Pirates end losing streak, shut out Giants 5-0

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Pirates end losing streak, shut out Giants 5-0

Aug. 8, 2011BOX SCORE GIANTS VIDEOMLB PAGE MLB SCOREBOARD
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Clint Hurdle exhaled and enjoyed a quiet moment after finishing up his postgame duties with the press corps."It beats the heck out of losing," the Pittsburgh skipper said with a smile.His Pirates were winners again, for a night anyway. They pitched. They played solid defense. They produced the timely hits that had been missing during this skid.And they did it against the defending World Series champions with a sellout crowd cheering against them.Charlie Morton and Jose Veras combined on a six-hitter, Ryan Ludwick hit a pair of RBI singles and Pittsburgh snapped a 10-game losing streak with a 5-0 win over the slumping San Francisco Giants on Monday night.
URBAN: First place is Giants' only salvation
"All in all, it was one of the better games we've had the last couple weeks," Hurdle said. "It's a good start. It's all we could do tonight to go play a complete ballgame."Garrett Jones doubled among his four hits and scored twice to help back Morton (9-6), who improved to 6-2 on the road this season.The Pirates battered Giants All-Star Ryan Vogelsong (9-2), who lost for the first time in 13 starts since May 26. His only other loss came the day after San Francisco lost its catcher and reigning NL rookie of the year Buster Posey to a season-ending broken leg on May 25.The reigning champs are mired in their own funk of late, losing for the ninth time in 11 games with another night of missed chances on offense.Still, San Francisco stayed a half-game ahead of Arizona in the NL West after the Diamondbacks lost 9-1 at home to Houston.Morton pitched eight sharp innings and Veras finished Pittsburgh's ninth shutout and sixth on the road."We were feeling a little pressure when you have a losing streak like that," Morton said.The Giants - held to two or fewer runs for the eighth time in 10 games - were blanked for the third time in nine games and 10th overall.Nate Schierholtz hit a double and two singles for San Francisco playing in place of the injured Carlos Beltran, who had an MRI exam before the game that showed a strain in his right hand and wrist.There weren't many other highlights from the home team."It's frustrating," catcher Eli Whiteside said. "When you're not scoring any runs, it's tough on the pitching staff, too. Trying to throw a shutout every night is tough. It's tough on the starters, it's tough on the bullpen. We just have to relax."
Giants Insider gallery: A Giant frustration
Vogelsong struck out cleanup hitter Derek Lee three times but Ludwick did damage in the No. 5 hole coming off two hitless games. Neil Walker added an RBI double batting third.It sure was good timing for Pittsburgh, which exactly two weeks earlier won at Atlanta and sat in first place in the NL Central. Before Monday's win, the Pirates had gone 1-12 since to fall into fourth in the division and 10 games behind the first-place Brewers.The skid was the club's longest since dropping 12 in a row from June 6-18 last year."It definitely feels good to get a win, and a win like this with Charlie getting a shutout against a good team, to turn things around," Jones said. "We were in a little rut. You have to remember to just have fun and play our game. We did that."Vogelsong, the improbable All-Star and steady starter who replaced 126 million lefty Barry Zito in the rotation, had his career-best winning streak snapped at six straight decisions. He stayed put as the National League ERA leader - just barely. Vogelsong owns a 2.48 mark, while Phillies ace Roy Halladay lowered his ERA to 2.51 in an outing against the Dodgers.Vogelsong was tagged for five runs on nine hits in five innings. He matched his season high with eight strikeouts, which he also did in his first start of the season - against the Pirates in Pittsburgh on April 28.He didn't get much help from the hitters. San Francisco squandered chances yet again, going 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and grounding into inning-ending double plays in the fourth and fifth.The Giants avoided a four-game sweep by the Phillies with a 3-1 win Sunday, but managed only three runs on 13 hits. They are batting .161 (20 for 124) over their last 18 games with runners in scoring position."It was pretty flat out there tonight. I don't know why. When you don't get a big hit to knock in a run occasionally, it makes it tougher," manager Bruce Bochy said. "This has been going on for a while and we need to do something about. It's not going to happen until we do come through with some clutch hitting."Giants ace Tim Lincecum reported no problems a day after Chase Utley's flying bat hit him in the right knee."Just a little bruise," the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner said.Notes: The Pirates have won the opener in nine of their 10 road trips so far. ... Zito allowed three runs on seven hits, struck out seven and walked two in 7 2-3 innings of a rehab outing for Class-A San Jose. He threw 99 pitches, 70 for strikes. ... San Francisco RHP Ramon Ramirez and Whiteside received only fines for their part in Friday night's benches-clearing brawl. Phillies CF Shane Victorino was suspended three games. ... LHP Madison Bumgarner (6-11, 3.71 ERA) makes his second career appearance vs. the Pirates on Tuesday night. He allowed one run on five hits over six innings April 27 in Pittsburgh. ... Pirates RHP James McDonald (7-5, 4.23) tries to keep his strong second half going Tuesday. McDonald is 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA in four starts since the All-Star break. He has a team-high 102 strikeouts. ... The Pirates are 49-0 when leading after eight innings.

