Urban: NLCS Live Playoff Blog, Game 2


Urban: NLCS Live Playoff Blog, Game 2

UPDATED: 8:22 P.M.
Mychael Urban

PHILADELPHIA -- Jimmy Rollins three-run double pretty much iced things, but the Giants gave themselves a chance to save some face with a mini-rally in the eighth.

A couple late runs off Roy Oswalt before hopping on the plane for the flight back to Frisco would have been a nice little boost.

Didnt happen. Pablo Sandoval walked with one out, Freddy Sanchez singled with two out, and Aubrey Huff lined out.

On the bright side, Sandoval put together a pretty good at-bat against a tough but tiring pitcher; the single was No. 2 on the night for the previously struggling Sanchez; and Huff hit his line drive to center as hard as any Giant not named Cody Ross hit the ball all game.

On the dark side, Oswalt wasnt too tired to strike out Andres Torres for the fourth time of the night (and yes, Mr. Rowand, you better start getting loose for Game 3 now); Sanchezs singles and Ross homer were the only hits the Giants could manage in eight innings against Oswalt, and Huffs postseason batting average fell to .217 with zero extra-base hits and one RBI.

On the bright side, the Giants got the road split every clich-spitting baseball man likes to say is so crucial. On the dark side, the Giants had a chance to take 2-0 lead home and responded to the opportunity with all the tenacity of a kitten.

Bright side, dark side, whatever. The Giants blew another shot at making the Phillies sweat in the ninth, but its turn-the-page time for them, and theyll probably like what they see.

Its a five-game series now, and they have home-field advantage.

UPDATED: 7:40 P.M.
Cody Ross flew out to deep center field, and when the ball settled into the glove of Shane Victorino, the crowd of more than 46,000 exhaled and sent up the type of cheer usually reserved for a Phillies home run.

Ross is already a villain of legendary status here.

Philly fans know their baseball, so they were aware of what Ross did for the Giants in the NLDS against the Braves. They were not aware that it wasnt a fluke, but a man on a ridiculous hot streak that would carry over and turn him into one of those unlikely heroes that October so often brings to the fore.

Alas, he is just a man, and one man does not an offense make. The rest of the Giants have simply looked hopeless against Oswalt, who just rubbed a little salt in the wounds hes been inflicting with a single to chase Jonathan Sanchez.
Poor Sanchez. Hes on the hook for a loss right now despite having pitched awfully well. Throw out the ugly first inning and its a heck of a start.

Ugly has become the theme for the Giants tonight, though. The Phillies just got their third run when Andres Torres throw home was inexplicably cut off at the mound. Had it gone through, Oswalt likely would have been a sitting duck at the plate.

But it didnt, and after a pitching change, sneaky Uncle Charlie Manuel just ordered a double steal that his boys pulled off to perfection.

The Giants look rattled. The Phillies look energized.

Six more outs -- Oswalt looks more than capable of getting them himself -- and this series shifts to San Francisco, with absolutely nothing settled.

UPDATED: 6:45 P.M.

