Cain faces Hamels in NLCS Game 3 rematch

503986.jpg

Cain faces Hamels in NLCS Game 3 rematch

July 27, 2011

GIANTS (59-44) vs.
PHILADELPHIA (65-37)

Coverage begins at 3:30 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The first rematch of last season's NLCS was a convincing Philadelphia Phillies win. Handing the ball to Cole Hamels should give the MLB-leading Phillies a good shot at making it two straight over the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

Hamels faces the Giants on Wednesday night for the first time since losing Game 3 of the NLCS, and it could be another duel against Matt Cain if a stomach illness sidelines Tim Lincecum again.

Meeting for the first time since the Giants ended the Phillies' two-year reign atop the NL with a six-game series victory, Philadelphia (65-37) improved its major league-best home record to 38-16 with Tuesday's 7-2 win.

URBAN: Series bigger for Philly than Giants

Vance Worley pitched a three-hitter, Raul Ibanez had a three-run homer and Ryan Howard, Chase Utley (inside-the-park homer) and John Mayberry each hit a solo shot.

Manager Charlie Manuel's club continues its 10-game stretch in Philadelphia with Hamels (12-5, 2.62 ERA) going for another dominant home start. The left-hander improved to 7-3 with a 2.29 ERA at Citizens Bank Park on Friday with eight innings of three-hit ball in a 3-1 victory over San Diego.

Hamels, who matched a season high with 10 strikeouts and set down the last 10 batters he faced, has given up three runs or fewer in 18 of his 21 starts.

"I've seen him develop into a pitcher who can do a lot of things," Padres manager Bud Black said. "His movement on his fastball and on his change and his command of his pitches have really improved. He's showing that being an All-Star is warranted."

Hamels is 4-2 with a 4.67 ERA in eight regular-season starts against San Francisco (59-44). In Game 3 of the NLCS, he struck out eight but allowed three runs in six innings of the 3-0 defeat.

Cain (8-6, 3.06), who threw seven innings of two-hit ball in that Oct. 19 matchup for his first career postseason victory, will get the ball Wednesday if Lincecum (8-8, 2.90) still isn't feeling well. Lincecum, 3-2 with a 1.66 ERA and 45 strikeouts in his last six starts, was scheduled to start Tuesday, but was scratched in favor of Barry Zito.

The Phillies might be pulling for Cain to get the ball. The right-hander was 0-3 with a 6.23 ERA in five starts versus Philadelphia prior to the NLCS.

Lincecum, meanwhile, is 2-1 with a 3.17 ERA in seven regular-season outings against the Phillies. The two-time NL Cy Young winner went 1-1 with a 3.21 ERA in two starts versus Philadelphia in the 2010 postseason before pitching in relief in the pennant-clinching win Oct. 23.

Utley, who has reached base safely in 28 straight games and is 10 for 20 with three homers over his last six contests, likely wouldn't mind if Lincecum takes more time to recover. Utley is just 2 for 20 with eight strikeouts against the right-hander in the regular season.

He has fared far better against Cain, going 7 for 15 with three home runs.

Howard, who reached 20 homers for the seventh consecutive season Tuesday, has six hits - including three home runs - in 19 at-bats versus Lincecum. The Phillies first baseman is 2 for 10 with two homers against Cain.

Giants outfielder Cody Ross, last season's NLCS MVP, is in the midst of a 1-for-17 slump after going 0 for 3 on Tuesday. Ross, though, is 9 for 30 with four homers off Hamels - the most the left-hander has surrendered to any batter.

Rewind: Warriors' dominance over Clippers in 'rivalry' continues

Rewind: Warriors' dominance over Clippers in 'rivalry' continues

LOS ANGELES – Once robust, the fabled Warriors-Clippers rivalry is rapidly going the way of the typewriter.

When the Warriors strolled walked into Staples Center Wednesday night and laid a 115-98 mashing on LA, prompting much of the sellout crowd streaming toward the exits in the fourth quarter, it was seventh consecutive time they have throttled the Clippers.

More deflating for the Clippers and perhaps the rest of the NBA is that this much-hyped game, with LA’s new and improved defense ranking No. 1 in the league, was supposed to be more competitive than the previous six losses.

It was, instead, a 17-point victory, the biggest Warriors rout yet.

Though the Warriors shot a respectable 47.7 percent (but only 23.3 percent beyond the arc) and also lost a tight rebounding battle, 46-45, they did most everything else so well the Clippers were done before the first quarter was over.

They had 32 assists and only 11 turnovers. They held LA to 39.6-percent shooting, while forcing 14 turnovers, leading to 16 Warriors points.

“Defensively, that’s where we won the game,” Kevin Durant said.

“If we defend like that and take care of the ball, even on a night when shots aren’t going in, we have a chance to win anywhere,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Even on the road against a great team.”

The Warriors (19-3) locked up star forward Blake Griffin, holding him to 12 points on 5-of-20 shooting – and an unsightly seven turnovers – mostly under the unyielding defense of Draymond Green.

In a game circled on their calendar, the Clippers’ starting five finished with 41 points – less than the combined totals of Klay Thompson (24) and Green (22).

The Clippers (16-7) lost this game on merit, perhaps more than the Warriors won it. Committing nine first-quarter turnovers, which the Warriors turned into 8 points, LA looked like a team that was not prepared to play an NBA game, certainly not under the microscope of national TV.

The game was advertised never materialized, partly because the Clippers were so bad and partly because the Warriors were appropriately ruthless in taking it.

