Which Sanchez will show up for the Giants?

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Which Sanchez will show up for the Giants?

August 10, 2011

PITTSBURGH (55-60) vs.
GIANTS (64-53)

Coverage begins at noon on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A night after their latest ugly offensive effort resulted in a shutout, the San Francisco Giants kept the Pittsburgh Pirates off the board and seemed to put their recent ineptitude at the plate behind them.

Pittsburgh's Jeff Karstens would certainly like to forget about his latest outing.

The NL's ERA leader prior to being blasted in his last start, Karstens tries to bounce back as the Pirates and Giants play their series finale Wednesday afternoon at AT&T Park.

Pittsburgh (55-60) snapped a 10-game losing streak with some strong pitching and timely hitting in a 5-0 win Monday in San Francisco, but reverted back Tuesday to its woeful form from recent weeks.

Chris Stewart and Aubrey Huff homered - the Giants' 17th and 18th consecutive solo shots since July 6 - to back seven dominant innings from Madison Bumgarner in a 6-0 victory that kept them one-half game ahead of Arizona atop the AL West.

RATTO: Giants' win trumps sideshow for a day

Stewart's homer was the first of the 29-year-old journeyman's major league career.

"Things like that do pull a club together," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

San Francisco (64-53) hasn't put up five or more runs in consecutive contests since July 18 and 19, but might be due for a big day at the plate if Karstens (8-6, 3.05) pitches anything like he did Friday against San Diego.

The right-hander came into the game with an NL-low 2.49 ERA and hadn't allowed more than three earned runs in 18 consecutive starts since mid-April, but he flew past that mark early against the Padres. Karstens gave up nine runs and nine hits while lasting just 3 1-3 innings in a 15-5 loss.

"I couldn't pinpoint what I was doing wrong, but I put it all on my shoulders," he said. "I expect to be better than that."

Karstens is 3-0 with a 1.94 ERA over his last six road starts, though, and he may not have to worry about one of San Francisco's most dangerous bats. Carlos Beltran has sat the past two games with a strained right wrist. He hasn't been ruled out Wednesday, but Thursday's scheduled off day could allow him additional rest.

Beltran is 2 for 8 with a homer against Karstens, who gave up five runs - two earned - over 6 2-3 innings of a 5-2 home loss to the Giants on April 28.

San Francisco counters with Jonathan Sanchez (4-6, 4.10), who didn't fare well in his first start after missing six weeks due to left biceps tendinitis. The left-hander gave up five runs and seven hits - two homers - while lasting just 4 2-3 innings in a 9-2 loss to Philadelphia on Friday.

He hasn't made it through five innings in any of his last three outings and is walking 5.82 batters per nine innings - worst in the majors among pitchers with at least 17 starts - but Sanchez is still among the major league leaders in strikeouts per nine (9.16).

That could mean some easy outs against Pittsburgh. The Pirates have whiffed a major league-high 239 times since the All-Star break, including 165 since July 25 - 41 more than any other club during that span.

Sanchez hasn't allowed an earned run - he's given up four unearned - over his last 14 1-3 innings against Pittsburgh, and he's struck out 16. Prior to that, however, he was 0-1 with a 14.04 ERA in four appearances versus the Pirates.

The Pirates are hitting .178 (13 for 73) with 24 strikeouts and no homers against lefties since July 31.

Report: Harbaugh, Michigan to spend final week of spring practice in Italy

Report: Harbaugh, Michigan to spend final week of spring practice in Italy

Undeterred by recent NCAA legislation, Jim Harbaugh is reportedly going international.

As noted by the Detroit Free Press, a post on Rivals affiliate TheWolverine.com reports that Michigan is planning to spend the final week of football spring practice in Rome, Italy. The team would not only practice several times on Italian soil, but would allow the team to visit the sights in the area and even leave players in Europe to study abroad for a semester.

The move would no doubt ruffle even more feathers in the football and NCAA communities after Harbaugh famously took the Wolverines to the IMG Academy down in Florida for spring practice last March. That prompted recent legislation that was passed at the NCAA convention in Nashville this week — a Harbaugh Rule if you will — that prohibited off-campus practice during a vacation period outside of a playing season.

While it would seem that would rule out trips away from Ann Arbor for spring football practices, it appears the Michigan athletic department is going to push forward by exploiting a slight loophole in the language of the rule. While vacation periods may be off limits like spring break, it appears the Wolverines would be looking to leave town at the end of April, which would be after the semester ends  and does not fall into any scheduled vacation time.

READ MORE ON CollegeFootballTalk.com

LeBron considering return to Team USA under 'great mastermind' Popovich

LeBron considering return to Team USA under 'great mastermind' Popovich

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- LeBron James might make another run at Olympic gold with Gregg Popovich.

James, who already has two gold medals, said that Popovich taking over as coach of the U.S. team will influence his decision on whether to play in the 2020 Tokyo Games.

"It factors a lot," James said Saturday as the Cavaliers prepared to host Popovich's San Antonio Spurs. "I've said that before. He's just a great mastermind of the game of basketball."

James skipped last summer's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro to get rest after leading Cleveland to an NBA championship. But he's still connected with Team USA and Popovich replacing outgoing coach Mike Krzyzewski could be enough to draw James back to the Olympics.

James will be 36 in 2020, but his game is showing no signs of decay and the three-time NBA champ has relished his previous Olympic appearances. He was a key member of the American teams that captured gold in Beijing (2008) and (2012), performances that helped him and the U.S. squad erase some of the disappointment from taking bronze in Athens (2004).

Krzyzewski, the Duke coach who led the U.S. team to three consecutive gold medals, had a hand in naming Popovich as his successor.

For James, the pick was perfect.

"Team USA is in good hands with him," James told The Associated Press in 2015. "It was in good hands with Coach K. It's almost like 'The Godfather.' We hand it off to Michael Corleone now."

Earlier this week, James said he considers Popovich, who has led the Spurs to five NBA titles, "the greatest coach of all time. I've said that over and over and over. You have to be sharp, mentally and physically, when you go against his ballclub. If you were an NFL player, it's probably the same as going against a (Bill) Belichick team.

"What they're going to do, they're going to do and you have to try to figure it out."

James has lost twice to teams coached by Popovich in the NBA Finals - in 2007 with Cleveland and in 2014 with Miami. He admires the way the 67-year-old coach has adjusted and adapted over the years.

"A guy that's been able to do what he's done in an era of basketball where it's changed so much and he's been able to have a growth mindset and be able to change with the game," James said. "Obviously Tim Duncan was a huge part of that because Timmy was allowed to change with the game as well, but he's just continued to build around Timmy and Manu (Ginobili) and Tony (Parker) and bring pieces in and out throughout his whole tenure."

On Saturday, the Spurs will play their first game without center Pau Gasol, sidelined indefinitely with a broken left hand.

James said that won't change San Antonio much - because of Popovich.

"It doesn't matter who is in the lineup for the Spurs," James said. "They'll play Spurs basketball and Pop will have them ready. I mean, what's their record, 33-9, I believe? And if you asked me how things would change without Timmy D., they still pushing forward, man. It's just nothing out of the ordinary."