaa.org/sports/wvball/2014-15/div1/teams/MissouriStateUniversityWestPlains.

St. Louis Cardinals' Kolten Wong watches his two-run home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates Monday, Sept. 1, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

St. Louis Cardinals’ Kolten Wong watches his two-run home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates Monday, Sept. 1, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Matt Holliday is keeping quiet about his recent hitting surge.

However, his St. Louis teammates are more than happy to praise him after Holliday hit the go-ahead RBI single in the seventh inning Monday to rally the Cardinals to a 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

St. Louis moved into sole possession of first place in the NL Central for the first time this season with its third straight win. The Cardinals are one game ahead of Milwaukee, which lost to the Chicago Cubs. Pittsburgh dropped three games back.

Kolten Wong started the three-run rally in the seventh with a two-run, pinch-hit homer to tie the game 4-all.

Holliday, who is 7 for 11 with three homers and 12 RBI in his last three games, then followed with a single to left to bring in Jon Jay with the winning run.

“I’m OK with him going off all month long,” St. Louis starting pitcher Lance Lynn said. “This (three) game stretch, I’d like for it to be like to a 28- to 45-game stretch. If he can keep doing what he’s doing, that’s a big boost.”

Holliday has driven in three runs or more in each of his last three games, the first St. Louis player to do so since Scott Rolen from Aug. 11-13, 2002.

“He loves to come up with the big hit and he got it again,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said.

Pittsburgh starter Gerrit Cole (7-5), who gave up a two-run double to Holliday in third, was also impressed.

“The guy is just unbelievable,” Cole said. “He’s probably the strongest human being in the world. He just continues to get it done when he needs to get it done.”

Holliday drove in the game-winning run with a two-run single in the eighth inning of a 9-6 win over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday. He also had two homers in the second game of a day-night doubleheader on Saturday.

“He’s been a good player for a long time,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “That’s just what he does.”

Jay followed Wong’s homer with a triple to set up Holliday’s team-leading 81st RBI of the season.

Seth Maness (6-3) picked up the win in relief. Trevor Rosenthal got the last three outs for his 41st save in 46 opportunities.

Lynn gave up three runs and eight hits in six innings.

Cole allowed all five runs and eight hits over 6 1-3 innings.

Andrew McCutchen homered for the Pirates off Kevin Siegrist in the seventh to push the lead to 4-2. The 454-foot shot was the second-longest by a visiting player in the history of the current Busch Stadium, which opened in 2006.

Pittsburgh jumped out to a 3-0 lead with two runs in the first and one in the second. Neil Walker hit two-run double on the 10th pitch of the game to bring in Josh Harrison and McCutchen.

Andrew Lambo added an RBI double in the second.

“It’s a game we should have won, that’s how I look at it,” McCutchen said. “We can’t let ones like this get away.”

The Cardinals, who were three games back on Aug. 17, have finally reached the top spot.

“No parades,” Matheny said. “But we’re going to keep the throttle down.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Pirates: INF Pedro Alvarez missed his fifth successive game with a left foot sprain suffered Aug. 26. He is listed as day-to-day.

Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha threw two scoreless innings in a rehab appearance for Double-A Springfield on Sunday. He allowed one hit and threw strikes on 24 of 34 pitches. He is hoping to re-join the starting rotation in by mid-September.

UP NEXT

Pirates: LHP Jeff Locke (6-3, 3.51) will start the second game of the three-game series on Tuesday. He has gone 4-0 in his last five starts.

Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright (15-9, 2.59) will be making his fifth start against the Pirates this season. He is 1-2 with a 1.61 ERA in his four previous starts.

KINGS OF SEPTEMBER

The Cardinals are a major-league best 53-28 in September since 2011. They went 19-8 last September.

FILE - This is a 2014, file photo showing Ryan Succop of the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football team. Veteran kicker Succop has agreed to a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans who chose to go with experience rather than an undrafted rookie. Agent Joel Turner said Monday, Sept. 1, 2014,  that Succop is happy with a "very good opportunity in a fine organization."  (AP Photo/File)

FILE – This is a 2014, file photo showing Ryan Succop of the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football team. Veteran kicker Succop has agreed to a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans who chose to go with experience rather than an undrafted rookie. Agent Joel Turner said Monday, Sept. 1, 2014, that Succop is happy with a “very good opportunity in a fine organization.” (AP Photo/File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans preferred to go into the season with an experienced kicker, not with an undrafted rookie. They feel they got the best one still available in Ryan Succop.