“It happens,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “You go into a game that you really want to do well, things don’t go well for you, and you lose it sometimes.”

Largely thanks to Clippers turnovers, the Warriors smoked LA in paint points, 58-38, as well as fast-break points, 27-11. The Warriors had 12 steals, including a career-high-tying seven by Stephen Curry.

“When we get a steal, especially live-ball turnovers, it’s three-on-one and you’ve got to pick your poison,” Durant said. “We were getting layups, we were getting wide-open 3s – although we missed a lot. But for the most part, when we get out and run that kind of ignites us, no matter if we miss or make the shot.”

So it didn’t matter than Curry failed to make a 3-pointers for only the second time this season, or that Durant endured his worst shooting night as a Warrior, going 5-of-17 from the field.

With Curry, Durant and Thompson all shooting under 50 percent, it was left to Green to operate the efficiency department. He mastered it, going 8-of-10 from the field, including 3-of-5 beyond the arc.

“It was great to get some shots to fall,” Green said. “(My shot has) been feeling good the last couple days, so I said if I got a shot that I would come in aggressive. But still focus in on the defensive end. That’s always my No. 1 focus, especially against a team like this.”

To locate the genesis of the Warriors recent domination of the Clippers, look no further than Green. He suffocates Griffin, who tends to come apart. The Warriors have faced the Clippers nine times since Green was installed as the starting power forward. They’ve won eight of them.

“If you want to take a positive away from this experience, it’s that this isn’t the playoffs,” Griffin said. “So we have some work to do, obviously. It’s a good lesson for us and I think we’ll be better off because of it. We have to allow ourselves to learn from it.”

It’s a theme very similar to that which was expressed the last time the Clippers lost to the Warriors, as well as the time before that, and so on and so on and so on, going back to the days when this was a real rivalry.

The Warriors simply take the W and keep quiet. No gloating. Maybe that will come in the playoffs.

Rewind: Sharks show no rust from layoff, fall to Sens anyway

Rewind: Sharks show no rust from layoff, fall to Sens anyway

SAN JOSE – Against Ottawa on Wednesday night, the Sharks showed no ill effects from their recent respite. They controlled play in the offensive end for long stretches, earned six power plays, and outshot and out-chanced the Senators for the majority of the three periods. 

There was no rust to speak of despite no games since Friday and no practices or meetings on Saturday or Sunday. From the opening puck drop, the Sharks were the better team.

It didn’t earn them a win, though, or even a single point in the standings. Justin Braun couldn’t prevent a bouncing puck from getting past him with about one minute left in regulation of a tie game, and Chris Kelly squeezed a shot through Martin Jones while holding off Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The Sens added an empty netter, beating San Jose for the fifth straight time, 4-2.

Braun offered his perspective of the game-winner.

"It was just bouncing in the neutral zone,” he said. “I feel [Kelly] coming on me, and I'm trying to whack it over to [Joe Thornton and] miss. Miss with my feet. … You want to have that one back. Other than that, I think the boys played pretty well."

While Braun could have played that one differently, the Sharks probably deserved better than to be tied at 2-2 at that stage. They outshot Ottawa, 37-17, and out-attempted the Senators a whopping 78-36.

Despite a strong first period, they fell behind 2-0.

On an early power play, Mark Stone was the beneficiary of a deflected puck in front of the net, when Mike Hoffman’s shot hit both Paul Martin and Brent Burns before squirting to Stone. Erik Karlsson increased the lead to 2-0 with a wrist shot through a screen a few minutes later.

“Take a penalty, they get a lucky bounce, they score a goal, [then] they go up two on a shot through traffic,” Logan Couture said. “I thought we had most of the chances in that first.”

No one had better chances throughout the night than Joe Pavelski, who was the best player on the ice. The Sharks captain was robbed in front of the net twice late in the first period, rang a shot off the crossbar in the second on a breakaway, and in the third his desperation attempt on a loose puck just outside of the blue paint was snared by Ottawa goalie Mike Condon.

Pavelski finished with a game-high seven shots, and 10 shot attempts altogether.

“That’s the way it goes,” he said. “We’ve won games 2-1, 3-2. Tonight we didn’t find that extra one, and some of the chances we had, we have to get it.”

The power play got one in the second period, courtesy of Couture, but could have had more on its six opportunities. That 1-for-6 stood out on the scoresheet to coach Pete DeBoer.

“I thought the power play maybe could have won us the game,” he said.

Even with wins in six of their last seven entering Wednesday night, though, the Sharks are still struggling to score. They have two or fewer scores in eight of their last 11 games, although they’ve managed to go a respectable 6-4-1 over that span.

They continue to get goals from the usual suspects like Couture (seven goals in 10 games) and Brent Burns, who had the game-tying goal in the third period (his fifth in eight games), but the depth scoring just hasn’t shown up nearly one-third into the season. It’s clearly becoming an issue as evidenced by DeBoer’s constantly shuffling his lines, which he did again late Wednesday.

The coach downplayed a suggestion that the depth scorers aren’t holding their water, though.

“We've been managing to find ways to win games and get enough goals to win,” DeBoer said. “Just didn't happen tonight, even though the shots and most of the play was in our favor. We just didn't win."

While the shot and scoring chance discrepancy was encouraging, the last minute loss meant it was all for naught.

“You’re never happy when you lose, especially [when] you give up a late goal, you want to at least get a point out of that game,” Couture said. “I thought we were the better team, start to finish. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t find a way to get the third one.”