...a Game 7 to determine the NL champion

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...a Game 7 to determine the NL champion

From Comcast SportsNetSAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Chris Carpenter walked off the mound, and the fans cheered him once again.Giants fans, that is.The orange towel-twirling crowd at AT&T Park saw San Francisco send the St. Louis star to an early exit in a 6-1 win Sunday night that forced the NL championship series to a decisive Game 7."The bottom line is," Carpenter said, "I'm not giving my team a chance to win."The Cardinals' longtime postseason ace came back from a complicated operation that removed a rib and two neck muscles just to get on the mound again this October for the reigning World Series champions. All of that success, though, has evaporated in his last two starts in San Francisco.Carpenter allowed five runs in four shaky innings -- identical to his loss earlier in Game 2. Not what the Cardinals had come to expect from him in the postseason, a resume that includes a Game 7 win in last year's World Series.And so the wild-card Cardinals were pushed to the brink of elimination once more. They're plenty familiar with that situation.Carpenter and St. Louis won the decisive Game 5 of the division series at Philadelphia last season, then the Cardinals overcame a 3-2 deficit in the World Series to beat Texas. They won the winner-take-all wild-card game at Atlanta this month and rallied in the ninth at Washington in Game 5 of the division series.Now they must do it again.Giants ace Matt Cain will take the mound for Game 7 in San Francisco on Monday night opposite Kyle Lohse in a rematch of a rain-delayed Game 3, which the Cardinals won in St. Louis. There's also a rare rainy forecast for San Francisco for the clincher."We've been in this spot before," second baseman Daniel Descalso said. "We're not going to be intimidated by it."If the Cardinals hope to return to the World Series, they'll need to find some stronger pitching and defense -- and fast.Not to mention a little offense, too.Allen Craig's two-out single in the sixth drove home Carlos Beltran for the Cardinals' only run against Ryan Vogelsong, who struck out a career-high nine in seven innings of four-hit ball. St. Louis had gone 15 innings without scoring after lefty Barry Zito and Co. held it scoreless in Game 5.Carpenter allowed six hits and three unearned runs, the same as he did in Game 2 at San Francisco, except he had only one strikeout in that outing. The 10 unearned runs allowed by the Cardinals over the series is the most in NLCS history, according to STATS LLC. Two teams have allowed nine.Talk about St. Louis blues."The one thing I know is these guys take these ones hard," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We've had a number of losses this season that felt like we've been kicked in the gut as we're walking off the field. And what I have admired about this club is they show up tomorrow the exact same guys that they showed up here today."They have no choice anymore.The only other time the Cardinals opened a 3-1 lead in the NLCS came in 1996, when they lost to the Atlanta Braves in seven games. San Francisco, which never faced an elimination game in winning the 2010 World Series title, is 5-0 when pushed to the edge this postseason.St. Louis has won its last six games when facing elimination. After taking a 3-1 lead before being held scoreless in Game 5 to force the series back to San Francisco, the Cardinals were hoping to avoid having to extend that streak.They Giants simply wouldn't let them.After Marco Scutaro drew a one-out walk in the first inning, Pablo Sandoval doubled over the head of Jon Jay as the center fielder got turned around fighting the sun and shadows during the twilight start. Scutaro scored on Buster Posey's groundout -- which third baseman David Freese bobbled on the exchange to eliminate any chance at a throw home -- to give the Giants a 1-0 lead.With Brandon Crawford trying to steal second on the pitch, Vogelsong chopped a ball that rookie shortstop Pete Kozma couldn't handle, allowing Brandon Belt to score in the second. Then Scutaro hit a two-run double to left and Sandoval singled on the 10th pitch against Carpenter to put the Giants ahead 5-0.Adding to the Cardinals' concerns is the status of one of their best hitters.Matt Carpenter replaced Matt Holliday in St. Louis' lineup when the left fielder was scratched about 45 minutes before first pitch because of lower back tightness, and Matheny said after the team will have to "wait to see" on Holliday's status for Game 7. Carpenter started at first base and batted second, Craig shifted from first to left field and Beltran slid back a spot to third while playing right field.With Vogelsong on the mound to pace San Francisco's scintillating start and Carpenter struggling again, Holliday's absence might not have mattered much."We've had some games where we stack on runs and then we go absolutely hitless almost, for a while, or anything of impact," Matheny said. "But at any day we know that our offense can pull out quite a bit of production. Hopefully it's (Monday)."

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies

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AP

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — On a day that started with controversy, Giants players called a meeting following batting practice. Perhaps they were talking about when and where to stretch. Perhaps a reminder was given to keep clubhouse complaints in the actual clubhouse. 

Or, perhaps, the players just decided that enough was enough. 

In a rare display, the Giants put a clean and complete game together. They beat the Rockies 9-2 at AT&T Park, getting just their second win since June 11 and snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Rockies. 

Jeff Samardzija continued his hot streak, the lineup was opportunistic and flashed some power, and the defense sparkled at times. Here are five things to know from the throwback night … 

—- Samardzija walked off to a standing ovation after throwing 112 pitches. He was charged with two earned in 6 1/3 innings. Ignore the record and ERA for a second — his FIP is 3.37 and his xFIP is 2.95. He really is having a very good and underrated season. 

