World Series Setback -- Giants Stumble, Fall 4-2


World Series Setback -- Giants Stumble, Fall 4-2


ARLINGTON, Texas -- If anyone even loosely associated or familiar with the 2010 Giants thought this was going to be easy, they might be lying about that association or familiarity.Sweep the World Series?Please. Thats not how this team rolls.They prefer to wring just about every drop of drama out of everything, and the Fall Classic is no exception.So of course the Rangers won Game 3 on Saturday, changing entirely the complexion of a matchup that looked so lopsided in San Francisco. Texas 4-2 victory, which featured the Rangers first home run of the series and some stingy work by former As mopup man Colby Lewis, gave the Lone Star State exactly what it was looking for when their favorite sons -- for now -- returned home in a 2-0 hole.There is hope for the Rangers. A win in Game 4 ties the series, and Game 5 is here Monday.Youknow, obviously were still down one game, but the momentum has shifted,said Ranger center fielder Josh Hamilton, who thrilled the crowd of morethan 52,000 with one of the games four homers. I mean, were at home, weve got the fans behind us. Wereright where we want to be.As for the Giants, even in defeat they struck a confident chord, claiming to be pretty comfortable with their status."We're still in the driver's seat," said outfielder Cody Ross, who continued to treat October as his national coming-out party. "We knew this was going to be a dogfight, and it is, but we have two wins and they have one."
Texas has one win now because they got far better work from their starting pitcher Saturday. Giants lefty Jonathan Sanchez once again came up less than large on the road, and the offense that pounded out 20 runs in Games 1 and 2 was essentially pounded into paste by Lewis, who pounded the strike zone early and often.The Rangers homered in every one of their games in the first two rounds of the postseason, but were kept in the yard at AT&T Park. Ron Washington's club finally got a little light jogging in while grabbing an early lead.Nelson Cruz got things going with a line drive to center on Sanchezs first pitch of the second inning. It got to the wall and hit it so hard that Andres Torres likely would have nailed him at second base with a good throw, but a good throw it was not. It was a rainbow, and Cruz had himself a leadoff double.Cruz made it to third before Bengie Molina stepped to the plate with two out. Sanchez wanted nothing to do with his former teammate with lefty-swinging rookie Mitch Moreland on deck. Molina walked on five pitches.Moreland spoiled the strategy, though, by putting together a brilliant at-bat that ended with him driving Sanchezs ninth pitch of the at bat into the right-field bleachers for a 3-0 lead.
"Give the guy credit," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "Moreland fouled off some tough offspeed pitches and just battled until he got something to hit."
Moreland, by the way, had to fight the suggestion he take up pitching in the minors. He started this season as the No. 3 first baseman on Texas depth chart. The Rangers thought so little of his stretch-drive potential that they openly looked into a midseason trade for Lance Berkman.And seriously? Can you blame them? Prior to his homer off Sanchez, Moreland was batting .179 (5-for-28) with zero fun balls against southpaws in his abbreviated career."Mitch is stubborn," Hamilton said. "He's not going to let anybody beat him. He's got that competitive attitude about him."
Lewis story isnt all that dissimilar from Moreland's, in terms of seemingly emerging out of the ether as a playoff hero. Lewis flamed out with the Rangers in his first go-round, and eventually found himself working as an innings-eater in lopsided games for the As in 2007. Thereafter, it was off to Japan for two seasons before his reunion with the Rangers, and a productive reunion its been. He's 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four postseason starts this fall."It's an unbelievable feeling," Lewis said. "I get goosebumps thinking about it."
Lewis ripped through a perfect shutdown inning after Morelands long ball. He was equally efficient over the next two frames, retiring six of seven along the way. His stellar work was rewarded when the lead went to 4-0 on Hamilton's fifth-inning home run.Hamilton, a top American League MVP candidate, jumped on a truly awful 2-1 slider from Sanchez, delivering a souvenir for a fan in the aptly named Home Run Porch section in right."We try to entertain folks," Hamilton said with a smile.
That was it for Sanchez -- yanked with a line of four runs on six hits and three walks over 4 23 innings. In his past three playoffs starts, all on the road, hes allowed eight runs on 14 hits and eight walks over 12 23 innings. The sum: an 0-2 record and a 5.84 ERA.Still, Bochy tried to put a happy face on his No. 3 starter's struggles."Sanchez was a pitch away from a pretty good outing there," Bochy said of the pitch to Moreland. "He settled in after that and was throwing the ball better."
The Giants got one run back in the top of the seventh, mainly because Ross simply doesnt go an entire playoff game without doing something that makes you slap your forehead and say, again, Youve gotta be kidding me.No kidding on a full count fastball for Ross, who blasted it into the seats in left-center for his fifth home run of the fall."It's great, but it's always better in a win," Ross said.
Ross cant do it alone, though, so Torres decided to lend a hand, belting a home run to right with one out in the eighth, cutting the Texas lead to two. With two out, Lewis hit Aubrey Huff with a pitch, ending his evening after 7 23 innings of five-hit work with two walks and six strikeouts.With Buster Posey at the plate representing the tying run, Washington turned to right-handed submariner Darren ODay. Posey worked the count full, which prompted a meeting at the mound with Molina to discuss the 3-2 pitch. The meeting paid off as O'Day coaxed a weak ground ball to shortstop, setting up closer Neftali Feliz for his perfect ninth.
"He made a pretty good pitch," Bochy said of O'Day. "We had a good hitter up there, and it was a good battle."
Sanchez, it should be noted, was routinely topping out at 89-90 on the stadium radar gun. He typically sits between 92-94, and hes thrown 50 innings more this year than his previous career high, so dont be surprised if the Giants decide to make a mystery of their pitching plans should a Game 7 be required. Dont think they arent already giving a potential Game 7 a little thought at this point, either.
"We're playing a very good club," Bochy said. "We didn't think this was going to be easy."
In fact, everything from here on out is likely going to be hard.

