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Numbers show dominance by pitchers

Detroit’s Justin Verlander reigned supreme this season. (Associated Press)
Detroit’s Justin Verlander reigned supreme this season. (Associated Press)

Baseball: If you thought the 2011 season seemed like a throwback, you were right.

Offense dropped to a level not seen since Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling were dominating on the mound.

Nearly two decades later, Justin Verlander, Roy Halladay and Clayton Kershaw helped bring in a new era of prime power arms that’s caused scoring and home runs to drop to levels not seen in 19 years.

“There’s a good generation of young pitchers who have come up and established themselves,” said Colorado’s Jason Giambi, an A.L. MVP in the long-gone sluggers’ epoch. “The days of offensive guys putting up crazy numbers, I think it’s going to be different the next few years.”

Teams averaged 4.28 runs per game this season, the lowest since 1992’s 4.12 and down from a Steroids Era peak of 5.14 in 2000. And the home run average was down to 0.94 each team per game, also the lowest in 19 years and a sharp drop from 1.17 in 2000. That was when Giambi was voted A.L. MVP – he later admitted he was among those who took steroids to bulk up.

It wasn’t just home run hitters who had a tough time, according to STATS LLC. The major league batting average of .255 was the lowest since 1989. On the flip side, the 3.94 ERA was a level last seen in 1992.

Detroit’s Justin Verlander became the first 24-game winner since Arizona’s Randy Johnson in 2002. Tampa Bay’s James Shields had 11 complete games, the first in double digits since Johnson’s 12 in 1999. Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee became the first pitcher with six shutouts since Tim Belcher’s eight for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1989.

Baseball attendance rose slightly: Another sellout at AT&T Park, a fine showing at Petco Park and a nice send-off at Sun Life Stadium.

In a season full of comebacks, Major League Baseball attendance also rallied.

MLB’s average attendance rose by about half of 1 percent this year, ending three straight seasons of drops.

The World Series champion San Francisco Giants sold out every home game this year and drew rousing ovations in their wrapup Wednesday. San Diego drew more than 32,000 fans to Petco for the season finale against the Cubs while Florida attracted 34,615 in the final game at Sun Life before moving into a new ballpark next year.

The N.L. East champion Philadelphia Phillies led baseball’s attendance chart for the first time, drawing 3,680,718 fans. The Phillies have had 204 straight regular-season sellouts at Citizens Bank Park – Boston has sold out 712 straight games at Fenway Park.

The overall attendance of 73,425,568 this year was the fifth highest in MLB history.

Indianapolis prepares Painter for start

NFL: The Indianapolis Colts are preparing as though Curtis Painter will be their starting quarterback at Tampa Bay on Monday.

Kerry Collins is still recovering after suffering concussion-like symptoms Sunday against Pittsburgh and his status remains in doubt. That means the Colts are getting Painter ready for what would be his first NFL start.

“You have to,” Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. “There’s no other way to do it. I had this old adage when I started coaching that you’ve got to coach who shows up. Today, Curtis is practicing and Kerry is not, so obviously, we have to get him (Curtis) ready for the ballgame.”

Indy signed quarterback Dan Orlovsky to the active roster on Wednesday to provide depth. Peyton Manning isn’t expected to return until November or December as he recovers from neck surgery.

Vegas, McGirt share lead after torrid 63s

Golf: Jhonattan Vegas and William McGirt shot career-best 8-under-par 63s to share the first-round lead in the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at Las Vegas.

Vegas, the Venezuelan rookie who won the Bob Hope Classic in January for his first PGA Tour title, had 10 birdies and two bogeys at TPC Summerlin in the first of four Fall Series events.

McGirt, also a PGA Tour rookie, had eight birdies in a bogey-free round.

Spokane native Alex Prugh is four shots back after opening with a 67.

Boise State, BYU set 12-game series

College sports: Boise State and BYU announced a 12-game home-and-home football series that begins next year and runs through 2023.

The schools signed a four-year agreement in January 2008, with games in Boise in 2012 and 2014 and in Provo, Utah in 2013 and 2015.

NCAA places Cincinnati on probation: The NCAA placed the University of Cincinnati on two years of probation for violating rules on calling recruits in its women’s basketball and football programs.

The NCAA said the university discovered the improper calls and reported them.

The NCAA infractions committee found a major violation in women’s basketball and secondary ones in football and women’s basketball.

The university said the NCAA accepted its self-imposed sanctions, which it has completed.


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Former Gonzaga forward Zach Collins makes impact as Trail Blazers rookie

UPDATED: 8:35 p.m.

Zach Collins’ rookie year with the Portland Trail Blazers was more like two seasons in one. The former Gonzaga Bulldog barely saw the floor in the first two months of the season. He averaged 3.8 minutes per November game. Collins carved out a spot in the rotation in December and his playing time soared into the 14-18 minute range.