Giants all-business amid Opening Day 'hoopla'

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Giants all-business amid Opening Day 'hoopla'

April 7, 2011ST. LOUIS (2-4) vs.GIANTS (2-4)URBAN: GIANTS WITH A LOT ON THEIR PLATE
Coverage begins at 12 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Returning home for the first time as the reigning World Series champions might be what the Giants need to overcome a slow start.

Opening a weekend-long celebration of last year's achievements, the Giants will raise their title flag Friday before facing the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park.

REWIND: Giants World Series page

Though San Francisco went 2-4 at Los Angeles and San Diego, the atmosphere should be electric for the home opener and throughout the weekend. The Giants will receive their championship rings Saturday, and reigning NL rookie of the year Buster Posey will be honored Sunday.

"For a couple of games there's going to be a lot of hoopla," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's going to be special."

"I'm sure the guys are looking forward to getting home," he said. "We have to enjoy the moment. But at the same time, you've got to put your so-called game faces on. These games are important. We need to play well. We need to play better."

Bochy, however, knows his team must stay focused on the Cardinals. All four of San Francisco's losses came by two or fewer runs.

RELATED: St. Louis stats roster depth chart

Scheduled starter Jonathan Sanchez believes the Giants not only must improve this weekend, but find a way to play better overall than they did in 2010.

"It's a new year, a new season. We've got to work. We've got to win this year," he said. "We've got to work harder, because there's going to be a lot of teams out there that want to beat us. We're just going to bring the same thing we did last year to this year and go from there."

Slugger Albert Pujols is 4 for 22 with one of those home runs, but isbatting .478 with three homers his last six games in San Francisco. Heis 4 for 5 with a double versus Sanchez.

The Giants should have some momentum after ace Tim Lincecum struck out 13 and Posey, Aubrey Huff and Pablo Sandoval each had three hits in Wednesday's 8-4 win over the Padres.
San Francisco has scored 18 runs in its two victories, but only 10 in the losses.

Posey, 4 for 12 with two doubles versus St. Louis, has hit safely in all six games.
A 13-game winner in 2010, Sanchez hopes for a better result Friday after he allowed four runs -- two earned -- while striking out eight and walking three in 5 2-3 innings of a 4-3 loss to the Dodgers on Friday.
RELATED: Holliday runs Tuesday, swings a bat Wednesday

The left-hander has been solid in two starts versus St. Louis, going 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA.
Sanchez will face a Cardinals' lineup without slugger Matt Holliday, who will miss a sixth straight game after undergoing an appendectomy. Manager Tony La Russa believes Holliday could return later on the team's 10-game western swing.

St. Louis (2-4) also hopes to rebound after a rough homestand versus San Diego and Pittsburgh.

Opening their trip in San Francisco won't make things easier. The Cardinals have lost eight of 12 at AT&T Park since winning their last series there May 22-24, 2006.

"It's a tough road trip," outfielder Lance Berkman told the Cardinals' official website. "We go in there, and the pitching doesn't get any easier obviously when you have the Giants."

The Cardinals, who have not scored more than three runs in any game, are hitting .231 and have two homered twice in 2011.

REWIND: Correia pitches Pirates past St. Louis

Scheduled starter Jake Westbrook has a hit this season, but the Cardinals need him to fare better on the mound after he allowed up eight runs and walked five in 4 1-3 innings of an 11-3 loss to the Padres on Saturday.

The right-hander gave up three runs three runs in six innings of a 6-3 loss in his only previous outing against the Giants on Aug. 20.

Rewind: Cauley-Stein shows versatility in Kings' comeback attempt

Rewind: Cauley-Stein shows versatility in Kings' comeback attempt

Sometimes your shot won’t fall. The Sacramento Kings tried everything. Their 3-pointers went halfway down before popping out. Mid-range jumpers found the back iron of the rim. Fastbreak layups rolled out. Tip-ins bounced three times before jumping off the rim. 
 
Sacramento shot just 14-of-49 in the first half and 31-for-96 overall for a horrifying 32.3 percent from the field. And they still had a chance to win.
 
“I thought we got good looks all night,” coach Dave Joerger told media following the game.
 
The New York Knicks built a 21-point first half lead, but with 4:51 remaining in the fourth, the Kings trailed by just two. And then the shots stopped falling again for Sacramento.
 
“When you have to come back from that amount down, it takes a lot of energy and I think we ran out of legs,” Joerger added.
 
The Kings shot 7-of-29 from the field (24.1 percent) in the fourth quarter and 1-of-10 from deep as the Knicks clung to the lead. 
 
Carmelo Anthony dropped in six of his 20 down the stretch and Brandon Jennings hit all four of his free throw attempts in the final few minutes as the Knicks survived for the 106-98 win.
 
DeMarcus Cousins had a big night, scoring 36 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, but he shot just 9-of-30 from the field, including 4-for-10 from long range. 
 
While his team was struggling to hit anything in the first half, Cousins completely carried the team. But when the Kings drew near, be it Cousins or one of the other Kings players, they took ill-advised shots looking for the home run instead of methodically running their offense.
 
It’s nearly impossible to win an NBA game when you shoot 32.2 percent, but Sacramento had plenty of opportunities to complete the comeback and squandered them.
 
With the game out of control early, Joerger turned to unconventional lineups in an attempt to mix things up. Willie Cauley-Stein got an extended look in the second half and may have played himself into more time moving forward. 
 
The second-year big finished the game with nine points on 4-of-7 shooting and grabbed four rebounds in 23 minutes of action. He brought energy on the offensive end and played strong defense against the best the Knicks had to offer.
 
