Athletics

Sharks sweep Kings in L.A. for 3-1 series lead

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Sharks sweep Kings in L.A. for 3-1 series lead

April 21, 2011

BOX SCORE SHARKS VIDEONHLPAGE NHL SCOREBOARD
RATTO: Sharks discover cure for 3-goal lead in Game 4

LOS ANGELES (AP) The Sharks and Kings skated through a scoreless opening period. Then Scott Nichol lured Los Angeles star defenseman Drew Doughty off the ice with offsetting roughing penalties, opening the door to three straight goals by San Jose.The Kings never fully recovered.Ryane Clowe scored twice, Jason Demers added another goal in the second period and the Sharks won 6-3 on Thursday night to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series."Nichol is the reason why they won," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "Three goals were directly responsible for Nichol's game."Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski scored in a 54-second span early in the third and Torrey Mitchell followed with his first goal of the playoffs to extend the Sharks' lead."I don't know what it is," Doughty said. "They're scoring easy goals. We're giving them tap-in goals and that's not something we usually do."The Sharks return to San Jose for Game 5 on Saturday night having swept the Kings on their home ice."It's a great opportunity," Clowe said. "You take a 3-1 lead and you're going back to home ice to wrap it up. We should be fired up and we should want to close it out right there."Los Angeles gave up 12 goals in its two home games."That's embarrassing," Jack Johnson said. "We're not going to win a game if they score six goals a game. We're a defensive team and if we're letting in that many goals we're in a lot of trouble."The Kings had a 5-on-3 for much of the final 3 minutes after Dany Heatley was penalized for tripping and Nichol got a 10-minute misconduct, but they failed to convert. The frustrated Kings got two 10-minute misconducts themselves in the closing seconds.Murray was incensed by Heatley's tripping of Alec Martinez, saying the move could have caused a broken leg or injured knee."That's a gutless move," Murray said. "You don't do that in hockey."The Kings kept their dressing room closed for more than 10 minutes afterward. Even mascot Bailey had his furry head buried in his paws as he leaned on a piece of equipment in the hallway."Terry is not happy with us," Doughty said about his coach's postgame speech. "We're not happy with each other. We got to clean it up."The teams combined for five goals in the second - two fewer than they scored in the middle period in Game 3, when the Kings blew a four-goal lead to lose 6-5 in their second overtime defeat of the series."Last game was a wild one, nobody really expected that one, but tonight was more of our game," Clowe said. "Better start, better 60 minutes and not too many ups and downs. It was a grind it down game, the game we needed to play."Antti Niemi made 35 saves while back in goal for the Sharks after being pulled for giving up four consecutive goals to the Kings before their collapse Tuesday."The thing about him, he's determined to come back with a real good one," Sharks coach Scott McLellan said. "I thought he was exceptional. In the second half of the game, he made some tremendous saves."Jonathan Quick was solid in the first period for Los Angeles, but soon fell apart in losing his second straight. He stopped 21 shots."We just weren't good enough," he said. "We let the game get away from us early in the third. That definitely wasn't us in the last two games. We got a lot to prove to ourselves and the fans."The Sharks stunned Quick with two quick goals to open the third. Thornton was waiting in front of the net and scored on Patrick Marleau's pass at 2:28, then blew kisses to the crowd in celebration of his first goal of the series.San Jose went up 5-2 on Pavelski's slap shot from the blue line at 3:22 that made it 5-2. The Sharks scored their sixth goal when Mitchell got a rebound with 8:18 to go.Los Angeles cut it to 6-3 when Alexei Ponikarovsky's shot from the left point found the top of the net with 6:49 left."Whatever happened in the third with giveaways, turnovers and lost faceoffs, that's sometimes hard to explain," Murray said.The Kings haven't won a playoff series since beating Detroit in the 2001 Western Conference quarterfinals. They are 1-9 in series when they fall behind 3-1.This time, San Jose built a 3-0 lead in the second only to have the Kings close to 3-2 by the end of the period, when they outshot the Sharks 17-10.Clowe and Demers scored 1:14 apart before Clowe added his second goal.Clowe's first goal capped a 2-on-1 when he scored behind Quick's back at 3:58. Demers made it 2-0 when he beat a fully sprawled Quick on the left side at 5:12. Both goals came with the teams skating 4-on-4 with Nichol and Doughty off for roughing."You just don't want to lose your top defenseman to a player of that stature," Murray said.With Matt Greene serving a double-minor for high-sticking, Clowe scored on the power play at 9:28. Quick swiped his left hand at the puck too late and the Sharks led 3-0.The Kings rallied with two goals later in the second. Ryan Smyth's slap shot sailed wide right and Brad Richardson came around the net to push the puck in with 9 minutes left.Justin Williams then scored off a deflection 3:56 left.NOTES: The family of Bryan Stow, the San Francisco Giants fan who was severely beaten after the Dodgers' season opener last month, attended the game as guests of both teams. The Sharks paid for the family's tickets and the Kings bought their dinner. ... Smyth has a point in all four games of the series. ... San Jose's Logan Couture, Kyle Wellwood and Ian White each had two assists. ... The announced crowd of 18,234 was the second straight standing-room only sellout. ... The Kings' Murray is one away from his 50th career playoff victory.

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

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A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

OAKLAND — Matt Olson is aware of the company he’s keeping in the A’s record books.

His reaction is a mix of reverence and a shrug-of-the-shoulders type humbleness.

