Bullpen bails out Cain, sets tone for road trip


Bullpen bails out Cain, sets tone for road trip


SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants had lost three consecutive Matt Cain starts going into Sunday's game against the Houston Astros, shocking considering they won his previous nine. Two of those three losses came in the ninth inning, after Cain left in line for the win.

Was the Giants' starter nervous when he was pulled in the seventh inning with one out and runners at the corners?

"No, not at all," Cain said. "I'm not nervous when those guys come in at all. Those guys are going to pick us up most of the time, and they've done a great job of that all year with everybody."

Some would argue otherwise, as Santiago Casilla's last seven outing have yielded three saves and four blown.

"It seems like when stuff goes wrong it's when (Cain is) pitching," Jeremy Affeldt said. "So hopefully that will change in the second half.

"I felt like we went out there and did our job today."

He -- and the rest of the four-armed monster of Casilla, Affeldt, Javier Lopez, and Sergio Romo -- certainly did, successfully protecting Cain's one-run lead in the 3-2 series-sweeping win over Houston.

And it wasn't easy. They picked up for Cain in a precarious situation in the seventh inning.

"That was big," Cain said. "For those guys to be able to shut that inning down. Affeldt picked me up bigtime. First and third right there with one out. That was real big to keep the momentum on our side."

The fact that Affeldt recorded the two required outs for the hold on just two pitches gave the recently-wavering bullpen a required shot of confidence.

Astros manager Brad Mills pushed all his chips in during the seventh-inning rally that chased Cain.

Affeldt first faced pinch-hitter Brian Bixler, and dispatched him with one pitch, a 90-mph sinker that was caught in foul ground by Buster Posey. Then, Mills called on Saturday's star for the Astros, Justin Maxwell, to hit in place of starting pitcher Bud Norris. Maxwell's RBI double off Casilla Saturday helped force extras, but he didn't last more than a pitch against Affeldt Sunday, either.

Affeldt said his 91-mph four-seam fastball to Maxwell was supposed to be inside, but he felt it trail out over the plate right out of his hand, and felt fear when Maxwell sent it to right field. He credited AT&T Park for keeping that one on Nate Schierholtz's radar.

The most nerve-wracking of Astros rallies quashed, Affeldt, Romo, Lopez and Casilla combined for uncharacteristically stress-free eighth and ninth innings. The only Astro to reach base was Scott Moore, who Affeldt hit before giving way to Romo.

What makes the four-pronged attack so effective?

"Different angles, different pitching styles," Affeldt said of his group of potential closers.

With the most dominant -- and unique -- duo of left- and right-handed specialists in Lopez and Romo, a veteran lefty with heat and hook from the left in Affeldt, and one of the most electric "stuff guys" in the game in Casilla, he's right.

Despite Bochy acknowledging that he will continue to mix things up late in games, and the less-than-enthusiastic response Casilla's ninth-inning entrance drew from the AT&T Park crowd, the team was unwavering in their trust.

"Casilla's been so good for us all year," Buster Posey said. "We've got the most confidence in him."

Casilla rewarded that confidence by striking out Chris Johnson and coaxing a groundout from Marwin Gonzalez to end the game, secure the sweep and record his 23rd save of the season -- good for third in the N.L.

"He's had some pretty big shoes to fill," Affeldt said. "He's gone above and beyond. He's got a power arm and two good breaking balls."

And, maybe most importantly, a team of support. Affeldt was eager to explain how much the relievers help each other, not only as cheerleaders, but also as coaches, frequently pointing out aspects of each other's motions that could be improved.

While there may be some that shudder at the concept of deploying the closer by committee tactic, others -- like Matt Cain -- will not, as long as "those guys" get the job done.

No Indians first pitch for 'Wild Thing' in World Series


No Indians first pitch for 'Wild Thing' in World Series

CLEVELAND -- Wild Thing will have to stay in the bullpen during the World Series.

While actor Charlie Sheen, who played Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn in the movie "Major League" offered to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before one of this year's World Series games, Major League Baseball said the choices have already been made.

A spokesman told the AP on Friday that MLB has worked with the Indians to identify "former franchise greats" to throw out the first pitch for the games in Cleveland. An announcement is expected early next week.

The Indians host Games 1 and 2 on Tuesday and Wednesday. If necessary, Cleveland will host Games 6 and 7 on Nov. 1-2.

There had been a movement by fans on social media for Sheen to throw the first pitch and be part of the pregame festivities.

Sheen got wind of the buzz and responded on Twitter, posting a photo of himself as Vaughn in his Indians uniform and wrote, "Major League continues to be the gift that keeps on giving! if called upon, I'd be honored."

Sheen made an appearance during the playoffs at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday when the Chicago Cubs beat Los Angeles in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

Released in 1989, "Major League" is a fictional account of the Indians finishing in first place with an unconventional group of players including Vaughn, who struggled to find the strike zone and warmed up to "Wild Thing," a No. 1 hit song in 1966 by The Troggs.

