Urban: NLCS Playoff Blog, Game 6


Urban: NLCS Playoff Blog, Game 6

Oct. 23, 2010


UPDATED: 7:25 P.M.
Mychael Urban

PHILADELPHIA-- And now its crystal clear: The Giants and Phillies cant stand each other, and the National League Championship Series is better for it.

The first three games played out without much emotional incident, but everything changed with Juan Uribes game-winning sacrifice fly in Game 4.

The Phillies were not phond of Uribes little bat flip, and a few players told me they werent all that big on Aubrey Huffs triumphant pose upon scoring the winning run.

Then came the Game 5 stare-downs between Pat Burrell and Roy Halladay, who glared at each other from across the diamond like gunslingers at 50 paces.

Game 6, of course, brought the previously blogged-about Jonathan SanchezChase Utley dustup, and just moments ago we saw Roy Oswalt cast a highly disapproving glance at Edgar Renteria, who tried to sell a fairly obvious foul ball as a hit-by-pitch.

Playoff baseball with an edge. Rare but welcome.

UPDATED: 6:22 P.M.
The Jonathan Sanchez who used to aggravate Giants fans to no end showed up tonight, and it wasnt pretty. In the biggest game of his life, he could neither control his pitches or his emotions.After giving up a pair of runs in the first inning, in large part the result of a one-out walk and a wild pitch, Sanchez cruised through the second inning but came apart at the seams in the third.It was a shutdown inning for the Giants, who had tied the game in the top of the frame, but all Sanchez did was shut down his own night when the better route would have been to shut up.First, he issued a leadoff walk during which he appeared in desperate need of a GPS to find the strike zone. Then he drilled Chase Utley in the upper back, and when the ball bounced high in the air and back up next to Utley as he made his way to first base, Phillys All-Star second baseman casually flipped the ball in Sanchezs direction. Was it necessary? Not really. But it wasnt malicious or totally out of line. If anything, it was something along the lines of, Is this yours? You seem to have lost it.But Sanchez couldnt let it go. Just had to say something. So when Utley reached first base, Sanchez told him what he thought of the toss. Apparently he thought it was bull droppings, but with a different word instead of droppings.Surprised that hed been called out, Utley said, Whats bulldroppings?And thats all it took. Sanchez took a few steps toward first, and suddenly both benches were empty. No punches were thrown, of course. Rare is the bench-clearing in baseball that results in anything more than a push here, a shove there, perhaps a recipe or two exchanged on the sly.But Sanchez kept everyone on the field by continuing to make a scene of himself, and that was all Giants manager Bruce Bochy had to see. He pulled his starter right then and there. So heres the recap. Sanchez lost his command, lost his composure and lost his shot at leading his team into history. Embarrassing.UPDATED: 2:30 P.M.The lineups for Game 6 of the NLCS have been posted, and theres atleast one spot in each thats second-guessable before the game evenstarts.For the Phillies, its moving Jimmy Rollins back to the top of the order, up from sixth.Makes sense from here. Rollins has been swinging the bat quite a bitbetter over the past few days, and he had a huge game here in Game 2.Hes also a potential beast on the bases, and Jonathan Sanchez isntexactly a savant when it comes to controlling the running game.As for the Giants, manager Bruce Bochy has decided to go with EdgarRenteria and Juan Uribe on the left side of the infield instead ofgiving Pablo Sandoval another start at third base.A few different forces at work here. The RenteriaUribe combo is betterdefensively, Renteria has better career numbers against Philliesstarter Roy Oswalt than does Sandoval, and Bochy, as we all know, loveshim some veterans. And Sandovals home-road splits are jarring in favor of home.That said, Sandoval swings much better from the left side than theright, and facing Oswalt would have him in the left box. Theres alsothe charge factor, as in Sandoval seems to put a charge into the restof the Giants when he has a big day.Uribe in the lineup is a no-brainer. Renteria? Far from it.

Stanford tops North Carolina on PKs, advances to NCAA final


Stanford tops North Carolina on PKs, advances to NCAA final

HOUSTON — For the second straight season, Stanford found itself depending on penalty kicks to advance to the College Cup final.

Like last season, the Cardinal came out on top. After each team converted its first nine attempts in the tiebreaker, Amir Bashti made it 10-for-10 for Stanford. Tar Heels defender Alex Comsia then sent his try over the crossbar to end it, giving Stanford a 10-9 win.

"They had just as many good chances as us, and it could have been a 1-0 game either way," Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn said.

Stanford (14-3-5) will face Wake Forest in the College Cup final on Sunday in search of its second straight national championship.

"It's not his fault. We could have done things in the game to have his back," North Carolina defender Colton Storm said of Comsia's miss. "It could have been any of us."

"It's the nature of the game," North Carolina coach Carlos Somoano said. "Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. Sometimes there's moments you seize the moments, and sometimes it runs away from you."

