The Giants can't seem to win at home

914973.jpg

The Giants can't seem to win at home

From Comcast SportsNetSAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The San Francisco Giants are showing how little home-field advantage matters in the baseball playoffs.Madison Bumgarner allowed two homers and got knocked out early for the second time this postseason and the Giants once again got off to a bad start to a series at home, losing Game 1 of the NL championship series 6-4 to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night."We hate to lose them at home. But it happens," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We've got to wash this one off and come out and be ready to go tomorrow."The Giants have lost all three home games so far this postseason, with Bumgarner taking the defeat in two of them. They managed to overcome that in the first round against Cincinnati by becoming the first team ever to win the final three games of a best-of-five series on the road.But if San Francisco is to make it back to the World Series for a second time in three years, the team must win at AT&T Park at least once this series against the wild-card Cardinals.Game 2 will be Monday night with San Francisco's Ryan Vogelsong taking on St. Louis' Chris Carpenter.Playing at home has usually been a big advantage for the Giants, who excel with the nightly sellouts and spacious dimensions that help the pitching staff. San Francisco had a 48-33 record at AT&T Park during the regular season and won five of seven postseason home games on the way to the World Series title two years ago.That hasn't been the case this October as the Giants have been outscored 20-6 in the three home games. The common theme so far has been subpar starting pitching with Bumgarner the main culprit. After going 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA as a rookie in the postseason two years ago, Bumgarner hasn't made it through five innings in either start this year."You have to try to find a way, which I wasn't able to do," Bumgarner said. "You just have to keep battling, keep trying to find a way to get the ball where it's supposed to go."Bumgarner looked in good form at the start, needing just 11 pitches to get through a perfect first inning. But nothing was easy after that.Yadier Molina lined a single on an 0-2 pitch with one out in the second. David Freese then drove a 3-2 pitch over the wall in left-center to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.Bumgarner then couldn't make it out of the fourth. Daniel Descalso doubled and scored on Pete Kozma's double. Jon Jay added a two-out RBI single and Beltran ended Bumgarner's night with the homer. That marked the first time all year that Bumgarner allowed two homers in a home game and gave him an 11.25 ERA in the postseason."I haven't had a lot of life on the ball," Bumgarner said. "In cases where your stuff might not be as sharp you have to try to find a way to get it where it's supposed to go. I'm just missing over the plate a little bit."Even a strong night from Tim Lincecum and the bullpen couldn't overcome Bumgarner's rough outing. Five Giants relievers combined for 5 1-3 hitless innings with Lincecum throwing two.The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner had been demoted to the bullpen so far in the playoffs after a rough regular season. He has allowed just one run in 8 1-3 innings so far and gives Bochy an option if he decides not to give the struggling Bumgarner another start.No Giants starter has made it through the sixth inning so far this postseason."If we avoid bumps early I feel like we'll be all right," Lincecum said. "It's not ideal when our starters do what they're doing right now."The Giants bats woke up in the fourth inning when RBI hits by Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford and a two-run triple by Gregor Blanco cut the deficit to 6-4. The rally ended when second baseman Daniel Descalso made a diving stop of Angel Pagan's grounder up the middle with runners on first and third."He made a great play," Pagan said. "You have to give him credit. I just did my best. He threw a very nice sinker down in the zone that I put in play. I was just hoping it would go through so we could get a run at least."But they managed only two hits in 5 1-3 innings against the Cardinals bullpen and find themselves in a 1-0 series hole.

Once a Sharks pest, Hansen excited to join his new teammates

hockey-generic.jpg

Once a Sharks pest, Hansen excited to join his new teammates

When Jannik Hansen walks into the Sharks’ dressing room he’ll see a very familiar face in Mikkel Boedker, as the two Denmark natives have known each other since they were kids.

He’ll also see a whole slew of players that he’s battled with for the better part of a decade while playing in the Pacific Division for the Canucks since the 2007-08 season. That includes Brenden Dillon, who fought the gritty Hansen to a draw on March 7, 2015.

Of course, that’s just part of the business in the NHL, and there won’t be any hard feelings. Those battles with Dillon and the other Sharks veterans didn’t prevent Hansen from putting the Sharks on the list of eight teams that he was reportedly willing to join.

“A lot of the stuff that happens on the ice, you step off the ice and it’s bygones,” Hansen said on a conference call Wednesday morning. “Obviously it’s always weird to walk into a dressing room and [for] the first time you shake hands with a guy that you fought with, but it’s almost normal, I think.”

The drive to win a Stanley Cup far outweighs any awkward feelings of joining a longtime rival. The Sharks have that chance, while the Canucks are seemingly beginning a rebuild. Hansen, who turns 31 late this month, was ready to move on.

