Urban: NLDS Live Playoff Blog, Game 3


Urban: NLDS Live Playoff Blog, Game 3

Oct. 10, 2010



Mychael Urban
ATLANTA -- Having hustled down to the field for a little live TV and weaved my way through a mostly empty but still joyous Giants clubhouse, I'm back in the Turner Field press box now, marveling at the sea of silence and strewn-about paper.

Crunch time for a baseball writer comes after the game, but you know what? I'm all writered out.

Need proof? I just made up the word "writered."

This is my 10th blog entry of the day, and what a day it's been. Highs, lows, upper-thigh rubs from Ray Ratto. A stirring 3-2 win for San Francisco. Sensory overload.

So I'm packing up. Ray's packing up, too, and if our Senior Insider is leaving, so is this Junior.

Before I go, though, a few quick words about Madison Bumgarner, who'll get the ball for the Giants on Monday in Game 4.

Don't worry about this kid. Not one bit.

If ever a player seemed unlikely to let the hoopla affect him, it's the 21-year-old southpaw who gave his wife a bull calf for his most recent birthday and walks around looking like he's about 22 minutes removed from taking 14 Ambien.

MadBum is neither Mad nor a Bum. He's a big, strapping lad from Hickory, North Carolina, and he actually said he can't imagine the MLB Playoffs being a bigger deal than the state high school championships he played in a few years back.

I believe him. The Giants believe in him. So should you.

UPDATED: 4:50 P.M.

It's called walking the walk, and Aubrey Huff just did it.

All year long we've been hearing -- and in my case, telling -- about Huff's leadership, about his passion for the game, about thirst for postseason pressure.

And when show-me time came, Huff showed up. His two-out single to score Travis Ishikawa with the tying run in the top of the ninth was pure heart.

Speaking of heart, if you have one, it has to be going out to our friend Brooks Conrad. Wow.

Three errors, including a nutmeg grounder in the ninth to allow the go-ahead run to score? And a popped-up bunt?

He'll be lucky to get out of the players' parking lot in one piece.

UPDATED: 4:27 P.M.

It's going to be a very long winter for Sergio Romo if the Giants don't find a way to win this series.

It'll be a long one for Bruce Bochy, too, because his reputation as a players' manager just bit him hard.

How do you get such a rep? By going right back to someone who just had a bad game. It shows the guys you trust them, and in turn, they trust you.

This is not, however, a time to play buddy-buddy. It's time to play the percentages, and Romo, who gave up hits to the only two batters he faced Friday night and just gave up a two-run homer to Eric Hinske to put the Giants in a 2-1 hole entering the ninth, has retired only 40 percent of the batters he's faced in the two biggest games of San Francisco's season.

UPDATED: 4:08 P.M.
With all due respect to the Braves' bullpen, which has been fantastic in this series, the game just got a lot less interesting.

Tim Hudson is no a part of the proceedings, removed after seven innings of four-hit work and 106 pitches.

Let's give him a fond farewell. The run he allowed was unearned, he had Atlanta's only hit to far, and his barking at third-base umpire Ed Hickox in the seventh inning was a priceless little bit of theater.

No clue if Jonathan Sanchez is coming out for the bottom of the eighth, but if he leaves the game will lose more luster. He's at 100 pitches, and he's now the second lefty in Giants history to record at least 10 strikeouts in a postseason game.

They handed out foam tomahawks to every fan that passed through the gates here today, by the way, but thanks to the genius of Sanchez, the anticipated incessant chanting and chopping has been kept to a minimum.

Or maybe Braves fans finally realized how tired that whole thing is.

Probably not.

UPDATED: 3:51 P.M.
Gutsy move, Andres Torres stealing second base with two out in the top of the seventh.

Gutsy pitch, Tim Hudson fanning Freddy Sanchez to make it moot.

If this game doesn't get you going, check your pulse.

Two elite pitchers absolutely dealing in October, with something meaningful attached to everything they throw, every ball hit, every call the umpires make.

This is what we love about the postseason. Right here, right now.

