Urban: Busy day (and one more win) for Giants


Urban: Busy day (and one more win) for Giants

July 19, 2011


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Mychael Urban

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants made news on so many fronts Tuesday that they managed to do something typically quite difficult: They made a game against the rival Dodgers seem secondary.Let's break the news down, then, before touching on that pesky game.The biggie, in many minds, was a fairly significant trade. The Giants sent two minor-league arms, both of them with late-inning stuff, to the Astros for second baseman Jeff Keppinger.
URBAN: Giants' Keppinger deal solid if unspectacular
Not an exorbitant price to pay by any stretch, but a price nonetheless -- for a player with virtually no pop, a less-than-impressive on-base percentage and average defensive skills. That's the glass-half-empty take on the deal, anyway. The half-full take: Two guys you won't miss at all this year for a guy hitting over .300 who could play a significant role this year and next.

Biggie 1-B, then, was the promotion of rookie first baseman Brandon Belt, who ripped through the minors last season, made the team out of spring training this year, got sent down after struggling, got called back up after proving he'd closed the hole in his swing, got injured, rehabbed, was activated and sent back down again. His past 12 months have been nothing short of dizzying, but Belt is staring straight ahead, hoping to provide the patience, power and production the club has been sorely lacking.One way to make room for a promotion is to dole out a demotion, and Tuesday's came -- actually, it won't be made official until Keppinger arrives Wednesday -- at the expense of a player whose promotion never made sense in the first place.
Twenty-one-year-old catcher Hector Sanchez, who started the season in Single-A ball, advanced to Triple-A and was called up to The Show last Friday despite the Giants already having two catchers on the big-league roster. Perhaps having three Sanchezes violated some sort of MLB bylaw of which the Giants were unaware when they called the kid up, but they sure didn't give him much of a chance to flash his wares. He came, he got meal money, he was gone.
You've heard a brief call-up to the bigs referred to as a "cup of coffee," right? Sanchez ended up with a thimble full of espresso -- decaf, at that.We also got word of a change in the starting rotation, which taught Barry Zito that the Giants' brass thinks exactly like most of the team's fans. For the enigma that is Planet Zito, three great starts and a stinker means blah, blah, blah, stinker! That's just the way it is, and the way it always will be.What's a busy day without somebody getting placed on the DL? Miguel Tejada, come on down. Despite impassioned pleas, Tejada was shelved with an abdominal strain a day after Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he'd earned back the starting shortstop job he'd lost to rookie Brandon Crawford. Crawford got the start Tuesday, but he might not be the starter even with Tejada out. When Keppinger arrives, it's likely that Mike Fontenot will slide from second to short, bumping Crawford to the bench. There was good news related to the DL, too. Giants VP of baseball ops Bobby Evans told CSNBayArea.com that second baseman Freddy Sanchez, whose injury made way for the Keppinger deal, is progressing well enough in rehab from his right shoulder surgery that he might be DH-ing in Arizona Rookie League games in the near future.
PODCAST: Inside the Giants -- Coming Down the Pipe
When he gets back, of course, he'll be the starting second baseman. But he's not eligible to return until Aug. 11, because Tuesday's ferris wheel forced the Giants to transfer him from the 15-day DL to the 60-day shutdown.
Who'll be the shortstop by mid-August? At this rate, you could throw out Danny Bonaduce and not get laughed out of the room. All that and a game? Relax, boys. Space it out a bit. Living in the KardashianFlavor Flav Era is sensory overload enough.Alas, they did play a game. Pretty darn good one, too. And as things turned out, one of the aforementioned stories factored quite nicely in the Giants' 5-3 comeback win in front of -- cut and paste time -- yet another sellout crowd at AT&T Park.RECAP: Belt powers Giants to 5-3 win over Dodgers
Belt, whom Evans last Friday said would "ideally" spend the rest of the season getting more seasoning at Triple-A Fresno, essentially said, "I've got your ideal right here, pally." First he pounded a home run in his first at-bat, then he smoked a two-run, game-winning double after an intentional walk ahead of him. Why was Belt playing? Oh, more news: starting first baseman Aubrey Huff has a balky back.Wait, one more: Pablo Sandoval, whom you're tempted to refer to as a machine but the prospect of getting that image stuck in your dome is too daunting, suffered a right quad strain during the game and was removed for a pinch runner after going 2-for-3 with a walk and his daily defensive gem.You got all that? Good. For the bars are now closing, deadlines are looming, and there's still one last thing to report: Giants general manager Brian Sabean suggested he's working on another trade, one that might make the Keppinger deal look like child's play.Now that's some serious news, because the Giants, whose calm at the eye of Tuesday's storm was embodied by young Madison Bumgarner, already are -- against all odds -- really, really good. With Belt back in the mix (no more seasoning, please), Keppinger on the way and perhaps another big bat on the horizon, they might very well be on the brink of getting a whole mess better.