The Titans agreed to a one-year deal with Succop on Monday and waived rookie Travis Coons to make space.

“There were a number of guys that were available or that were out there,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said of Succop. “He was the one that we had rated the highest, so we pursued him and we got him. That to me is what’s important.”

Kicker was the fifth and final player Tennessee added after the NFL deadline to trim the roster to 53 on Saturday. They claimed two wide receivers in Kris Durham and T.J. Graham and cornerback Brandon Harris off waivers Sunday and followed by adding linebacker Quentin Groves and Succop on Monday.

Whisenhunt, in his first season as head coach in Tennessee, said they’re trying to improve the roster and had opportunities because of the players available.

“I don’t think you ever really know for sure how many moves you’re going to make,” Whisenhunt said. “First year, there’s a lot of turnover.”

The Titans had kept Travis Coons out of Washington over Maikon Bonani in the final cuts after releasing Rob Bironas, the NFL’s fourth-most accurate kicker who spent the past nine seasons in Tennessee in March. Coons was 2 of 3 in the preseason, and the Titans worked out Jay Feely, Ryan Lindley and Garrett Hartley last week.

The Chiefs released Succop on Saturday, going with an undrafted option at kicker. Succop, 27, hit 81 percent of his field goals over his past five seasons and his career-long is 54 yards. He has spent the past five seasons with the Chiefs who drafted him with the final pick of the 2009 draft out of South Carolina.

Succop’s agent, Joel Turner, said the kicker is happy with a “very good opportunity.”

The 6-foot-2 Succop is 119 of 147 on field goals in his career, including 9 of 17 from 50 yards or longer. Succop was seventh in the NFL last season with 47 touchbacks and connected on 25 of 29 field goals. He has five game-winning kicks in his career.

“We felt very good about Travis and what he did in training camp,” Whisenhunt said. “But we felt like we had a chance to get a veteran kicker that had done it, that we thought was still in the prime of his career that had good stats. We felt like it was a good move for our team.”

Now Succop will see his old team Sunday with the Titans visiting Kansas City in the season opener, something Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he thought was a good chance of happening when he spoke to reporters earlier Monday. Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt said Succop, who was due to earn $2 million with Kansas City this season, will be missed.

“He set a bunch of records here,” Colquitt said before news of Succop’s new deal broke. “There’s 31 other teams, and five of them really looking for a kicker right now. Ryan’s going to attach to someone who is looking for a kicker right now.”

Notes: Groves played for Whisenhunt and Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton in Arizona, and the linebacker also played for Horton in Cleveland last season. Whisenhunt said he doesn’t expect it to be too difficult a change for Groves. … The Titans voted for captains Monday but the results had not been tabulated yet. … The Titans signed CB Khalid Wooten to their final spot on the practice squad.

FILE - In this Aug. 7, 2014, file photo, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) calls a play in the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Kansas City, Mo. Smith signed a $68 million extension Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, to remain with the Chiefs through the 2018 season, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team did not disclose the terms of the contract. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley, File)

FILE – In this Aug. 7, 2014, file photo, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) calls a play in the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Kansas City, Mo. Smith signed a $68 million extension Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, to remain with the Chiefs through the 2018 season, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team did not disclose the terms of the contract. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley, File)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Alex Smith didn’t have much choice when he was traded from San Francisco to Kansas City last year.

He had the final say when it came to staying with the Chiefs, though.

One day after signing a four-year extension that should solidify his future through the 2018 season, Smith expressed relief at being able to focus solely on football – rather than negotiations that had been going on for months, and that were threatening to bleed into the regular season.

“As much as you don’t want to think about those types of things,” Smith said, “you can’t help but they sit in the back of your head: `I’m playing for a contract, I’m playing for this and that.’ Sometimes you can just be an added distraction. I was hoping and really happy that it got done.”

Smith said he made it clear to his agent, Tom Condon, he wanted an agreement done before the start of the season. Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said that was also his goal.

