Zito outstanding as Giants take series from Dodgers

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Zito outstanding as Giants take series from Dodgers

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO In perhaps the most important game for both clubs so far in 2012, a pair of Cy Young Award winners were set to duel in the rubber match of the Giants-Dodgers series, as the longtime rivals battle for the NL West Division crown.One of them, Barry Zito, resembled the hurler that took home pitchings most prestigious honor in 2002. The other, 2011 winner Clayton Kershaw, never made it out of the training room.Zito was brilliant in 6.1 shutout innings while Kershaw was a late scratch with a sore hip as the Giants took the game and the series with a 4-0 win over Los Angeles on Sunday evening in front of a sellout crowd and national television audience. They lead the Dodgers by five and a half games with just 22 left to play after winning two of three this weekend.Hunter Pences two-out, two-run double in the first inning set the tone, while Angel Pagan and Buster Posey provided key hits in the middle innings, including Poseys 20th home run of the season. But it was Zitos performance that trumped all else.I thought he did a nice job of throwing the ball to both sides of the plate. His curveball was great, he was able to throw it backdoor to righties, and back foot, said Posey, who caught Zito for the second time in his last four starts. Overall, it seemed like he pitched with a lot of confidence. He did a great job.Sergio Romo, who closed out the game, said: He aint backing down from those guys, and he aint backing down from anybody, so he came out today ready to rock. Thats just the attitude we all have. We understand and honestly believe were pretty dang good. Were just going to go out and play and do that, and Barry is a great example of that attitude.Zito surrendered a double to Mark Ellis to start the game, but after getting out of that inning unscathed, settled in nicely. He scattered four hits and walked three while striking out four, and was never really in trouble until he allowed two baserunners with one out in the top of the seventh.When Bruce Bochy called upon Santiago Casilla, the AT&T Park crowd showed its appreciation for Zitos performance with a standing ovation.That was nice. The crowd was electric tonight, and very involved, said Zito, who secured his 11th win against eight losses. Every pitch in the game, we just have the best atmosphere in baseball here.Zito was also grateful for Casilla, who struck out pinch hitter Bobby Abreu and later got Shane Victorino to fly out to left with the bases loaded to end the seventh.The bullpen has just been outstanding, he said. Casilla came in and really slammed the door there with one out and two runners on against the heart of the lineup. For Bochy to manage the bullpen the way he has, he doesnt get enough credit. Its not easy in the first place.While no one would admit that Kershaws absence was a relief, the Giants were surely fortunate to face righty Joe Blanton rather than the Dodgers ace. Kershaw was 5-0 against the Giants last season, and while hes just 1-3 against them this year, still sports a miniscule 1.74 ERA in 31 innings pitched against San Francisco in 2012.Hes one of the best pitchers in the game. We havent done a lot with him, Bochy said. We have found ways to get wins against him, but thats because the guy pitching for us has done a great job in the game hes pitched. We still had our work cut out, Blantons a good pitcher. Hes been around and knows what hes doing, and sure, when you dodge Kershaw you dont mind, but at the same time they have a lot of depth out there. We went into this game knowing we still had work to do.Pence is plenty familiar with Blanton, as the two started the season on the Philadelphia Phillies roster before they were dealt to the West Coast. His clutch first inning hit, after Posey had struck out, was clearly the biggest offensive moment in the game.When youre facing Joe, I knew he was going to probably come in with some fastballs, and he has a good cutter and good slider, Pence said. Thats what I was getting ready for.Bochy said: Especially once they got Buster there, its about picking each other up, and Pence came through with that double. To get an early lead, thats what youre always hoping for. Those two-out hits are what win ball games for you. He came through there, and I think it helps guys relax.While a five-and-a-half game lead with less than a month to go in the season could be viewed as insurmountable, the Giants arent acting like theyve accomplished anything just yet.This was a big series, Posey said. I thought we came out and played well. Today was a huge game. Again, you cant say enough about the performance Zito had. We do have a decent amount of baseball left to play, so we have to keep going and keep pushing.Zito said: We certainly cant rest on our laurels. We have to fight every day, and thats something weve been doing in spite of people weve been losing with injuries and other things. We cant take anything for granted.

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – looks more like the second coming of Marty Havlat in a Sharks sweater than anything else. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

SAN JOSE – Just in case there was any question as to the grisly nature of Logan Couture’s mouth injury, the Sharks forward shared a picture on his personal Instagram account on Monday.

If you haven’t seen it yet, proceed with caution.

The photo was taken the night of his injury on March 25 in Nashville, showing several top teeth missing in a mouth that can accurately be described as a bloody mess, after he was hit with a defected puck while standing in front of the net in a game against the Predators.

Couture revealed on Tuesday in a conference call that there was more to his injury that just damaged teeth. He also has some facial fractures, including one above his upper lip that extends to his nasal area, and another that is under the bottom row of his teeth.

The one that’s higher in his face is still painful. 

“Still struggle to eat and sleep. … It’s not a comfortable state to be in,” said Couture, who missed the final seven games of the regular season before returning for the six-game first round series loss to Edmonton.

As for the next step, Couture has yet to sit down with his dentist, although further work is on the horizon.

“There’s going to be some implants to get the teeth fixed,” he said. “Hopefully get it done in the next few weeks, and then I’ll head back to Canada.”

Couture doesn’t yet know how many teeth need to be replaced.

“All depends on how the teeth respond,” he said.

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Joe Thornton had successful surgery on his left knee on Monday afternoon, NBC Sports California has learned, and according to a team statement released later on Tuesday he is expected to "make a complete recovery and be ready for the start of the 2017-18 season." 

According to a source, the damage to Thornton’s MCL was more significant than his ACL. The team declined to give any details about the surgery in its statement, including who performed it and where it was done. 

Thornton played four playoff games against Edmonton despite damaged knee ligaments, head coach Pete DeBoer revealed on Monday, when he said Thornton was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” after getting hurt in Vancouver on April 2.