Urban: NLCS Live Playoff Blog, Game 1


Urban: NLCS Live Playoff Blog, Game 1

Oct. 16, 2010
UPDATED: 9:53 P.M.
Mychael Urban

PHILADELPHIA -- It must be quite the mind-bend to take the mound with a huge game on the line and a full stadium of rude and rabid hecklers thirsting for your blood.OK, the bloodthirst bit is a tad dramatic. But so was the situation Brian Wilson started down tonight while locking down Game 1 for the San Francisco We-Only-Win-By-A-Run-And-Youll-Like-Its.One mistake and he either blows the save or loses the game. Four outs to get, a million reasons to be a little freaked out.Only Wilson doesnt do freaked out. We know this by now. Hes told us, in fact. Told us hes a mental assassin. Not quite sure what that means, but thats Wilson. If he had webbed feet, hed be the ultimate odd duck. Heres how he described pitching in Philly tonight: Fifty, 60,000 people screaming, thats what you want, he said to me. It doesnt matter if theyre for you or against you. You dont even hear the boos. You just feel the energy -- the energy of being out there with all these people watching. And you feed off that. Never mind the attendance tonight was just over 45,000. Thats one hell of an answer -- and one hell of an approach to dealing with the inherent stress of the gig.In other words, embrace the hate. Fear the beard and embrace the hate. One on the front, another on the back. Somebody out there is already printing T-shirts, and I better get one!Thats all for tonight, gang. Time to close up shop. Tomorrows Sunday, and dont forget to pray to Cody Ross. Because yes, he is God.UPDATED: 7:31 P.M.He didnt have his best stuff, he didnt have the greatest command, and he was working with an umpire who didnt seem to have a clue.All of which makes Tim Lincecums performance here tonight that much more impressive. His line of three runs on six hits and three walks over seven innings certainly dont look like statistical evidence of an evening of domination, but consider that the three runs came on two homers. One was a bad pitch, the other was the result of a bad ballpark. Lincecum, who struck out eight to bring his 16-inning postseason total to 22, dominated when he had to, and the seventh inning said it all.Giants manager Bruce Bochy opened himself up to some serious second-guessing when he let Lincecum hit for himself in the top of the inning. A lot of people see a one-run lead and a pitch count over 100 and think the right call is always a pinch hitter in that situation.Lincecum makes you think differently. Bochy needed another inning from his starter. Desperately. He so badly didnt want to have to use a lefty reliever this early that he had Madison Bumgarner warming up in the sixth. He wanted to save Javier Lopez to face Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the eighth, but he needed Lincecum to give him a perfect seventh first.Groundout, strikeout, groundout.And whaddya know? Lopez starts the eighth and quickly retires Utley and Howard. Four outs to victory.UPDATED: 6:58 P.M.Welcome to the playoff party, Juan Uribe.Just 2-for-17 in the National League Division Series, and 0-for-2 tostart the NL Championship Series, Uribe stroked an RBI single up themiddle off some stiff named Halladay to give the Giants a 4-1 lead inthe sixth inning.Uribe was such a big part of the Giants offense all year, such ajovial and likeable player, it was painful to watch him struggleagainst the Braves. One of the happier guys youll ever meet, even inbad times, he likes to tell everyone, Uribe always up.But Uribe, deep down, was down. During battingpractice, he left the cage wincing after a round littered with foulballs, meek grounders and lazy fly balls. It wasnt a wince of physicalpain, either. It was the wince of a man weighed down.Uribe up again now, though, and that 4-1 lead seemed pretty big at thetime. But lets not forget where this game is being played. Citizens Bank Park is every bit the bandbox its said to be, and JaysonWerth just illustrated that with his opposite-field homer to cut thelead to 4-3.And if you think Tim Lincecum isnt hot under the collar right now,youre as wrong as the people I saw walking past a cheesesteak shop andinto a McDonalds today.Not only has home-plate umpire Derryl Cousins strike zone been thesize of a thimble for most of the night, the park plays like a thimbleat times, too.Whens Cody Ross up again?UPDATED: 6:30 P.M.

