In addition to the top five storylines to watch as the 2014/15 NFL season kicks off, here is a look at the sports headlines making news today, Thursday, Sept. 4.
Royals pad lead
The Kansas City Royals have a little more room between themselves and the Detroit Tigers atop the American League Central. The Royals moved 1 ½ games ahead by completing a three-game sweep of Texas while the Tigers failed to take their third straight from the Indians.
Alex Gordon hit a two-run homer and Jason Vargas pitched shutout ball in the Royals’ 4-1 triumph against the Rangers. Vargas gave up six hits in 6 2/3 innings for his 11th win. Greg Holland worked the ninth for his 42nd save.
In Cleveland, Danny Salazar tossed his first career complete game by striking out nine and allowing eight hits in the Indians 7-0 shutout of Detroit. Carlos Santana socked a two-run homer and Jose Ramirez went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored.
Elsewhere in the majors:
Williams, Makarova, Nishikori reach semis
Serena Williams remains in line to become the first woman with three consecutive U.S. Open titles since Chris Evert won four straight from 1975-78.
The top-seeded Williams fell behind love-3 in the first set of her quarterfinal match before storming past No. 11 Flavia Pennetta, 6-3, 6-2.
Williams next plays No. 17 Ekaterina Makarova, who’s in a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time after downing 16th seed Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-2. Makarova had dropped her previous four major quarterfinals, including a loss to Wimbledon runner-up Eugenie Bouchard this summer.
The tournament’s other No. 1 singles player is through to the semifinals. Novak Djokovic needed about 3 ½ hours to down eighth seed Andy Murray, 7-6, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4. The match was tight until Djokovic broke the eighth-seeded Murray to go up 3-1 in the third set, then fended off a pair of break points in the next game.
This is the eighth straight semifinal appearance for Djokovic at the Open, and he’ll face a player who just made a bit of tennis history.
Tenth-seed Kei Nishikori has become the first Japanese player in 81 years to reach the semis in a major by downing Australian Open champ and third seed Stan Wawrinka 3-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4. The match lasted four hours and 15 minutes, less than 48 hours after Nishikori completed a four-hour, 19-minute fourth-round match that didn’t end until 2:26am Monday morning.
Nishikori became the first man from Japan to reach the U.S. Open semifinals in 96 years.
AP source: Patrick McEnroe to resign
A person at the U.S. Tennis Association with knowledge of the decision tells The Associated Press that Patrick McEnroe is resigning as the group’s general manager of player development.
McEnroe is to announce that he is stepping down at a news conference at the U.S. Open later Wednesday.
He has been in that position in charge of helping the USTA develop young tennis players since April 2008.
Sam on Cowboys practice squad…Milliner still not practicing
Michael Sam has been signed to the Dallas Cowboys practice squad. The NFL’s first openly gay player landed in Dallas after being released in the Rams’ final cutdown to the 53-man roster on Saturday.
The Cowboys are seeking help with their pass rush because of injuries and the offseason release of franchise sacks leader DeMarcus Ware. Sam isn’t likely to be on the active roster for Sunday’s opener against San Francisco.
In other NFL news:
Manfro done for season
UCLA says running back Steven Manfro will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
Manfro was taken off the practice field on a cart after injuring his knee Tuesday. The junior caught 37 passes for 400 yards and two touchdowns over the last two seasons and was also featured on special teams.
Freshman Nate Starks is likely to take Manfro’s spot in the offense.
U.S. still perfect in Spain
Kenneth Faried scored 16 points and the U.S. clinched the No. 1 seed in their group at the Basketball World Cup by whipping the Dominican Republic 106-71. DeMarcus Cousins came off the bench and added 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting as the Americans improved to 4-0.
NASCAR has new series title sponsor
Comcast Corp. has signed a 10-year agreement to replace Nationwide Insurance as the title sponsor of NASCAR’s second-tier racing series.
The series will be known as the NASCAR Xfinity Series through 2024. The deal matches the longest single agreement around title sponsorship of any NASCAR national series in its history.
Sports Business Daily has valued the package at worth close to $200 million.
Alejandro Bedoya scored on a rebound in the 39th minute to lift the United States to 1-0 win over the Czech Republic in a soccer friendly at Prague. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando made several excellent saves in the second half, including a leg stop of Daniel Punil’s point-blank shot in the 89th minute, to preserve the shutout.