Urban: NLCS Live Playoff Blog, Game 1


Urban: NLCS Live Playoff Blog, Game 1

Oct. 16, 2010
UPDATED: 9:53 P.M.
Mychael Urban

PHILADELPHIA -- It must be quite the mind-bend to take the mound with a huge game on the line and a full stadium of rude and rabid hecklers thirsting for your blood.OK, the bloodthirst bit is a tad dramatic. But so was the situation Brian Wilson started down tonight while locking down Game 1 for the San Francisco We-Only-Win-By-A-Run-And-Youll-Like-Its.One mistake and he either blows the save or loses the game. Four outs to get, a million reasons to be a little freaked out.Only Wilson doesnt do freaked out. We know this by now. Hes told us, in fact. Told us hes a mental assassin. Not quite sure what that means, but thats Wilson. If he had webbed feet, hed be the ultimate odd duck. Heres how he described pitching in Philly tonight: Fifty, 60,000 people screaming, thats what you want, he said to me. It doesnt matter if theyre for you or against you. You dont even hear the boos. You just feel the energy -- the energy of being out there with all these people watching. And you feed off that. Never mind the attendance tonight was just over 45,000. Thats one hell of an answer -- and one hell of an approach to dealing with the inherent stress of the gig.In other words, embrace the hate. Fear the beard and embrace the hate. One on the front, another on the back. Somebody out there is already printing T-shirts, and I better get one!Thats all for tonight, gang. Time to close up shop. Tomorrows Sunday, and dont forget to pray to Cody Ross. Because yes, he is God.UPDATED: 7:31 P.M.He didnt have his best stuff, he didnt have the greatest command, and he was working with an umpire who didnt seem to have a clue.All of which makes Tim Lincecums performance here tonight that much more impressive. His line of three runs on six hits and three walks over seven innings certainly dont look like statistical evidence of an evening of domination, but consider that the three runs came on two homers. One was a bad pitch, the other was the result of a bad ballpark. Lincecum, who struck out eight to bring his 16-inning postseason total to 22, dominated when he had to, and the seventh inning said it all.Giants manager Bruce Bochy opened himself up to some serious second-guessing when he let Lincecum hit for himself in the top of the inning. A lot of people see a one-run lead and a pitch count over 100 and think the right call is always a pinch hitter in that situation.Lincecum makes you think differently. Bochy needed another inning from his starter. Desperately. He so badly didnt want to have to use a lefty reliever this early that he had Madison Bumgarner warming up in the sixth. He wanted to save Javier Lopez to face Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the eighth, but he needed Lincecum to give him a perfect seventh first.Groundout, strikeout, groundout.And whaddya know? Lopez starts the eighth and quickly retires Utley and Howard. Four outs to victory.UPDATED: 6:58 P.M.Welcome to the playoff party, Juan Uribe.Just 2-for-17 in the National League Division Series, and 0-for-2 tostart the NL Championship Series, Uribe stroked an RBI single up themiddle off some stiff named Halladay to give the Giants a 4-1 lead inthe sixth inning.Uribe was such a big part of the Giants offense all year, such ajovial and likeable player, it was painful to watch him struggleagainst the Braves. One of the happier guys youll ever meet, even inbad times, he likes to tell everyone, Uribe always up.But Uribe, deep down, was down. During battingpractice, he left the cage wincing after a round littered with foulballs, meek grounders and lazy fly balls. It wasnt a wince of physicalpain, either. It was the wince of a man weighed down.Uribe up again now, though, and that 4-1 lead seemed pretty big at thetime. But lets not forget where this game is being played. Citizens Bank Park is every bit the bandbox its said to be, and JaysonWerth just illustrated that with his opposite-field homer to cut thelead to 4-3.And if you think Tim Lincecum isnt hot under the collar right now,youre as wrong as the people I saw walking past a cheesesteak shop andinto a McDonalds today.Not only has home-plate umpire Derryl Cousins strike zone been thesize of a thimble for most of the night, the park plays like a thimbleat times, too.Whens Cody Ross up again?UPDATED: 6:30 P.M.

Hi, its me again. Cody Ross.You remember me, right? Big home run a few innings ago?Just in case yall missed it, I did it for you again. See, I cant control what Tim Lincecum or Carlos Ruiz or that scary-looking Jayson Werth does.But when someone does something that threatens to steal my thunder, I take it right back.Ruiz takes Timmy deep to wipe out the 1-0 lead I gave him? Fine. Heres another, pretty much a carbon copy of the first. I dont know what the big deal is about this Roy Halladay, anyway. Hes no Madison Bumgarner, Ill tell you that right now.Not that I wouldnt take Madison deep. After all, I am Cody Ross! Its what I do. Its my new thing: Playoff god.I dont know what that Werth fella is doing with that look of his,either. He looks like he should be wearing cutoff jean shorts, Red Wingboots and a short-sleeved, red flannel shirt -- chopping wood somewheredeep in the Ozarks, a half-empty case of Hamms on its side nearby,while the 20-year-old boom box with a broken antenna behind him grindsout Gammas greatest hits.Wait, where was I? Oh yeah. Homers. Halladay. Me. King Kong.Its pretty cool. But I am getting a little tired of carrying an entire team on my back. Lil help?

