Combat Sports

The Giants are in control of the World Series

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The Giants are in control of the World Series

From Comcast SportsNetSAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The Giants' extended family lingered on the field long after the final out, posing for pictures and savoring the win. Cars honked in the streets outside AT&T Park and fans celebrated in the bars.San Francisco is halfway to the World Series title, not all the way there. Yet, after two days of beneficial bounces and pivotal plays that went their way, the Giants and their supporters seem to think the team's second championship in three years is only a couple of days away."When things are going well," Marco Scutaro said, "things are bouncing your way."Madison Bumgarner pitched two-hit ball over seven innings, the Giants threw out a runner at the plate and then took advantage of a bunt that stayed fair to push across the go-ahead run in a 2-0 win over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday night that gave them a World Series edge."It's a lot less stressful for sure," Bumgarner said, "but at the same time I don't think we can stop pushing or we're going to find ourselves in the same spot we've been in in the last two series."And that would be on the brink of elimination.San Francisco lost its first two games against Cincinnati, then became the first baseball team to overcome an 0-2 deficit in a best-of-five series by winning three straight on the road. Then the Giants fell into 1-3 hole against St. Louis before rallying to reach the World Series."It's great to get off to a good start," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We don't, believe me, take anything for granted."As in, Gregor Blanco's bunt trickling to a stop inches fair on the infield dirt for a bases-loading, 45-foot single that set up Brandon Crawford's run-scoring double-play grounder in the seventh."I was joking with Roberto Kelly when I got to first base, We practiced that today,'" Blanco said, referring to the Giants' coach. "That was a perfect bunt. I wasn't really trying to do that. I think it was just meant to be."Hunter Pence, in a 1-for-7 Series slide, added a sacrifice fly in the eighth.That was enough for the Giants, given that San Francisco starters have allowed two runs in 33 innings over the last five games, a 0.55 ERA, with 30 strikeouts and six walks."It definitely feels a whole lot better than having our backs against the wall," Bumgarner said. "But you can't relax. We've got to keep pushing."Game 3 will be Saturday night in Detroit, which can't win the title at home. Midseason acquisition Anibal Sanchez starts for the Tigers and Ryan Vogelsong for San Francisco on a night when the temperature in the Motor City is expected to be in the low-to-mid 40s."We can't try to win three in one day," Prince Fielder said. "Or two for that matter."Fielder was thrown out at the plate in the second inning, and in the bottom half pitcher Doug Fister was struck on the right side of his head by Blanco's line drive, a ball hit so hard that it caromed into shallow center field."They asked me the typical concussion questions," Fister said. "I'm not concerned. I have a minor bump. According to my dad, my whole life his saying has always been if I got hit in the head I'd be OK. That's how I take it."The 6-foot-8 Fister managed to stay on the mound. Bumgarner more than matched him. Santiago Casilla pitched a perfect eighth and Sergio Romo worked a 1-2-3 ninth for a save."I don't know about baseball gods, but I'll tell you one thing: I hope the ball keeps bouncing our way," Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt said.Fielder was hit by a pitch starting the second, Delmon Young followed with a double and when the ball rattled around in left field, third-base coach Gene Lamont waved the beefy slugger home.Scutaro, in the middle of every big play for the Giants this month, dashed across the diamond, caught Blanco's relay and sent a strong throw to the plate. All-Star catcher Buster Posey made a swipe tag to Fielder's backside."Any time those kind of freak plays happen that don't go your way," Fielder said. "It takes away a little momentum but you've got to be aggressive. They made a perfect play."Bumped from the NLCS rotation after two poor postseason starts, Bumgarner struck out eight and looked as sharp as he did in the 2010 World Series when as a 21-year-old rookie he beat Texas in Game 4 with eight shutout innings."Just able to make pitches," Bumgarner said. "I hadn't done a very good job of making pitches this postseason so far and this is a team that you're not going to be able to afford to miss with."They hit some balls hard, but luckily we were in the right spot," he said.The game remained scoreless until the seventh, when Pence led off with a single, rookie reliever Drew Smyly walked Brandon Belt on a full-count pitch and Blanco's bunt loaded the bases with no outsDetroit kept its infield back up the middle, and had no play at the plate on Crawford's bouncer to second."We felt like we played double-play depth because we felt like we couldn't give them two runs. That's why we did that, and we got the double play," Leyland said. "To be honest with you, we were absolutely thrilled to come out of that inning with one run. Absolutely thrilled. I mean, we had to score anyway."Of the 52 teams to take a 2-0 lead in the World Series, 41 have gone on to win the title. That includes 14 of the last 15 teams with that advantage."I haven't done any studies on it," Affeldt said, "but statisically it's always better to be 2-0 than 1-1 or 0-2. I'm just guessing."NOTES:Bumgarner struck out Austin Jackson and Omar Infante to start the game. Two other Giants fanned the first two batters in a Series game: Christy Mathewson (1905) and Carl Hubbell (1933). ... Posey has a hit in all seven World Series games in his career.