Hi, its me again. Cody Ross.You remember me, right? Big home run a few innings ago?Just in case yall missed it, I did it for you again. See, I cant control what Tim Lincecum or Carlos Ruiz or that scary-looking Jayson Werth does.But when someone does something that threatens to steal my thunder, I take it right back.Ruiz takes Timmy deep to wipe out the 1-0 lead I gave him? Fine. Heres another, pretty much a carbon copy of the first. I dont know what the big deal is about this Roy Halladay, anyway. Hes no Madison Bumgarner, Ill tell you that right now.Not that I wouldnt take Madison deep. After all, I am Cody Ross! Its what I do. Its my new thing: Playoff god.I dont know what that Werth fella is doing with that look of his,either. He looks like he should be wearing cutoff jean shorts, Red Wingboots and a short-sleeved, red flannel shirt -- chopping wood somewheredeep in the Ozarks, a half-empty case of Hamms on its side nearby,while the 20-year-old boom box with a broken antenna behind him grindsout Gammas greatest hits.Wait, where was I? Oh yeah. Homers. Halladay. Me. King Kong.Its pretty cool. But I am getting a little tired of carrying an entire team on my back. Lil help?

UPDATED: 6:05 P.M.

The bottom of the third inning was a serious test for Tim Lincecum, and he passed it. Barely.Carlos Ruiz opened it by slamming a way-high fastball the other way fora game-tying homer, and Roy Halladay followed with a single.(Is there anything Halladay cant do, by the way? Does he cook gourmetdinner for the team after his starts, then head to the studio to laydown some tracks for his No. 1 album before heading home to sleep onthe bed he made himself while on a Peace Corp trip? Uncle.) Lincecum erased Halladay with a double play, but then came a double, awalk and a passed ball by Buster Posey to move the runners to secondand third with two out.At the plate: Ryan Howard, whod doubled off Lincecum in the secondinning and generally owns Big-Time Timmy Jim. Going into the at-bat hewas batting .350 (7-for-20) with three homers against the Freak, andthere isnt another person alive whos taken Lincecum deep three timesin the big leagues.Yet if theres one thing above all others that has fueled Lincecums greatness, its his ability to get bigger than the moment. Runners in scoring position? Lincecum usually grows from 5-foot-10 to 7-foot-10.On a 2-2 count, then, he absolutely buried an 86-mph slider that buried Howard and silenced the sellout crowd.As he walked off the field toward the dugout, Lincecum looked 10-foot-2.

UPDATED: 5:41 P.M.

Im Cody Ross, and yes, I sold my soul.I sold it for moments like this, becoming the first player to get a hit off Roy Halladay in the postseason. With a homer. On the road. In the NLCS.After almost single-handedly getting the Giants here.And again, off Roy Freaking Halladay.Soul, schmoul. You see that little skip I took out of the batters box?You see my teammates going bonkers, like kindergarteners being told the field trip has been changed from the Museum of Natural History to Baskin-Robbins?You see that smile on my face in the dugout after almost killing Mark DeRosa with a chest bump?It was worth it. And no, the Amish look Im rocking wasnt part of the deal.UPDATED: 5:31 P.M.Remember all the love that Pat Burrell got when he came back here for the first time with the Giants? He was showered with cheers, and it was a nice little moment for the man who spent most of his career in the City of Brotherly Love.Then he had the audacity to hit a homer. And then he homered again. Now they hate him.As Burrell strode to the plate for his first at-bat of the NLCS, he was booed hard. Plenty of boos during the pregame introductions, too.But wait. Now they love him again. He just struck out, missing a Roy Halladay slider off the outside corner by a good foot. Cheers all around.The cheers got louder when Halladay retired Juan Uribe to end the top of the second, his 11th consecutive postseason inning without allowing a hit. Youve probably heard hitters say the ball looks like a beach ball when theyre locked in. It must look like a chickpea when Halladays locked in.Tim Lincecum appears pretty dialed so far, too, putting to rest any concern that hed be over-amped for his first road playoff start. He just shrugged off a leadoff double by Ryan Howard with a classic escape: strikeout, popup, fly ball.So there will be no double no-hitter. A whole bunch of zeros, though? Thats a pretty safe bet right now.UPDATED: 5:12 P.M.Michael Buffer? Seriously? Oh, its gonna be a long night for Giants fans forced to follow this bad boy via Fox. Could be a long night for the Giants, too, if Roy Halladays first inning is any indication. Actually, it might be a short night. Strike one, strike one, strike one. Thats what Halladay does. He gets ahead of everybody, and he just got through Andres Torres (first-pitch lineout), Freddy Sanchez (0-2 flyout) and Aubrey Huff (1-2 groundout) in an eight-pitch hurry.Thing is, the Giants cant sit back and wait. Halladay is the kind of pitcher against whom you have to be aggressive early in the count, because hes not going to walk you. Its why his games, as long as the opposing pitcher works at a decent pace, are usually over within a couple of hours or so.Tim Lincecum likes to work fast, too, and while he gave up a couple of deep drives in the bottom of the first, he got through it on seven pitches. So make your trips to the bathroom or fridge quickies, folks. This isnt the Yankees and Red Sox in a four-hour slog. This is Doc vs. the Freak, both of them sprinting.