“This has been a long process,” Dorsey said. “You know, Tom Condon is very professional in his approach. We had ongoing discussions, consistent discussions, and I’m just glad we can concentrate on football. I’m happy for Alex, happy for the organization.”

Smith is due $7.5 million this season, the final year of the contract he signed with the 49ers. His extension is worth $68 million, with $45 million guaranteed, a person familiar with the terms told The Association Press on condition of anonymity because details were not disclosed.

Asked whether the deal gave the Chiefs some flexibility moving forward, Dorsey replied: “I don’t really like to talk the specifics of numbers in these venues, but it’s a win for both sides.”

The Chiefs can now turn their attention to pass rusher Justin Houston, entering the final year of his rookie contract. Minus an agreement, the Chiefs could use the franchise tag on Houston next season without worrying about losing Smith to free agency.

“It’s one step at a time,” Dorsey said, “and as we’ve always said as the process goes along, we’ve had discussions with (Houston’s) representatives and we’ll continue to have discussions.”

Smith was a target for Dorsey and Reid almost from the moment they arrived in Kansas City. They traded two second-round draft picks to the 49ers to acquire him. It wasn’t long after his arrival, either, that Smith expressed his desire to sign a long-term deal to remain in Kansas City.

The 2005 No. 1 overall pick hardly hurt his bargaining power on the field.

Taking over a franchise that won two games the previous season, Smith threw for a career-best 3,313 yards with 23 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, even while skipping a meaningless regular-season finale. He led Kansas City to a 9-0 start, an 11-5 record and a playoff appearance, throwing for 378 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-44 loss to the Colts.

Once the season was over, the questions about his future began. They were finally answered Sunday night.

“It allows us to have a heck of a football player here in person, a good leader in the locker room,” Reid said. “All the players were fired up for him. Sometimes you don’t see that on teams, a guy does a big deal and you have jealousies here and there. That’s now how this crew was. We’re excited for him and he can just go out there and play football.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some good-natured ribbing when Smith showed up Monday, and the Chiefs began preparing for their season opener Sunday against Tennessee.

“That’s part of the deal,” Smith said. “You better be able to wear it when you walk in.”

Smith said recent contracts signed by the Bengals’ Andy Dalton and the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick didn’t have much bearing on his own negotiations. But he also acknowledged that reaching a number commensurate with his accomplishments was important to him.

“The funny thing is, you can have five-year contracts in the NFL but you’re ultimately always proving yourself,” he said. “It’s every year, every week. But it’s nice. It’s a two-way street. I wanted to be here and to have that reciprocated and put on paper, I’m really happy about it. It’s nice.

“And that clutter is kind of gone from your head and you can focus on Week 1.”

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Royals made a flurry of roster moves Monday as they begin a September march toward the playoffs, activating first baseman Eric Hosmer from the disabled list and promoting first-round draft pick Brandon Finnegan from Double-A Northwest Arkansas.

Hosmer fractured a bone in his right hand when he was hit by a pitch from Jon Lester on July 20. He tried to play through the injury before Kansas City ultimately shut him down, hoping that an extended period of rest would allow him to return for the final stretch.

Hosmer began swinging a bat just last week. He was 3 for 10 during a rehab stint at Triple-A Omaha, driving in the winning run on Saturday and hitting a homer on Sunday.

“Feels good to be back with the guys,” said Hosmer, who was playing first base and hitting fifth in Monday night’s series opener against Texas. “It’s September baseball. It’s postseason baseball. The races are coming down to crunch time.”

The Royals, who have not made the playoffs since winning the 1985 World Series, began the day a half-game up on Detroit in the crowded AL Central.

Hosmer’s return from the disabled list should provide a boost for the Royals, who had lost three in a row heading into Monday night’s game. Designated hitter Billy Butler had played well at first in Hosmer’s absence, but he made a key error Sunday night that gave Cleveland a chance to take a 4-2 lead in the 10th inning of a game that was suspended by weather.

Hosmer is considered one of the best defensive first baseman in the game – though the hot bat he’d been swinging prior to his injury was enticing, too.

“We need offense,” Royals manager Ned Yost said, “and after the game last night, our scouts that were in Omaha watching said he’s ready.”