It's a shame someone has to lose.

I'll be a bigger shame if the game ends up having been decided by Brooks Scissorshands.

But thats playoff baseball. Hero or goat, youre larger than life on the games big stage.

UPDATED: 3:36 P.M.
Quick: Who broke Frank Thomas' career RBIs record at Auburn University?

Same guy who just broke up Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter.

That's right. Braves starter Tim Hudson. The dude can rake. When he wasn't carving people up on the mound at Auburn, he was killing people at the plate and patrolling center field for the Tigers.

Bummer for Sanchez, who's been dominant since the outset today, but at least the hit wasn't a cheapie. Hudson laced that ball.

Now it's game on. History will have to wait. It's a battle of wills now, and neither Hudson or Sanchez is showing any signs of backing down.

UPDATED: 2:56 P.M.

We've settled into a nice little pitcher's duel here at Turner Field. Jonathan Sanchez has walked one and retired everyone else, and Tim Hudson has figured out how to avoid balls being hit to Brooks Conrad.

Meanwhile, I'm amusing myself with frequent trips to the press-room soda fountain. It is there that you find out who is here to work and who is here to pretend they're cool.

Working: Hurried, head down, sweating, speaking very little.

Trying to look cool: Sitting, legs crossed, sipping from the same Starbucks cup they've been toting around for the past four hours, waxing nostalgic about the steakhouse they visited while "covering" the Super Bowl a few years ago.

You know who looks really cool right now? Sanchez.

And he looks cool because he's working, as in working the Braves over.

They're starting to swing at everything, because what the hell? If you're going to look silly sooner or later anyway, might as well make it sooner.

UPDATED: 2:20 P.M.
There is not a hole deep enough into which Brooks Conrad could crawl right now. Braves fans would find it, rappel into it, and beat him to within an inch of his life.

Conrad, a former A's farmhand listed by the Braves as an infielder, has looked more like baseball version of Wolverine in the NLDS. He's playing second base for Atlanta, and he's not playing it well.

He kicked a ball in Game 1, he bobbled a ball in the first inning here, and he just dropped a second-inning popup that allowed Mike Fontenot to score the game's first run.

If anyone in his family has a baby this offseason, they will likely be most uncomfortable should Mr. Conrad ask to hold it.

About Fontenot's triple: Braves rookie right fielder Jason Heyward, who had a bead on it before the wall got in the way, needs to stop watching Premier League soccer.

We get it, bro. You missed the ball. You're a little embarrassed. But don't pull the I-might-be-injured card.

And if you do, for crying out loud don't take a few leisurely sips from a Gatorade cup while the trainer stands there saying, "Can I go deal with the guys who are really hurt now, Jason?"

UPDATED: 2:05 P.M.
Nerves? What nerves?

Jonathan Sanchez didn't show any sign of being nervous in the first playoff inning of his life. Popup, strikeout, walk, strikeout.

Hey, you want perfect? That's not Sanchez. He walks guys. A lot. But he's not nicknamed "Dirty" because Beavis and Butthead get a kick out of saying it. The man's stuff is pure filth, as Brian McCann discovered when he took something offspeed for the last strike of the inning.

Aubrey Huff, by the way, made a heck of a catch of that foul pop. He was staring straight into the sun, and as the ball started its descent, it was pretty clear he couldn't see it. He made a nice recovery and made the catch, but it begs the question:

Why are your sunglasses on your hat, dude? Seems like they'd be a lot more effective elsewhere. Like on your eyes or something.
UPDATED: 1:54 P.M.
Aubrey Huff absolutely has to do a better job than that.

The Braves just gave the Giants a first-inning gift when Brooks Conrad tried to field Freddy Sanchez's hit-and-run grounder to second base with a meat cleaver, putting runner at first and second with nobody out. Momentum, Giants.

Huff, though, a pitch after putting on something of a petulant show at the plate after a borderline call went against him, struck out. Momentum, Braves.

