Urban: Only direction is up for Giants


Urban: Only direction is up for Giants

August 17, 2011


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Mychael Urban

You had the better part of Monday and all day Tuesday -- make that Black Tuesday. You absorbed the crushing loss Monday and the impending feeling of disabled-list doom, a reality realized first thing Tuesday. And as Tuesday's shadows grew longer and darker, you saw another and another and another of your guys go down.Then, as if the baseball gods -- or, as our own Mr. Ray (of Sunshine) Ratto suggested, the devil himself -- were, um, hell-bent on letting you know you'd hit rock stinking bottom, you got clapped in the ear with a metal rake in the form of another walk-off loss, in extra innings no less.

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The despair with which you've dealt, Giants fans, has been justified beyond a doubt.But your time for wallowing in the self-pity that comes with overexposure to doom, gloom and talk of the trainer's room comes to an end as of Wednesday's first pitch in Atlanta.
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There is but one direction to go from rock bottom, and now is the time to starting thinking in that direction.Why? Several reasons. The first being that what you've been feeling for the past 48 hours is unhealthy. Obsess on the negative for too long and you cease to be a fan. You become Robert De Niro in "The Fan."Reason two is the National League West standings. Your boys are 3 12 games out of first place with considerably more than a month of baseball to play. That's chump change, and please don't use that phrase as a springboard to the obvious joke sitting there on a tee for you about the current state of San Francisco's offense. That's unhealthy, too.RELATED: Ratto -- Giants down, but not out
Reason three: the remaining schedule. After wrapping up in Atlanta, the Giants face exactly one team left in that month-plus with a winning record, and that team is the team they're chasing, the out-of-their-tree-right-now Diamondbacks.
Granted, your guys haven't exactly been bounding joyously atop the allegedly soft spots of the schedule of late, but remember, that was while they were headed for Black Tuesday and rock bottom. For reason four, we return to those Diamondbacks. You don't really think they're going to keep playing this well, do you? Come on. Their next five games alone are against Philly and Atlanta, and you only get one beat-Roy-Halladay-with-an-epic-ninth-inning-rally a year. They will come back to earth as sure as the Giants will start climbing from the earth's core.Or did you not notice that they have exactly two starting pitchers who'd be in the Giants' rotation, and maybe three relievers who'd have get a sniff out of the Giants' bullpen?Sure, Arizona's offense looks like a juggernaut comparatively, but it is one Justin Upton slump from looking meek, and Upton has been smoking-hot for a good three months now. It's not easy to keep up that pace, particularly when engaged in a pennant race with an entire team on your 23-year-old shoulders.So now let's wrap up this admittedly and purposely glass-half-full exercise with reason No. 5: drama.The Giants have shown time and again that they absolutely thrive on it. They create ungodly messes for themselves and delight in the cleaning up. Well, this is about as messy as it's going to get, and while it sure would be nice to have Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez and Carlos Beltran and Sergio Romo and a No. 5 starter worth his ankle tape, there remain some pretty capable janitors at the ready with mops and buckets.Nate Schierholtz will not be out long. The law of averages tell you there has to be at least one really good month of baseball inside Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross and Miguel Tejada. Brandon Belt, as long as they stick with him, will chip in. Pablo Sandoval is dying for his close-up. Oh, and those guys on the mound will help some, too.It's always darkest before dawn, we're told. Well, in this case the opposite could prove true. It was dark as dark gets at dawn -- heck, at noon -- on Wednesday, and that means it can't get any darker.

Couture fights through illness to push Sharks over Lightning

Couture fights through illness to push Sharks over Lightning

SAN JOSE – Logan Couture didn’t skate against the Kings on Wednesday night in Los Angeles, but that sure didn’t mean he was feeling all that energetic to play against the Lightning on Thursday.

The 27-year-old center had a pretty rough start to his week. He was unable to finish Monday’s game against Winnipeg, and then couldn’t go on the quick road trip to Southern California on Tuesday, either.

We’ll let him explain.

"I wasn't feeling too well during the [Winnipeg] game, had an IV during that game, and came off. Didn't have enough energy to finish that game. Went home. Started throwing up a bunch and actually went to the hospital, got a couple more IVs. Slept that night, didn't make it through the night, threw up a couple more times. Didn't really get any sleep, so I talked to [Sharks trainer Ray Tufts] and he told me to stay home, and not come on the trip.
"Didn't get any food in my throat for about 48 hours. It was a tough little stretch, and finally yesterday I was able to get back to normal. I think it was just a stomach bug, but it hit pretty hard. I think I lost six pounds. So, it was a tough couple days.”

Despite all that, Couture managed to have an impact in the Sharks’ 2-1 win over the Lightning. And not just a minor impact, either, as he scored the game-winning goal early in the third period in a game in which the Sharks as a team were understandably sluggish at times but still found a way.

