Peyton Manning loses one of his key weapons

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Peyton Manning loses one of his key weapons

From Comcast SportsNetENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- The lockers of the running backs who might take Willis McGahee's spot in the Broncos lineup are conveniently lined up, four in a row.Lance Ball. Knowshon Moreno. Jeremiah Johnson. Ronnie Hillman.Barring an unlikely free agent signing, some combination of those four will be asked to fill in for the foreseeable future for Denver's leading rusher, McGahee, who tore a ligament in his right knee and will be out for what's expected to be a six-to-eight week stint."We've all got to step up and do our part," Hillman said. "Anyone can be an option."Coach John Fox said McGahee's injury, suffered in the second quarter of Denver's 30-23 victory over San Diego on Sunday, will not require surgery and that the Broncos had no immediate plans to put the 10th-year veteran on injured reserve. Asked about reports that McGahee had also fractured his leg, Fox said, "I don't want to get into too much of the exacts, other than he will not be on IR."By not putting him on injured reserve, the Broncos, at 7-3 and with a three-game lead in the AFC West, could be thinking about a playoff-time return for their leading rusher, who has 731 yards this year and was having one of his best games of the season -- 55 yards on seven carries -- before the injury Sunday.In the meantime, they must find a fill-in for McGahee, who was more reliable than explosive and spearheaded a 19th-ranked running game that's averaging 105.3 per contest. Unlike last season, when Tim Tebow was at the helm, the running game is more complimentary than integral to an offense now run by Peyton Manning.McGahee has built his career on adjusting to circumstances.Back in 2003, he was finishing his college career at Miami and was considered among the very top prospects. But in the Fiesta Bowl, he tore all the ligaments in his left knee. After multiple surgeries, McGahee fell to 23rd in the draft, and even then, he sat out his first NFL season while rehabilitating the knee.From there, he opened his career with three 1,000-yard seasons over his first four years. He went on to surpass 8,000 yards over a sturdy decade at a position where careers are often cut short. The Broncos are his third NFL team and he is ranked first among active players with 33 100-yard games."His leadership. Power running. You talk about a guy who gets you the tough yards. Those are things we're definitely going to miss," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "But there's a good young group behind him."Listed behind McGahee on last week's depth chart was Hillman, the NFL's youngest player at 21 years, 2 months, 5 days old. He's a third-round draft pick out of San Diego State who ran for 1,711 yards for the Aztecs last season and has slowly been getting more playing time with the Broncos as he has picked up the intricacies of NFL pass protection.At 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, he looks more like a so-called "change-of-pace" back, though offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said earlier this season that the Broncos hadn't slotted Hillman solely for that. Hillman said he could carry the ball 20 or more times if asked."If it happens, it happens. If not, I'll just come in and play my role," he said.The next candidate is Ball, a fourth-year veteran out of Maryland, who has been a dependable backup and special teams player but is still looking for his first NFL start. Shuttling in and out with Hillman after McGahee went down against the Chargers, Ball's biggest play of the day came when he slid over to block an oncoming Chargers linebacker, allowing Manning time to throw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker.Ball's biggest rushing game came last year at Kansas City -- where the Broncos play next -- when he ran 30 times for 96 yards after both McGahee and Moreno went out with injuries."I think we all have each other's back," Ball said. "If Ronnie needs to come out or if he feels like I need to step in for him, I think we keep it rolling. I think that's our mentality, is we keep the ball rolling."Moreno, the team's 2009 first-round draft pick, recovered from a torn knee ligament in that game at Kansas City last year and was expected to get playing time in 2012. He hasn't been on the active roster, however, since losing a fumble in Week 2 against Atlanta."That was weeks ago. I'm not thinking about that," Moreno said. "All I'm thinking about now is now, and doing the things I need to do to get on the field."Johnson, meanwhile, has been on Denver's practice squad all season -- a demotion of sorts after playing in eight games last season, rushing 14 times for 77 yards."That just gives you more of an attitude to go out there and work a little bit harder and show your teammates and the coaches that you're willing to do anything for that team," he said. "That's what I've been trying to display to my guys, and hopefully they've taken to it."Fox didn't rule out bringing running backs in for a look this week, though signing one would mean finding a roster spot for him. At least at this point, moving McGahee to IR didn't sound like a possibility."Right now, we feel really good about the guys we have," Fox said. "They've trained in our system. It's pretty extensive."Notes: Fox said CB Omar Bolden's (concussion) status would be evaluated day-to-day. ... LB D.J. Williams played 21 snaps in his return and made four tackles. "He had a couple of errors. Just like everybody, he's not perfect," Fox said. "I thought, all in all, he had a very good performance."

Melancon wastes Blach's gem, Giants fall to Padres in 12 on Myers' homer

Melancon wastes Blach's gem, Giants fall to Padres in 12 on Myers' homer

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- Wil Myers hit a three-run homer in the top of the 12th inning to send the San Diego Padres past the San Francisco Giants 5-2 on Sunday.

Myers' seventh home run and second in two games came on a 1-0 fastball from reliever George Kontos (0-2). Cory Spangenberg singled against Kontos leading off the inning, and Erick Aybar singled two batters later.

Hector Sanchez, who played parts of five seasons with the Giants, had a pinch-hit, two-run homer off San Francisco closer Mark Melancon in the ninth to send the game to extra innings.

Sanchez turned on a 1-1 cut fastball over the heart of the plate for his first home run of the season and third career pinch-hit homer.

It was Melancon's second blown save in seven chances.

