Verlander tries to keep Astros alive

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

(AP) -- HOUSTON -- The dire moments are casually familiar for Houston Astros right-hander Justin Verlander, who many seasons ago assumed the responsibility bestowed upon a staff ace.

Verlander (2-0, 3.18 ERA this postseason) will make his second start of the American League Championship Series on Thursday at Minute Maid Park in Game 5 against the Boston Red Sox.

He is charged with logging another effective outing -- that is the baseline requirement. Of greater importance is his role relative to the Astros' hopes for repeating as World Series champions. With Houston trailing the best-of-seven series 3-1 and facing elimination, that responsibility is significant, but the series standing doesn't weigh on Verlander or alter his preparation for his start.

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Broncos, Cardinals meet in need of a win

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals can't run the football. The Denver Broncos can't stop the run.

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'Hawks G Crawford to return vs. Coyotes

CHICAGO (AP) Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford will start Thursday night against Arizona in his first game since he missed most of last season because of a concussion.

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G League to offer $125K to top prospects

MIAMI (AP) The G League is planning to offer an option to players who are not yet eligible for the NBA draft a chance to turn pro out of high school and avoid the college one-and-done route.

Players will be eligible to sign a "select contract" if they turn 18 by Sept. 15 prior to the season that they would spend in the G League. The $125,000 contracts will be made available to elite prospects. The league said Thursday it is establishing a working group to identify players who could be offered the contract. (MORE)

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