Broken-bat hit haunts Cardinals, completes collapse

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Broken-bat hit haunts Cardinals, completes collapse

SAN FRANCISCO Bruce Bochy had Matt Cain. As the longesttenured Giant on the playoff roster and the owner of the franchises firstperfect game, who better to start Game 7? Mike Matheny had Kyle Lohse. While Lohse doesnt have Cains pedigree, he puttogether the best regular season of his 12-year career in 2012 and helped theCardinals escape from a one-game playoff with the Atlanta Braves. And headinginto Mondays game at AT&T Park, Lohse had allowed two earned runs in 12.2innings over two starts in the NLDS and NLCS. Many San Francisco hitters felt they let Lohse off the hookin Game 3, when he picked up the win by outdueling Cain, despite five walks. InGame 7, the Giants got Lohse to bite back on the hook early, reeled him in and didnot catch and release.The Giants filleted Lohse for five runs in two innings. The Cardinals34-year-old right-hander threw 46 pitches and just two of them were swungthrough. I got myself in trouble early and theres no room for errorin a game like this, Lohse said in a solemn St. Louis clubhouse after thegame.Lohse started the third inning but headed back to thevisitors dugout with his head down without recording an out in that fatefulframe. With the Giants already up 2-0 after scoring a run in each of the firsttwo innings, NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro led off the third with his second single ofthe evening and his 13th hit of the series. With his Game 7performance, Scutaro became just the second player in baseball history to havea 20-game regular season hitting streak and a 10-game postseason hitting streakin the same season, joining Mike Piazza. Lohse explained what makes Scutarosuch a tough out.Do you want to get technical? Hes shortening up and not trying to do toomuch. Guys like that, for me, are the toughest outs. You give me a guy thatsswinging for the fences Ill get him out every time. But a guy that isntafraid to shoot the ball to righthes just a tough out. You cant fool himwith offspeed because hes not trying to pull it. We just couldnt find a wayto get him out in key situations.Scutaro advanced to third when Pablo Sandoval went the opposite way for adouble and Buster Posey followed with a walk to load the bases. Matheny hadseen enough from Lohse and decided to hand the ball over to Joe Kelly to faceHunter Pence with no outs and nowhere to put him. He did a very nice job all through this run of answering the bell and reallyhaving great composure for a young pitcher, Matheny said of the 24-year-old right-handerhe trusted to keep the Cardinals in the game.Pence, who struck out in his first at-bat of Game 7 to fall to 3-for-24 in theNLCS, cleared the bases with a bizarre base hit. Pence swung at Kellys firstoffering, a 95 MPH two-seam fastball that cracked his bat. The broken barrel thenhit the ball two more times as Pence completed his swing and it led to aknuckling grounder that shook St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma. Once the ball gotpast Kozma, it entered a no-mans land between Matt Holliday in left and JonJay in center. Both outfielders approached the ball timidly before Jaymisplayed it to allow a slow-footed Posey to score all the way from first.I didnt know what happened until I went back and looked atreplays, Kelly said. I thought I was just going to get a jam shot to theshortstop and all the sudden I was like Oh, that was weird and it looked likeit was a wiffle ball out there or something.Kozma, who wasnt charged with an error on the play butcommitted one later in the game, provided his perspective.The read I got, it was going towards the hole. I thought itcame around it. The ball was like a little banana and went up the middle. Theball kind of peeled like he sliced it. I just reacted to the ball and had achance at it Ive never seen anything like that.Matheny didnt throw Kelly or Kozma under the bus after the game.Joe Kelly came in, especially as a young pitcher, and did aterrific job getting the ball on the ground. As the ball left the bat I thoughtthat was our double play.Kozmas been a tremendous shortstop for us that ball was very unusual theway it came off the bat.While Matheny wouldnt play the blame game, he didnt downplay the importanceof that sequence either.That is a turning point in the game. Youre looking at apotential double play. We may be able to get out of that inning where its a3-0 game. And that was really what we were hoping for, to get that ground ball.And it was just one that had a lot more spin than what they usually have. Andit was a tough play.The Cardinals nightmare inning was just getting started, however. A BrandonBelt infield single and a Gregor Blanco walk re-loaded the bases for BrandonCrawford. On a routine ground ball to short, Kozma ignored the sure out atfirst for a chance to prevent Pence from scoring. The throw was too late,however, and the Giants suddenly had a 6-0 lead still with no outs in theinning. First base was probably my better play, Kozma said. Onething leads to another. We just keep giving extra outs and theyre going toscore more runs, get more chances.Angel Pagan made it a five-run inning with an RBI fielderschoice and the Cardinals never recovered against Cain or Bochys bullpen.Mattt Cain pitched great for them and they played better baseball tonight,Carlos Beltran said. We made a lot of mistakes and the didnt make any.For the Giants to win three straight games to complete theirsecond straight playoff series comeback, it took a Cardinal collapse as much asa San Francisco surge. St. Louis was 1-for-21 with runners in scoring positionover the final three games.You have short runs like this sometimes; its a tough game, Matheny said.And its about the team that was hot, and we went on a cold streak.The cold streak certainly contributed to the Giantsadvancing to their second Fall Classic in the last three years, but that didntstop the Cardinals from giving credit where credit is due.The Giants, theyre a helluva team; and theyve showed it,obviously, two series in a row, said David Freese, the 2011 NLCS and WorldSeries MVP. It stinks, obviously, not getting to the World Series, but werevery proud of what we accomplished this year.The Giants can appreciate what the Cardinals accomplished as well. The fewplayers remaining from the 2010 team know better than anyone else how hard itis to repeat as World Series champions.

