Giants Insider notes: Sparkplug Torres is back


Giants Insider notes: Sparkplug Torres is back

May 10, 2011

Our MLB Insider takes a look at the Giants' 4-3 win over the visiting Diamondbacks on Wednesday in the second game of a three-game series at AT&T Park in San Francisco.Torrid Torres: Activated from the disabled list Tuesday after being out since April 10 with a strained Achilles tendon, center fielder and leadoff man Andres Torres has been every bit the sparkplug since his return as he was in 2010. On the heels of going 1-for-3 with a walk and a fine defensive play in his first game back, Torres on Wednesday went 2-for-3 with a walk and drove in the winning run with a two-out double that bounced into the stands beyond the wall in center in the bottom of the seventh inning to extend San Francisco's winning streak to a season-high five games. The Giants, who moved into first place in the National League West by 12 game in front of their 14th consecutive sellout crowd (out of 14 home games), have won seven of their past eight games and improved to 11-3 in one-run games; no team in the bigs has played as many such games or posted a higher winning percentage (.786) in them.
RECAP: Torres lifts Giants past D'backs to fifth straight win
Tejada breaks through: Having gone since April 15 without a multi-hit game, Miguel Tejada ended that drought by playing a key role in two of the Giants' three run-scoring rallies. His two-out single in the fourth put the hosts on the scoreboard for the first time, and he doubled and scored in front of Torres' tie-breaking double in the seventh. Moved to third base when Pablo Sandoval went down with a broken bone in his right hand last month, also turned in a pair of stellar defensive plays at the hot corner, and he capped his big night with a single up the middle in the eighth. Johnny be bad: Having walked 15 batters in his previous 15 innings in addition to making at least three mental errors in his past two starts, Giants left-hander Jonathan Sanchez was called for a heart-to-heart talk with manager Bruce Bochy last Friday. Anyone hoping for a storybook turnaround in the wake of the skull session had to be sorely disappointed when Sanchez gave up a double to the first batter he faced Wednesday and walked the next, leading to an early 1-0 lead for Arizona. Sanchez gave up two hits, a stolen base and another run in the second, and Henry Blanco's fourth-inning home run made it 3-0.Johnny be good: As frustrating as it can be to watch Sanchez struggle, the Giants will give him second, third, fourth and probably 12th chances to right himself because his stuff is that good. Few pitchers in the game can "underperform" -- relative to their talent level -- and give their team a shot at winning that day's game, but Sanchez does it all the time. On April 30 in Washington, D.C., for instance, he walked six, gave up two hits and hit two batters over five innings but didn't allow an earned run and the Giants went on to a 2-1 victory. On Wednesday, Sanchez wasn't nearly as erratic as he was against the Nationals, but he wasn't great by any stretch, either. Still, he managed to cobble -- wobble? -- together a quality start and gave the Giants time to mount their comeback. When it really counts: Aubrey Huff, whose fourth homer of the year pulled the Giants into a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the fifth inning, is starting to climb out of the deep statistical hole he dug for himself in April, but a closer look at the numbers show that he's been at his best in the team's most important games -- against NL West foes. Batting .138 (8-for-58) with two doubles, one home run and three RBIs in 16 games thus far against the NL East and Central, Huff has touched up intradivision opponents to the tune of a .271 batting average with six doubles, three homers and 14 RBIs in 18 games.Mound presence: Lefty Barry Zito threw off a mound for the first time since spraining a ligament in his right foot at Arizona on April 16, and afterward he said there was no pain at all in his injured "landing foot" during the 35-pitch session. Zito said he's scheduled to throw off a mound again Friday and likely will have to get through that and another such session or two before starting a rehab assignment in the minors leagues. All-Star surprises: The ballots for this year's Midsummer Classic in Phoenix aren't exactly reflective of what's actually happened with the Giants thus far this season. In fact, it appears as though the folks who put it together simply based their selection of candidates on the Opening Day lineup. Aubrey Huff is listed as an outfielder, Miguel Tejada is among the shortstops, Brandon Belt is there to be voted in as a first baseman and Cody Ross, who opened the season on the disabled list, isn't on the ballot at all. At least pretend you put some thought into it, MLB. Make a call. Bag the beard: The Giants' in-game entertainment is so good -- the candid interviews in which players good-naturedly dog various teammates are classic -- that when they swing and miss, it stands out like well, like a really bad beard. The "Beard-Cam" has to go. It's unsteady and unfunny, unless you thrill to the sight of what appears to be a drunk, unkempt ravenrat hybrid flying from one face to another. There has to be a better way to pay homage to closer Brian Wilson, who improved to 3-0 with seven saves and a 0.00 ERA over his past 10 appearances when he shrugged off a two-on, nobody-out situation in the ninth to lock down his 12th save of the season.