UPDATED: 6:05 P.M.

The bottom of the third inning was a serious test for Tim Lincecum, and he passed it. Barely.Carlos Ruiz opened it by slamming a way-high fastball the other way fora game-tying homer, and Roy Halladay followed with a single.(Is there anything Halladay cant do, by the way? Does he cook gourmetdinner for the team after his starts, then head to the studio to laydown some tracks for his No. 1 album before heading home to sleep onthe bed he made himself while on a Peace Corp trip? Uncle.) Lincecum erased Halladay with a double play, but then came a double, awalk and a passed ball by Buster Posey to move the runners to secondand third with two out.At the plate: Ryan Howard, whod doubled off Lincecum in the secondinning and generally owns Big-Time Timmy Jim. Going into the at-bat hewas batting .350 (7-for-20) with three homers against the Freak, andthere isnt another person alive whos taken Lincecum deep three timesin the big leagues.Yet if theres one thing above all others that has fueled Lincecums greatness, its his ability to get bigger than the moment. Runners in scoring position? Lincecum usually grows from 5-foot-10 to 7-foot-10.On a 2-2 count, then, he absolutely buried an 86-mph slider that buried Howard and silenced the sellout crowd.As he walked off the field toward the dugout, Lincecum looked 10-foot-2.

UPDATED: 5:41 P.M.

Im Cody Ross, and yes, I sold my soul.I sold it for moments like this, becoming the first player to get a hit off Roy Halladay in the postseason. With a homer. On the road. In the NLCS.After almost single-handedly getting the Giants here.And again, off Roy Freaking Halladay.Soul, schmoul. You see that little skip I took out of the batters box?You see my teammates going bonkers, like kindergarteners being told the field trip has been changed from the Museum of Natural History to Baskin-Robbins?You see that smile on my face in the dugout after almost killing Mark DeRosa with a chest bump?It was worth it. And no, the Amish look Im rocking wasnt part of the deal.UPDATED: 5:31 P.M.Remember all the love that Pat Burrell got when he came back here for the first time with the Giants? He was showered with cheers, and it was a nice little moment for the man who spent most of his career in the City of Brotherly Love.Then he had the audacity to hit a homer. And then he homered again. Now they hate him.As Burrell strode to the plate for his first at-bat of the NLCS, he was booed hard. Plenty of boos during the pregame introductions, too.But wait. Now they love him again. He just struck out, missing a Roy Halladay slider off the outside corner by a good foot. Cheers all around.The cheers got louder when Halladay retired Juan Uribe to end the top of the second, his 11th consecutive postseason inning without allowing a hit. Youve probably heard hitters say the ball looks like a beach ball when theyre locked in. It must look like a chickpea when Halladays locked in.Tim Lincecum appears pretty dialed so far, too, putting to rest any concern that hed be over-amped for his first road playoff start. He just shrugged off a leadoff double by Ryan Howard with a classic escape: strikeout, popup, fly ball.So there will be no double no-hitter. A whole bunch of zeros, though? Thats a pretty safe bet right now.UPDATED: 5:12 P.M.Michael Buffer? Seriously? Oh, its gonna be a long night for Giants fans forced to follow this bad boy via Fox. Could be a long night for the Giants, too, if Roy Halladays first inning is any indication. Actually, it might be a short night. Strike one, strike one, strike one. Thats what Halladay does. He gets ahead of everybody, and he just got through Andres Torres (first-pitch lineout), Freddy Sanchez (0-2 flyout) and Aubrey Huff (1-2 groundout) in an eight-pitch hurry.Thing is, the Giants cant sit back and wait. Halladay is the kind of pitcher against whom you have to be aggressive early in the count, because hes not going to walk you. Its why his games, as long as the opposing pitcher works at a decent pace, are usually over within a couple of hours or so.Tim Lincecum likes to work fast, too, and while he gave up a couple of deep drives in the bottom of the first, he got through it on seven pitches. So make your trips to the bathroom or fridge quickies, folks. This isnt the Yankees and Red Sox in a four-hour slog. This is Doc vs. the Freak, both of them sprinting.

UPDATED: 4:53 P.M.

Its finally here. The National League Championship Series. The final hurdle a team must clear on the way to the World Series.Its a big damn deal, and the atmosphere outside Citizens Bank Park before Game 1 reflects that. This is not a baseball game. This is an event.Baseball goes all out for these things. Everything outside the yard is swathed with NLCS logos, and if youd like to own something with that logo on it, theres a huge merchandise tent in which you can get that 45 t-shirt youve always wanted.The street just outside the front entrance to the yard has been converted into a gigantic street party, and from the looks and sounds of things, which are already getting a tad sloppy, nobody has been financially dissuaded from imbibing in 12 beers. (Is the NLCS an aphrodisiac? To the red-clad couple making out next to the row of port-a-potties it is.) For sustenance, you can pick up some meat cooked on whats being hyped as the Playoff Grill. Makes you wonder what they did with the Regular-Season Grill.Theres even a huge stage, featuring with a local band pumping out covers of everything from the Beatles to Queen to Miley Cyrus.You think Paul McCartney is cool with his timeless classics being followed by Hannah Montana tunes?Who knows. But everyone here seems pretty cool with whats about to happen.Roy Halladay vs. Tim Lincecum? Big damn deal.