Curry bounces back in blowout, wins point guard battle with Irving

Curry bounces back in blowout, wins point guard battle with Irving

OAKLAND -- No one among the Warriors had a deeper desire to beat the Cavaliers than Stephen Curry, and his performance Monday gave every indication that he wanted it as badly as he needed it.

And after losing the point-guard battle to Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving in four successive games, all Warriors losses, it was past time for Curry as the back-to-back MVP to stand up and make a statement.

His response was impressive: 20 points (7-of-20 shooting), 11 assists, four steals and a 126-91 rout by the Warriors. He was plus-23 over 31 minutes.

“He was making shots, it’s as simple as that,” Irving said. “In transition, off pick-and-rolls, doing what he does and that makes him a great player.”

Irving’s response: 17 points (6-of-19 shooting), two assists and a game-high-tying (with teammate LeBron James) six turnovers. Irving was minus-12 over 29 minutes.

“Steph was great,” coach Steve Kerr said. “A phenomenal first half, I think he had 10 assists. His energy was great and he set the tone. He put a lot of pressure on the defense.”

Curry has been playing with renewed vigor lately, his mentality changing shortly after the Warriors on Christmas Day in Cleveland blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, taking a 109-108 loss. Curry took only 11 shots, scoring 15 points.

He was particularly good in the first half, scoring 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting, with 10 assists and three steals. Curry clearly came to destroy.

“It was a great way to start, just a foot on the gas pedal,” Curry said.

Curry’s game, along with the victory, may silence some of the narrative suggesting the Cavaliers have his number. Though he was displeased with one aspect of his game, Curry happily accepted the outcome. Or that Irving hadn't caught up to him.

“I obviously wanted to play well; I didn’t want to walk off the floor with anything more than what I think is a solid, aggressive game,” he said. “I didn’t shoot the ball as well as I wanted to. Some shots I normally make didn’t go down.

But I can live with that knowing I took care of the other stuff I was supposed to do on the floor. Really, what was all in my head was that I definitely wanted to leave this arena tonight with a solid performance and obviously get the win.”

Durant gets personal with stuffing of LeBron, stops any momentum for Cavs

Durant gets personal with stuffing of LeBron, stops any momentum for Cavs

OAKLAND -- There was a single play Monday night that delighted Warriors fans more than any other in a 126-91 win over the Cavaliers, and it was not any of five 3-point bombs dropped by Oracle Arena favorite Stephen Curry.

Nor was it the high-velocity collision between Draymond Green and LeBron James, which resulted in Green being assessed with a Flagrant Foul 1 and the Warriors cranking up their intensity to another level.

No, the most satisfying play of all was on defense, and it was made by offensive wizard Kevin Durant, who sent a resounding message to the Cavaliers and, moreover, to James, Cleveland’s superstar forward.

With 9:48 left in the third quarter and James driving in for a dunk, Durant responded by rising up and cleanly stuffing the shot, sending James sprawling helplessly to the floor as the Warriors gained possession and raced the other way.

“That block at the rim was definitely great,” Draymond Green said. “If LeBron dunks on him right there, the momentum swings, he’s excited and everything can possibly swing. Yeah, he made a stand. Got a big block for us and we got off to the races. That puts momentum completely in our favor.”

With the crowd pumping up the volume, the Warriors, already in control, finished the job. And don’t think Durant isn’t aware of the effect such a play has.

“Yeah, especially when you’re at home, when you get a block against anybody, the crowd is into the game and they really enjoy that,” he said. “Around the league now, in every arena, fans are starting to respect defense. They can sense that it’s a momentum shift when you get a big block or a huge steal or a block.”

It also put momentum, on a personal level, in Durant’s favor. Despite the fact that Curry has won the last two MVP awards, it’s widely believed that James and Durant are the top two players in the NBA.

James has three championship rings, while Durant has none. James has four MVP awards, to one for Durant. When the two met in the 2012 NBA Finals, when Durant was with the Thunder and James with the Heat, Miami won in five games.

Durant, who entered the league four years after James, is at the point in his career that he believes he’s ready for anything James may have. Furthermore, since coming to the Warriors last summer, Durant clearly embraces the opportunity to beat James.

Durant posted 36 points and 15 rebounds when the teams met in Cleveland on Christmas Day, and posted 21 points, six rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals on Monday. KD, on an individual basis, is now 2-0 this season against LeBron.

“Guarding one of the best players in the league, and somebody that can score in different ways and impact the game from different ways, whether it’s in transition or the pick-and-roll or (isolation), I just tried to stay locked in and relied on my teammates,” Durant said.