The Giants can't seem to win at home

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The Giants can't seem to win at home

From Comcast SportsNetSAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The San Francisco Giants are showing how little home-field advantage matters in the baseball playoffs.Madison Bumgarner allowed two homers and got knocked out early for the second time this postseason and the Giants once again got off to a bad start to a series at home, losing Game 1 of the NL championship series 6-4 to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night."We hate to lose them at home. But it happens," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We've got to wash this one off and come out and be ready to go tomorrow."The Giants have lost all three home games so far this postseason, with Bumgarner taking the defeat in two of them. They managed to overcome that in the first round against Cincinnati by becoming the first team ever to win the final three games of a best-of-five series on the road.But if San Francisco is to make it back to the World Series for a second time in three years, the team must win at AT&T Park at least once this series against the wild-card Cardinals.Game 2 will be Monday night with San Francisco's Ryan Vogelsong taking on St. Louis' Chris Carpenter.Playing at home has usually been a big advantage for the Giants, who excel with the nightly sellouts and spacious dimensions that help the pitching staff. San Francisco had a 48-33 record at AT&T Park during the regular season and won five of seven postseason home games on the way to the World Series title two years ago.That hasn't been the case this October as the Giants have been outscored 20-6 in the three home games. The common theme so far has been subpar starting pitching with Bumgarner the main culprit. After going 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA as a rookie in the postseason two years ago, Bumgarner hasn't made it through five innings in either start this year."You have to try to find a way, which I wasn't able to do," Bumgarner said. "You just have to keep battling, keep trying to find a way to get the ball where it's supposed to go."Bumgarner looked in good form at the start, needing just 11 pitches to get through a perfect first inning. But nothing was easy after that.Yadier Molina lined a single on an 0-2 pitch with one out in the second. David Freese then drove a 3-2 pitch over the wall in left-center to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.Bumgarner then couldn't make it out of the fourth. Daniel Descalso doubled and scored on Pete Kozma's double. Jon Jay added a two-out RBI single and Beltran ended Bumgarner's night with the homer. That marked the first time all year that Bumgarner allowed two homers in a home game and gave him an 11.25 ERA in the postseason."I haven't had a lot of life on the ball," Bumgarner said. "In cases where your stuff might not be as sharp you have to try to find a way to get it where it's supposed to go. I'm just missing over the plate a little bit."Even a strong night from Tim Lincecum and the bullpen couldn't overcome Bumgarner's rough outing. Five Giants relievers combined for 5 1-3 hitless innings with Lincecum throwing two.The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner had been demoted to the bullpen so far in the playoffs after a rough regular season. He has allowed just one run in 8 1-3 innings so far and gives Bochy an option if he decides not to give the struggling Bumgarner another start.No Giants starter has made it through the sixth inning so far this postseason."If we avoid bumps early I feel like we'll be all right," Lincecum said. "It's not ideal when our starters do what they're doing right now."The Giants bats woke up in the fourth inning when RBI hits by Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford and a two-run triple by Gregor Blanco cut the deficit to 6-4. The rally ended when second baseman Daniel Descalso made a diving stop of Angel Pagan's grounder up the middle with runners on first and third."He made a great play," Pagan said. "You have to give him credit. I just did my best. He threw a very nice sinker down in the zone that I put in play. I was just hoping it would go through so we could get a run at least."But they managed only two hits in 5 1-3 innings against the Cardinals bullpen and find themselves in a 1-0 series hole.

Boswell boots Steelers to AFC championship with six field goals

Boswell boots Steelers to AFC championship with six field goals

BOX SCORE

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Who needs to reach the end zone when you have Le'Veon Bell chewing up yards and the clock, and Chris Boswell setting an NFL playoff record with six field goals?

Throw in a stingy Pittsburgh defense for most of Sunday night, and a multitude of mistakes by Kansas City, and the Steelers' 18-16 victory sent them into the AFC championship game.

The Steelers (13-5) needed to hold off a last-ditch threat by the Chiefs (12-5) before advancing to face New England next Sunday night for a spot in the Super Bowl. The Patriots won at Pittsburgh 27-16, but Ben Roethlisberger was injured and didn't play.

"I think it's going to be a showdown," Bell said. "Two great quarterbacks going head to head. Two of the best teams in the AFC. It's time to settle it next week."

Since 2001, the Patriots and Steelers have combined to win nine AFC titles.

Spencer Ware's 1-yard touchdown run took Kansas City within 18-16. The Chiefs at first converted the 2-pointer to tie it, but tackle Eric Fisher - the first overall selection in the 2013 draft - was penalized for holding. The next try failed.

With 2:43 remaining, Justin Gilbert misplayed the kick return and was tackled at the Pittsburgh 5. Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for 7 yards on third down and Pittsburgh then ran out the clock, securing a ninth straight victory for the Steelers. The Chiefs have not won a home playoff game since 1994, losing five in a row.

The scoring started furiously in the opening minutes, then the game became a kicking exhibition by Boswell, who also had six field goals in the regular season against Cincinnati. And Bell put on a virtuoso running performance, patiently finding holes and then exploding through them. He added a team-record 170 yards rushing to the 167 he had in a win over Miami last week.

