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.

Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

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USATSI

Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

CHICAGO — John Lackey's night started with a leadoff homer. Ty Blach's night started with a 13-pitch battle. Neither one is a positive for a pitcher, but Blach didn't view it that way. He actually appreciated Ben Zobrist stretching him out.

"It's good to have a battle like that and get you locked in," Blach said. "It gets you focused and you'll be like, I can execute and get guys out. It's good. It's a good battle."

There, in a nutshell, is so much of what Bruce Bochy loves about his young left-hander. The Giants have found Blach's arm and resolve to be remarkably resilient. He wasn't bothered when they moved him to the bullpen and he didn't get too high when they moved him back to the rotation. He is the same after seven shutout innings or three poor ones. Bochy smiled when asked about the Zobrist at-bat, which ended in a strikeout looking. 

"How 'bout that?" the manager said. "He won that at-bat. It seems like the advantage goes to the hitter, seeing all those pitches. He kept his focus and got a called strikeout and here he is pitching in the eighth inning."

After needing 13 pitches for one out, Blach got the next 23 on 81 pitches. Bochy thought Blach tired a bit in the eighth, but the deep effort allowed Bochy to mix and match in the bullpen, and ultimately he found the right mix. Hunter Strickland and Mark Melancon closed it out and got Blach his second win.

--- From last night, Joe Panik's huge night helped give Blach an early lead. With the help of Ron Wotus and his shift charts, he also put on a show defensively.

--- We're trying something new right after the final pitch: Here are five quick takeaways from the 6-4 win.

--- The options game sent Kelby Tomlinson back to Triple-A on Wednesday when the Giants activated Melancon, but his latest stint in Sacramento comes with a twist. Tomlinson started his third consecutive game in center field on Monday. The Giants are getting a bit more serious about their longtime plan to make Tomlinson a super-utility player. 

“Tommy is a valuable guy in the majors and if we can give him some experience in the outfield, it gives you more flexibility and versatility,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

This is not Tomlinson’s first foray into the outfield. He did work there in the offseason after the 2015 season and he has played 25 big league innings in left field the last two seasons. This is Tomlinson’s first real experience with center field, and while in the past he has said that the transition isn’t as easy as some might think, Bochy is confident Tomlinson can figure it out. He certainly has the speed to be a semi-regular in the outfield, and the Giants aren’t exactly brimming with quality center field options behind Denard Span, who is dealing with his second injury of the season. 

“It’s a little different now,” Bochy said when asked about Tomlinson’s past experiences in the outfield. “He’s in Sacramento doing it, and knowing there’s a possibility we could need help in the outfield.”

If the switch doesn’t come in handy this season, it could in 2018. Bochy compared Tomlinson’s infield-outfield ability to Eduardo Nuñez, who has found regular playing time in left but is a free agent after the year. 

--- Hunter Pence did some light running in the outfield before Monday’s game. Bochy said Pence is still about a week away from being an option.

--- Bochy has said it a few times now when asked about the standings, so it’s officially a new motto for a team that got off to a brutal start: “We’ve put ourselves in a great situation for a great story.”

--- They're starting to get a little grumpy around here with their team hovering around .500. Perhaps the Cubs thought they could fool a few on the way out of Wrigley.

Agony still present, Kerr uncertain if he can coach Warriors in NBA Finals

Agony still present, Kerr uncertain if he can coach Warriors in NBA Finals

SAN ANTONIO -- Those following the Warriors and their effort to rage through the playoffs should put away those thoughts and hopes that Steve Kerr will return to full-time coaching later this week or sometime before the NBA Finals.

Forget about it, unless you know something he doesn’t.

And if you do, he wants to hear what you have to say.

Don’t get it wrong: Kerr wants to coach, would love to coach. That’s why, even as he feels like hell, he’s hanging around the team like a languid groupie. He wants to be with the Warriors in the heat of battle because they’re his team, within the culture he instilled, and he would like nothing more to get another chance to win The Finals.

But because the procedure he underwent more than two weeks ago at Duke Spine Center did not deliver the relief he’d hoped for, Kerr knows he’s not up to the task and, therefore, continues to operate as sort of a associate head coach to acting head coach Mike Brown.

“Mike is doing great,” Kerr told NBCSportsBayArea.com late Monday night, after the Warriors clinched a third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals with a 129-115 Game 4 win over the Spurs. “He’s such a wonderful human being. He’s so unselfish and team-oriented. I’m proud of him and the job he’s doing, along with the rest of the staff. I wish I could be out there with them. And maybe I will. I don’t know. We’ll see.

“He’s a great partner. And we’re in this together, obviously, but he’s got to make decisions with the staff without me. He’s done a great job of navigating the games. We’re undefeated, so he’s doing something right.”

Kerr can only help from the perimeter. The demands of the job require the coach be able to function at near-peak levels, particularly before and during a game, and he simply can’t. He knows there will be times, all too often, when the discomfort becomes unbearable to such a degree he hardly can think straight.

The agony is visible. The players see it. The staff sees it. Brown sees it, feels it and hears it. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is one of Kerr’s best friends -- as well as a good friend of Brown -- was able to see it during the Western Conference Finals.

“I've spoken with Steve and Mike; we're friends,” Popovich said two hours before Game 4. “We've known each other a long time. But as far as Steve's concerned, it's just a crap situation.

“You know, he's done a phenomenal job. And when you're going through that pain every day and that frustration of not being able to do what you want to do, it's hard to enjoy it at the fullest level. So I feel badly for him all the time but hopeful that stuff will get figured out.”

Nobody wants that more than Kerr, who has tried nearly everything any respectable specialist has recommended. So far, there has been no miracle.

So Kerr forges ahead, getting his Warriors fix by being around the group. By meeting with coaches and players. By meeting with general manager Bob Myers. Kerr was with the Warriors throughout their stay in San Antonio. He was at practices and shootarounds, sometimes on the floor and sometimes sitting in the stands observing from afar.

“I need to be around the guys,” he said. “I don’t want to miss this. Just being in the locker room, being able to talk to the guys means a lot to me. I’m thrilled for them. It’s fun to see how happy they are with three straight trips to The Finals. It’s pretty incredible.”

Kerr has been with the team for at least a few hours every day since May 10, less than a week after his procedure at Duke.

Kerr’s presence has been invaluable, both physically and psychologically, according to staff and players.

“Coach just empowers everybody,” Kevin Durant said. “His message is still the same. Even when he wasn't there in the Utah series, you could still feel his presence. That's what great leaders do.”

Participation, making himself feel useful, is one form of therapy that gives Kerr a semi-satisfying break from the misery.

“He watches film, and he watches the game,” Brown said. “So he gives his perspective from where he is. He gives insight on what we should be doing going forward, what he felt we could have done better, what we did that was good. So he just gives his input, mainly. He addresses the team every once in a while. He doesn't always do that, but he'll address the team from time to time.”

There was some belief that Kerr could return to full-time coaching within a week or so after the procedure, for which he declined to provide details. Warriors CEO Joe Lacob expressed hope Kerr might return “sooner rather than later.” Had it been as successful as Kerr and the doctors hoped, he would have.

That was May 5. Kerr announced he was stepping aside on April 23. As of Wednesday, he was been on leave for a full month.

Asked if he plans to travel during the NBA Finals, Kerr said he hopes so: “It’s like a month away,” he said, exaggerating the nine-day layoff.

He’d rather say with certainty that, yes, he will be accompanying the team because, after all, he’s the head coach.

And he will say that, the moment his body tells him it’s OK to do so.