Vogelsong, fading Giants fight to move forward


Vogelsong, fading Giants fight to move forward

Aug. 30, 2011

CUBS (58-77) vs.
GIANTS (71-64)

Coverage begins at 6:30 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The San Francisco Giants are making things awfully difficult on themselves, but they've proven they can come back from a daunting deficit.

Coming off their worst offensive showing of the season, the Giants try to avoid falling even further out of first place when they face the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.

A multitude of concerns seemed to arise for San Francisco (71-64) in Monday's series-opening 7-0 loss. The Giants' punchless offense was two-hit by the unlikely Randy Wells, and Chicago (58-77) made Tim Lincecum look quite vulnerable, tagging the two-time Cy Young Award winner for a career-high three homers.

The discouraging performance, coupled with a victory by NL-West leading Arizona, dropped the Giants five games out of first place for the first time since May 2.

URBAN: The Giants just aren't very good

Although the Giants have lost seven of 11 and are running out of time, a surge to first place isn't out of the question.

Exactly one year ago - on Aug. 30 of last season - San Francisco was five games behind West-leading San Diego, but the Giants overcame that deficit to win the division en route to a World Series championship.

"At this time last year we were in a similar spot but we were gaining ground, not going backward," Lincecum said. "Right now it's obviously frustrating for everybody. It's one of those situations where it's hard to keep your head up when things aren't really going our way."

To overtake Arizona this year, San Francisco almost certainly needs its offense to show some signs of life.

RELATED: MLB Standings

The Giants are last in the NL in runs at 454 and batting average at .237, and they've been even worse lately, plating 10 runs while hitting .184 in the last six games.

All-Star Pablo Sandoval is 2 for 16 in that stretch, while Cody Ross is 0 for 10 with five strikeouts in his last four games.

Carlos Beltran posted three straight two-hit games before Monday, but he went 0 for 4 and has four RBIs in 18 games with the Giants.

They hope for better luck against Matt Garza (6-10, 3.68 ERA), who'll be facing San Francisco for the first time.

Garza permitted six runs - three earned - and eight hits in five innings of Thursday's 8-3 loss to Atlanta after recording a 1.80 ERA in his previous four outings.

Although the Giants' offense has struggled, pitching in San Francisco could give Garza problems. The right-hander has a 5.07 road ERA, compared to a 2.76 ERA at home.

Ryan Vogelsong (10-4, 2.54) should benefit from pitching at AT&T Park, where he has a 1.98 ERA - the majors' fourth-best home ERA.

Vogelsong, however, gave up three runs, six hits and four walks in 7 1-3 innings of Thursday's 3-1 home defeat to Houston, losing his second straight start - both to the Astros.

The right-hander is enjoying quite a renaissance with the Giants, but has already amassed a career-high 142 innings and seems to be slowing down a bit. After going 9-1 with a 2.19 ERA in his first 20 outings, Vogelsong is 1-3 with a 4.00 ERA in his last four, although the Giants have scored only one total run in those three defeats.

Vogelsong has been backed by 15 total runs in winning his two starts against the Cubs this year while posting a 2.45 ERA.

Chicago snapped a four-game losing streak Monday and won for the second time in nine games. Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, Blake DeWitt and Carlos Pena all went deep for the Cubs, who lead the NL with 38 homers this month.

Crowder on facing Cousins: ‘Step up to the test or you get run over’

Crowder on facing Cousins: ‘Step up to the test or you get run over’

BOSTON – There was a point in the fourth quarter when Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins was fouled trying to score which brought about an automatic, intense and angry scowl from the all-star center. 

He raised his hand as he were going to strike back at the potential assailant. 

And then he saw the man was Jae Crowder.

Cousins, who had a game-high 28 points, then went to the free throw line, incident-free. 

“I’m not one those other cats he be punking,” said Crowder with a grin.

That moment was one of many throughout Friday night’s game when Crowder made his presence felt when the game mattered most, and wasn’t afraid to mix it up with whoever stood between him and helping the Celtics win – even Cousins. 

But as Crowder explained following Boston’s 97-92 win, that moment was about two physical players who have developed an on-the-floor rapport that speaks to their intensity and desire to win at all costs. 

“He’s going to bring the game to you; his physicality,” said Crowder who had 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting. “He’s a very physical type of guy. If he senses you’re not physical at all, he’ll let you know. He’s a dog down there; he’s a bull. I love to go against a player like that. He’s going to give you his best shot each and every night. You either step up to the test or you get run over.”


49ers specialists get drenched in preparations for inclement weather

49ers specialists get drenched in preparations for inclement weather

CHICAGO – The 49ers trained for the expected low-30s temperature and snow at Soldier Field with a week of workouts in the 80-degree heat of Florida.

However, the team’s specialists got some practice handling wet footballs during the 49ers’ final practice in Orlando, Fla.

Special-teams coordinator Derius Swinton and his assistant, Michael Clay, made a game of it. Long-snapper Kyle Nelson had to execute 10 perfect snaps to holder Bradley Pinion for field goals. Then, Pinion moved back to punt formation, where another 10 in a row were required.

But they had to be perfect while Swinton and Clay squirted water on the ball and at the hands of Nelson and Pinion, who also received a blast of water in his ear hole at one point.

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“We always look up to see if there’s a chance of rain or snow, and we go, ‘Wet-ball drill,’ ” Nelson said. “They (Swinton and Clay) get to have fun, squirting water on us and use the water bottles.

“They make it as bad as possible.”

Nelson and Pinion teamed up to execute perfectly on all 20 field goals and punts.

“If I can do this, in a game it’s going to be even easier,” Nelson said. “They make it a lot harder in practice than it is in a game, so when we get to a game, everything is not as fast.”

The weather conditions on Sunday against the Chicago Bears will likely challenge Nelson, Pinion and kicker Phil Dawson as much as anyone. Dawson has been tracking the weather forecasts for more than a week to get mentally prepared for what he might face.

“Soldier Field is notorious for being a tough place to kick because of the wind and the field itself,” Dawson said this week on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “The footing is pretty poor. So when you add snow and moisture to the equation, it’s going to be one of those days.

“You need to have conversations with your coaches and let them know – be honest with them – about the difficulty. But you have to do that without it affecting your confidence to go out and get the job done.”

Said Nelson, “It takes more focus in bad weather. The snaps have to be a little more perfect. Bradley has to focus more on catching the ball, and Phil has to concentrate on the approach and be more cautious.”