Giants try to avoid sweep ... and second place

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Giants try to avoid sweep ... and second place

August 3, 2011

ARIZONA (61-49) vs.
GIANTS (61-49)

Coverage begins at 12:00 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The Arizona Diamondbacks traded for Jason Marquis over the weekend in hopes of bolstering their starting rotation.

His impressive career numbers against the San Francisco Giants surely played a part in their decision to acquire him.

Marquis makes his Diamondbacks debut as visiting Arizona tries to take sole possession of the NL West lead with a three-game sweep of the Giants on Wednesday.

The Diamondbacks (61-49), who haven't been alone atop the division this late in the season since Sept. 5, 2008, are in position to accomplish that feat after winning 6-1 on Tuesday.

URBAN: Giants know Arizona is for real

Arizona entered this series two games behind San Francisco (61-49), but after Ian Kennedy defeated Matt Cain in Monday's 5-2 victory, Daniel Hudson outdueled Tim Lincecum to forge a first-place tie.

"It's a lot of fun but at the same time there's a long way to go," Hudson said. "The division goes through San Francisco and we have a lot of games left with the Giants."

Justin Upton, batting .436 with 21 RBIs over a 14-game hitting streak, hit his MLB-best seventh homer since July 21 while Paul Goldschmidt went deep in just his second game since getting recalled from Double-A Mobile on Monday.

"To come up here in this environment and do what he's done is a huge lift for us," manager Kirk Gibson said of the 23-year-old first baseman, who had 30 homers and 94 RBIs in 103 games in the minors.

"He's become part of our team. You have to be awed by it. He's shown great character by the way he's controlled his emotions."

Marquis (8-5, 3.95 ERA), meanwhile, suddenly finds himself in the midst of the NL West race after he was acquired from Washington on Saturday.

The right-hander's success against the Giants could give the Diamondbacks an advantage as they try for their first sweep at San Francisco since July 25-27, 2008. Marquis, 5-3 with a 2.31 ERA over 11 career starts against the Giants, is 4-2 with a 2.61 ERA lifetime at AT&T Park.

"I've always liked pitching in that ballpark, for one," Marquis told MLB.com. "Ultimately it comes down to executing pitches, I've come up with pretty good game plans with some of my pitching coaches and catchers in the past. Maybe my style of pitching suits me against their lineup. I'm looking forward to Wednesday and getting off to a good fresh start, and we'll see what happens."

"Anytime you pitch a big game, that's what you live for, that's why we play this game."

Marquis, 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA over his last five road outings, has made things difficult on both Aaron Rowand and Carlos Beltran. Rowand is 4 for 24 lifetime against Marquis while Beltran has gone 3 for 20.

San Francisco is 4 for 35 (.114) with runners in scoring position and has been outscored 31-8 during its season worst-tying five-game skid.

"These two clubs see each other two more times," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We're going stagnant with these bats and we need to get them going."

As their offense continues to falter, the Giants hope to regroup behind Ryan Vogelsong (8-1, 2.23), who's been somewhat rocky on the road of late but continues to shine at home. The right-hander allowed three runs over the first two innings Friday at Cincinnati before retiring 16 of the final 19 batters he faced during the 4-3, 13-inning loss.

Vogelsong, however, is 5-1 over 10 games - nine starts - at AT&T Park, compiling an MLB-leading 1.28 home ERA.

He gave up two runs and six hits in six innings but didn't factor in the decision of a 3-2 loss at Arizona on June 16.

Kirk Cousins watches Kyle Shanahan's offense carve up Packers

Kirk Cousins watches Kyle Shanahan's offense carve up Packers

Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. His uncertain status has led to speculation presumptive 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan will be interested in acquiring him in the offseason.

On Sunday, Cousins got a first-hand look at his former coach’s offense.

Cousins posted a photo on Instagram from the stands at the Georgia Dome, where the Atlanta Falcons and their high-octane offense blasted the Green Bay Packers, 44-21, in the NFC Championship game.

Cousins wrote the caption, “Watching two of the best in the world do what they do & taking notes to make it to this game next year -score a lot of points!”

Washington finished third in the NFC East and out of the playoffs with an 8-7-1 record.

Shanahan, the Falcons’ offensive coordinator, coached Cousins for the first two seasons of his NFL career with Washington on the staff of his father, Mike Shanahan. Cousins appeared in just eight games with four starts in 2012 and ’13.

