Latest Arizona sports

DIAMONDBACKS-NATIONALS

HRs by Difo, Severino help Nationals top Diamondbacks 5-3

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wilmer Difo hit his first major league homer, and Pedro Severino his second, helping the injury-depleted NL East champion Washington Nationals move closer to clinching home-field advantage in the Division Series by beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-3 at a near-empty stadium on a dreary Thursday.

Second baseman Difo and catcher Severino, both rookies, were in the lineup instead of Daniel Murphy (last started 12 days ago) and Wilson Ramos (out for the season), respectively.

Last in the NL West, Arizona has nothing at stake the rest of the way. The Nationals, while already assured of winning their division and of facing the Los Angeles Dodgers to open their postseason, still are trying to lock up a higher seeding for that series.

Washington began Thursday with a two-game lead over NL West champion LA for the right to host more games in the best-of-five NLDS. The Dodgers, though, hold the tiebreaker because of a 5-1 advantage in the teams' season series.

ROCKIES-GIANTS

Cueto wins 18th to keep Giants in thick of wild card race

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Johnny Cueto pitched seven uneven innings for his 18th win and the San Francisco Giants beat the Colorado Rockies 7-2 on Thursday night, setting up a wild race to the finish for the NL wild card.

With three games left the Giants are one game behind the idle New York Mets and one game ahead of St. Louis. The Cardinals beat Cincinnati on Thursday.

San Francisco hosts the Los Angeles Dodgers beginning Friday, the Cardinals play Pittsburgh at home and the Mets close out the regular season in Philadelphia.

Cueto (18-5) overcame a shaky start in his first appearance since being sidelined more than a week with a groin strain. The All-Star right-hander matched his season high of 11 strikeouts, allowed two runs, nine hits and walked one to beat the Colorado for the third time this season.

Conor Gillaspie, Angel Pagan and Brandon Crawford had two hits apiece to help the Giants bounce back after getting shut out a night earlier.

RAMS-CARDINALS

Cardinals look to rev up offense against tough Rams

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Cardinals' offense is supposed to be one of the best, if not THE best, in the NFL.

But at the start of games especially, it's been a pushover.

This might not be a good week to change that because on Sunday they face the bruising defense of the Los Angeles Rams.

Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said the Rams' defense — with the likes of Aaron Donald, Alec Ogletree and Robert Quinn — "is as good as it gets."

These teams know each other well. The Rams won in Glendale last season and the Cardinals recognize they're in for a rough afternoon. Los Angeles already has had two players ejected from games.

"We feel like these guys kind of challenge our manhood," Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "We take that personally."

RAMS-GOFF-PALMER'S VIEW

Cards' Palmer sees familiar benefits to Rams' plan for Goff

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Carson Palmer can appreciate Jared Goff's current predicament better than just about anybody.

Palmer spent his entire first NFL season holding a clipboard and watching Jon Kitna lead the 2003 Cincinnati Bengals. The first overall draft pick out of Southern California couldn't get on the field even with a Heisman Trophy pedigree.

Goff, the Number 1 pick in this year's draft, will watch from the sidelines again when the Los Angeles Rams (2-1) visit Palmer's Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, and the veteran quarterback says that's not a bad spot for a young quarterback — particularly with Goff's lack of experience in a pro-style offense.

"If you're not ready, it's tough," Palmer said. "If you're not ready and you get thrown in there, if you struggle, it can linger."

While several rookie quarterbacks around the league have already begun their careers, Los Angeles is taking a gradual approach with its top choice while Case Keenum runs the offense. Coach Jeff Fisher repeatedly has said the Rams have no timetable on Goff's development.