“That was a big thing for me, going to a team that has the opportunity [to win],” Hansen said. “San Jose obviously has that. That being said, I also have a lot of knowledge of the team playing against them for a lot of years. I feel like I have a pretty good sense as to how they play.”

On Tuesday night a few Sharks players, including Dillon, spoke about how Hansen is a pest to play against. He’ll finish his checks, try to get underneath the other team’s skin, isn’t afraid to stick his nose in the middle of a post-whistle scrum, and can contribute offensively, too. Hansen has experience playing with Daniel and Henrik Sedin on Vancouver’s top line, and was frequently in the top six.

He’s the type of player whose value tends to increase in the postseason.

“Everything intensifies once playoff roll around,” Hansen said. “Every inch is so important, and you fight for everything. I think that’s just how I’ve always played. It’s how I’ve found that I’m most successful. If I’m not successful, that’s one of the first areas that I tend to look at, is probably not doing the things I’m supposed to. It’s definitely a part of my game, and something you try to bring on a nightly basis.”

Although he’s played just 28 games this season with 13 points (6g, 7a), battling through rib and knee injuries, Hansen had been in Vancouver’s lineup for the past three-and-a-half weeks before he was held out on Tuesday for precautionary reasons.

“I feel like it’s turning a corner here now and have played for almost a month,” he said.

Hansen revealed he will not be available to skate against the Canucks on Thursday at SAP Center due to the paperwork required to work in the United States for the first time, so his debut will have to wait until Sunday in Minnesota, at the earliest.

He’s now in a position, though, to play much later into the spring than had he remained in Vancouver.

“It’s been cut short a little bit, my season here, so to say,” Hansen said. “Hopefully I get to extend it quite a bit now.”

Durant injury leaves Warriors just like everybody else

Durant injury leaves Warriors just like everybody else

And with that, the Golden State Warriors are now just like everybody else.
 
Let that rattle around your head for awhile. Just. Like. Everybody. Else.
 
The Warriors haven’t been like everybody else for three years now, but with Kevin Durant’s knee going from worrisome to catastrophic in a matter of hours, they are exactly like everybody else now. They don’t get to walk on a floor and make people look forward to the next game any more.
 
They are now one of a select number of very good teams, with San Antonio and Houston and Cleveland and Boston and Washington and maybe one or two others. That will last apparently for six to eight weeks, give or take a week for reckless diagnosis or medical setbacks, while Durant heals from his collision with Zaza Pachulia in the second minute of the team’s loss at Washington, and that could mean anything from the end of the regular season to the first and second round of the playoffs.
 
In other words, it could mean an amazing triumph or a crash-and-burn, or anything inbetween. This is the unknown, right upside the head.
 
And since it is unlikely that the Warriors will go full fetal, we are about to see the level of their competitive character – in success or failure, in June or May.
 
We have seen it before, mind you. In 2013, when they broke through the zinc ceiling, we saw how they could play defense after decades of claiming it was against California law. In 2014, when they learned how hard it is to be a good team. In 2015, when they applied it to become one of the best teams in NBA history (because 83 wins in 103 games and a parade don’t lie). In 2016, when they won more regular season games than anyone else and came within five horrific minutes at the end of Game 7 of the Finals to repeating.
 
All these were lessons learned, good and bad. They deserved what they got, whether it was glory or gall, and they went to school on it all.
 
So now, without Durant for an undetermined yet worrisome amount of time, they will demonstrate how they apply all this knowledge, and how they learn to do without Durant what they did with him.
 
Only now they lose the margin of error that Durant gave them. While most of the other contenders shopped earnestly for four months looking to strengthen here and tweak there, the Warriors had a full pantry and didn’t shop at all. Their big acquisition is Matt Barnes, who they frantically signed Tuesday night to replace Durant.
 
In short, they have a four-game lead on San Antonio for the top seed in the West, but they spotted the field four months of roster improvements.
 
Now they can ill afford the stretches of shooting misery like the one Stephen Curry is currently enduring. Now they can ill afford Draymond Green speaking his mind so freely to people who take away games. They need health and purpose and an understanding that the turning-it-on-and-off thing they can do is no longer applicable to their situation.
 
They are not doomed, not by any means. Only a fool would claim otherwise, and fools come shrink-wrapped by the gross at Costco.
 
But they are now as San Antonio would be without Kawhi Leonard, or Houston without James Harden, or Cleveland without (and we’ll give you your choice here) LeBron James or Kyrie Irving, or Boston without Isaiah Thomas, or Washington without Bradley Beal AND John Wall, though not worse off than Toronto without DeMar DeRozan, since Kyle Lowry is already gone until the playoffs after wrist surgery.
 
They are Just Like Everybody Else. Well, Everybody Else Who Matters This Time Of Year. There is a parade up for grabs again, and lots of hands are reaching for it – rather than just the two hands we know best.