North Carolina (14-3-4) had the two best chances of the game. Late in the second half, forward Alan Winn was denied by goalkeeper Andrew Epstein, who made a nice save with his legs.

Later, Epstein made the best save of the match in the final seconds of the second overtime on a shot from forward Tucker Hume. After gaining possession in the right side of the 18-yard box, Hume unleashed a shot that Epstein deflected wide with his legs.

"He made the plays to keep the game at 0, and he deserves credit," Somoano said.

After a flurry of corner kicks and a free kick in an attacking area, Stanford had the best opportunity to score in the first overtime on a header from Drew Skundrich, but he put if over goalkeeper James Pyle, who had six saves. Foster Langsdorf, the Stanford goal leader who scored in the team's first three tournament games and has 15 on the season, had three shots and two on goal but was unable to break the deadlock before the game went to penalty kicks.

"Any result like that is going to be tough to swallow," Storm said. "Stanford's a really good team. We each had our chances. National semifinal, it's going to be tough to swallow no matter what."

While Epstein was unable to stop any of North Carolina's penalties in the shootout, his saves late in the game enabled Stanford to continue its quest for a repeat.

"Andy's never really attracted much attention, but when you're his coach you appreciate him," Gunn said. "You can depend on him."

Stanford has won 15 of its last 18 games after starting the season with three ties and a loss. The Cardinal have yet to concede a goal through four tournament games, while North Carolina's season ends after a third consecutive tournament shutout.

After winning the first national championship in program history last season, Gunn praised his team for continuing to push forward this season.

"It's incredible," Gunn said. "You've always got to be optimistic. There's no point in being anything else. We started the year so well in January. I thought, 'These players are so hungry.'"

Rewind: Sharks fall behind early again, lose 3-2 to Ducks

Rewind: Sharks fall behind early again, lose 3-2 to Ducks

ANAHEIM – Spotting a team the first two goals is a difficult recipe for winning hockey games. That’s even truer when you’re the Sharks, and you’re having tremendous difficulty scoring more than two goals on any given night in the first place.

While the Sharks hung with Anaheim in a closely contested game at Honda Center on Friday night, the Ducks got that extra necessary score. Brent Burns and Kevin Labanc answered first period goals by Rickard Rakell and Antoine Vermette, but Hampus Lindholm’s marker with 5:38 to go in the third period was the difference.

For the fifth time in their last six, and ninth in their last 12, San Jose's scuffling offense couldn’t eclipse the two-goal plateau in a 3-2 defeat.

Coach Pete DeBoer said giving up the first two scores, like they also did on Wednesday in a similar loss against Ottawa, “is not optimal, obviously. But we battled back, and I thought the game could have gone either way. 

“I give our guys credit for battling back. … We didn't hang our head, we battled, and we're just finding a way to lose right now instead of win, which, we've been winning games like that."

For the second straight game, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski had numerous prime chances but couldn’t find a way to get one. An early third period opportunity stood out among the rest, though, when Pavelski was staring at a wide open net in a 2-2 game from close range.

Typically that’s an automatic score for Pavelski, who led the league in game-winners last season. But this time, it went five feet wide.

“Kind of rolls up, catches the blade, and it’s not even close,” Pavelski said. “Those are the moments you’ve got to cash in on. I haven’t done that.”

The Sharks’ best stretch came early in the second period, when they outskated the Ducks and peppered Jonathan Bernier while trailing, 2-1. The Ducks goalie turned them all away until Labanc squeezed one through at 8:40 after the rookie was nicely set up by linemate Logan Couture.

“He didn’t give me much room. You just want to get that off as quick as you can,” Labanc said. “Just took a quick shot, and it went in the net.”

In a game of momentum swings, though, the Ducks outplayed San Jose in the third. They took the lead when Joel Ward gave Lindholm a little too much room to pick his spot on a wrist shot from the top of the circle.

After looking like they were in good shape after two periods, Labanc thought the Sharks were “a little too confident” headed into the third.

“We stopped skating, stopped dumping the puck in, and working hard in the corners,” he said.

Pavelski bemoaned the fact that for the second straight game, a regulation loss in the final minutes, that the Sharks didn't even manage to get the point in the standings for forcing overtime despite fighting back.

"The last few games you have a chance to at least push it to the end," he said. "We're not giving up a whole lot."

The Sharks nearly did tie the game with Martin Jones pulled for an extra attacker, though. After Burns made a pair of remarkable shot blocks on Andrew Cogliano bidding for an empty netter, DeMelo and Ward each had whacks at the puck, but somehow it remained out. 
“A bunch of chaos, really,” is how DeMelo described it. “It was really tight. I think we were just inches away from getting the equalizer.”

Again, though, they just couldn’t find a way to get that third score.

“We were close,” DeBoer said, “but not close enough."