Cousins' big night not enough; Blazers top Kings


Cousins' big night not enough; Blazers top Kings


SACRAMENTO (AP) Nate McMillan thought the Portland Trail Blazers needed a wake-up call, so the coach made them watch their disappointing loss to Houston.This horror film definitely got to the Blazers.Wesley Matthews scored 11 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and Portland pulled away for a 107-102 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Blazers, who were coming off a 103-87 home loss against the Rockets and had dropped three of four overall. Andre Miller had 19 points, Nicolas Batum added 17 and Patty Mills finished with 14."I tortured them this morning by making them watch last night's game," McMillan said. "We showed them just what they looked like (against Houston)."
REWIND: Rockets beat Blazers 103-87
McMillan has used the tactic in the past, but Aldridge admitted it's typically a good motivator."I might have fell asleep (watching the film)," Aldridge joked. "Seriously, you don't want to see yourself looking that bad. We know defensively we looked bad against Houston. We really picked it up tonight."Rookie center DeMarcus Cousins had 28 points and 11 rebounds for the Kings, who have lost two straight and six of eight. Marcus Thornton scored 26 points, Beno Udrih added 13 and Jermaine Taylor and Jason Thompson each had 10."For the most part, this was an example of an experienced team jumping on mistakes at an opportune time that an inexperienced team made," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "We did a lot of good things, but we couldn't come away with a win."Portland put together a 7-0 run to take a 102-95 lead with 51 seconds left. Batum made a wide-open 3-pointer, Gerald Wallace dunked off an alley-oop pass from Matthews and Aldridge converted a long jumper during the surge.The Trail Blazers, who have won a season-high five consecutive road games, are one of a handful of teams fighting for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference."It's March and every game counts," said Batum, who had three of the Blazers' 11 steals. "We have 21 games remaining, so every game is a big one because the Western Conference is a tough place to play."Sacramento played its first game in Power Balance Pavilion but it's unclear how long the Kings will remain in their renamed home. The building had been called Arco Arena since the inaugural game on Nov. 8, 1988.On Tuesday, the Maloof ownership group received an extension from the NBA for filing an application for relocation next season, setting up a fight between California cities for the franchise. The Kings already are in talks with Anaheim, which is looking for an NBA team to share the Honda Center with the NHL's Ducks.RELATED: NBA extends relocation deadline for Kings
Sacramento drew its second sellout crowd of the season on Monday night, thanks to an organized effort by fans to launch a campaign to keep the team. But there were plenty of empty seats - attendance was 12,286 - against the Blazers as new reports painted an even grimmer picture of the team remaining in the city.Cousins helped the Kings pull within three points midway through the third quarter. But the Blazers built the lead to 79-73 heading into the fourth.Guard Brandon Roy, who had arthroscopic surgery on both knees in January, didn't play against the Kings because the Blazers have decided to rest him when they play on consecutive nights.Coming off consecutive losses where they had 83 and 87 points, the Blazers had plenty of offense early on against the Kings. Aldridge scored 16 points and Miller had 13 to lead Portland to the Blazers to a 61-53 halftime lead."Even though they have injuries and their star players have been injured, LaMarcus has done a great job of stepping up and filling in," Cousins said.NOTES: Rudy Fernandez, a key reserve for the Blazers, missed his second straight game with the flu. ... Kings F Francisco Garcia suited up for the game, but didn't play. Garcia has missed 21 straight games with a strained left calf, but may return for Saturday's game at Utah. ... Mills made 6 of 8 shots and his 14 points came in 14 minutes. ... The Kings have until April 18 to announce a move.

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge


A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

OAKLAND — Matt Olson is aware of the company he’s keeping in the A’s record books.

His reaction is a mix of reverence and a shrug-of-the-shoulders type humbleness.

That’s the personality of the A’s rookie first baseman. Even as the conversation about him and his awe-inspiring home run pace grows louder, he remains the same steady, grounded presence.

“I’m happy for him,” A’s hitting coach Darren Bush said. “The guy’s worked his butt off. He’s the same today as was when he first got called up.”

Olson cleared the fences once again Friday night, his two-run homer off Nick Martinez in the second inning helping the A’s to a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers. At this point, it’s much more newsworthy when Olson doesn’t homer than when he does.

He’s crammed 24 homers into just 57 games this season. Taking into account his first call-up last September, and Olson’s 24 homers over the first 68 games of his career are the second-most in the history of major league baseball over that span to open a career. The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger also hit 24 and only the White Sox’s Jose Abreu, with 25, hit more over his first 68.