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

INDIANAPOLIS -- More and more college coaches are putting their starters and even their stars on special teams as they seek to pile up every possible point in an era of pedal-to-the-metal shootouts and never-safe leads.

Fading fast are the days when superstars would catch their breath on the sideline when the kicker or punter trotted onto the field with the scrubs.

NFL teams love it.

Watching how players handle themselves as a blocker, gunner or returner provides a glimpse into a prospect's range, selflessness and versatility. It also delivers a sneak peek into how coachable he'll be, says Phil Savage, the SiriusXM NFL Radio host who spent two decades as an NFL coach, scout and executive and now oversees the Senior Bowl.

"I think because of the landscape of college football where scoring is at a premium, you've got to figure out a way to put points on the board not only on offense but through your special teams and defensively, as well," Savage says. "These coaches want to get these young players on the field as soon as possible, and a way to do that is utilize them on special teams."

These tapes provide a bonus to pro scouts.

"Now you have a vision of what that player might forecast to in the NFL as a young player and, specifically, as a rookie," Savage said.

Offensive and defensive coaches have a better idea of the types of players they're integrating into their schemes, and special teams coaches no longer get blank stares and blank canvases from the rookie class.

"Not only do you like the fact that they come in and have experience doing it, but you love the mentality if you're a coach and a decision maker that this guy isn't a diva, he's got no ego about it, he understands the team and puts team before self," says ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.

"And he comes in with the mindset of 'What can I do to help the team and how can I contribute?' Those are the guys that seem to make it and last longer in the league because they're just willing to do different things and whatever it takes."

The prime example in this year's draft class is Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey , a "dynamic player than can do it all," according to Broncos GM John Elway.

McCaffrey gained more than 5,000 yards from scrimmage in his college career and added almost 2,000 more as a returner.

"There's just a lot of big plays open in the return game," McCaffrey says. "You see special teams have such an impact on the game today. Any time I can have the ball in my hands, I feel like I can do something dangerous, and that's really why I love the return game."

Other highly touted draft prospects who polished their resumes on special teams include Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers, LSU safety Jamal Adams, Washington wide receiver John Ross, and USC cornerback Adroee' Jackson, all of whom are projected as high selections.

McShay says "we're seeing more and more programs put an emphasis on special teams and having their key players contribute in one or more areas on special teams."

He pointed to Ohio State, where Urban Myers coaches special teams himself.

"It's a major emphasis there, and so you'll see some more guys typically lined up and contributing that are starters and stars," McShay says. "It's an honor to be on special teams."

Not a burden.

"It is not uncommon now to see people that are going to be picked in the first round having 100-plus special teams plays," suggests NFL draft consultant and former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt.

He pointed to the University of Florida, where Gators defensive backs cover kickoffs as well as they do receivers.

"Everyone's always trying to get their best guys on the field," Brandt says.

That's a change from years past when coaches feared exposing their star players to the extra hits.

The added value benefits the players, whose multiple talents allow NFL general managers to address many needs.

"We're seeing more emphasis on it in college, and I think NFL teams love to see it because if just means you're getting a bit more for your buck," McShay says.

Top talents who bolstered their value by playing special teams:

CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY , RB, STANFORD: He shined at the combine working out with the running backs and was as impressive running routes. Asked if there was anything he couldn't do, the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey said then: "I can't sing."

