Vogelsong, fading Giants fight to move forward

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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.

Report: Shanahan 'almost certain' to accept 49ers' offer

Report: Shanahan 'almost certain' to accept 49ers' offer

Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is reportedly “almost certain” to accept the 49ers’ offer to become head coach.

Shanahan is the lone remaining candidate among the six individuals who interviewed with 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe. The 49ers plan for a second interview with Shanahan and a job offer, a source told CSNBayArea.com. Shanahan is expected to accept the 49ers’ offer, reports Michael Silver of the NFL Network, citing sources familiar with both parties.

The 49ers continued to work Tuesday evening on the process of narrowing down the general manager choices, a source said. Shanahan is expected to play a role in the select the team’s next GM, sources said.

On Tuesday, Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable and Seahawks co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner removed their names from consideration for the vacant coach and general manager positions. The 49ers fired Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke after the 49ers' 2-14 season.

One source said Cable and Kirchner believed the 49ers were using them as leverage to hire Shanahan. Cable interviewed with 49ers co-chair Denise DeBartolo York over the phone on Tuesday, NFL Network reported.

The 49ers are allowed to interview Shanahan for a second time after the Falcons’ NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The 49ers are prohibited from hiring or making a formal contract offer to Shanahan until the Falcons' season has concluded.

The top remaining candidates for the general manager job are believed to be Green Bay executives Brian Gutekunst and Eliot Wolf, Arizona's Terry McDonough and Minnesota's George Paton.

Wilcox embracing challenge, will change the way Cal looks on field

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AP

Wilcox embracing challenge, will change the way Cal looks on field

BERKELEY — With more than a half-century without a Rose Bowl berth, tougher academic standards than most Pac-12 schools and lackluster fan support in a pro-sports focused market, there are plenty of hurdles for a football coach at California.

Coach Justin Wilcox took the job for the Golden Bears because he embraces those obstacles and he wants players who feel the same way as he seeks to rebuild a program that has one winning record in the past five years and no conference championships since 1958.

"When you come here, there are challenges," Wilcox said at his introductory news conference Tuesday. "You don't come here and go through school and just go through the motions. You'll be challenged in the classroom, challenged on the football field and learn to interact in a dynamic society. I believe in that and that helps guys grow."

Wilcox faces many hurdles in his new job replacing the recently fired Sonny Dykes less than three weeks before national signing day. He has to put together a coaching staff, evaluate the players already on campus and try to keep together, and even add to, a recruiting class that committed to a different staff.

Athletic director Mike Williams fired Dykes after four seasons on Jan. 8 because he wanted a coach committed to Cal instead of flirting with other jobs and needed someone who could excite a fan base that often stayed away from Memorial Stadium in recent years as the Bears teamed porous defenses with sometimes exciting offenses while posting a 19-30 record.

Williams had five finalists for the job but chose a former Cal assistant with a defensive background and familiarity with the Pac-12 as an assistant for seven years at three schools in the conference.

"He truly gets this place, he truly gets coaching in the West," Williams said. "He came in and was very organized and thoughtful. He knew what he wanted to do and who he wanted to hire. ... It's a special place and I think he'll treat it as a special place."

While Dykes flirted with job openings at Houston and Baylor this past offseason in part because of his concern about increased academic standards for recruits, the Bears hope Wilcox is someone who wants to stick around after more than a decade of being on a self-described "windy" path as a top defensive coach.

The former Oregon defensive back began his coaching career in 2001 as a graduate assistant at Boise State. He spent three years as linebackers coach under Jeff Tedford at Cal from 2003-05 when the Bears nearly ended their Rose Bowl drought during a 10-win season with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback in 2004.

Wilcox has spent the past 11 years as a defensive coordinator with stops at Boise State, Tennessee, Washington, Southern California and finally Wisconsin, where he helped the Badgers field a top 10 defense and win the Cotton Bowl.

Wilcox has worked and played for many successful coaches, including Tedford, Chris Petersen, Dan Hawkins, Mike Bellotti, and Paul Chryst.

"I've been extremely fortunate to work for and with people I learned so much from," he said. "Each step along the way, I've seen it done a lot of different ways. I'm not trying to be any of those people. I always try to take pieces and make it my own."

Wilcox has begun putting together his staff, having hired former Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin as offensive coordinator and longtime Oregon offensive line coach Steve Greatwood to fill that role on the Bears.

The Bears will look very different under Wilcox than Dykes. Wilcox said he will recruit tight ends as Cal moves from the spread "Bear Raid" offense that relied on four receivers almost exclusively to a more balanced offense with tight ends and more power concepts.

While he will delegate most of the offensive responsibilities to Baldwin, Wilcox said he will be more involved on defense where he wants to find players who can fit into his base 3-4 system.

Cal ranked 125th in total defense, 127th in scoring defense and 122nd in yards per play out of 128 FBS teams last season on the way to a 5-7 record.

"Every second is critical right now," Wilcox said. "I will not sacrifice the long-term good of the program for what everyone wants which is certainty. Things will happen quickly. I understand the recruits have some anxiety about the situation and there's emotions involved. That's totally understandable. I'd feel the same way."