Kings' Cousins: 'Only goal this season' is to make playoffs

Kings' Cousins: 'Only goal this season' is to make playoffs

With their 109-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night, the Sacramento Kings sit 10 games under .500 at 17-27. In almost any other season, that would mean that they were dead in the water in the Western Conference playoff race. But this it the 2016-17 season where anything is possible at the bottom.

Following Sacramento’s win at the Palace at Auburn Hills, DeMarcus Cousins was asked about the playoff picture.

“It’s my only goal this season,” Cousins told reporters following the game. “My only goal.” 

When pushed on the subject, he gave a more complete answer.

“Oh man, it’s eating me alive - every loss or every time another team wins that’s battling for the eighth spot, it’s eating me alive,” Cousins added. “Our only goal is to be in the playoffs this season.”

The Kings snapped a five-game losing streak with the win over the Pistons and they came into the evening just 2-10 over their previous 12 games. 

Once they get through their current eight game road trip, they spend the entire month of February in the Pacific time zone and play 11 over their next 13 games at Golden 1 Center.  

“The one thing I can give credit to this team about is us staying together and being a positive locker room through the ups and downs,” Cousins said. “I’m still confident and I still believe we’re going to make that push for the playoffs.”

Despite the rough patch, the Kings remain just a game and a half out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings. No one is running away with that last playoff spot, at least not yet.


Lawson, bench unit spark Kings' much-needed win over Pistons

Lawson, bench unit spark Kings' much-needed win over Pistons

Everyone must contribute. With Rudy Gay gone for the season, Sacramento needs a team effort each night out if they are going to have a chance of turning things around. Balancing the roster on the fly is never easy, but it’s the hand that the Kings were dealt when their second leading scorer tore his Achilles last week.

Needing a win in the worst way, the Kings walked into the Palace at Auburn Hills and came away with a huge 109-104 victory. Demarcus Cousins put up numbers, but it was the supporting cast that found a way to rise to the occasion and snap the team’s five-game losing streak.

“We’re going to need everybody on this team,” Cousins told reporters following the game. “At some point, everyone on the bench is going to win a game for us. Tonight, it was Ty (Lawson), it was Willie (Cauley-Stein) and it was Malachi (Richardson).”

Lawson was a magician with the ball. He entered the game with the Kings down just one with 3:36 remaining in the first quarter, but the Pistons caught fire around that time and pushed the lead to 11 with 20 seconds remaining in the quarter.

It looked like Sacramento might fall behind big once again, but then Lawson and the bench unit took over.

“Ty Lawson, Malachi Richardson and Willie Cauley-Stein had a great energy when we were down 11 in the first half,” Joerger told reporters. “Obviously, probably the best Willie’s played all year. Same for Malachi. He got some run, he got a little burn in the second half, felt pretty good.”

Powered by Lawson, the offense instantly opened up in the second quarter as the Kings tracked down the Pistons on their home floor. Sacramento outscored Detroit 37-24 in the frame to take a three point lead into the intermission. Lawson posted nine points and handed out four assists in the quarter.

“When our offense gets sticky, he’s able to create shots for guys by getting kickouts and getting in the lane,” Joerger said.

The 5-foot-11 point guard didn’t let up in the second half, finishing the night with 19 points and six assists in 23 minutes of action.  

“Chico just goes and plays, man, that’s Chico,” Cousins said of Lawson. “If there’s anyone with a green light to just go and play, it’s him. We love what he does with this team. He’s a spark off the bench for us. He gets us going when there’s a slump. We love the little guy.”

Lawson has become a catalyst off the bench for coach Jeorger. The 29-year-old speedster signed a one-year deal with the Kings late in the offseason and he’s quickly found his niche with the team.

“You play with Ty, you can’t help by want to run, because he will pitch it to you and that’s the best motivation - everybody wants to score,” said Joerger.

Cousins and Lawson didn’t do it alone. Cauley-Stein had one of his games of the season, finishing the night with 12 points and five rebounds. Darren Collison added 12 points, Garrett Temple chipped in 11 points and veteran Matt Barnes added 10 points and eight rebounds.  

“It’s a big, bounce back win,” Cousins said. “We were kind of heartbroken about the last lost. We felt we did everything needed to pull a win and it just didn’t go that way for us. We kind of showed our character and showed we could overcome some type of adversity with the win tonight.”

The Kings are back at it on Wednesday in Cleveland when they hit game four of their season-long eight-game road trip. They’ll face LeBron James and the championship Cavs for the second time this month.  

“It’s huge, we had a little stretch where we lost like eight of nine games, something like that,” Lawson told CSN’s Kayte Christensen following the game. “Getting a win going into Cleveland, it makes us feel a little bit better. Now we’ve got to go in and get a tough one.”

A tough one indeed. Cleveland sits at 31-13 on the season, but they are coming off back-to-back losses against the Spurs and Pelicans.