GMs have taken all the fun out of Trade Deadline day

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USATSI

GMs have taken all the fun out of Trade Deadline day

The NHL trade deadline came and went Monday night when the Washington Capitals went chips-in on St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

(For the record, the actual details of the trade are so absurdly complicated that all you will be permitted to know here is that the Caps got Shattenkirk).

But the fact is that, yet again, all the air rushed out of Wednesday’s trade deadline balloon for the hockey media, and the poor sods on set to babysit all the deal-lets and non-deals will weep bitterly as their phones spit out hour after hour of non-information.

At least that’s the way it is playing now. Maybe Pittsburgh will finally close that long-rumored (well, by me, anyway) Sidney Crosby-for-Phil Di Giuseppe deal, but that’s not the way to bet.

But the trade deadline has been slowly but surely dying as general managers find far greater advantage in making their deals away from the time crunch and the persistent phone calls from other general manager, agents and worst of all, media weasels.

For example, the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans broke the NBA trade deadline as well as the All-Star Game by doing the DeMarcus Cousins deal four days early and midway through the first half, in that order.

And though this wasn’t actually a trade, the Golden State Warriors broke the market back in July by maneuvering their way for the prize of the summer – Zaza Pachulia.

Oh, and the other guy.

In short, the general managers seem to have figured out the simplest way to foil the pressures of the trade deadline – by ignoring the deadline and acting ahead of time, creating their own spoiler alerts by spoiling everyone’s fun before they were fully alerted.

And that leaves the rest of us faced with an empty day of blather after we’ve all gone to the trouble of doubling down on beer and chips.

Ultimately the idea behind the coverage of a trade is to break the news of the trade whenever it happens. And the idea of the trade from the general manager’s view is to better the team and minimize the chance of being fired.

All laudable goals, by and large.

But a trade deadline without some recognizable trades is just another day when you can’t fake working, and who needs that?

What’s needed here then is a trade deadline with teeth and real tangible punishments for everyone involved. I mean, we have chips and guacamole to think of.

For instance, there is no reason why the leagues couldn’t install rules that say that no trade can be announced even to any of the principals (players, agents, medioids, et. al.) except on the day of the deadline. Any teams involved in a deal that breaks the embargo is fined a massive amount of the owners’ (as in both teams’ owners) money.

To make this work, the teams would have to agree no trade could be made between, say, Thanksgiving and the deadline. Or Christmas, depending on how you feel about tryptophan overdosing. But the point is, nothing could get done until the agreed-upon deadline, and it could only be announced to anyone on the day of the deadline.

This is profoundly unfair to the players, of course, but that little issue has never bothered management before when the alternative was money.

It is also not much fun for the media, which has to twiddle its opposables floating rumors that can’t be proven or disproven except on that one day when everyone works from midnight to midnight, wired to the eyelids on six-buck coffee and enough green tea to turn a gall bladder into a souvenir ash tray.

No, this is about making a worthwhile and ironclad trade deadline for the good of the sport, and the business.

Okay, this is about our amusement.

We all like trade deadlines. It gives order to the market, and it centers everyone’s focus on one hyper-adrenalized day to watch out for double-, triple- and quadruple-crosses from general managers wanting to jump each others’ action in search of their own personal Shattenkirks.

It spikes Verizon stock, it makes lots of business for movers and real estate vultures, it provides cheap and disposable fame for about two-thirds of the players in the league, and it makes everyone involved look like twitchy red-eyed zombies on television.

It beats the Bachelorette every time, because among other things it looks a lot more like parents do when they’ve been up all day and night with the colic farms.

In short, a trade deadline is a precious thing not to be discarded just because it’s inconvenient for a few suits and about-to-be-moved employees.

So yeah, Kevin Shattenkirk could have held another day or so. You know, for the good of the game.

 

Curry blames weatherman for career-worst 0-for-11 from 3-point range

Curry blames weatherman for career-worst 0-for-11 from 3-point range

In the wake of a 119-108 Warriors win over the 76ers Monday night in Philadelphia, Stephen Curry had a ready explanation for his 0-of-11 shooting 3-point distance.

He didn’t properly account for the change in weather.

“The weatherman said it’s like a low-pressure system that was coming in (and) I forgot to adjust to the thickness of the air,” he told reporters at Wells Fargo Center.

Curry’s comment may open to interpretation, but it was clear his sense of humor remained intact even after a career-worst shooting night beyond the arc.

He wasn’t the only Warrior finding it difficult to score from deep. Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green combined to go 5-of-20. The Warriors were 6-of-29 from deep, their second-lowest total of the season.

“It’s weird,” he said. “Not to discredit anything they did. The first half we had a lot of open looks that didn’t go in. Klay made a couple down the stretch. KD made one. Draymond made one from the corner.

“Other than that we still took really good shots that didn’t go in. But for us to still have moxie to withstand that and still pretty much have the lead the whole game and allow our defense to get us a win tonight was kind of our M.O.”

Given that Curry owns the single-game record for triples (13) as well as the single-season record (402), it was most alarming that he couldn’t find at least one. And he had opportunities.

“It happens but you have to try and find other ways to impact the game,” he said. “I was trying to get to the paint a little bit more and just try to make plays. One thing is I don’t get down on myself. Obviously, that’s why I got 11 of them up. I still have confidence the next one is going in and that will stay the same tomorrow.”

The Warriors face the Wizards Tuesday in Washington. In Curry’s last appearance at the Verizon Center, last Feb. 3, he went for 51 points. He was 11-of-15 from deep.

“What I love about Steph is he went 0-11 tonight from three but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at his face,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He never loses confidence; he never hangs his head. It is a sign of a guy with ultimate confidence in his ability and the awareness that it is one of those nights.

“He is likely to come out tomorrow and make about seven in a row at some point. So that’s what I love about Steph. He keeps playing.”