For Leyland, the hard part is over

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For Leyland, the hard part is over

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hours before the scheduled start time of World Series Game 1, Tigers manager Jim Leyland took care of what he described as his most difficult task.

"I think the hardest part is meeting with the media," Leyland said. "I don't mean that disrespectfully. It takes a lot of time; you're answering a lot of questions."

The fact the Tigers' manager is more concerned about talking to a bunch of scribes than watching his team take the field after a routine-ruining five days off might be attributed to the fact he has the best pitcher in baseball on the mound, reigning American League Cy Young winner and MVP Justin Verlander.

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Verlander has been virtually un-hittable in the postseason. He's only allowed two earned runs in 24 13 innings and has won all three of his starts. If that's not reason enough for confidence, all Leyland has to do is look toward his corner infielders. Miguel Cabrera won MLB's first Triple Crown since 1967, and Prince Fielder has eclipsed 30 homers and 100 RBI in five of his last six seasons.

Knowing you have those guys on your side must make facing the media feel daunting in comparison to managing the actual game.

"We're blessed," Leyland admitted. "We have three superstars on our team."

Two of those three Leyland mentioned look more like WWE Superstars than baseball players. Cabrera is listed at 6'4" and 240 pounds, and Fielder is 5'11" and weighs in at 275 pounds. Call them the "Natural Disasters," because they resemble Earthquake and Typhoon when in the batters box and the on-deck circle.

Cabrera and Fielder, have mastered hitting almost as well as they've perfected the art of the celebratory handshake. The Giants will have to hope they don't give them a reason to show off their elaborate succession of hand slaps that precede a strange sprinkling motion before ending in a hug. Leyland says he hasn't quite figured out what his two sluggers are doing with it.

"They say I'm old school, I'm really not," he said. "I don't get into that whether it's our team or the other team. I kind of don't really look to be honest with you."

With all the attention payed the three superstars, as Leyland called them, it's the supporting cast that's getting it done. Tiger's DH Delmon Young is leading the team with eight postseason RBI. The way he's swinging it right now the Tigers can't afford to take him out of the lineup and that could hurt them. With Games One and Two being played at AT&T Park under NL rules, Young will have to play defense.

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Another weakness for Detroit could be their bullpen. Closer Jose Valverde has been demoted after allowing seven runs in his three postseason appearances. Leyland broke the news to him the only way he knows how.

"Honesty is the best policy," he said. "Tell it like it is."

Leyland will play the match-ups as he navigates late inning situations. Two of the first three spots in the Giants lineup feature switch hitters, but Marco Scutaro, Buster Posey, and Hunter Pence all bat right-handed. The five through eight spots in the Giants' lineup bat left-handed. That could make Leyland's decisions awfully easy.

Assuming Verlander allows a reliever to take the mound.

Durant questionable for Monday's game in Philadelphia

Durant questionable for Monday's game in Philadelphia

Kevin Durant's status for Monday's game in Philadelphia remains up in the air.

The Warriors forward, who missed his first game of the season on Saturday, is listed as questionable for the team's game against the 76ers.

Prior to the game against the Nets, head coach Steve Kerr told the media that Durant's left hand was "still a little swollen" and called the injury a "day-to-day" thing.

Without Durant, the Warriors still managed to cruise to a 112-95 win over Brooklyn.

Durant injured his left pinky in the opening minutes against the Clippers on Thursday. He remained in the game, but late in the first quarter, he retreated to the locker room with a member of the training staff.

He returned to the game after X-rays came back negative. He played 34 minutes and finished with 25 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

 

Three takeaways: Sharks stand up for Karlsson; avoiding the mumps

Three takeaways: Sharks stand up for Karlsson; avoiding the mumps

VANCOUVER – It was a successful first game coming out of the bye week for the Sharks, as they won going away against the Canucks at Rogers Arena on Saturday, 4-1. Here are our three takeaways from the evening in British Columbia…

1 – Slow start, strong finish

The league-wide trend of starting slow coming out of the NHL’s newly instituted bye week was on display in the first period, as the Sharks and Canucks played one of the uglier frames of NHL hockey you’ll ever see. San Jose was on its heels early, surrendering the first six shots of the game and looking particularly confused. They didn’t register a single hit in the period, either, which is hard to do.

The Sharks were lucky that Vancouver wasn’t much better, and that Martin Jones – whose performance we focused on in primary the game recap – was looking sharp and well rested.

The message after the scoreless first period, according to coach Pete DeBoer, was just to “try and get better.” That’s what happened.

“We knew it would be a little messy, and it was,” DeBoer said. “Jonesy thankfully was our best player, and gave us a chance to get our legs under us. I thought as the game wore on we got better and better. It wasn’t a pretty win, by any means.”

Chris Tierney said: “After the first 10 minutes [we] started to feel good and then kind of felt back to normal in the second there. It definitely took a little bit. Joner bailed us out in the beginning a couple times. I thought we started to get going in the second and third.”

2 – Standing up for Karlsson

Melker Karlsson was lucky to return in the third period after he took a heavy hit from Joseph Labate. Karlsson had to be helped to the dressing room after the blow, when his head violently snapped back as Labate ran him into the boards in front of the bench.

Micheal Haley pounced on Labate immediately after the incident, earning a two-minute minor that the team was probably happy to kill off. Labate, to his credit, answered the bell in the third period when he was challenged by and fought Brenden Dillon. The Sharks will face the Canucks three more times this season, including on Thursday, so a response to the hit was particularly necessary even if it was clean.

“That sends a good message to the team that everybody has each other’s back,” Mikkel Boedker said of Haley and Dillon’s efforts. “Those guys are real standup guys, and they’ve done it so many times. Every time they do it, it means something special to all of us.”

DeBoer said: “That’s a huge part of our team and our team identity. We’ve got a group that you’re not going to be able to push to of games, and I think we’ve shown that over the last two years here. You don’t even have to say anything, that’s just automatic.”

3 – Avoiding the mumps

Some eyebrows were raised in the press box midway through the game when the Canucks tweeted that defenseman Luca Sbisa would not return with the stomach flu. That’s one of the early warning signs of the mumps, meaning Sbisa could have exposed some Sharks to the virus, which is making its way through the Vancouver dressing room.

“What are you going to do? We’ve just got to cross our fingers and get outta here and hope that he didn’t rub up against anybody,” DeBoer said.

The Sharks coach said after the game that he thought “most of our guys” have had vaccinations, but “I believe there’s a couple that haven’t.”

After the virus invaded several NHL dressing rooms two seasons ago, the Sharks’ training staff will likely be on the lookout for symptoms when the team reconvenes on Monday. Hopefully, the outbreak will begin and end in Vancouver this time.

“Definitely, you want to make sure that you stay away from all that stuff,” Boedker said.