Its still early, and anyone whos followed the 2010 Giants knows they have all manner of late-innings trick up their sleeves.But Roy Oswalt is making them look like Paris Hilton with a Rubiks Cube in her hands, and the Giants are making themselves look pretty dumb, too.That popup that fell between Mike Fontenot, Buster Posey and Jonathan Sanchez? As our fine friends from Fox just told us 3,244 times, as though none of us have the slightest notion as to how this mysterious new game is played, its Fontenots ball all the way.What Fox didnt tell you is that in addition to blowing it by not letting Fontenot know it was his play, Sanchez blew it by being within 20 feet of Fontenot.Its pretty fundamental stuff, and a ton of coaches have a rule that they teach on their first day of practice.Pitchers, I know you fancy yourselves athletes and all, but when a balls hit in the air over the infield, get -- and stay -- the hell out of the way!Sanchez broke that rule, and his presence is what caused Fontenot to hesitate.It didnt end up hurting Sanchez in the short term because hes settled into a nice groove, but it kind of summed up the general feel of the game to this point. The Giants just arent that sharp. I mean, come on -- Cody Ross hasnt even gone deep yet.Oh wait. Just as I was about to close this file, Ross came up again.Never mind. Ross just sharpened the blade. He's homered again and it's 1-1.
UPDATED: 6:16 P.M.Hate to kick a guy when hes down, but the Giants need to get Andres Torres out of the lineup. Pronto.His speedy recovery from an appendectomy in September was a nice part of whats been a great underdog story all year, but it also obscured the fact that Torres was in a serious tailspin before the surgery.The slide continued down the stretch, for the most part, and so far in the postseason hes looking every bit like the 32-year-old journeyman who never got regular run before this year.Hes lunging, hes jumping, hes twisting and grinding. Thats good if youre in a hot-pink leotard and sweating to the oldies; not so good when youre trying to hit against Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe and Roy Halladay and, right now, Roy Oswalt.That big bat he swings? Its a quirky little twist to his story when Torres is pumping balls into McCovey Cove. Not so cute when his last-drop-of-ketchup-slow swing makes the bat seem like a utility pole made of cement.Dude needs a break. Big time.UPDATED: 5:51 P.M.Ugly first inning for the Giants.Going down 1-2-3 is never good, especially when it reminds the world of how ineffective Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez have been throughout the playoffs, and the bottom of the inning was just plain bad in a number of ways.It started so nicely, too, with a three-pitch punch piece that reminded everyone of how nasty Jonathan Sanchez can be when hes throwing strikes.When hes not throwing strikes, though, its not pretty. First, a walk to Chase Utley, whom Charlie Manuel smartly moved down a slot in the Philly lineup to avoid getting Javier Lopezd again tonight.Then, an easy stolen base by Utley, who took advantage of Sanchezs less-than-scary pickoff move by getting a huge jump that didnt leave Buster Posey a chance.Add to that a strange-looking error by third baseman Mike Fontenot, who fielded Placido Polancos bouncer and threw wide of first base. Replays suggested first baseman Aubrey Huff perhaps should have made the play.Then, the full Sanchez: a walk to Ryan Howard, a strikeout of Jayson Werth (generous call by plate ump Dan Iassogna on a high breaking ball), and a walk to ice-cold Jimmy Rollins to give Philly a 1-0 lead.The inning ended with a strikeout of Raul Ibanez, and 1-0 isnt a huge deal. But 40 pitches in the first inning is, and so is Sanchezs flashback to the days when he looked like the gifted wild child -- walk three, strike out the side -- that you hated to face in high school.UPDATED: 5:20Heres what I discovered walking around in the parking lot at Citizens Bank Park tonight before Game 2: There are more Giants fans here than I thought.It seems most of them were going incognito last night, worried that full-fledged flying of the Giants flag would put them in harms way. I hear the fans here are like Raiders fans, explained James Tolleson, who made the trip from El Sobrante. You go to a Raiders-Niners game wearing Niners gear and you might take a beer can off the head.So Tolleson hid his Giants T-shirt under a standard grey hoodie last night. Tonight, though, hes emboldened by his squad being up 1-0 in the series, so hes rocking the t-shirt over the hoodie, and this morning he bought a Giants hat at a store downtown.The girl at the cash register called me a frontrunner, he said with a laugh. And as I walked out, they all booed me.Tolleson said hes picking up a different vibe from Phillies fans tonight. Not so much this-is-gonna-be-a-blowout swag in their step. Im getting that, too.Game 1 forced Philly to take the Giants seriously, and Im not sure that was happening before the series started. Imagine the vibe if Jonathan Sanchez mugs the Phils tonight.Tolleson might just stay another night and try to find him some orange-and-black striped socks.

Graveman delivers in front of 'Blue Moon' Odom, rest of A's can't

Graveman delivers in front of 'Blue Moon' Odom, rest of A's can't

ANAHEIM — The A’s collection of individual highlights during their visit to Angel Stadium shouldn’t have equated to a three-game sweep for their opponent.

Jesse Hahn fired eight one-hit innings Tuesday, the same night Josh Phegley delivered a pinch-hit homer in the 10th before the A’s lost in 11 innings. On Thursday, Kendall Graveman turned in perhaps the defensive play of the 2017 season by a pitcher, recording an unassisted double play that was the first by an A’s pitcher in 46 years.

All great moments to relive in the clubhouse afterward, but surely they ring a bit hollow given the final outcomes. The A’s were swept by an Angels team that, like Oakland, has been hit hard by the injury bug. Los Angeles is without key relievers Huston Street, Andrew Bailey, Cam Bedrosian and Mike Morin, not to mention starter Garrett Richards among others.

Yet the Angels pitching staff twice held the A’s to one run over the three-game series, including Thursday’s 2-1 defeat, when the A’s mustered just three hits.

“We’re a little streaky right now,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “… Give them credit, they pitched really well, and they really are down a lot of guys in the bullpen. We would expect to do a little more damage.”

They couldn’t Thursday, and that it made it tough to savor Graveman’s incredible play the way they should have.