Sanchez represented the tying run after shortstop Eduardo Nunez booted Luis Sardinas' leadoff grounder for an error.

Ryan Buchter (2-1) pitched two shutout innings for the Padres. Jose Torres worked a scoreless 12th for his first save.

Melancon's flop followed a full meltdown by the Giants' bullpen Saturday, when the Padres tagged San Francisco relievers for 11 runs in three innings of a 12-4 win that included Myers' three-run homer.

Giants starter Ty Blach pitched seven innings of three-hit ball, retiring 10 of his last 11 batters in his second start for San Francisco since taking injured ace Madison Bumgarner's spot in the rotation. Bumgarner is expected to miss three months with a separated left (pitching) shoulder he sustained in a dirt-bike crash.

The Giants, who were hitting a league-worst .217 against lefties going into Sunday, took a 2-0 lead against southpaw Clayton Richard, who pitched 5 1/3 innings of six-hit ball.

Joe Panik, who was hit by a pitch leading off the fourth, scored on Blach's sacrifice fly. Michael Morse doubled in Hunter Pence in the fifth.

The Padres have won 12 of 16 games against the Giants dating to last season.

San Francisco (9-17) has the National League's worst record and is 39-59 since going into last year's All-Star break 24 games over .500 with the best record in the majors.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Padres: RHP Jarred Cosart, on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, tentatively plans to pitch for Class A Lake Elsinore on a rehab assignment Tuesday, manager Andy Green said. Cosart will throw three innings or about 45-50 pitches.

Giants: RHP Neil Ramirez was designated for assignment and the Giants called up RHP Bryan Morris from Triple-A Sacramento. . CF Denard Span, on the disabled list with a right shoulder injury, tentatively plans to take batting practice in Los Angeles on Monday.

UP NEXT:
Padres: After an off day, RHP Trevor Cahill (1-2, 4.50 ERA) will pitch the home series opener against Colorado on Tuesday. Cahill is 5-6 with a 4.44 ERA in his career against the Rockies.

Giants: RHP Johnny Cueto (3-1, 5.10) starts the series opener against the Dodgers in Los Angeles on Monday. The two-time All-Star gave up three runs in six innings vs. the Dodgers last week and was 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA against them last season.

A's have their work cut out as they welcome back Sonny, Rajai

A's have their work cut out as they welcome back Sonny, Rajai

HOUSTON — If the A’s eventually want to return to the American League West mountaintop, they got a good look at the team they’ll have to conquer.

The Astros boast one of the majors’ most talented and athletic rosters, with enough of a youthful core to suggest they’ll be battling for division supremacy for years to come. They took two of three from Oakland at Minute Maid Park, capped by Sunday’s 7-2 decision in which left-hander Dallas Keuchel held the A’s to just three hits over 7 2/3 innings.

The loss ended a season-opening stretch in which the A’s played 22 of their first 25 against AL West foes. They saw every team in the division at least once, going 9-13 in that stretch and 11-14 overall for the month of April.

It’s tough to glean too much from one month of play, but the Astros (16-9) so far are living up to the hype that stems from several notable offseason additions they made. They hold a three-game lead over the second-place Los Angeles Angels, with Oakland and Texas both five games back and Seattle 5 1/2 back.

Before the A’s bother worrying about who they have to knock off at the top, there are baby steps to conquer.

They need to generate some consistent offense, which has been lacking in their 1-5 start to this nine-game road trip. With that in mind, they’ll gladly welcome back center fielder Rajai Davis, who is expected to return from a strained left hamstring and rejoin the lineup Tuesday in Minnesota.

Also Tuesday, Sonny Gray will make his 2017 debut after missing the first four weeks with a strained lat muscle in his right side. One of the primary April storylines for the A’s involved the players they lost to injury. Now, they at least draw some optimism from the ones they’ll welcome back.

“We need to get these guys back,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We’ve been leaning on (backup center fielder) Jaff Decker a little harder than we need to. You get Raj back doing his thing at the top of the lineup and get your No. 1 pitcher back, hopefully this is a trend on an upward swing as far as getting players back, as opposed to losing them like we have been.”

Jesse Hahn, who took Sunday’s loss, could eventually be out of a rotation spot with Gray’s return. But that decision gets delayed with fellow starter Sean Manaea having just joined the 10-day disabled list with a strained shoulder.

Hahn was solid Sunday, going six innings and allowing four runs (two earned). But he got a taste of the diverse ways that Houston can beat a pitcher. The Astros have speed, as they showed in the first inning when George Springer beat out an infield single and scored all the way from first on Carlos Correa’s double.

They also have run producers up and down the batting order. Evan Gattis, who clubbed 32 homers last season, hit seventh Sunday and drove an RBI double to left that just missed being a two-run homer.

“One through nine, it’s a solid lineup over there,” Hahn said. “You can’t take any pitches off, any at-bats off. You’ve almost got to treat every guy the same or they can hurt you.”

Catcher Josh Phegley says the A’s have a good read on the rest of the division and the challenge that sits before him and his teammates.

“We’ve seen the teams we’re gonna face most of the year. We get a feel for their bullpen, some of the subs they make during the game,” he said. “I like the way our team stacks up against everyone else.”

But the A’s have their work cut out. Last year, they were 13-12 at the end of April, just 1 1/2 games out of first place before eventually finishing in the cellar. As they begin this May, they are three games under .500 and already five games out.

Help is on the way with the return of Gray and Davis. Now the A’s need to parlay that into some victories.