Pablo Sandoval makes history in Game 1 win...

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Pablo Sandoval makes history in Game 1 win...

From Comcast SportsNetSAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A roly-poly Kung Fu Panda outslugged the Triple Crown winner. An October outcast outpitched the Cy Young ace.With Pablo Sandoval and Barry Zito taking star turns, this World Series is off to a rollicking start.Sandoval hit three home runs and joined Reggie Jackson, Babe Ruth and Albert Pujols as the only boppers to do it in the Series, and the San Francisco Giants jolted Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers 8-3 on Wednesday night in Game 1."Man, I still can't believe it," Sandoval said.A boisterous AT&T Park crowd -- a sea of black and orange outfits -- roared as Sandoval connected in his first three at-bats. Popular in the Bay Area for his outgoing personality and unusual physique, he went 4 for 4 and drove in four runs. A Giant panda for sure.From the first pitch to last, it was basically a perfect game by the Giants. Coming off a Game 7 win over St. Louis on Monday night, they looked totally fresh."We played our last game only two days ago," Sandoval said. "We're still hot. We just came here and played our game."Verlander, the reigning Cy Young winner so dominant in this postseason, looked uncomfortable from the outset and constantly pawed at the mound.As fans filed out singing along with Tony Bennett's standard "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," the final score raised a nagging question for manager Jim Leyland and his favored Tigers: Did too much rest after a playoff sweep of the Yankees mean too much rust?"I just didn't execute tonight," Verlander said. "It was kind of a battle from the get-go. They took advantage of that and swung the bat pretty well, especially Pablo and (Marco) Scutaro. A couple of good bounces their way, bad for us."Game 2 is Thursday night, with Doug Fister starting for the Tigers against Madison Bumgarner.Left off the 2010 World Series roster by the champion Giants, Zito shut out the Tigers until Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera's RBI single in the sixth. The Giants won for the 14th straight time with Zito starting."Just the opportunity alone was mind-blowing. Me and my wife were dancing around when I heard," Zito said of getting the Game 1 start. "And then the boys came out swinging and played great defense."Sandoval did his damage with his bat. He donated the wood he used for the first two homers to the Hall of Fame -- no need for it anymore, he broke it on the backswing of his second shot.It was certainly a moment of retribution of Sandoval. He was benched during the 2010 World Series, his production and confidence down, his weight up. In the stands on this night, fans wearing furry panda hats celebrated with him."You have to keep working. I've never lost faith to be here," he said.Get this: It was the first three-homer game at the stadium originally known as Pac Bell Park since the very first one, when Kevin Elster did it for the Dodgers in 2000. Nope, not even home run king Barry Bonds had done this.Tagged by Sandoval for a solo shot in the first inning, Verlander could only mouth Wow!' when the Giants star launched a two-run drive in the third that set off another blast of fog horns. Sandoval reprised his power show from this year's All-Star game, when his bases-loaded triple highlighted a five-run first inning against Verlander.Quite a blast from a team that finished last in the majors in homers."We're not known for our power," manager Bruce Bochy noted.And if there was any doubt that Verlander was shaky, the clearest sign came in the fourth. That's when Zito, a career .099 hitter, sliced an RBI single with two outs off the current AL MVP for a 5-0 lead.The festive crowd stood and applauded when it was announced that Verlander was being pulled for a pinch hitter in the fifth. Sandoval gave his followers another reason to get up moments later when he hit a solo homer off reliever Al Alburquerque in the fifth, answering the cheers by waving his batting helmet in a curtain call.The Tigers seemed out of sorts in their first game following a five-day layoff. That was an issue in 2006, too, when Verlander and his teammates had nearly a week off before getting wiped out by the Cardinals."I'm one that's been around long enough to know that a lot of things happen in this game. This was a big-hyped game with Justin, probably a lot of pressure on him," Leyland said."But I don't think it had anything to do with the pressure. His fastball command was not good. He got out of sync. He got on fast forward. He just did not pitch well tonight. It's that simple," he said.Pujols homered three times last year, Jackson accomplished the feat in 1977 and Ruth did it in 1926 and again in 1928.For good measure, Sandoval lined a single his last time up."We were hoping for a water shot but he got a lousy single. Kind of killed the whole deal for us," Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt kidded.Sandoval is one of a record nine Venezuelans on the Series rosters, and his power performance attracted attention way beyond the ballpark."There goes the third! Pablo makes history," Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez tweeted in Spanish.Scutaro, the NL championship series MVP, twice hit RBI singles after doubles by Angel Pagan. NL batting champion Buster Posey contributed two hits, left fielder Gregor Blanco made diving catches to rob Cabrera and Prince Fielder, and Tim Lincecum came out of the bullpen to prevent further damage.The Giants kept getting good bounces, with Pagan hitting a double that hopped off the third-base bag. ALCS MVP Delmon Young, meanwhile, failed to run after a tapper in front of the plate that the Giants turned into a double play.Pitching in San Francisco for the first time since 2008, Verlander scuffed at the rubber while warming up for the first inning, pulled off his glove after badly overthrowing a curve and kept taking deep breaths. He hardly resembled the guy who was 3-0 with an 0.74 ERA in three playoff starts this year.Ever since two poor outings in the 2006 Series against St. Louis -- punctuated by two throwing errors -- Verlander has worked hard to harness his emotions and 100 mph heat in the early going.Verlander was trying to settle in when Sandoval tagged him, pouncing on an 0-2 fastball and lining it into the front row over the center-field wall.Verlander got into trouble again the third, and pitching coach Jeff Jones strolled to the mound when the count went to 2-0 on Sandoval. Verlander stared at Jones and shook his head. On the next pitch, Verlander could do little but watch the ball sail into the front row in left.To some, this looked somewhat similar to the 2010 Series opener. That day, the Giants beat up the supposedly unhittable Cliff Lee on their way to a five-game romp over Texas."Well, you know, it's hard to figure this game sometimes. You hear the old adage -- That's baseball.' These guys are human, and sometimes they're not quite on top of their game," Bochy said.This is how bad it got for the Tigers: Former closer Jose Valverde made his first appearance in 11 days. Leyland still isn't sure what he'll get from the struggling reliever.Lincecum, meanwhile, retired seven straight batters and struck out five of them. The two-time Cy Young winner has embraced his new role in the bullpen.Jhonny Peralta hit a two-run homer for the Tigers in the ninth off mop-up reliever George Kontos.NOTES:Tampa Bay's Desmond Jennings was the only other player this year to homer twice in a game off Verlander. ... Willie Mays and fellow Giants Hall of Famers Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry took part in the first-ball ceremony. ... Tigers great Al Kaline, now a team executive, watched Detroit take batting practice from behind the cage. ... The Game 1 winner has won eight of the last nine championships. ... Cabrera and Posey marked the first set of batting champs to face each other in the World Series since 1954 when it was Mays of the New York Giants and Bobby Avila of Cleveland. When Cabrera walked on a close full-count pitch, he playfully patted the Giants' All-Star catcher on his way to first base. ... Tigers bullpen catcher Jeff Kunkel wandered the stands well before the teams took the field for warmups, snapping pictures of the stadium and field with his cell phone. ... The Giants franchise played its 106th Series game -- they have won 50 -- trailing only the Yankees (225) and Cardinals (112). The Dodgers are fourth with 105.

Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

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Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

CHICAGO — John Lackey's night started with a leadoff homer. Ty Blach's night started with a 13-pitch battle. Neither one is a positive for a pitcher, but Blach didn't view it that way. He actually appreciated Ben Zobrist stretching him out.

"It's good to have a battle like that and get you locked in," Blach said. "It gets you focused and you'll be like, I can execute and get guys out. It's good. It's a good battle."

There, in a nutshell, is so much of what Bruce Bochy loves about his young left-hander. The Giants have found Blach's arm and resolve to be remarkably resilient. He wasn't bothered when they moved him to the bullpen and he didn't get too high when they moved him back to the rotation. He is the same after seven shutout innings or three poor ones. Bochy smiled when asked about the Zobrist at-bat, which ended in a strikeout looking. 

"How 'bout that?" the manager said. "He won that at-bat. It seems like the advantage goes to the hitter, seeing all those pitches. He kept his focus and got a called strikeout and here he is pitching in the eighth inning."

After needing 13 pitches for one out, Blach got the next 23 on 81 pitches. Bochy thought Blach tired a bit in the eighth, but the deep effort allowed Bochy to mix and match in the bullpen, and ultimately he found the right mix. Hunter Strickland and Mark Melancon closed it out and got Blach his second win.

--- From last night, Joe Panik's huge night helped give Blach an early lead. With the help of Ron Wotus and his shift charts, he also put on a show defensively.

--- We're trying something new right after the final pitch: Here are five quick takeaways from the 6-4 win.

--- The options game sent Kelby Tomlinson back to Triple-A on Wednesday when the Giants activated Melancon, but his latest stint in Sacramento comes with a twist. Tomlinson started his third consecutive game in center field on Monday. The Giants are getting a bit more serious about their longtime plan to make Tomlinson a super-utility player. 

“Tommy is a valuable guy in the majors and if we can give him some experience in the outfield, it gives you more flexibility and versatility,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

This is not Tomlinson’s first foray into the outfield. He did work there in the offseason after the 2015 season and he has played 25 big league innings in left field the last two seasons. This is Tomlinson’s first real experience with center field, and while in the past he has said that the transition isn’t as easy as some might think, Bochy is confident Tomlinson can figure it out. He certainly has the speed to be a semi-regular in the outfield, and the Giants aren’t exactly brimming with quality center field options behind Denard Span, who is dealing with his second injury of the season. 

“It’s a little different now,” Bochy said when asked about Tomlinson’s past experiences in the outfield. “He’s in Sacramento doing it, and knowing there’s a possibility we could need help in the outfield.”