Olson’s 13 homers in September are the most by any rookie in major league history for the month, and there’s still eight games left in it. But Olson’s hot streak dates back to Aug. 27. He’s hit a major league-best 16 homers in 23 games since then.

Among rookies in A’s history, only Mark McGwire (49) in 1987 and Jose Canseco (33) in 1986 have hit more than Olson’s 24. But neither Bash Brother, nor any other player in Oakland history, ever hit 15 homers in a 21-game span as Olson recently did.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Olson said before Friday’s game. “I grew up with a Mark McGwire poster on my wall. It’s a little surreal.”

Who saw this coming?

Olson went 2-for-21 without a single RBI in his first taste of the bigs last September. Then he shuttled five times between Triple-A and the majors this season before getting called up once again Aug. 8 and being told he’d get a shot as the A’s regular first baseman with Yonder Alonso having been traded. The constant shuttling took its toll, though Olson never let on about that publicly to reporters.

“You could see (the frustration),” said Ryan Christenson, his manager at Triple-A. “When he walks in and you tell him ‘You’re getting sent up,’ and he’s like, ‘Well, how many days is it for this time?’ He wouldn’t voice it necessarily, but you could sense it.”

Olson, with help from Bush and others, made an adjustment coming into this season. He began holding his hands out farther away from his body to begin his swing. With his 6-foot-5 frame, Olson had found himself getting jammed inside. Then in trying to adjust to that, he couldn’t square up pitches on the outer half.

“Now, his hands are firing from where he wants them to,” Bush said. “He doesn’t have to fight. You want your hands to have a clean path. Now he can stay in there, stay behind the ball, let his hands work for him.”

Olson, a 23-year-old from Lilburn, Ga., takes this sudden burst of success — and attention — in stride.

“I’ve been hit with so many stats here in the past week, I can’t even keep track of who’s done what, and honestly what I’ve done,” he said. “I kind of try to ignore all that.”

That’s OK. Others are taking plenty of notice.


As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent


As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent

LOS ANGELES — The Giants left their dugout quickly after Friday’s loss, escaping a celebration on the mound and a fireworks show in the sky. As Dodger Stadium shook with cheers, Bruce Bochy sat in the visiting clubhouse and smiled. He nodded at his laptop, which earlier had been used to pull up highlights of Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani. 

“He’s good,” Bochy said, laughing. “I absolutely would play him every day.”

Earlier in the week, when it became known that Bobby Evans and Jeremy Shelley were headed to Japan to scout Otani, Bochy said he couldn’t imagine a player pitching and then moving to the outfield between starts. What changed? 

Perhaps it was the tape Bochy saw. Otani throws 100 mph and hits homers with ease. Or perhaps it was the game he watched Friday. The Giants lost for the 94th time, with the big blow coming from a 22-year-old Dodgers star. Cody Bellinger’s blast was the difference in a 4-2 win, and the Giants don’t have a Bellinger, or anything close. Otani, 23, is a long shot for a team that very well could finish with the worst record in baseball. Still, he’s the kind of talent that could help pull the Giants closer in a hurry. He’s the  kind of talent they haven’t developed in years, and Bochy certainly sounded a bit wistful as he talked of the power Bellinger has put on display. 

“You call up a guy and he does that — that just doesn’t happen,” he said. “It’s a rare deal.”

The ninth inning of the Dodgers’ clincher reinforced that point for the Giants. They got a homer from Pablo Sandoval, but he’s playing only because Christian Arroyo — the Giants’ best prospect bet this year — is hurt. Ryder Jones, their 23-year-old prospect, struck out to end the night, dropping his average to .180. 

That set off a celebration for Bellinger and the Dodgers. They have won five straight NL West titles, with three of the last four clinched against the Giants. 

“Congrats to them,” Bochy said. “They’ve had a tremendous year across the board, and they’ve played great baseball. They brought some guys up that really did a great job for them. It’s well deserved.”

Bochy said it was not difficult to watch this one. The division has been wrapped up for months, with only a September slide keeping the Dodgers from clinching earlier. 

“We knew what we were facing here,” Bochy said. 

The Giants have two more against the Dodgers and then six more before a long winter. The Dodgers, on the other hand, will host an NLDS series here at Dodger Stadium. Both Bochy and starter Jeff Samardzija made the same observation, that the Dodgers will have a hard time cutting their deep roster down to 25 postseason players. 

That’s a nice problem to have. It’s a foreign one right now for the Giants, who have a serious talent gap and no clear solutions internally. It’s no wonder, then, that Bochy has all of a sudden become so intrigued by a wondrous talent overseas.