What they’re saying: Congratulations to Andre Ward

What they’re saying: Congratulations to Andre Ward

Oakland's own Andre "Son of God" Ward is calling it a career at 32-0. And plenty of noteable teams and icons showed the champ respect on Thursday...

Gary Brown never recovered on the field from 2015 DFA: ‘Hurt me to my core’

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AP

Gary Brown never recovered on the field from 2015 DFA: ‘Hurt me to my core’

There was a time when Gary Brown was considered the Giants’ top prospect – their center fielder of the future. Hype was never higher than in 2011, when the fleet-footed 22-year-old set a franchise record with 188 hits in 131 games, earning California League Rookie of the Year honors with the San Jose Giants in his first full minor league campaign.

But six seasons and seven major league at-bats later, Brown’s professional baseball career ended at 28 years old.

“I feel like I let my emotions get the best of me in the years after that (2011 season),” Brown told NBC Sports Bay Area in an exclusive phone interview. “I think I started to believe the hype that everyone started to give to me.”

Brown never matched his magical .336-season in High-A ball with 14 home runs plus 53 stolen bases, and then struggled finding a routine with the rigors of the Pacific Coast League’s travel schedule once he reached Triple-A. Despite three hits in his seven at-bats as a September call-up with the Giants in 2014, Brown was designated for assignment on March 31, 2015.

Brown’s career spiraled playing the draining waiver game. Unsuccessful stints with the Cardinals and Angels sent Brown to the land of the last chance: Independent ball in the Atlantic League.

“It was not fun for me for quite a few years. I wasn’t a very happy person,” Brown said. “After I got DFA'd by the Giants, that really took a toll on me. I never really recovered from that, so I was kind of stuck in the past and things kind of just got away from me. 

“I was kind of heartbroken to be honest. I mean, it hurt me to my core.”

Through tumultuous career turns, the Southern California native never turned on the team that drafted him 24th overall in 2010.

“I'm thankful for the opportunity the Giants gave me. No matter how big or small mine was, I am very thankful” Brown said emphatically. “I definitely wish I could have shown what I feel like my true potential was, but it didn't work out that way. 

“I still root for the Giants. All my friends with the Giants, I'm still pulling for them. They run that organization so well. I have no ill intentions or anything bad to say about the Giants organization.” 

Far removed from his days with the Giants, Brown found new life with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in 2016. Brown batted .249 and returned to the team in 2017. He started strong with a .298 batting average in 31 games while having fun for the first time in years, but injuries struck at an inopportune time.

Chronic aches in his hip joints and intense back spasms, in addition to a frustrating lack of interest from MLB teams and the fact he and his wife had twins on the way, spurred Brown to retirement in the middle of the season on July 5.

“Retirement has nothing to do with the lack of competitiveness (of the Atlantic League). It was the distance and the time away, matching the minor league salary,” Brown said. “Going back to that makes it really hard on the family and when you get older it really becomes about what you value more.”

The player he once was is gone, but the person he is has only grown. There’s one piece of advice which goes beyond the diamond that Brown was sure to pass on to the next wave of future top Giants prospects.

“Never stop making adjustments,” Brown said ruefully.

Days away from turning 29 on Sept. 28 and out of baseball for the first time in his life, Brown is certainly making his own.

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Part 2 of our interview with Gary Brown focusing on where he is now in his life will be released Friday on NBCSportsBayArea.com.