Rewind: With another close loss, clock is ticking for Kings in 2016-17

Rewind: With another close loss, clock is ticking for Kings in 2016-17

SACRAMENTO -- Carmelo Anthony missed a pair of free throws with 2.6 seconds remaining in the Kings-Knicks game Friday evening at Golden 1 Center. DeMarcus Cousins, like he had done most of the night, gobbled up the rebound. The Kings All-Star big took a couple of dribbles and then launched a majestic 52-foot shot that was right on target.

Instead of sliding through the net to force overtime, the shot caught front iron and careened off the rim. Cousins fell to the floor, acting out the despair that so many Kings fans in attendance felt. Kings lost by a final of 103-100.

The plan was laid out by coach Dave Joerger in the first week of training camp. First learn to how compete and then learn how to win. It was always going to be a process, but after another tough loss, this time on their home floor, the Sacramento Kings are becoming the poster child for “close, but no cigar.”

“We didn’t make a shot in the last minute, minute ten seconds,” Joerger said following the game. “It’s nobody’s fault. Nobody’s trying to miss. We executed and got where we wanted.”

Sacramento got the stops they needed, although they still gave up a few tough offensive rebounds down the stretch. The game came down to their inability to finish on the offensive side of the ball.

Down one with 21.9 seconds remaining, Cousins cut through two Knick defenders and stood all alone at the basket. His two-footer somehow rolled off the rim and into the hands of the Knicks.  

With 3.9 seconds remaining and Sacramento trailing by 103-100, Rudy Gay missed a contested 3-pointer that would have tied the game. Again, no one tries to miss a game-tying shot.

You can’t ask for much more if you are Joerger. His best two players had the ball in their hands repeatedly down the stretch. They even had open looks, but sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce the way you need it to.

“It’s tough - frustrating loss,” veteran Omri Casspi said following the game. “Basically it comes down to down the stretch, making plays and knocking down shots. I felt like we had good shots, we’ve just got to make them.”