That’s the personality of the A’s rookie first baseman. Even as the conversation about him and his awe-inspiring home run pace grows louder, he remains the same steady, grounded presence.

“I’m happy for him,” A’s hitting coach Darren Bush said. “The guy’s worked his butt off. He’s the same today as was when he first got called up.”

Olson cleared the fences once again Friday night, his two-run homer off Nick Martinez in the second inning helping the A’s to a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers. At this point, it’s much more newsworthy when Olson doesn’t homer than when he does.

He’s crammed 24 homers into just 57 games this season. Taking into account his first call-up last September, and Olson’s 24 homers over the first 68 games of his career are the second-most in the history of major league baseball over that span to open a career. The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger also hit 24 and only the White Sox’s Jose Abreu, with 25, hit more over his first 68.

Olson’s 13 homers in September are the most by any rookie in major league history for the month, and there’s still eight games left in it. But Olson’s hot streak dates back to Aug. 27. He’s hit a major league-best 16 homers in 23 games since then.

Among rookies in A’s history, only Mark McGwire (49) in 1987 and Jose Canseco (33) in 1986 have hit more than Olson’s 24. But neither Bash Brother, nor any other player in Oakland history, ever hit 15 homers in a 21-game span as Olson recently did.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Olson said before Friday’s game. “I grew up with a Mark McGwire poster on my wall. It’s a little surreal.”

Who saw this coming?

Olson went 2-for-21 without a single RBI in his first taste of the bigs last September. Then he shuttled five times between Triple-A and the majors this season before getting called up once again Aug. 8 and being told he’d get a shot as the A’s regular first baseman with Yonder Alonso having been traded. The constant shuttling took its toll, though Olson never let on about that publicly to reporters.

“You could see (the frustration),” said Ryan Christenson, his manager at Triple-A. “When he walks in and you tell him ‘You’re getting sent up,’ and he’s like, ‘Well, how many days is it for this time?’ He wouldn’t voice it necessarily, but you could sense it.”

Olson, with help from Bush and others, made an adjustment coming into this season. He began holding his hands out farther away from his body to begin his swing. With his 6-foot-5 frame, Olson had found himself getting jammed inside. Then in trying to adjust to that, he couldn’t square up pitches on the outer half.

“Now, his hands are firing from where he wants them to,” Bush said. “He doesn’t have to fight. You want your hands to have a clean path. Now he can stay in there, stay behind the ball, let his hands work for him.”

Olson, a 23-year-old from Lilburn, Ga., takes this sudden burst of success — and attention — in stride.

“I’ve been hit with so many stats here in the past week, I can’t even keep track of who’s done what, and honestly what I’ve done,” he said. “I kind of try to ignore all that.”

That’s OK. Others are taking plenty of notice.

 

As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent

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As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent

LOS ANGELES — The Giants left their dugout quickly after Friday’s loss, escaping a celebration on the mound and a fireworks show in the sky. As Dodger Stadium shook with cheers, Bruce Bochy sat in the visiting clubhouse and smiled. He nodded at his laptop, which earlier had been used to pull up highlights of Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani. 

“He’s good,” Bochy said, laughing. “I absolutely would play him every day.”

Earlier in the week, when it became known that Bobby Evans and Jeremy Shelley were headed to Japan to scout Otani, Bochy said he couldn’t imagine a player pitching and then moving to the outfield between starts. What changed? 

Perhaps it was the tape Bochy saw. Otani throws 100 mph and hits homers with ease. Or perhaps it was the game he watched Friday. The Giants lost for the 94th time, with the big blow coming from a 22-year-old Dodgers star. Cody Bellinger’s blast was the difference in a 4-2 win, and the Giants don’t have a Bellinger, or anything close. Otani, 23, is a long shot for a team that very well could finish with the worst record in baseball. Still, he’s the kind of talent that could help pull the Giants closer in a hurry. He’s the  kind of talent they haven’t developed in years, and Bochy certainly sounded a bit wistful as he talked of the power Bellinger has put on display. 

“You call up a guy and he does that — that just doesn’t happen,” he said. “It’s a rare deal.”

The ninth inning of the Dodgers’ clincher reinforced that point for the Giants. They got a homer from Pablo Sandoval, but he’s playing only because Christian Arroyo — the Giants’ best prospect bet this year — is hurt. Ryder Jones, their 23-year-old prospect, struck out to end the night, dropping his average to .180. 

That set off a celebration for Bellinger and the Dodgers. They have won five straight NL West titles, with three of the last four clinched against the Giants. 

“Congrats to them,” Bochy said. “They’ve had a tremendous year across the board, and they’ve played great baseball. They brought some guys up that really did a great job for them. It’s well deserved.”

Bochy said it was not difficult to watch this one. The division has been wrapped up for months, with only a September slide keeping the Dodgers from clinching earlier. 

“We knew what we were facing here,” Bochy said. 

The Giants have two more against the Dodgers and then six more before a long winter. The Dodgers, on the other hand, will host an NLDS series here at Dodger Stadium. Both Bochy and starter Jeff Samardzija made the same observation, that the Dodgers will have a hard time cutting their deep roster down to 25 postseason players. 

That’s a nice problem to have. It’s a foreign one right now for the Giants, who have a serious talent gap and no clear solutions internally. It’s no wonder, then, that Bochy has all of a sudden become so intrigued by a wondrous talent overseas.