The hit-and-run call, by the way, was a great one. As I noted before the series started, putting runners in motion to stay out of double plays when sinkerballers such as Tim Hudson are on the mound is key in this series.

But what followed Huff's K was, you have to assume, another hit-and-run call, and with Buster Posey at the plate, that made sense, too. But Posey swung through the pitch, Andres Torres was gunned down at third, and Turner Field went nuts.

It went nuts again when, with the bases loaded, Juan Uribe bounced harmlessly to third base to end the inning. More momentum, Braves.

Keep this in mind, though: Hudson threw 24 pitches in the inning. A few more high-stress frames like that and he's gone.

UPDATED: 1:17 P.M.
Not as many Giants fans here as I thought there might be, but they might be saving their money for NLCS tickets.

Either way, the vibe at here at Turner Field is similar to what youfind everywhere in big-league ball this time of year. People are jackedfor playoff baseball.

How else do you explain the guy I just saw while roaming the concourse?He was wearing a Tim Hudson No. 15 jersey with red tights under cutoffjorts (jeansshorts) -- as if it wasn't already pretty clear we were inredneck country -- and an Indian headdress.

And you know what? It worked for him. It's October. Anything goes.

As they often say here in the South, right after cutting someone toribbons verbally, as if adding it makes everything ok, "Bless hisheart."

Rewind: 'Beautiful' night for Kings, Sacramento despite loss to Spurs

Rewind: 'Beautiful' night for Kings, Sacramento despite loss to Spurs

SACRAMENTO -- Basketball was supposed to take a back seat Thursday night at the Golden 1 Center. After countless failed attempts to build a new arena in Sacramento, the Kings were almost allowed to leave twice. But a new building comes another 30-plus year lease, cementing NBA hoops in the capital of California until at least the midway point of the century.

The evening was supposed to be a celebration of an accomplishment that many believed would never happen. And then a basketball game broke out.

No one expected the Kings to compete with the San Antonio Spurs. Gregg Popovich’s club won 67 games last season and were fresh off a smackdown of the Golden State Warriors in the season opener on Tuesday.

But this isn’t the 2015-16 Sacramento Kings that would routinely yield 110 points to their opponents. This is Dave Joerger’s club and they are grinders.

The end result was a loss, but one that you can live with. 102-94 doesn’t tell the whole story. For much of the night, the Kings were the best team on the floor.

“I consider this a good loss,” DeMarcus Cousins said. “I’m ready for the next one.”

There are moral victories when you are two games into an 82 game schedule and you go toe-to-toe with one of the best in the league. The mood in past seasons would have been somber in the Kings locker room, but that is not what it felt like on Thursday evening.

“The scary apart about it is we’ve still got so much more room to improve,” Cousins said. “In the past, you usually walk in here and guys are sulking and pissed off. (Tonight) it’s like okay, let’s get onto the next one. We know we made some mistakes. We know we broke down, but we’re on the right path right now.”

That path is built on a defensive identity and the Kings are building chemistry at a shocking rate. With five new rotational players and three new starters, Sacramento’s roster is still learning how to play together.

“As a group, we were pretty good defensively, we communicate with each other, so we’re always going to have a chance every night,” veteran shooting guard Arron Afflalo said.

When you play the Spurs, your margin for error is almost nill. The game turned on a turnover here and a mistake there and that’s something you can’t have when you’re playing a group that has been together for years in the same system.

“Defensively, I think we took a step in the right direction,” Rudy Gay said. “They’re a great team, I think we played great defense. Had a couple of letdowns, but it’s a basketball game. They’re a veteran team playing together. They have a system and they stuck to their system.”

It will go down as the first loss in the history of the Golden 1 Center, but the Kings are showing signs that they might be better than expected.

As for the opening of the building, it went off without a hitch. Both David Stern and Adam Silver were in attendance to see the event. As was Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett, former Sacramento Kings All-Star Chris Webber, mayor Kevin Johnson and a bevy of local celebrities.

It was an emotional night all around, even for Cousins who has spent the first six-plus seasons of his career in a Kings uniform.