"I thought he was excellent. Gutsy effort by him coming back in,” said coach Pete DeBoer, who slightly limited Couture’s minutes.

The winning goal came when Couture’s linemates, Kevin Labanc and Joonas Donskoi, fought for a loose puck behind the Tampa Bay net. Labanc managed to poke it to Couture, who had pushed away from Tyler Johnson and found just enough space inside the far post with his shot to break a 1-1 tie on the opening shift of the third period.

Goalie Aaron Dell made it hold up, making some clutch third period saves on Ondrej Palat and Valtteri Filppula, in particular.

After allowing a bad goal in Calgary last week that cost the Sharks at least one point in the standings, Dell was outstanding on a night that his teammates needed him.

"I've given up a lot of goals in my life. I think it's pretty easy to let it go now, but I really wanted to come back and make a good impression after that,” he said.

Ryan Carpenter, familiar with Dell from their days on the Barracuda together last season, said: “He made some big saves tonight. That’s just what he does. Whenever he plays, he always does well somehow. It’s nice to be a part of it, and see him get that one tonight.”

Carpenter played a role, too, getting the Sharks a 1-0 lead with his second career NHL goal five minutes into the middle frame. He was the beneficiary of a long shift by the Sharks in the Tampa Bay end, firing in a Paul Martin feed off of Nikita Nesterov’s leg.

"That was just off a line change,” DeBoer said. “He got out there a little bit early and made a great play. Big goal for us."

The Sharks were in survival mode earlier in the game, one day after recording one of their more satisfying, complete wins of the season over the rival Kings. Tampa Bay recorded eight of the first nine shots on goal, and San Jose was having particular trouble moving the puck out of their own end and through the neutral zone. 

After Carpenter’s goal, and a remarkable power play score by Jonathan Drouin tied it, the message in the dressing room in the second intermission was to go out and win the third period.

"Guys did a good job in the locker room going out in the third and just understanding what’s at stake," Joe Pavelski said. "There’s two big points, it doesn’t matter your opponent that you’re playing, you’ve got to go find it."

They did, courtesy of Couture, even if his pads were a little looser than normal from his sudden and unexpected diet.

Humphrey scores 21 to help Stanford beat Oregon State 62-46


Humphrey scores 21 to help Stanford beat Oregon State 62-46

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Michael Humphrey had 21 points and Marcus Allen added a career-high 12 to lead Stanford to a 62-46 victory Thursday night over Oregon State, keeping the Beavers winless in Pac-12 conference play.

It was the third straight win for the Cardinal (11-8, 3-4 Pac-12), coming off a pair of victories at home last week against the league's Washington schools.

Stephen Thompson Jr. led the Beavers (4-15, 0-6) with 15 points. Oregon State, which trailed by as many as 17 points late after jumping out to an early nine-point lead, has lost six straight games.

The Cardinal were without Reid Travis, the team's top scorer and rebounder with averages of 16.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. Reid injured his right shoulder in Stanford's 76-69 victory over Washington last Saturday. He had missed the previous two games with a similar injury.

The Beavers have struggled without top scorer Tres Tinkle, who was averaging 20.2 points a game before he broke his right wrist on Nov. 25 against Fresno State. Tinkle has missed 13 games.

But Oregon State did have forward Drew Eubanks, who was a game-time decision because of a thigh injury. Eubanks was averaging 14.6 points going in. He finished with eight points against Stanford.

Beavers coach Wayne Tinkle tweaked his starting lineup, giving sophomore Gligorije Ravocevic his first career start. Ravocevic replaced Matt Dahlen, who had started the last 10 games.

At least at the start, the Beavers had spark, going up 16-7 on three consecutive 3-pointers — two by Thompson and a third by JaQuori McLaughlin. Thompson hit another 3 to give Oregon State a 19-11 lead.

But Stanford closed the gap, pulling within 20-17 on Marcus Sheffield's jumper with a little more than five minutes left before the break.

Humphrey's dunk got Stanford within 25-23, and Allen's layup tied it. Humphrey made two free throws to give the Cardinal a 27-25 halftime lead.

Sheffield's 3-pointer made it 37-32 with 12:35 left as the Cardinal began to pull away. Humphrey's layup stretched the lead to 45-36 with 8:20 left.


Stanford: The Cardinal won six of the previous eight meetings with Oregon State. ... Allen was making his first start of the season.

Oregon State: The Beavers have been hurt by injuries this season. Players have missed more than 40 games, including center Cheikh N'diaye, who has missed 10 games and is out indefinitely with an injured left shoulder.


Stanford: The Cardinal visit No. 11 Oregon on Saturday. The Ducks defeated California 86-63 on Thursday, but preseason All-America forward Dillon Brooks injured his lower left leg late in the first half and did not return.

Oregon State: The Beavers host the Golden Bears on Saturday night.