Giants head East, looking to break slump vs. Bucs

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Giants head East, looking to break slump vs. Bucs

April 26, 2011

GIANTS (10-11) vs.
PITTSBURGH (10-12)
Coverage begins at 3:30 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The San Francisco Giants aren't hitting the ball well or getting the job done on the mound. The defending World Series champions hope an eastern swing can help them get back on track.

The Giants try to snap their season-high four-game losing streak Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates as they begin a 10-game trip.

NEWS: Giants 2011 stats

Mired in its longest skid since an 0-7 stretch from June 26-July 2, San Francisco (10-11) has plenty to fix as it opens this three-game set. Not only are the Giants batting .194 and averaging 2.8 runs during their losing streak, the team's starters - second in the NL last season with a 3.54 ERA - have a 7.71 ERA in the last four games.

San Francisco walked a season-high seven in Sunday's 9-6, 10-inning loss to Atlanta and surrendered 16 free passes in three games while getting swept in a rematch of last season's NL division series.

REWIND: Giants swept as Braves rally vs. Wilson in 10th

"We are walking way too many guys, there's no way around that," manager Bruce Bochy told the Giants' official website.

That hasn't been a major problem for Matt Cain (2-1, 3.42 ERA), who has 16 strikeouts and six walks in four starts. The right-hander, though, has plenty to improve Tuesday when he looks to bounce back from his worst outing of the season.

After allowing a combined three runs in his first three starts, Cain gave up six runs and nine hits in Wednesday's 10-2 loss at Colorado. He lasted just 4 2-3 innings and his ERA rose two full runs.

REWIND: Cain lit up in Colorado's 10-2 win

"(My stuff) was fine. Just definitely the big hit (a three-run homer) by (Ty) Wigginton kind of put a damper on things and put our guys in a big hole," Cain said. "That's not something I wanted to do."

Cain is 1-2 with a 3.72 ERA in seven starts against Pittsburgh.

He will face a Pirates team that took two of three from Washington to open its homestand. Brandon Wood, acquired off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels on Friday, had a two-run double in his Pirates debut and Paul Maholm struck out eight in seven innings to help Pittsburgh (10-12) win 4-2 on Monday.

NEWS: MLB standings

The Pirates will look for another strong start Tuesday when Charlie Morton (2-1, 3.33) gets a chance to rebound from a rough outing. The right-hander, who gave up four total earned runs in his first three starts, surrendered six and a career-high-tying 10 hits in Wednesday's 6-0 loss at Florida.

"They were just hitting my slider," Morton said. "It wasn't sinking."

Morton, who has 12 strikeouts and 15 walks this season, is 1-3 with a 3.96 ERA in four starts against the Giants.

Morton has allowed just one hit in nine matchups with Pablo Sandoval, but the Giants' third baseman could give him problems. After hitting just .268 with 13 homers in 2010, a slimmer Sandoval is batting .319 with five home runs - four in his last nine games - and 13 RBIs.

"Right now I feel great," he said. "I'm hitting the ball well right-handed. I'm just trying to be more patient at home plate. It's just one month."

He is a .344 hitter in 15 games against Pittsburgh.

Pirates second baseman Neil Walker, 5 for 8 in the last two games, scored four times and had four hits in 10 at-bats as Pittsburgh dropped two of three June 4-6 in the Giants' last visit to PNC Park. Walker has never faced Cain.

Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

SAN JOSE – The clock said there was seven minutes and 48 seconds remaining in the third period. It was frozen there for a bit after Patrick Marleau’s goal brought the Sharks back to within a single score of Edmonton.

Filled to capacity, the Shark Tank came to life, ravenous for the equalizer. The next several minutes offered a reminder of the team’s thrilling 2016 playoff run, when the Sharks finished just two wins away from a championship while taking their fans along for a ride they had never been on in a quarter-century.

But those seven minutes and 48 seconds quickly wound down, leaving the Sharks worlds away from what they did just a year ago. The Oilers held on for a 3-1 win, ending the Sharks’ season in a first round series that lasted six games.

Other than Game 4, a Sharks blowout victory, all the games were competitive.

“There were just a couple key moments in the series,” Joe Pavelski said.

In Game 6, the key moments that won the game for Edmonton came early in the second period. Justin Braun’s point shot was blocked leading to Leon Draisaitl’s goal to open the scoring, and Chris Tierney’s pass to Paul Martin at the point was just off the mark, allowing Anton Slepyshev to glide ahead untouched for another goal. The scores both came within the first two minutes of the middle frame, and were just 56 seconds apart.

That was probably poetic justice in that the Oilers were the much more aggressive and hungry team in the first period, they just weren't rewarded on the scoreboard.

Joe Thornton agreed with a suggestion that the Sharks were “a little bit sloppy” early, “but we got better. I thought we played a great second period and pushed in the third period. Just not enough time left on the clock.”

The Sharks did seem to get their game going just after Slepyshev’s score, but couldn’t solve Cam Talbot more than once. Pavelski nearly tied it with 3:45 to go, but his backhander from down low glanced off of both the crossbar and the post.