Meanwhile, Finnegan may be the most high-profile of the Royals’ call-ups. The left-hander was picked No. 17 overall in the June draft, and rocketed through the minor leagues. He dazzled in five starts for Class-A Wilmington and made eight relief appearances for Northwest Arkansas.

Finnegan had a 1.33 ERA with 26 strikeouts and four walks over 27 innings.

“I mean, this is crazy, but it’s a great experience to be able to make,” said Finnegan, whose locker is between those of veteran pitchers James Shields and Jason Vargas.

“After I got drafted, I was just excited to begin my pro career,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to be iup here in two months or however long it’s been.”

In other moves, the Royals purchased the contract of outfielder Carlos Peguero from Omaha and recalled left-hander Casey Coleman, infielder Johnny Giavotella, outfielder Lane Adams and catcher Francisco Pena from minor league affiliates to provide some much-needed depth.

Peguero, who hit 30 homers in the minors this season, started in right field Monday night.

Asked whether it surprised him to be thrown right into the lineup, he replied: “Not really. Every time you come here, onto a new baseball team, kyou have to set out in your mind to be ready to help the team. And we’re in a good position right now.”

Left-hander Chris Dwyer and right-hander Blake Wood were designated for assignment to make roster space for the moves, and more roster help is expected to arrive soon.

Northwest Arkansas finished its season Monday afternoon, so infielder Christian Colon, outfielder Terrance Gore and pitchers Liam Hendriks and Aaron Crow will likely arrive in Kansas City by Tuesday. Gore was added to the club’s 40-man roster Sunday.

“They all kind of fit a role,” Yost said. “Let’s go with it.”

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Russell Hansbrough can’t remember the previous time he rushed 20 times in a game.

“It’d probably be in peewee football or something like that,” the Missouri running back said. “Not even in high school.”

Hansbrough, a junior from Arlington, Texas, ran a career-high 126 yards in the No. 24 Tigers’ 38-18 season-opening win Saturday against South Dakota State. It was his first career start after backing up Henry Josey alongside Marcus Murphy in his first two seasons.

But with Josey now in the NFL and Murphy seeing increased playing time at receiver, the spotlight will grow brighter on Hansbrough – something he’s admitted in the past to not altogether being comfortable with.

“He’s a really open guy once you get to know him,” said Murphy, a senior who grew up in nearby DeSoto, Texas. “I think you just have to get to know him for him to open up to you. He’s a really outgoing, fun, exciting person, but he sticks to himself a lot. Once he gets to know you and get comfortable, you’ll see the real Russ.”

Running backs coach Brian Jones says he’s been working on leadership with all of his players, and that there’s still some room to grow in that area. But Jones added that Hansbrough has become a more vocal member of the group as he tries to mentor younger players.

Regardless of how much he says, Hansbrough can always let his performance on the field speak for him.

With 6 1/2 minutes remaining in the first quarter Saturday, he slipped three tackles and darted across the field before scampering 10 yards down the sideline and into the end zone. Waiting to greet him was center Evan Boehm, his roommate.

“My mom printed off a picture of his very first touchdown and me holding him up in my arms,” Boehm said. “And I have a poster (of that) in my room hanging up, and he has a poster in his room hanging up. That’s just a special bond Russ and I have.”

Listed at 6-foot-3, 320-pounds, Boehm can easily lift Hansbrough, who says he is 5-foot-8, 194-pounds. Being about an inch shorter and about the same weight as Murphy makes him a bit stockier and reasonably able continue to rush about 20 times per game, coach Gary Pinkel said.

“He’s got a lot of ability,” Pinkel said. “I think we’ve just seen a glimpse of really what he’s capable of. He’s very, very explosive. He’s a quick-start guy, so he can be going fast in a really quick manner.”

Hansbrough and Murphy combined for 1,286 rushing yards last season, helping Missouri finish second in the Southeastern Conference with 237.9 per game. Josey, who signed Monday with the Jacksonville Jaguars to be on their practice squad, added 1,166 yards on the ground.

Sophomore Morgan Steward, a few inches taller and about 20 pounds heavier than Hansbrough and Murphy, is also expected to receive playing time but missed the opener with a hip injury, Pinkel said. Steward isn’t expected to be healthy for at least another 2-3 weeks.

