Blanco makes impact with nearly identical diving catches

923733.jpg

Blanco makes impact with nearly identical diving catches

SAN FRANCISCO Gregor Blanco signed with the Giants lastoffseason in the hopes that he could crack the roster as a fourth outfielder.Now hes starting in the World Series and making spectacular catches lookroutine.Blanco might never top the catch he made in Triples Alley to save Matt Cainsperfect game on June 13, 2012, but he added two more highlight plays onbaseballs biggest stage in the Giants 8-3 win to open the World SeriesWednesday.With the speedy Austin Jackson on first base and two outs, Blanco was playingdeep with Miguel Cabrera at the plate and had to hustle straight in and make adiving catch.Then in the sixth inning, after the Tigers finally plated their first runagainst Barry Zito, Blanco stopped the bleeding with a momentum-killing divingcatch of Prince Fielders opposite-field line drive. It was pretty much the same ball, Blanco said.Although the second catch prompted some dj vu, the degree of difficulty wasno different.You have to have a good jump, Blanco said. You have tohave a good read on the baseball. And I just committed. Go for it, dont eventhink about it and thats why I made those catches.With all do respect to Zito, it could have been a completely different outingwithout Blancos heroics. Blanco said his starter paid his respects during thegame.Im always trying to be there for my pitchers and everytime they make a mistake I try to support them, Blanco said. Barry, he wasreally happy about it and that gave him confidence.Zito made sure to share his appreciation for Blanco in hispostgame press conference.I mean, it's just incredible, Zito said. I've been a bit spoiled this yearwith the defense That second one that Prince hit, it had some funky spin onit, and that was so impressive because not only did he dive, but he had to staywith the path of that ball.Blanco is just he's such a huge part of thisteam in every way.Outside of one early season hot streak, Blanco has been inconsistent at the plate.But his glove makes him valuable, no matter what hes doing with the bat.You can help win a ballgame without getting a base hit,Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. Blanco is one of those players with thedefense that he gives you. Were more athletic and faster in the outfield, andthose guys do a great job of covering ground. Hes one of the best.Its hard to imagine such high praise from Bochy coming justsix month after Blanco was fighting for a roster spot in spring training. WhileBochy praised Blanco after many stellar Cactus League performances, his rosterspot was in doubt for the majority of the time the team spent in Scottsdale.Now, between the perfect game catch and the two in Game 1 of the World Series,Blanco has made a name for himself in franchise lore.The one catch he made in Cains perfect game well alwaysremember, Bochy said. But hes done that all year. Hes made great plays outthere. He gets a good jump and the ball, and he throws well. Hes just a giftedoutfielder.Blanco would not be in the position to make the two spectacular catchesWednesday if not for Melky Cabreras suspension, which created a jobopportunity for a new starting left-fielder. Did Blanco ever think, way back inspring training, that he could be a starting outfielder in the World Series?No. But this is baseball and thats why you work reallyhard for it. And thats what I did. I was waiting for this opportunity and Imjust having a great time right now and enjoying it the most I can.Hunter Pence, who was acquired before Cabreras suspensionto play right-field because Blanco and Nate Schierholtz werent producing, isthoroughly impressed with his teammate.Blancos been incredible all year, Pence said. Hes just sogood with the glove and always seems to be in the right place. Everything wason the line, so it gives you a charge. Those big plays are just reallyrefreshing.While Blanco certainly enjoyed the larger-than-usual scrum of media membersanxiously waiting to talk to him about his heroics, like Zito, he deflectedsome of the praise.I think I have to give some credit to Angel Pagan and Roberto Kelly, Blancosaid. They move me and we talk about it before every game how weplay every single guy so Im always in the right spot.San Francisco is clearly the right spot for Blanco, who originally signed withthe Giants as a non-roster invitee. He feels at home playing alongside some ofhis fellow countrymen, such as Pablo Sandoval and Marco Scutaro, and is nowgetting the chance to play in his first postseason.Ive been thinking about it a lot, Blanco said. Its a dream come true forme. Being part of this team, being a part of a World Series lineup and all thestuff that just happened. Every single night, every single swing, every singlepitch has just been unbelievable.After a few more nights in San Francisco and Detroit and afew more quality swings, Blanco and his teammates could be celebrating a WorldSeries title. After shocking Justin Verlander and the Tigers in Game 1, Blancois all about staying the course.I think we do all the little things to be in the positionthat we are right now. And we just have to keep doing it.

Anonymous poll: Is Sharks defenseman Burns still Norris frontrunner?

Anonymous poll: Is Sharks defenseman Burns still Norris frontrunner?