Kings' Cousins: 'Only goal this season' is to make playoffs

Kings' Cousins: 'Only goal this season' is to make playoffs

With their 109-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night, the Sacramento Kings sit 10 games under .500 at 17-27. In almost any other season, that would mean that they were dead in the water in the Western Conference playoff race. But this it the 2016-17 season where anything is possible at the bottom.

Following Sacramento’s win at the Palace at Auburn Hills, DeMarcus Cousins was asked about the playoff picture.

“It’s my only goal this season,” Cousins told reporters following the game. “My only goal.” 

When pushed on the subject, he gave a more complete answer.

“Oh man, it’s eating me alive - every loss or every time another team wins that’s battling for the eighth spot, it’s eating me alive,” Cousins added. “Our only goal is to be in the playoffs this season.”

The Kings snapped a five-game losing streak with the win over the Pistons and they came into the evening just 2-10 over their previous 12 games. 

Once they get through their current eight game road trip, they spend the entire month of February in the Pacific time zone and play 11 over their next 13 games at Golden 1 Center.  

“The one thing I can give credit to this team about is us staying together and being a positive locker room through the ups and downs,” Cousins said. “I’m still confident and I still believe we’re going to make that push for the playoffs.”

Despite the rough patch, the Kings remain just a game and a half out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings. No one is running away with that last playoff spot, at least not yet.


Lawson, bench unit spark Kings' much-needed win over Pistons

Lawson, bench unit spark Kings' much-needed win over Pistons

Everyone must contribute. With Rudy Gay gone for the season, Sacramento needs a team effort each night out if they are going to have a chance of turning things around. Balancing the roster on the fly is never easy, but it’s the hand that the Kings were dealt when their second leading scorer tore his Achilles last week.

Needing a win in the worst way, the Kings walked into the Palace at Auburn Hills and came away with a huge 109-104 victory. Demarcus Cousins put up numbers, but it was the supporting cast that found a way to rise to the occasion and snap the team’s five-game losing streak.

“We’re going to need everybody on this team,” Cousins told reporters following the game. “At some point, everyone on the bench is going to win a game for us. Tonight, it was Ty (Lawson), it was Willie (Cauley-Stein) and it was Malachi (Richardson).”

Lawson was a magician with the ball. He entered the game with the Kings down just one with 3:36 remaining in the first quarter, but the Pistons caught fire around that time and pushed the lead to 11 with 20 seconds remaining in the quarter.

It looked like Sacramento might fall behind big once again, but then Lawson and the bench unit took over.

“Ty Lawson, Malachi Richardson and Willie Cauley-Stein had a great energy when we were down 11 in the first half,” Joerger told reporters. “Obviously, probably the best Willie’s played all year. Same for Malachi. He got some run, he got a little burn in the second half, felt pretty good.”

Powered by Lawson, the offense instantly opened up in the second quarter as the Kings tracked down the Pistons on their home floor. Sacramento outscored Detroit 37-24 in the frame to take a three point lead into the intermission. Lawson posted nine points and handed out four assists in the quarter.

“When our offense gets sticky, he’s able to create shots for guys by getting kickouts and getting in the lane,” Joerger said.

The 5-foot-11 point guard didn’t let up in the second half, finishing the night with 19 points and six assists in 23 minutes of action.  

“Chico just goes and plays, man, that’s Chico,” Cousins said of Lawson. “If there’s anyone with a green light to just go and play, it’s him. We love what he does with this team. He’s a spark off the bench for us. He gets us going when there’s a slump. We love the little guy.”

Lawson has become a catalyst off the bench for coach Jeorger. The 29-year-old speedster signed a one-year deal with the Kings late in the offseason and he’s quickly found his niche with the team.

“You play with Ty, you can’t help by want to run, because he will pitch it to you and that’s the best motivation - everybody wants to score,” said Joerger.

Cousins and Lawson didn’t do it alone. Cauley-Stein had one of his games of the season, finishing the night with 12 points and five rebounds. Darren Collison added 12 points, Garrett Temple chipped in 11 points and veteran Matt Barnes added 10 points and eight rebounds.  

“It’s a big, bounce back win,” Cousins said. “We were kind of heartbroken about the last lost. We felt we did everything needed to pull a win and it just didn’t go that way for us. We kind of showed our character and showed we could overcome some type of adversity with the win tonight.”

The Kings are back at it on Wednesday in Cleveland when they hit game four of their season-long eight-game road trip. They’ll face LeBron James and the championship Cavs for the second time this month.  

“It’s huge, we had a little stretch where we lost like eight of nine games, something like that,” Lawson told CSN’s Kayte Christensen following the game. “Getting a win going into Cleveland, it makes us feel a little bit better. Now we’ve got to go in and get a tough one.”

A tough one indeed. Cleveland sits at 31-13 on the season, but they are coming off back-to-back losses against the Spurs and Pelicans.