Three straight golds for Walsh, May-Treanor

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Three straight golds for Walsh, May-Treanor

From Comcast SportsNet
LONDON (AP) -- For 11 years, they have been Kerri and Misty, the most recognizable faces in Olympic beach volleyball and a team that dominated the sport. No one could beat them in the Summer Games. And no one will get another chance. In their final competition together, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings beat fellow Americans Jennifer Kessy and April Ross to extend their Olympic record to 21-0 and win their third gold medal in a row. May-Treanor said she will retire from international play, perhaps to coach and definitely to spend time with her husband, Matt, a catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers who also travels often for his job. "This is my last match," May-Treanor said. "Beach volleyball's not going to be my career anymore. ... It's time for me to be a wife. I want to be a mom and share time with my family. All of us as athletes sacrifice more on the family end than people realize. And it's getting back to that. My mind says it's time. My body says it's time. And it's the right time." The match started with nearby Big Ben pealing the hour and ended with the "Star-Spangled Banner" rising from the iconic venue in the Prime Minister's backyard, just down the Mall from the royal residence at Buckingham Palace. Playing on Henry VIII's former jousting tiltyard, with the current Prince Harry in the crowd, Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor continued their reign as champions of the beach. "I'm just really proud to finish the journey with Misty how we finished it," Walsh Jennings said. "It's been 11 years of really, really fun and crazy times. She's the best there ever has been. To have been with her so long and call her a dear, dear friend and a sister now is the greatest gift ever. I'm glad she went out on top." Dominating the sport for three Olympiads, Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor have won every match they've ever played at the Summer Games and lost just one of 43 sets. No one had ever won even two beach volleyball gold medals before the Americans won their second straight in Beijing. No woman had ever won three Olympic beach volleyball medals of any kind. "I know how hard it is to win one tournament. And the amount of tournaments they've won is crazy," said Kessy, who jumped for joy on the medal podium after she and Ross won silver in their Olympic debuts. "For them to do it for years and years and to be on top is just really impressive. We learn a lot from them." Earlier Wednesday, Brazil's Juliana and Larissa beat Xue Chen and Zhang Xi of China to win the bronze. Brazil's Emanuel and Alison are scheduled to play Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann of Germany in the men's gold-medal match on Thursday night. Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins of Latvia are slated to play Reinder Nummerdor and Rich Schuil of the Netherlands for the bronze. Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor pulled away midway through the first set of the title match and were never threatened in the second, falling to their knees and hugging as Ross' serve went long on match point. Then they took the celebration to the stands, circling the stadium that was built on the 500-year-old parade grounds now used by the Queen's household cavalry. Walsh Jennings covered her bare shoulders with an American flag and grabbed her children; the older one was a little scared. They high-fived the Horse Guards Parade Dance Team and volunteers and just about anyone holding an American flag. And, with both teams in the final from the United States, there were a lot of them. "It's one thing to play an Olympic final. It's another to play against a team from your county you know so well," said Walsh Jennings, who played with Kessy on a U.S. junior team. "I think the only reason Misty and I are gold medalists is because of those two. They push us so hard. They're one of my favorite teams to beat because they're so good. They've been one of the top teams in the world since they got together. I'm just really grateful that we've had them to come up against because they've made a big difference in our career." May-Treanor returned to the sand for a funky jig to rival the scantily clad dance team that helped bring the beach party atmosphere to the sold-out crowds in central London. "I was like, 'I hope I'm not rubbing it in anybody's face,' but I was so excited," said May-Treanor, a competitor on "Dancing with the Stars" in 2008 before she tore her left Achilles tendon in rehearsal and missed a year on the pro tour. "I just had to get out there and let it out." Matt Treanor watched the gold-medal match in the team's clubhouse on a balky Internet connection that made him miss the final few points. "I'm just real proud of her," he said in the Dodger Stadium dugout. "I am sure she is much more comfortable on the court than I am watching her." During the medal ceremony, the four Americans hugged after receiving their prizes and stood facing the two American flags raised during the national anthem. Despite both a shutout in the men's tournament, the United States matched its best finish since beach volleyball was added to the Olympics in 1996. "I'm happy to be sitting next to another American team up here," May-Treanor said. "For both of us to be in the gold-medal match, it says a lot about our sport, a lot about the teams up here. ... I'm proud about both of us. And I'm just happy about the four of us really sharing this moment. They have no reason to hang their heads down."

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.

In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.

Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.

"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."

Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance. 

Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings. 

"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."

The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday. 

"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."

Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up. 

"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."

The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.

"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.

 

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it. 

Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.

Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues … 

--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts. 

--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single. 

--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot. 

--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth. 

--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first. 

--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.