Throughout much of his dominant 2016-17 season, the words “Norris Trophy lock” have often preceded Brent Burns’ name. 

The 32-year-old has led all NHL blueliners in scoring for the past three months, building upon a strong second half last season in which he helped lead the Sharks to their first ever Stanley Cup Final, and solidifying himself as one of the best defensemen in the game.

In 76 games, Burns has 28 goals – 11 more than any other defenseman – and 45 assists for 73 points and a plus-17 rating. At one point on Feb. 19, he had 14 more points than Erik Karlsson, who was second among NHL defensemen.

But Burns went cold earlier this month. During one stretch, he went nine out of 10 games without finding the scoresheet, and finally snapped a 16-game goal drought with an overtime winner on Tuesday against the Rangers.

Meanwhile, Karlsson has been heating up. A two-time Norris Trophy winner in 2012 and 2015, the Senators defenseman has 13 points in his last 14 games. As of Wednesday morning, Karlsson was just five points behind Burns in scoring, with 15 goals and 53 assists for 68 points and a plus-seven rating.

There’s talk Karlsson could take home a third Norris, snatching it out of Burns’ grasp.

But, probably not.

In an anonymous poll among 21 PHWA members, most of whom get a vote for the Norris Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, Burns’ designation as the frontrunner seems fairly safe with just six games to go in the regular season.

Of the writers polled, including a broad swath from across North America, 14 told CSN they would likely vote for Burns as the league’s best defensemen if the season ended Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. Three were leaning towards Burns, while only four said they would give it to Karlsson.

One writer polled had Burns first, Tampa Bay’s Viktor Hedman second, and Karlsson third.

Of course, 21 votes is just a small sample size of the PHWA membership. Last season, 183 writers took part in voting for the Norris, according to the final tally. Burns finished third in voting, well behind winner Drew Doughty, while Karlsson was second.

Still, as long as Burns stays in front of Karlsson in the scoring race, it appears he remains in line to become the first Sharks defenseman ever to earn a Norris Trophy.

Vin Scully on Dodgers Opening Day: ‘I’ll probably have things to do’

Vin Scully on Dodgers Opening Day: ‘I’ll probably have things to do’

WASHINGTON -- On Monday, the Dodgers will play their first opening day since 1950 without Vin Scully calling their games. He won't be in the stands. He won't make a point of watching on TV, either.

"It's a day game. I'll probably have things to do," the famed 89-year-old announcer told The Associated Press from his home in Hidden Hills, California. "I might catch a piece of it."

Not that Scully has any regrets since retiring after last season. He says he's grateful for every minute he spent with the Dodgers, the franchise he joined 67 years ago in Brooklyn and followed to Los Angeles eight years later. He feels blessed to have worked as long as he did covering the game he fell in love with as a boy.

But he's learned that after a lifetime in the broadcast booth, watching a game as a fan holds little appeal.

"During the World Series back around '77 or '78, there was a game at Dodger Stadium with the Yankees, and I went to the game as a spectator. Now, I hadn't been as a spectator in a long, long time, and I felt somewhat restless that I wasn't broadcasting," Scully recalled Tuesday.

"I did not have the challenge of trying to describe, accurately and quickly, the way it should be done. I just sat there, and I was not happy, I'll be honest. So I realized that although I love the game, what I loved more was broadcasting it," he said.

Scully spoke to the AP because the Library of Congress has announced it will preserve his call of a 1957 game between the Dodgers and the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds, the final time they played at the hallowed old stadium. Both teams moved to California after that season, opening up the West Coast to Major League Baseball.

Scully's call of Sandy Koufax's 1965 perfect game is more famous. But that game at the Polo Grounds meant more to him personally, because he grew up going to games there, cheering for the Giants and dreaming of watching from the press box.

"It was so meaningful to me. I'm not sure what it really means to baseball fans anymore," Scully said. "The sands of time have washed over the Polo Grounds. But for me, it was one of the more memorable games I was ever involved in."

During that broadcast, Scully implored the players to take their time before there franchises left town: "Let's take it easy, we just want to take one last lingering look at both of you." The Library of Congress called it "a masterful example of the artistry that great sports announcers bring to their work, as well as their empathy for players and fans."

Six decades later, Scully is having an easier time letting go. So no plans to keep track Monday when Los Angeles plays the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium.

"All summer long, I expect to get feelings of nostalgia, wistfulness, whatever the word may be, but no, I am comfortable, I do know in my heart and soul I am where I should be, and that really is all I need," he said.

"Sure, after 67 years, you'll bet I'll miss it," he added. "But heck, I miss the guys I hung out with when I was in school."