Missouri gained 215 yards on the ground against South Dakota State, but the team travels this week to Toledo, which only yielded 37 rushing yards to New Hampshire in its opener. Hansbrough gained 30 yards on 10 carries when the teams met a year ago at Missouri, where the Tigers won 38-23.

Teammates are expecting Hansbrough to improve upon that figure this year.

“He’s always had that big-play mentality,” receiver Bud Sasser said. “He’s always brought his A-game to the table, and we don’t expect anything less. We just really appreciate that he’s on this squad, because he’s a very dynamic player.”

Former Missouri player Michael Sam watches pregame festivities before the start of the South Dakota State-Missouri NCAA college football game Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014, in Columbia, Mo. The St. Louis Rams cut Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team. Coach Jeff Fisher repeated over and over that it was purely a football decision. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Former Missouri player Michael Sam watches pregame festivities before the start of the South Dakota State-Missouri NCAA college football game Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014, in Columbia, Mo. The St. Louis Rams cut Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team. Coach Jeff Fisher repeated over and over that it was purely a football decision. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Michael Sam was probably never an ideal fit with the St. Louis Rams and it had absolutely nothing to do with his sexual orientation.

They’re just too well-stocked at defensive end, Sam’s position.

Sam showed up for his face-to-face exit meeting with coach Jeff Fisher Sunday, a few hours after clearing waivers.

He arrived via the media entrance at Rams Parka still looking right at home clad in a T-shirt, shorts and flip flops. He shook hands with two reporters and accepted well wishes but declined further comment before heading upstairs to see the coach who wasn’t afraid to add the first openly gay player to the roster.

Or to cut him loose.

Fisher said numerous times during his post cutdown-day news conference Saturday that releasing the SEC co-defensive player of the year was a “football decision.” Sam was outplayed in the preseason by Ethan Westbrooks, the Rams’ top target when signing undrafted free agents.

The coach pointed out four other late-round picks were released, and thought it a sign the franchise is on the upswing.

There were no regrets. Fisher and Sam both said it was never a distraction, and the coach believed that would be the case if Sam landed with another team.

“There were no issues, that’s the thing,” Fisher said. “No issues in the team meeting room, on the field, anyplace.”

All 21 players released Saturday cleared waivers.

“Some may be coming back,” Fisher said. “You may see them Sunday on the practice squad, and some you may never ever see again.”

The meeting with Sam was postponed a day so he could attend Missouri’s opening victory over South Dakota State.

The Rams appeared unlikely to re-sign Sam to the 10-player practice squad because the defensive line is their strongest unit.

Sam had three sacks, one more than Westbrook. But most of the preseason, he was playing with the second- and third-stringers.

Westbrooks was the Division II defensive player of the year when he had 19 1-2 sacks for West Texas A&M, a school the Rams tapped a few years earlier for quarterback Keith Null.

“He was very productive and played all four spots,” Fisher said. “He is a very, very talented young player that I think has a really good future.”

Fisher noted only one defensive lineman had more preseason snaps than Sam, so he got a full shot. And that there were more than enough pass rushers with Robert Quinn and Chris Long starting plus productive backups William Hayes and Eugene Sims.

Tackles Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald, the latter a first-round pick this year, also are sack threats.

“It’s the strength of our team,” Fisher said, adding carrying nine defensive linemen was a “significant number.”

“If you go with 10, then you’re going to be short someplace else, and we’re just not there.”

They’re not as deep in the secondary, minus cornerback Trumaine Johnson (knee) for probably the first month. They need numbers at linebacker, with just five on the roster. Backup center-guard Barrett Jones is sidelined indefinitely after back surgery.

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Travis Wood throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Travis Wood throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Matt Holliday long has been a thorn in the side of Chicago Cubs starter Travis Wood.

Holliday hit his third home run in two games and broke an eighth-inning tie with a two-run single, rallying the St. Louis Cardinals past the Chicago Cubs 9-6 on Sunday.

Holliday is 13 for 37 (.351) against Wood with four home runs.

Chicago took an early 5-0 lead before Holliday began the comeback for the Cardinals. He hit his 16th homer in the fourth off Wood.

