BASEBALL

NEW YORK (AP)Higher velocity and increased shifts helped lead to the major league batting average dropping to .243, its lowest since 1968.

Defensive shifts and 100 mph pitches set records this season, contributing to the worrisome offensive decline Major League Baseball is trying to address.

When the average dropped this low more than a half-century ago, MLB lowered the pitcher’s mound. Next year’s rules changes announced last month include the first restriction on shifts, a decision made over the objection of the players’ association.

The major league average was .269 in 2006 but fell to .254 in 2016 and .245 during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, then dropped by one point in each of the following years. The only seasons with lower averages than this year were the record low of .237 in 1968 along with 1967 and the deal-ball era seasons of 1884, 1888 and 1908.

PHOENIX (AP) – Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 2022 average of 26,843 fans per game throughout the league was down 5.3% from the 2019 average of 28,339. The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million for an average of 47,672.

BASKETBALL

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green apologized to the team a day after fighting with teammate Jordan Poole during practice, general manager Bob Myers said.

Poole practiced while Green didn’t, and Myers said any potential discipline would be handled internally. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Green will be away from the team again Friday and expects him to return Saturday.

GOLF

LAS VEGAS (AP) – Tom Hoge wanted to be sure to take advantage of pristine morning conditions. He did more than he expected, making two eagles on his way to an 8-under 63 and a one-shot lead in the Shriners Children’s Open.

One of the eagles came with a gap wedge in his hand, part of a six-hole stretch he played in 6-under par in the middle of his round at the TPC Summerlin. The other eagle was a 35-foot putt down the hill on the par-5 16th.

Presidents Cup partners Si Woo Kim and Tom Kim ganged up on Max Homa in a group that brought back memories and stories from Quail Hollow two weeks ago. Si Woo Kim had a 64 and was tied for second with Maverick McNealy, while Tom Kim had a 65, and Homa didn’t fare too badly with a 67. Homa went 4-0 in his Presidents Cup debut, beating Tom Kim in singles.

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) – Jodi Ewart Shadoff went on a run of four straight birdies late in her round for an 8-under 64, taking a two-shot lead in the LPGA Mediheal Championship.

Ewart Shadoff has played 245 times on the LPGA Tour without winning, and the Englishwoman got off to a strong start in hopes of ending more than a decade in search of an elusive title.

Alison Lee and Ruixin Liu of China were at 66, while the group at 67 included California native Danielle Kang and Atthaya Thitikul, the 19-year-old Thai who is on the fast track toward reaching No. 1 in the world.

MADRID (AP) – Spanish star Jon Rahm shot a 7-under 64 in the opening round of the Spanish Open, leaving him a stroke behind leaders Ashun Wu, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Darius van Driel.

Rahm is trying to win for the third time at home and join the great Seve Ballesteros for the most Spanish Open titles. Rahm had an eagle, six birdies and a bogey at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid.

VIRGINIA WATER, England (AP) – The Official World Golf Ranking won’t be awarding points to LIV Golf events this year, denying the MENA Tour’s request to immediately add the Saudi-funded series to its schedule.

The OWGR said the MENA Tour did not give it sufficient notice and there would not be time to finish the review ahead of the LIV Golf Invitational in Bangkok that starts Friday or the event in Saudi Arabia next week.

In a move that indicates how quickly LIV Golf wants world ranking points for its 48-man fields, it created an alliance with the little-known MENA Tour, which hasn’t run a tournament of its own since March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. MENA stands for Middle East and North Africa.

FOOTBALL

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – The New England Patriots placed quarterback Brian Hoyer on injured reserve because of a concussion.

Hoyer was knocked out in the second quarter of the Patriots’ 27-24 overtime loss to Green Bay last week following a blind side hit by Rashan Gary.

Hoyer was making his first start since 2020, filling in for Mac Jones, who has an injured left ankle. Jones has been a limited participant in practices this week. If he isn’t ready to go, rookie Bailey Zappe is expected to make his first NFL start Sunday when New England hosts Detroit. The team signed Garrett Gilbert to the practice squad Wednesday.

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) – Wofford football coach Josh Conklin resigned from the FCS program with the Terriers in a 15-game losing streak.

The school announced Conklin’s departure two days before the team plays at Samford. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson was named interim coach.

AUTO RACING

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) – An appeals panel reinstated the 25 points William Byron was docked by NASCAR for deliberately spinning championship rival Denny Hamlin, a critical decision that helps his playoff hopes.

The three-person panel found Byron did break a NASCAR rule for spinning Hamlin under caution. But Hendrick Motorsports appealed the NASCAR penalty, which was initially a $50,000 fine and the loss of 25 points.

The panel instead upped the fine to $100,000 and gave back the points. The ruling moved Byron from below the elimination line heading into the race Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where the playoff field will be cut from 12 to eight.

WALLER, Texas (AP) – Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time IndyCar racing next season in A.J. Foyt’s flagship car after two seasons filling in as a substitute driver for other teams.

AJ Foyt Racing said that Ferrucci will drive the No. 14 Chevrolet, which is fielded out of Foyt’s headquarters in Waller. Last week, the team hired Indy Lights driver Benjamin Pedersen for its second car, which is fielded out of Indianapolis.

SOCCER

BUENOS AIRES (AP) – Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi confirmed that the World Cup in Qatar next month will be the last of his career.

The 35-year-old Argentina star will play in his fifth World Cup,but is still seeking his first title at the showpiece tournament. Messi did not make it clear whether he would retire from the national team after Qatar.

HOCKEY

FRISCO, Texas (AP) – Jason Robertson signed a $31 million, four-year contract with the Dallas Stars after missing the first two weeks of training camp.

The Stars announced the deal late Wednesday night, after their exhibition game in Denver. Robertson had 41 goals and 38 assists in 74 games last season.