Key moments.

“It felt good coming off the stick, it really did,” Pavelski said of his chance. “It was there.”

Connor McDavid’s empty net goal with less than a second on the clock capped the scoring, sending the Oilers and former Sharks coach Todd McLellan on to the second round. 

Other than Game 4, which they dominated 7-0, the Sharks managed just seven goals in the other five games. Brent Burns failed to record a point in five of the six games, while Pavelski had just a single assist outside of Game 4.

The depth scorers also failed to come through, no surprise after the Sharks got little from them for much of the season.

“They defended well, Talbot played well. They were all close games,” Pete DeBoer said. “You’ve got to find a way to win 1-0, 2-1 in the playoffs. It’s not realistic you’re going to get three or four every night. They found a way to win more of the close games than we did.”

Burns said: “Series was pretty tight. I think it’s like Pavs said, it’s just little moments here and there. So much is luck, just puck luck, creating that luck. It’s a tight series, back and forth.”

The Sharks face an uncertain offseason, as there is little reason to believe their current roster, as constructed, will be able to compete with an Oilers team that has not only proven to be better now but is only going to improve. Whether Thornton and Marleau return remains an uncertainty, too.

“This is a big summer. We’ve got some guys that are up, and the expansion draft and whatnot,” Logan Couture said. 

“Every year I’ve been in this league, the team has never been the same the next year. There’s always been changes. Unfortunately, that’s the way that this league works. We’ll see what happens this summer, and come back hungrier next year.”

In the meantime, the Oilers will continue their push for a Stanley Cup while San Jose’s visit to the final round last year will only become more and more of a distant memory.

San Jose Sharks fans may have just witnessed the end of an era

San Jose Sharks fans may have just witnessed the end of an era

Melodrama demands that San Jose’s exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs be portrayed as the very likely end of the Joe Thornton/Patrick Marleau Era.

It probably won’t work that way, and probably shouldn't as will be explained further down your reading, but when you get shoved out of the postseason in your own building, melancholy is the order of the day. Even if the melancholy isn’t for any player in particular, but for an entire era.

Nobody will blame Saturday’s 3-1 loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference quarterfinal on bad luck (although Joe Pavelski going crossbar/post on the final power play of their season was close enough to it), or unjust officiating, or even lousy ice (though that was a fairly clear by-product for those who like their hockey a little less sticky). Edmonton took advantage of two critical Sharks errors 56 seconds apart in the second period, Oiler goaltender Cam Talbot cheated the gods multiple times when the Sharks weren’t vomiting up chances on their own, and young legs joined up with growing know-how to make this a just outcome.

But for Thornton and Marleau, a quick round of 30-on-1 interviews asking them if they thought their days in Finville Heights had finally come to an end were their mutual introduction to yet another unfulfilling offseason.

And a team whose core is among the league’s oldest was just exposed for that very flaw by a team that, in head coach Todd McLellan’s words, “Grew up, learned how to get into the playoffs, how to get a lead, how to play with it, and how to deal with a desperate team at the end of a game. Now we’ll see what they have to learn next.”

That learning will comes against the Anaheim Ducks, who are 15-0-3 in their last 18 games, including four straight against the Calgary Flames.

As for the rest of it, Edmonton earned its advancement without a big series, or even a single big game, from Connor McDavid. Rather, their difference makers were Talbot, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (whose work with Jordan Eberle and Milan Lucic against the Marleau-Thornton-Pavelski line was the defining matchup) Leon Draisaitl (after a rocky start), Oskar Klefbom (their best defenseman), Zack Kassian (who made the most of his 15 minutes of fame), and Drake Caggiula (whose promotion to the McDavid line at the expense of Patrick Maroon helped wake up Draisaitl).

Plus, McLellan finally got to deliver a rebuttal for his firing by the Sharks two years ago. He didn’t, of course, at least not where anyone could hear it, but the exploding fumigant of the 2015 season never sat right with him as the one who paid the full retail price. Now, with this result, he can let the NHL’s Stanley Cup media guide do the talking for him.

That, and having the team of the future, while San Jose is trying to sort out its past. This is a closing window, one which stayed open a very long time and actually pried itself back open a year ago for the run that took them to the Cup final, but it is now clear that they play at a pace the modern game has outrun. Thornton is still hugely important (he remained an impact player despite the leg injury that cost him Games 1 and 2), and there are no clear young replacements for the central group.

This is why all the melodramatic speculations about Thornton and Marleau in particular and perhaps the entire era ignore one central truth – there are not nearly enough replacements for a reboot, or even a course correction. They may be stuck as what they are – a group whose veterans are still their best players, playing a game that younger and faster players are likely to do better. The Pacific Division, being easily the thinnest of the four, may allow one more year of status quo, but while the day of reckoning has not yet arrived, the method is now clear.

And Edmonton, young, impetuous, sprightly and McLellanized Edmonton, has been the instrument of San Jose’s education.