UPDATED: 4:53 P.M.

Its finally here. The National League Championship Series. The final hurdle a team must clear on the way to the World Series.Its a big damn deal, and the atmosphere outside Citizens Bank Park before Game 1 reflects that. This is not a baseball game. This is an event.Baseball goes all out for these things. Everything outside the yard is swathed with NLCS logos, and if youd like to own something with that logo on it, theres a huge merchandise tent in which you can get that 45 t-shirt youve always wanted.The street just outside the front entrance to the yard has been converted into a gigantic street party, and from the looks and sounds of things, which are already getting a tad sloppy, nobody has been financially dissuaded from imbibing in 12 beers. (Is the NLCS an aphrodisiac? To the red-clad couple making out next to the row of port-a-potties it is.) For sustenance, you can pick up some meat cooked on whats being hyped as the Playoff Grill. Makes you wonder what they did with the Regular-Season Grill.Theres even a huge stage, featuring with a local band pumping out covers of everything from the Beatles to Queen to Miley Cyrus.You think Paul McCartney is cool with his timeless classics being followed by Hannah Montana tunes?Who knows. But everyone here seems pretty cool with whats about to happen.Roy Halladay vs. Tim Lincecum? Big damn deal.

Graveman takes to leadership role while Gray is sidelined


Graveman takes to leadership role while Gray is sidelined

MESA, Ariz. — Kendall Graveman feels comfortable with the leadership role that comes with being the A’s Opening Night starter, but he pointed out how all the starters will carry the load together.

“I told BoMel this morning when he told me, I said ‘I’m the No. 1 starter for Opening Night, but then whoever is the second guy is the No. 1 starter for us the next night,’ and that’s the way we have to go about it to be successful,” Graveman said Thursday afternoon.

That’s a message that Graveman says he’s already trying to spread to Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton, the starters who will follow him in the rotation. Oakland’s final two rotation spots are up for grabs.

With Sonny Gray sidelined by injury for what’s expected to be most of April, Graveman — with all of 52 major league starts under his belt — becomes the veteran leader of the A’s staff in the interim. Manager Bob Melvin gave Graveman the official word Thursday morning that he would take the ball April 3 against the Angels at the Coliseum. But shortly after Gray went down with a strained lat muscle March 7, Melvin approached Graveman about being his likely Opening Night guy.

It’s a natural fit. Graveman went 10-11 with a 4.11 ERA last season, and while those aren’t eye-catching numbers, they don’t tell the story of how valuable he was as the A’s lost starter after starter to injury.

Graveman has improved his mental preparation and his physical conditioning since coming over from Toronto in the Josh Donaldson trade. He’s become a meticulous studier to get ready for his starts. He’s picked the brain of veterans such as Gray and Barry Zito, who he played alongside with Triple-A Nashville for part of 2015.

And, not to be overlooked, his stuff and pitch arsenal have improved since he first arrived to the A’s. Though he’s a sinkerballer who relies more on location than velocity, the A’s clocked Graveman as high as 98 miles per hour on the radar gun in his last start.

“He’s kind of on a mission to be one of those guys that pitches at top of the rotation for many years to come,” Melvin said.

Kevin Durant makes strides at Warriors practice: 'It's a good sign'

Kevin Durant makes strides at Warriors practice: 'It's a good sign'

Kevin Durant has been making steady progress in his rehab.

And on Thursday, he took another step forward.

"Did a little bit more today. Went through some 5-on-0 stuff, some lateral movement," Steve Kerr told reporters after practice. "Seems like he makes a knew stride each day. It's a good sign, but the four-week mark is a week from now so that's really when we'll have our first real update."

Durant sprained the MCL in his left knee and sustained a tibial bone bruise on Feb. 28 in Washington.

The following day, the Warriors announced that he would be reevaluated in four weeks.

Kerr also said that Durant will travel on Golden State's road trip to Houston and San Antonio next week.

More to come...