If the switch doesn’t come in handy this season, it could in 2018. Bochy compared Tomlinson’s infield-outfield ability to Eduardo Nuñez, who has found regular playing time in left but is a free agent after the year. 

--- Hunter Pence did some light running in the outfield before Monday’s game. Bochy said Pence is still about a week away from being an option.

--- Bochy has said it a few times now when asked about the standings, so it’s officially a new motto for a team that got off to a brutal start: “We’ve put ourselves in a great situation for a great story.”

--- They're starting to get a little grumpy around here with their team hovering around .500. Perhaps the Cubs thought they could fool a few on the way out of Wrigley.

Agony still present, Kerr uncertain if he can coach Warriors in NBA Finals

Agony still present, Kerr uncertain if he can coach Warriors in NBA Finals

SAN ANTONIO -- Those following the Warriors and their effort to rage through the playoffs should put away those thoughts and hopes that Steve Kerr will return to full-time coaching later this week or sometime before the NBA Finals.

Forget about it, unless you know something he doesn’t.

And if you do, he wants to hear what you have to say.

Don’t get it wrong: Kerr wants to coach, would love to coach. That’s why, even as he feels like hell, he’s hanging around the team like a languid groupie. He wants to be with the Warriors in the heat of battle because they’re his team, within the culture he instilled, and he would like nothing more to get another chance to win The Finals.

But because the procedure he underwent more than two weeks ago at Duke Spine Center did not deliver the relief he’d hoped for, Kerr knows he’s not up to the task and, therefore, continues to operate as sort of a associate head coach to acting head coach Mike Brown.

“Mike is doing great,” Kerr told NBCSportsBayArea.com late Monday night, after the Warriors clinched a third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals with a 129-115 Game 4 win over the Spurs. “He’s such a wonderful human being. He’s so unselfish and team-oriented. I’m proud of him and the job he’s doing, along with the rest of the staff. I wish I could be out there with them. And maybe I will. I don’t know. We’ll see.

“He’s a great partner. And we’re in this together, obviously, but he’s got to make decisions with the staff without me. He’s done a great job of navigating the games. We’re undefeated, so he’s doing something right.”

Kerr can only help from the perimeter. The demands of the job require the coach be able to function at near-peak levels, particularly before and during a game, and he simply can’t. He knows there will be times, all too often, when the discomfort becomes unbearable to such a degree he hardly can think straight.

The agony is visible. The players see it. The staff sees it. Brown sees it, feels it and hears it. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is one of Kerr’s best friends -- as well as a good friend of Brown -- was able to see it during the Western Conference Finals.

“I've spoken with Steve and Mike; we're friends,” Popovich said two hours before Game 4. “We've known each other a long time. But as far as Steve's concerned, it's just a crap situation.

“You know, he's done a phenomenal job. And when you're going through that pain every day and that frustration of not being able to do what you want to do, it's hard to enjoy it at the fullest level. So I feel badly for him all the time but hopeful that stuff will get figured out.”

Nobody wants that more than Kerr, who has tried nearly everything any respectable specialist has recommended. So far, there has been no miracle.

So Kerr forges ahead, getting his Warriors fix by being around the group. By meeting with coaches and players. By meeting with general manager Bob Myers. Kerr was with the Warriors throughout their stay in San Antonio. He was at practices and shootarounds, sometimes on the floor and sometimes sitting in the stands observing from afar.

“I need to be around the guys,” he said. “I don’t want to miss this. Just being in the locker room, being able to talk to the guys means a lot to me. I’m thrilled for them. It’s fun to see how happy they are with three straight trips to The Finals. It’s pretty incredible.”

Kerr has been with the team for at least a few hours every day since May 10, less than a week after his procedure at Duke.

Kerr’s presence has been invaluable, both physically and psychologically, according to staff and players.

“Coach just empowers everybody,” Kevin Durant said. “His message is still the same. Even when he wasn't there in the Utah series, you could still feel his presence. That's what great leaders do.”

Participation, making himself feel useful, is one form of therapy that gives Kerr a semi-satisfying break from the misery.

“He watches film, and he watches the game,” Brown said. “So he gives his perspective from where he is. He gives insight on what we should be doing going forward, what he felt we could have done better, what we did that was good. So he just gives his input, mainly. He addresses the team every once in a while. He doesn't always do that, but he'll address the team from time to time.”

There was some belief that Kerr could return to full-time coaching within a week or so after the procedure, for which he declined to provide details. Warriors CEO Joe Lacob expressed hope Kerr might return “sooner rather than later.” Had it been as successful as Kerr and the doctors hoped, he would have.

That was May 5. Kerr announced he was stepping aside on April 23. As of Wednesday, he was been on leave for a full month.

Asked if he plans to travel during the NBA Finals, Kerr said he hopes so: “It’s like a month away,” he said, exaggerating the nine-day layoff.

He’d rather say with certainty that, yes, he will be accompanying the team because, after all, he’s the head coach.

And he will say that, the moment his body tells him it’s OK to do so.