The real Cleveland Indians, who overcame injuries to win the AL Central, before knocking off Boston and Toronto in the playoffs, took a page from "Major League" this season.

Slugger Mike Napoli and second baseman Jason Kipnis constructed a shrine in an empty clubhouse stall between their lockers like one in the movie. In the film, character Pedro Cerrano practices Voodoo and prays to an idol named, "Jobu" to help him hit curveballs.

Like Cerrano, Napoli and Kipnis have their own "Jobu" and have left gifts, including small bottles of rum and cigars, to keep them out of hitting slumps.

Cubs homer twice in win over Dodgers; tie NLCS 2-2


Cubs homer twice in win over Dodgers; tie NLCS 2-2


LOS ANGELES -- Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and the rest of the Chicago Cubs' bats broke out in a big way.

Rizzo homered and ended a postseason slump with three RBIs, Russell's two-run drive highlighted a four-run fourth that stopped Chicago's 21-inning scoreless streak, and the Cubs routed the Los Angeles Dodgers 10-2 on Wednesday to even the NL Championship Series at 2-all.

Kenta Maeda is set to pitch for the Dodgers in Game 5 on Thursday against Jon Lester. Before the game, manager Dave Roberts said he will not start Clayton Kershaw on short rest after the Los Angeles ace threw a bullpen session Wednesday.

Chicago ensured the NLCS will return to Wrigley Field for Game 6 Saturday.

To break out of his prolonged slump, Rizzo used teammate Matt Szczur's bat.

"I know Szczur's bat has a lot of hits in it," Rizzo said. "I've done it a few times this year, just switching up the bat, switching up the mindset."

Following consecutive shutout losses, the Cubs rapped out 13 hits on an 80-degree night with the warm Santa Ana winds fluttering the flags in center field.

Rizzo and Russell had three hits each. Chicago's 3-4-5 hitters - a combined 2 for 32 in the first three games - busted out. Every Cubs starter got at least one hit except Kris Bryant, who walked twice.

"Today was a must-win for us," Ben Zobrist said.

Los Angeles was limited to six hits and made four errors in a game that dragged on for 3 hours, 58 minutes.

Mike Montgomery won in relief of John Lackey, who was chased after consecutive walks opening the fifth. Four days shy of his 38th birthday, Lackey allowed two runs, three hits and three walks.

Julio Urias, at 20 years, 68 days the youngest postseason starting pitcher in major league history, gave up four runs and four hits in 3 2/3 innings. He was the third consecutive left-hander to start the series for Los Angeles.

Chicago rattled off three straight hits to open the fourth, sparked by Zobrist's leadoff bunt single to third.

"With the way that our bats were swinging it at the beginning of the game, we just had to do anything we could. That was my thought process," Zobrist said. "I felt like if he threw a strike, I could get one down in a good spot and was able to do it.

He took second on Javier Baez's single to left, and Willson Contreras followed with a single to nearly the same spot in shallow left, scoring Zobrist.

Baez moved up to third and Contreras took second on left fielder Andrew Toles' errant throw to the plate that skidded all the way to the backstop.

Jayson Heyward hit a run-scoring groundout, and Russell followed with his first extra-base hit since Sept. 30 and his first homer since Sept. 19. He jubilantly pumped an arm as he rounded the bases on his two-run drive, which put the Cubs ahead 4-0.

Rizzo homered off Pedro Baez leading off the fifth, snapping his 0-for-11 skid in the series. Rizzo had entered 2 for 26 in the postseason.

Los Angeles closed to 5-2 in the fifth. With the bases loaded and one out, Justin Turner's likely double-play grounder caromed off Montgomery's outstretched glove and Russell, who scrambled on all fours at shortstop as the ball went into left-center field for a two-run single.

Chicago tacked on five runs in the sixth off relievers Ross Stripling and Luis Avilan. Dexter Fowler singled in the first run, Rizzo added two more on a bases-loaded single and Javier Baez hit a sacrifice fly, with a second run scoring on an error by center fielder Joc Pederson.


Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was tagged out at home to end the second. A sliding Gonzalez stretched his left hand toward the tip of the plate as catcher Contreras applied the tag with his left hand near Gonzalez's upper left arm.

The Dodgers challenged Angel Hernandez's call, which was upheld on video review. That drew online scorn from Washington star Bryce Harper.

"He was safe! Replay system still broke..Same thing all year long! (hashtag)DontMessItUp," Harper tweeted.


Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully will attend Thursday's game, his first time back at Dodger Stadium since calling his last home game on Sept. 25. The 88-year-old ended his 67-year career this month with the regular-season finale at San Francisco.


Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. left in the seventh because of left hamstring tightness.


Ashton Kutcher and wife Mila Kunis announced the Dodgers' starting lineup. Also on hand were Rob Lowe, Charlie Sheen, George Lopez, Larry King and Mary Hart.


Lester allowed one run in six innings of Game 1 in the series, getting a no-decision in Chicago's 8-4 victory. ... Maeda has a 9.00 ERA in two postseason appearances. He allowed three runs and four hits in four innings of the NLCS opener and didn't factor in the decision.