With runners on the corners and no outs, he fielded Juan Graterol’s comebacker and caught Ben Revere in a rundown between third and home. Graveman ran him down and after applying the tag, hurdled Revere and made the tag on Cliff Pennington, who was trying to advance from first to third in the chaos.

“That’s probably the best play I’ve ever seen a pitcher make, hurdling over an (opponent) to get the second out unassisted,” Melvin said. “I didn’t even know how to put that one down on my card.”

Graveman, one of the A’s better overall athletes, was asked if he’d ever recorded an unassisted double play before.

“Never. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one,” he said. “(Ryan) Madson said he’s never seen one and he’s watched over 2,000 games.”

Incredibly, the last A’s pitcher to pull off an unassisted double play previously was in attendance Thursday night. John “Blue Moon” Odom did it back on July 11, 1971, also against the Angels. Odom attends most of the A’s games in Anaheim, and he’s struck up a friendship with Graveman over the years.

“Every time we come here and even in spring training, I try to catch up with Blue Moon Odom and see how he’s doing,” Graveman said. “He and Wash (former A’s infield coach Ron Washington) are friends so we always cut up about Wash. He’s a great guy. He sits in the front row. He came in and saw me right before stretch and told me ‘I’m gonna be front row watching you.’ That is pretty neat that that happened.”

A’s first baseman Yonder Alonso said he’s never surprised to see Graveman make a great defensive play.

“The guy’s a pitcher, but it feels like he’s a shortstop playing the position.”

Graveman was visited by trainers after the fifth-inning play, but Melvin said it was mainly to give the pitcher a breather and let him get his adrenaline under control. Neither Graveman nor his manager revealed anything specific that bothered Graveman. Seeing him stay in the game and complete six innings of two-run ball had to be encouraging for Melvin.

“The first thing I asked him was ‘What’d you fall on?’” Melvin said. “He said, ‘My butt.’ I said, ‘Well, you’re all right then.’ But you’re not gonna see that play again probably.”

The A’s are giving their manager and fans some accomplishments to marvel over. As they move on to Houston trying to halt a four-game losing streak, they just need to figure things out on the scoreboard.

Raiders' first-round pick Conley opens up on emotions after off-field issues

Raiders' first-round pick Conley opens up on emotions after off-field issues

ALAMEDA – Gareon Conley’s name has been sullied, at least temporarily. He feared it would be long enough to send him free falling down the NFL Draft.

The Ohio State cornerback and top-15 prospect was accused of rape stemming from an April 9 incident in Cleveland, an allegation he called “completely false.”

The Raiders clearly believe him. That’s why they drafted him No. 24 overall on Thursday evening, and expect him to be a long-term solution in their secondary.

Conley wasn’t sure how far he’d fall after being beaten down by one rough week, when the allegation went public. Reggie McKenzie’s first-round selection and subsequent call was more emotional than expected.

“It made it 10 times more special,” Conley said Thursday night in a conference call. “Just having that doubt in my mind, just not knowing (how far I would fall). Just having faith and having doubt, I didn’t know what was going to happen. When it came, it shocked me. It felt unreal, honestly. It still feels unreal.”

Being a top pick was expected after an excellent career at Ohio State. The rape accusation threatened to destroy his draft-day dreams. Conley has not been arrested or charged in relation to the incident, though an investigation is ongoing.

Conley said he volunteered to take a polygraph test that was shared with NFL teams, and reportedly passed the one he took. He said in a statement there are witnesses and video evidence proving he didn’t do anything illegal.

Conley spent the last few days trying to proclaim his innocence. 

He is scheduled to meet with Cleveland police on Monday to discuss the April 9 incident -- he'll also submit a DNA sample, according to ESPN -- where group sex was suggested and a woman claimed she was sexually assaulted.

Conley believes his name will be cleared in time.

“I’m very confident it will be resolved," Conley said. "I took a test today that helps. Then when I made my statement and all the evidence that I have, I feel confident it’ll be resolved.”

Conley admits he shouldn’t have put himself in a compromising position, which occurred at a Cleveland hotel earlier this month.

“I could’ve made way better judgment,” Conley said. “I mean, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I definitely could’ve made a better decision.”

Conley hopes to move beyond it quickly and start focusing on football. He is scheduled to fly west for a press conference on Friday.

Conley is thankful to the Raiders for believing in him despite his recent troubles.

“It’s off the charts, honestly,” Conley said. “Just to know that they have faith in me, not even just as a football player but as a person like that, it speaks highly of them, and I really appreciate it. It’s an honor to be a part of the Raider organization.”