—- Here’s another one for your Samardzija file: Over the past two months, he has 82 strikeouts and three walks. 

—- It was a good day in the race for another Brandon Crawford Gold Glove. Adeiny Hechavarria, one of the few in the National League who even approaches Crawford, was traded to the Rays. Crawford added to the reel by gunning a runner down on third and making a nifty spin-and-throw in the fourth to rob Ian Desmond of a hit. 

—- There are nights where Denard Span looks like a game-changer, and this was one of them. He had a single, walk and triple in his first three plate appearances, scoring twice as the Giants built a 5-0 lead. He was spry in center, too 

—- Nolan Arenado was 0 for 4. Apparently that’s legal now. (It was actually his ninth 0 for 4 or worse against the Giants, in 81 games.)

—- Bonus sixth fact since the Giants won a game: Sam Dyson, acquired basically for free, is the new setup man. That didn’t take long, and it probably won’t be changing anytime soon. Dyson gave up a single but struck out the other three batters he faced. 

Russell Westbrook wins NBA MVP; Rockets, Bucks take two awards

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AP

Russell Westbrook wins NBA MVP; Rockets, Bucks take two awards

NEW YORK — Russell Westbrook moved past Oscar Robertson and kept right on going to the top of the NBA.

Westbrook was voted MVP on Monday night after setting a record with 42 triple-doubles during his historic season. He led the league with 31.6 points and added 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game, joining Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double for the season and breaking Robertson's single-season record of 41 triple-doubles in 1961-62.

"I remember growing up just being home, playing the video games and stuff with my pops, and my mom sitting there and my brother and just talking about maybe one day I could be the MVP. Obviously I was joking at the time," Westbrook said.

"But now to be standing here with this trophy next to me is a true blessing, man, and it's an unbelievable feeling, something that I can never imagine."

Westbrook's victory ended the first NBA Awards show, which included two wins apiece for the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks.

He received 69 first-place votes and 888 points from a panel of 100 media members and a fan vote to easily beat Houston's James Harden, who had 22 first-place votes and 753 points. Kawhi Leonard was third with nine first-place votes and 500 points.

Westbrook succeeded Stephen Curry, who had won the past two MVP awards. The point guard who plays with defiance on the court got choked up during an acceptance speech in which he brought some teammates onto the stage with him.

The Thunder went 33-9 when he had a triple-double, riding Westbrook's record run into the playoffs in their first season after losing Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors.

"Oscar, guys like him, Magic Johnson, those guys, obviously I wasn't able to see those guys play, but just to look back at history and see the things that they did, it's something that I looked up to as a kid," Westbrook said.

"I never thought I would be able to say that I broke Oscar Robertson's record, and that's just a true blessing."

Earlier, Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon became the first player not picked in the first round to win NBA Rookie of the Year in the common draft era, beating out Philadelphia's Dario Saric and Joel Embiid.

Brogdon was the No. 36 overall selection out of Virginia. The common draft era began in 1966.

"I think it's an example for guys that are told they are too short, they are not athletic enough, they are not real point guards, they are not real shooting guards," Brogdon said. "I just think it's an important message for people to see, and it can be done. It just takes a lot."

Teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo won the Most Improved Player award.

Houston coach Mike D'Antoni won his second Coach of the Year award, and the Rockets' Eric Gordon was Sixth Man of the Year after setting a record for most 3-pointers off the bench in his first season as a reserve.

"Obviously I'm just proud of the team and the way they responded all year. Great organization," D'Antoni said of the Rockets' 55-win season.

"This is not an individual award. This is a lot of people, a lot of hard work goes into it, and I'm the recipient of some pretty good players."

In his first season coming off the bench, Gordon set a single-season record with 206 3-pointers by a reserve. He averaged 16.2 points to help fuel the Rockets' run to the surprising No. 3 seed in the Western Conference and edged former NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala of Golden State by 32 points.

Golden State's Draymond Green won the Defensive Player of the Year, ending Leonard's two-year run. Leading the league in steals from his do-everything role with the NBA champions. He had a franchise-record 10 steals in a Feb. 10 game at Memphis while recording the first triple-double in NBA history without scoring in double figures, adding 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

The NBA formerly gave out its individual awards at various points throughout the postseason before switching to the awards show this season and presenting them all at once in front of the league's top players and stars from the entertainment world.

Two of the best moments came during segments that didn't include the NBA's six individual awards.

Bill Russell was presented the first Lifetime Achievement award, welcomed on stage by fellow Hall of Fame centers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo. The 11-time champion as a player and the league's first black coach first pointed at them and joked that he would have kicked their butts, then told them: "You have no idea how much respect I have for you guys."

Former Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams was given the SagerStrong Award for the strength he showed after his wife was killed in a car crash in Oklahoma City. He was given a colorful jacket like the ones worn by Craig Sager, the longtime Turner Sports reporter who died of cancer this past season.