Sacramento shot just 7-of-21 from the field (33.3 percent) in the fourth quarter, but the ball movement stopped late in the fourth, especially when Ty Lawson left the game at the 5:19 mark.

The Kings did a nice job of defending the Knicks down the stretch, but it always comes down to a missed layup, a slow rotation or an offensive rebound by the opposition that does them in.

“We competed throughout the whole night, it’s just small mistakes,” Cousins said following the loss. “We’ve got to correct those or we’re going to continue to lose close games.”

The clock is ticking for Sacramento. With the loss, they have now lost four of their last five and sit at 8-14 on the season. Their schedule to-date was considered the second toughest in the NBA and it doesn’t get any easier Saturday night when they travel to Utah to take on the Jazz on the second night of a back-to-back.

“We don’t have a lot of time,” Darren Collison said. “We can’t sit there and say that we’re going to figure it out and lose these games because the West is not going to wait for us. We’ve got to be able to play - play the right way.”

It’s not all doom and gloom for the Kings. They see improvement, but they just can’t seem to get over the hump. They have been within in striking distance late in games in each of their last four losses, but the process of finishing games has been a difficult one.

“I think we’re in a good place, we’ve just got to continue to grow, keep our heads up, stay positive,” Cousins said. “I think we’ll be fine. Hate to say it, but it’s a learning curve.”

Sacramento will be tested on what they learned against the Knicks when they face a well rested, but injury riddled Jazz team that plays extremely hard under coach Quin Snyder.

Three takeaways: Labanc creating offense for Sharks

Three takeaways: Labanc creating offense for Sharks

ANAHEIM – The Sharks dropped their second in a row in regulation on Friday in Anaheim, as the Ducks moved into first place in the suddenly tight Pacific. What were the three biggest takeaways from the game? Here we go…

1 – Getting down early…again

The Sharks were surely aware that a good start was key against the Ducks, who have given up the fewest third period goals in the NHL (15). It didn’t happen, and Anaheim seized a 2-0 lead 15 minutes into the game. It was similar to what happened against Ottawa on Wednesday, when the Senators scored two goals in the first eight minutes and went on to a 4-2 win.

The Sharks managed to fight back and tie it with a strong second period, but they may have used up their energy tanks by the time the third period started, and the Ducks took back the momentum – and the two points.

“I think anybody in this league, let alone Anaheim in their home barn, it’s tough to come back,” Dylan DeMelo said. “We did a good job fighting back. It was just unfortunate that they got that one there with about five minutes left.”

Headed into Saturday’s game with Carolina, the Sharks are 11-4-0 when scoring first, and 4-7-1 when allowing the first goal.

2 – Labanc creating offense

Rookie Kevin Labanc was all around the puck even before his goal made it 2-2 in the second period. With three goals, he now has more than Joe Thornton, Joonas Donskoi, Mikkel Boedker, Melker Karlsson and Chris Tierney, in about half the games.

Does Labanc feel he can help fill the offensive void with so many players failing to produce?

“Everybody here can score goals. It’s just a matter of opportunities and getting the right bounces,” Labanc said. 

“Some guys just don’t have the right bounces going their way. We’ve just got to stay positive. I’m doing everything that I can to do what’s right for the team and to win the game. Whether it be scoring goals, blocking shots, I’ve just got to do my job and play the right way.”

You have to think Labanc is on the cusp on staying with the Sharks for the season, and with so many players just not getting it done on the scoresheet, perhaps it’s time some of his former Barracuda teammates join him on the NHL roster.

3 – Snakebitten Pavelski

Once again, Joe Pavelski had some great chances that he couldn’t cash in on, just like against Ottawa. There’s certainly no reason to worry about Pavelski's play, but had he been able to finish his opportunities against the Senators and Ducks, the Sharks could have at least gotten a point in the standings in each.

“We had some good looks. Myself, I had a bunch. Have to start putting it in the net,” Pavelski said. 

“It’s frustrating when you know a goal could change the game like that and you’re missing some good opportunities. [Have to] keep working for the next chance.”