Cousins' career has taken off in the past two seasons while starting all 32 regular-season games. He completed 67 percent of his passes this season with 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and a passer rating of 97.2.

Washington placed the franchise tag on Cousins this season at nearly $20 million. He franchise tag is expected to be approximately $24 million in 2017.

If Washington places the non-exclusive franchise tag on Cousins, a team could sign him to an offer sheet at the cost of two first-round draft picks or negotiate a trade with Washington for a lesser amount.

Patriots pummel Pittsburgh, return to Super Bowl to face Falcons

Patriots pummel Pittsburgh, return to Super Bowl to face Falcons

BOX SCORE

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Tom Brady redemption tour is headed to the Super Bowl.

After beginning the 2016 season suspended for four games for his role in the "Deflategate" scandal, the New England quarterback relentlessly carried the Patriots to an unprecedented ninth appearance in the title game, and his seventh. Brady threw for a franchise playoff-best 384 yards and three touchdowns in a 36-17 rout of the helpless Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in New England's seventh consecutive AFC championship game.

The Patriots are early 3-point favorites heading to face Atlanta in two weeks in Houston, seeking their fifth NFL title with Brady at quarterback and Bill Belichick as coach. Belichick's seventh appearance in a Super Bowl will be a record for a head coach.

Brady was banned by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell when New England (16-2) went 3-1 to open the schedule.

Since his return in Week 5, the only defeat came at home to Seattle, and Brady, 39, had one of the best seasons of a Hall of Fame-caliber career. He punctuated that in dreary weather similar to the 2014 conference title game that precipitated the deflated footballs investigation by flattening Pittsburgh's secondary.

Chris Hogan was his main weapon. The previously unheralded receiver found open spaces everywhere on the field against a leaky secondary. Hogan caught nine balls for 180 yards and two scores.

Top wideout Julian Edelman added eight receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown as Brady tied Joe Montana's playoff record with nine three-TD passing performances. Brady also had his 11th 300-yard postseason game, extending his NFL record, completing 32 of 42 throws.

Pittsburgh (13-6) lost star running back Le'Veon Bell late in the first quarter to a groin injury. It didn't seem to matter much in a record 16th conference title match for the Steelers, who made mistakes in every facet of the game. The franchise that has won the most Super Bowls, six, and the most postseason games, 36, never seemed likely to challenge in the misty rain.

Hogan's second touchdown came on a flea-flicker and he easily beat safety Mike Mitchell to the corner of the end zone. At that point, Hogan had seven catches for 117 yards and the first multi-touchdown game of his four-year career.

His first score made it 10-0 and came after Brady could have taken a nap before throwing, a common occurrence against a nonexistent pass rush. Hogan was all alone in the back of the end zone for the 16-yard score.

Pittsburgh had drawn to 10-6 on DeAngelo Williams' 5-yard run to cap an 84-yard drive. Veteran Williams is a nice security blanket in the backfield, though he's no Bell these days.

Still, he contributed on a 70-yard drive toward the end of the second quarter that appeared to be capped by Jesse James' TD reception. But video review showed James down at the 1, and the Steelers couldn't get into the end zone, Chris Boswell connecting for a 23-yard field goal.

The Steelers never threatened to get back into it.LeGarrette Blount punctuated the romp with a bruising 18-yard run on which he carried nearly the entire Pittsburgh defense with him. He then scored from the 1.

By the end, the crowd was chanting "Where is Roger?" and celebrating yet another Super Bowl trip for the Patriots.

BIG LEG:

Stephen Gostkowski's 31-yard field goal to open the scoring set a franchise record with 27, surpassing Adam Vinatieri's 26. Gostkowski is fourth all-time. He made a 47-yarder in the third quarter, a 26-yarder in the fourth, but he missed an extra point.

Boswell, who set an NFL mark with six field goals in the Steelers' 18-16 win at Kansas City last week, missed an extra point wide left and made a 23-yard kick.

INJURIES:

Steelers: Bell's early departure left him with 20 yards on six carries and no receptions.

Patriots: DB Nate Ebner left with a head injury.

UP NEXT:

After winning the AFC East with the conference's top record, New England defeated the Texans 34-16 and the Steelers to reach the Super Bowl. They will take on Atlanta, which beat Green Bay 44-21 for the NFC crown. Super Bowl 51 will be in Houston on Feb. 5; New England won the 2002 and 2005 Super Bowls after beating Pittsburgh for the AFC championship.