JABRILL PEPPERS , S, MICHIGAN: He worked out with safeties and linebackers at the combine, where teams talked of him playing RB and WR in addition to returning kicks. "The bottom line is I'm a ballplayer and I'm a hell of a ballplayer," Peppers said.

JOHN ROSS , WR, WASHINGTON: He caught 81 passes with 17 TDs last season but actually posted more return yards (2,069) than scrimmage yards (1,924) in his college career.

ADOREE' JACKSON , CB, USC: One of the best special teams coverage players in the NCAA, Jackson also scored eight TDs on punt and kick returns in college. His punt return averages rose from 6.0 yards to 10.5 and 15.8.

JAMAL ADAMS , S, LSU: Another star in coverage, Adams' defensive mentality extends to special teams. "I love being on the field and just playing football," said Adams, whose father, George, was a first-round pick by the Giants in 1985.

ALVIN KAMARA , RB, TENNESSEE: In a deep running back group, Kamara separates himself with his special teams acumen. "A lot of teams have been bringing up special teams," Kamara said.

DESMOND KING , CB, IOWA: He had eight interceptions as a junior and three as a senior. "I had a really good special teams season," King said. "Not being targeted as much, I still went out there and competed the best I could and was still making plays."

CHRIS WORMLEY , DE, MICHIGAN: Wormley touts playing for Jim Harbaugh as one of his attributes. "Coach Harbaugh came in and ran our program like an NFL program, like he had with the 49ers," said Wormley, who blocked three kicks his senior season.

ZAY JONES , WR, EAST CAROLINA: Like McCaffrey, he has good NFL bloodlines (son of Robert Jones, brother of Cayleb Jones). He caught 158 passes as a senior, but spent his first two seasons in college also making his mark as a returner.

Whether Brown or Kerr coach, Warriors sticking to same blueprint

Whether Brown or Kerr coach, Warriors sticking to same blueprint

OAKLAND -- For the first time since he joined the coaching staff last summer, Mike Brown on Wednesday morning arrived at the Warriors facility a man in charge.

As acting head coach, he would decide when practice started and when it ended, and conduct proceedings in between.

The general activity was not much different for anyone else, though, as it continues to become evident that everything the Warriors do for the foreseeable future will be a Brown-Kerr, or Kerr-Brown, production.

“Steve is going to be a part of this process the whole time,” Brown said after practice. “Almost before I do anything, I’m going to consult with him. The only time I won’t consult with him is probably during a game.”

Since Kerr’s announcement last Sunday that he was taking an indefinite leave to attend to personal health issues, Brown has been wielding the clipboard. He actually coached Game 3 against Portland last Saturday, in Kerr’s absence, before knowing in advance he’d also coach Game 4 Monday night.

Brown is 2-0, with the Game 4 win clinching a Warriors sweep of the Trail Blazers. Yet Brown is quick to remind anyone that he is following the plan laid out by Kerr. The two exchanged texts Tuesday and, according to Brown, “spoke at length” after the game between the Jazz and the Clippers -- one of which will face the Warriors in the next round.

Though the Warriors are operating under a different head coach, all indications are the atmosphere around the team remains stable and relatively unchanged.

“Obviously it’s different personalities, but when you make it about the players, when you make it about winning, all that other stuff really doesn’t matter,” Kevin Durant said. “He coaches us. He coaches the game of basketball and he does it very well. Our whole coaching staff does the same thing.

“When it’s about basketball, it’s not about trying to have authority over us. He’s just coaching us. He’s just coaching us up. He’s just telling us the proper way to do things on the basketball court. It’s pretty simple when you try to do that. Then it’s on us to try to execute.”

Execution has gone well, particularly over the last six quarters of the series against Portland. The Warriors wiped out a 16-point deficit in the second half to win Game 3, and then rolled to a 35-9 start in Game 4 before coasting to the closeout victory.

Brown was on the sideline in Game 4, with Kerr watching the game from the locker room.

It’s fairly apparent, though, that everyone involved feels a heightened sense of accountability and ownership.

“Mike has had a pretty big voice throughout the whole season,” Durant said. “He’s been a head coach before, understands what it takes to be a head coach. And the coaching staff is just so smart, and they empower each other.

“Anybody, if you’re around us on a day-to-day basis, anybody can tell that they work well as a group. Coach Kerr does a great job. He spearheads it all by empowering everybody, from the coaches to the players.”