“It was beautiful, man,” the Kings’ big man said from his locker stall. “As much as this city has been through, as much as they fought, they were more than deserving of this night. I wish we could have sealed the deal with a win, but we got 80 more so we can make it up later.”

The Kings face a young and athletic Minnesota Timberwolves team on Saturday that has given them fits in the past. It’s a new challenge that this team looks better prepared to face this season.

Rewind: Power play paces Sharks in strange night at the Tank

Rewind: Power play paces Sharks in strange night at the Tank

SAN JOSE – First, there was a delay in the Sharks-Blue Jackets game when the lights suddenly went out late in the second period. Another interruption occurred in the third, when the referees decided to spend more time on an offside challenge that overturned a Brenden Dillon goal than the Warren Commission did on the Zapruder film.

In a few months, those occurrences may end up being more notable to many in the SAP Center crowd than the actual game result, a 3-1 Sharks win on Thursday night. Inside the home dressing room, though, it was a pair of goals by the second power play unit and a strong performance by goalie Martin Jones that will be how they remember this one.

Joonas Donskoi’s first period goal with Markus Nutivaara in the box staked the Sharks a 1-0 lead, while Tomas Hertl’s marker in the third period with Jack Johnson serving a tripping minor increased it to 2-0. Hertl added a late empty netter to seal it, after Scott Hartnell brought the Blue Jackets to within one with less then three minutes to go.

It was the second straight game the Sharks didn’t get an even strength goal in regulation (other than the empty-netter), yet found a way. They beat Anaheim in three-on-three overtime on Tuesday, 2-1.

“Right now the five-on-five goals are hard to come by,” Pete DeBoer said. “We're creating chances, but the power play won us the game tonight." 

Hertl said: “Exciting night for us, the second [power play unit], because we scored two goals.”

The newest addition to that unit, defenseman David Schlemko, assisted on each of the first two goals. He spotted Donskoi wide open in the circle on the first, and got a secondary helper on Hertl’s first goal.

Although they were his first two points of the season, Schlemko is quickly proving to be the second-most talented offensive defenseman on the team. He’s managed 20 shots on goal through eight games – exactly half of Burns’ 40, but nearly double Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s 11.

“It's nice to get [the points] of the way,” he said. “I feel like I've been getting lots of pucks to the net, so it's nice to see a couple go in finally."

Donskoi figured Schlemko would spot him all alone standing on the faceoff dot.

“He's pretty good with the puck, so I think he just saw me,” Donskoi said. “It's good to have a guy like that."

It’s also good to have a guy like Jones, who made some key saves early on the penalty kill and preserved the lead while Sergei Bobrovsky was making some potentially game-changing stops on the other end. Jones’ 24 saves lowered his goals-against average to 2.32, and upped his save percentage to .908.

“We had quite a few grade-A chances, [Bobrovsky] kept them in it pretty good,” said Joel Ward, who was stopped on an early second period breakaway. “Obviously Jonesy has been there for us since day one. It’s good that he’s feeling the groove, we’ve just got to put some pucks in.”

Neither Jones nor his teammates let the odd circumstances, including Dillon’s apparent goal that was nullified after a seven-minute delay in the third period of a 1-0 game, get to them. 

“There was a couple things there out of our control, but I thought considering that, we stuck with it and found a way,” DeBoer said.

Ward said: “We’ve got a good group and a mature group, and we know how to handle situations.”

The Sharks are also gaining momentum at home with their third win in as many tries, even if their own building doesn’t want to cooperate all the time with pesky details like keeping the ice surface brightened.

“With [the lights going off] and the disallowed goal it felt like a triple overtime type of game,” Ward said. “Haven’t seen that before, but hopefully since we won, maybe it happens again and we can capitalize.”

Schlemko wasn’t here last season, but he heard all about the team’s struggles at SAP Center when it was the only playoff team that didn’t win at least half of its home games (18-20-3).

“I think we wanted to clean up the home record and have teams know it's going to be a tough night coming in here,” he said. “It's been a pretty good start."