“I think his versatility and length to be able to have to step out and play Carmelo or step out and have to play (Kristaps) Porzingis, where maybe that’s not Kosta’s strength as much,” Joerger said. 
 
The former Kentucky star agreed with his coach’s assessment after the game.
 
“I like to play dudes like that anyways,” Cauley-Stein told reporters. “That kind of goes into to my strengths instead of trying to play a five man that’s just bigger than me and outweighs me by 30 or 40 pounds.”
 
Cauley-Stein has played more than 20 minutes in a game just once this season and he’s sat out three of the Kings' 20 contests as a healthy scratch. He came into the night averaging just 4.9 points and 1.7 rebounds in 11.9 minutes per game.  
 
“You’ve just got to remember this is my second year and a new coach, so it’s like being in a rookie year all over again,” Cauley-Stein said. “You’ve got to prove yourself to them that you can make plays, that you can knock down shots.”
 
There's no question the Kings can use a defensive-minded hustle player off the bench, but Joerger has often turned to 36-year-old Matt Barnes for those minutes instead of the Kings' first-As theround pick from a season ago.
 
With the loss, Sacramento fell to 1-3 on the road trip and 7-13 on the season. They have a two day break before facing off with the 4-15 Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center. 

Notes: In-game adjustments help Raiders slow Bills run game late

Notes: In-game adjustments help Raiders slow Bills run game late

OAKLAND – It’s impossible to say the Raiders stopped LeSean McCoy. The Buffalo Bills running back had 130 yards on just 17 carries, averaging 7.6 yards per rush.

He was shifty as advertised, hard to bring down especially in open space. He killed the Raiders early on, suffocating them with a steady dose of his rushing style.

They couldn’t stop him at all. Until they made some changes that put more bodies around the ball, dared the Bills to throw deep and came at McCoy in waves.

“We saw how they were trying to attack us,” linebacker Malcolm Smith said. “We found a way to protect ourselves and be in better position to make plays.”

It took some time to figure out, but McCoy started slowing down late in the third quarter. He had 14 carries for 127 yards until he cramped up later in the third quarter, and didn’t do much on the ground after that.

“He’s one of the best in the business,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He made life difficult for us, but we settled in and got the stops we needed to get a nice victory.”

Stopping the run was key to it. Stopping, of course, remains a relative term. Buffalo ran for 212 yards and three touchdowns and, at times didn’t need to pass to move downfield and score.

The Bills offense got bottled up in the third quarter, with three straight three-and-outs that put Buffalo into passing situations where they struggle and the Raiders pass rush can make a profound effect.

“They showed what type of team they are,” McCoy said. “They got stops when they needed stops and scored when they needed to. …I just felt like this is a game we had in our hands that we let slip away.

Carr’s pinky is fine, thank you: Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was taken off the injury report after this practice week. He wasn’t questionable or doubtful after dislocating his pinky in two spots last week versus Carolina. He was going to play.

He didn’t wear a glove on his ailing digit, though he sported a splint of some sort during the game. He had his throwing hand’s pinky and ring fingers taped together in a postgame press conference – it’s that way much of the time – but insisted it caused zero issues during Sunday’s game. The Raiders played all but one snap from the shotgun and pistol, but Carr bristled at questions whether his finger limited the offense in any way.

Proof is in a 97.3 passer rating, 260 yards passing, two touchdown and no picks. He was rarely inaccurate, and played well throughout the game.

Carr had his left hand examined after a planned run, but never missed a snap and came out of the game just fine.

“It really didn’t (impact me),” Carr said. “If I missed a throw it was just because of me to be honest. They took me off the injury report for a reason. It was not affecting me at all. Just leaving it taped for precautionary, just to be safe.”

Marquette gets flagged: Raiders punt Marquette King feels so good after a punt goes well that he just has to dance. That’s why he busted out the Pee Wee Herman “Tequila” dance after pinning Buffalo at their 4-yard line.

A rusher hit him in the leg and was called for roughing the kicker, and King went a smidge too far. He picked up the flag – you can’t do that – did a jig as he waved it in the air, and then spiked it to the ground.

It was entertaining, sure. But it also drew another flag for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“It’s definitely a teachable moment,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s not mean spirit in what he’s doing. He’s having fun. He enjoys himself. He had the Pee Wee Herman out there today. I saw that. I got a giggle.

“He’s enjoying himself. Now, right there, he just didn’t realize you can’t do that. He was like, ‘Really? I couldn’t do that? Oh man. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Mr. Ref.’ It really was innocent and obviously, we’ll make sure we don’t leave any stone unturned when it comes to teaching to make sure we understand what we need to do there. That should never happen again.”

Cowser’s first sack: Undrafted free agent James Cowser is popular among his teammates. The edge rusher was well liked during his time in the preseason, and was welcomed back when signed to the practice squad near midseason.

He was added to the active roster last week, made his professional debut on special teams against Carolina and made a big impact on defense Sunday afternoon.

He sacked Tyrod Taylor for a 10-yard loss in the second quarter to help force the Bills’ first punt. It was his first as a pro, though the action is old hat for the all-time FCS leader in sacks.

It was a big moment for Cowser and those around him.

“Cowser stepped up and got a big sack at an important time,” fellow edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “We knew he could step in and play well and do some things. It’s key for us that the young guys step up.”

This ‘n that: RB Latavius Murray scored his 10th and 11th rushing touchdowns of the season on Sunday night, the largest total since Marcus Allen had 12 in 1990. That’s the fifth-highest total in franchise history. … S Karl Joseph suffered a foot/toe injury and did not return. … The Raiders have won six straight games, and haven't allowed a 100 passer rating in that stretch. …Khalil Mack has had a sack in seven straight games. Bruce Irvin has had a sack in three straight.