“Everything was rolling pretty good there and I got 2-0 on Holliday and I was just trying to get back into the count and he hit a homer,” Wood said. “That was all the damage they had done there and I kind of lost it there in the fifth. I couldn’t find the strike zone and they made me pay. They put the bat on the ball and manufactured some runs.

“I wasn’t as crisp today. That fifth just got to me. I was a little sporadic, wasn’t able to pound the strike zone and they made me pay for it.”

John Lackey pitched 6 1-3 innings in his sixth start for St. Louis since coming over from Boston on July 31. The right-hander allowed five runs, two earned, and nine hits.

Lackey issued a leadoff walk in the second and made a throwing error that allowed a run to score. Chris Coghlan hit a two-run single and Luis Valbuena, who had three hits, added a two-run homer to make it 5-0.

“We were able to get Woody a five spot early in the ball game and he was actually pitching pretty well,” Chicago manager Rick Renteria said. “We had a couple of plays today that quite frankly that probably could have been made that weren’t. We extended innings a little bit and we didn’t continue to tack on runs to keep us where we needed to be.”

Holliday had three hits and four RBIs for the Cardinals, who began the day one game behind first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central.

St. Louis second baseman Kolten Wong homered but left in the top of the eighth after falling backward when he tried to catch a popup in short right field. He appeared to hurt his head and shoulder, and was replaced by Pete Kozma.

Kozma, in his third stint with St. Louis this season, led off the bottom half with a double. It was his second hit in four at-bats this year.

After failing to get down two bunt attempts, Daniel Descalso got the third one down and beat Carlos Villanueva’s throw to first for a single. With the bases loaded and two outs, Holliday singled off the foot of Villanueva (5-7) to drive in two runs.

Jhonny Peralta’s third single scored the final run in the three-run eighth.

“There’s nothing positive out of this,” Villanueva said. “What needs to be addressed has already been addressed and we take nothing from it. We take a loss and we’re not happy about it.

“Our goal down the stretch is to break as many hearts as possible and we play a lot of teams that are in contention now and that’s what we’re going to learn from – winning those games. We’ve got a month left so we’ll see how we do.”

Pat Neshek (7-1) earned the win with one inning of work. Trevor Rosenthal got his 40th save in 45 chances with a scoreless ninth.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cubs: 1B Anthony Rizzo (tightness in lower back) was out of the lineup again. Rizzo, second in the NL with 30 homers, has not played since Tuesday in Cincinnati, where his back tightened up during a 50-minute rain delay. He is expected back Monday.

Cardinals: RHPs Michael Wacha (shoulder) and Jason Motte (shoulder) were scheduled to pitch Sunday night for Double-A Springfield. Both pitchers are on rehab assignments.

UP NEXT

Cubs: Jacob Turner (4-8, 5.84 ERA) will make his second start at home Monday against Milwaukee. The St. Louis native is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in three appearances with Chicago since he was acquired from Miami.

Cardinals: Lance Lynn (14-8, 2.79) starts at home Monday afternoon against Pittsburgh. Lynn’s start will be his team-leading 28th of the season and his fourth against the Pirates. With a victory, Lynn would join Detroit ace Max Scherzer as the only pitchers with 15 wins in each of the last three seasons.

TRANSACTIONS:

Cubs: Chicago optioned Zac Rosscup to Triple-A Iowa on Sunday. Rosscup was available for both games Saturday as the Cubs’ 26th man. He will be back Monday when team rosters can expand.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals recalled left-handed reliever Kevin Siegrist and infielder Pete Kozma from Triple-A Memphis on Sunday and optioned three left-handed pitchers – Marco Gonzales, Nick Greenwood and Tyler Lyons – to Double-A Springfield.

Gonzales picked up his first career victory in Saturday night’s 13-2 win over the Chicago Cubs in the second game of a doubleheader. Lyons struck out eight in 4 2/3 innings of relief in a 5-1 loss in Game 1.

The Cardinals also assigned pitchers Michael Wacha and Jason Motte to Springfield on a 30-day injury rehabilitation assignment. Both are scheduled to pitch Sunday night at Tulsa.

Siegrist is 1-3 with a 6.11 E.R.A. in 32 games and Kozma has appeared in only four games this season going 1-3.