"The coaches put a lot of trust in me to get the job done," Bell said of his 30 carries. "Just run hard. Just picked my spots where I could and run hard."

The Steelers became first team to win a playoff game without a TD since eventual Super Bowl champion Indianapolis in the 2006 AFC divisional round at Baltimore.

Using a no-huddle attack almost to perfection early on, the Steelers drove deep into Kansas City territory. But they bogged down inside the 5 and Boswell made a 22-yard field goal.

The Chiefs were just as efficient on a six-play march capped by receiver Albert Wilson lining up in the backfield, then slipping uncovered into the end zone for a 5-yard score.

Pittsburgh's answer came on a 52-yard heave to All-Pro Brown, who somehow was covered by linebacker Justin Houston. That led to Boswell's second field goal, a 38-yarder. He added a 36-yarder to cap a 14-play drive on which Pittsburgh again barely huddled.

A clean game up until then turned to, well, turnovers, on successive series. Bud Dupree pounded Alex Smith, whose pass shot high into the air and was caught by linebacker Ryan Shazier.

The Steelers got to the Kansas City 5, where Frank Zombo leaped to deflect Roethlisberger's throw, and All-Pro safety Eric Berry - burned for 26 yards on the previously play - picked it off in the end zone.

Boswell's fourth field goal, from 45 yards, made it 12-7 at the half. His 43-yarder, setting the franchise record for a postseason game and tying the league mark of five, came on Pittsburgh's first series of the second half. A 43-yarder midway in the fourth quarter gave Boswell the NFL record.

"It's just about doing my job," Boswell said. "Coming out here, put it through the yellow pipes. Don't really think too much. Don't think like I'm the guy or anything. I'm just doing my job and doing my one-eleventh for the team."

Kansas City's Cairo Santos got in on the kicking act with a 48-yarder to make it 15-10. At that point, 10 seconds from the end of the third quarter, the Chiefs were outgained 333 yards to 150.

WEATHERMAN

Switching the game from noon local time to an evening kickoff to avert an ice storm had no effect on the crowd. Fans arrived early, tailgated in the rain as the worst of the storm never hit the area. But fog rolled into Arrowhead Stadium in the second quarter, obscuring some views from on high. Not that what was going on was worth watching for Chiefs fans.

NOTES

Bell rushed for almost as many yards (101) in the first half as the Chiefs gained (106). ... Boswell's four first-half field goals tied the team record for an entire playoff game. ... Chiefs All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce had a rough game, including a big drop and a 15-yard roughing penalty in the third period.

UP NEXT

Steelers: Head to New England for a shot at making the Super Bowl.

Instant Replay: Kings fall just short in battle with Westbrook, Thunder

Instant Replay: Kings fall just short in battle with Westbrook, Thunder

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO --  It’s coming undone. The Sacramento Kings dropped another one at home Sunday night, falling to the Oklahoma City Thunder by a final of 122-118. The Kings are now just 1-5 on their season-long seven-game homestand and they’ve trailed by 14 or more points in each game.

Russell Westbrook pushed the ball every chance he got and when he wasn’t scoring at the rim or getting fouled, he was burying 3-pointers. The perennial MVP candidate posted a 36-point, 10-assist, 11-rebound triple-double in the win. He also turned the ball over six times, but his ability to get his team out in transition buried the Kings.

With all eyes on Westbrook, Victor Oladipo found plenty of room to operate. The Thunder’s starting shooting guard scored 17 of his 23 points in the first half.

Big man Enes Kanter had a nice night, hitting Sacramento for 29 points and 12 rebounds off the Thunder bench and Alex Abrines hit 3-of-4 from deep on his way to 13 points. 

DeMarcus Cousins struggled from the field early on, but got his game on track late. Sacramento’s star big posted 31 points, 11 rebounds and handed out seven assists, but it wasn’t enough to get the Kings over the hump. 

Rudy Gay came out aggressive against Oklahoma. The 30-year-old forward finished the night with 22 points on 6-for-18 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds. 

Darren Collison added 21 points and two assists. Anthony Tolliver knocked in both of his 3-point shots on his way to 10 points and Garrett Temple added eight points, four rebounds and three assists as the Kings fell to 16-24 on the season. 

STANDOUT PERFORMER

Westbrook is a star, but Kanter was the game changer in this one. The big out of Kentucky lit the Kings up in post. His seven offensive rebounds were huge and so was his 9-of-11 shooting from the free throw line.  

TURNING POINT

The Kings came out flat in the first half and trailed by as many as 17. They had opportunities in the second half, even cutting the lead to three with 26.5 seconds remaining, but the huge early deficit proved too much.

INJURY UPDATE 

Ty Lawson turned his left ankle late in the game and did not return. Big man Steven Adams hit his head in the early third quarter and underwent tests for a concussion. 

WHAT'S NEXT 

Sacramento finishes their season-long seven-game homestand Wednesday when the Indiana Pacers make their way to the Golden 1 Center. Following the game, the Kings leave Sacramento, embarking on an eight-game road trip beginning Friday evening with the Memphis Grizzlies.