Kurz's Instant Replay: Giants 7, D'backs 3

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Kurz's Instant Replay: Giants 7, D'backs 3

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO It was the final game of the regular season at AT&T Park, and not a very important one at that, as the Giants are likely locked into their postseason position.
Sure, San Francisco used a six-run second inning to defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 7-3, sending the 165th straight sellout crowd home happy. But whats more important, of course, is that there is more baseball to be played here.
In the meantime, the Giants completed their 10-game homestand with an impressive 8-2 mark, including winning two of three against Arizona. Overall at home, the Giants posted a 48-33 mark this season (.593).
Hunter Pence got the offense rolling with a two-run homer after a Buster Posey single led off the second inning. Later, a Hector Sanchez double plated Brandon Belt with no outs, while a passed ball by catcher Miguel Montero allowed Sanchez to score.
Marco Scutaro capped the inning with the Giants second two-run home run in the inning, scoring pitcher Barry Zito. Sanchezs solo shot in the bottom of the eighth capped the scoring.
San Franciscos bullpen tossed three scoreless innings after Zito left in the sixth with a three-run lead. Overall, the Giants have won Zitos last 10 starts, the longest streak of its kind for the franchise since 1992 (Bill Swift -- 11 startswins).
Starting pitching report
Zitos performance wasnt exactly dominant, but the Giants starter went six innings while allowing three runs (all earned). He struck out three and walked three while throwing 102 pitches, 63 for strikes. After allowing a leadoff triple to start the game to A.J. Pollock, Zito got Aaron Hill and Justin Upton to pop out before a groundout to Paul Goldschmidt kept the game scoreless.
Arizona managed to cut into San Franciscos lead in the fourth off of Zito, when Chris Youngs RBI single plated Goldschmidt and Cody Ransom to make it 6-2.
All six Giants runs in the second inning were earned and charged to starter Patrick Corbin. The lefty lasted just three innings total, allowing seven hits, with no walks or strikeouts.
Bullpen report
George Kontos, Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo each tossed a scoreless inning after Zitos departure.
The Diamondbacks pen kept the Giants off of the board for more than four innings until Sanchezs two-out blast off of Brad Ziegler in the eighth.
At the plate
With his homer in the second, Scutaro increased his career-high hitting streak to 15 games, the longest active streak in the majors. It was Scutaros only hit of the afternoon, and hes 28-for-62 during the streak (.452 average).
Posey had two hits, but grounded into a 1-2-3 double play with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the seventh with a chance to break the game open.
Goldschmidt was 2-for-4 for Arizona, while Ransom was 1-for-2 with a pair of walks.
In the field
Getting a rare start in left field, Brandon Belt struggled with the glove. A one-out double by Jason Kubel was catchable by Belt, and in the sixth, Arizonas Jake Elmore smacked a liner to left that Belt appeared to lose in the sun. Ransom, who doubled to left just before Elmores at-bat, scored on the play.
Gregor Blanco made the defensive play of the game after Belt moved to first, with a sliding catch in foul territory in the ninth off of the bat of Adam Eaton.
Leading off the third inning, Posey appeared to lift a routine pop-up into short right field. Goldschmidt, Hill and Upton all converged on the ball, but it fell harmlessly between the three of them.
Up next
The Giants head to San Diego for a three-game series against the Padres beginning Friday night. Ryan Vogelsong goes again Andrew Werner in the first game, while Madison Bumgarner takes the hill against Eric Stults on Saturday. Bruce Bochy said before Thursdays game that he has yet to decide who will face Edinson Volquez on Sunday.
The Giants close out the season with three games in Los Angeles on Oct. 1-3.

All-Star Jones a model of consistency for Sharks: 'He solidifies our team'

All-Star Jones a model of consistency for Sharks: 'He solidifies our team'

SAN JOSE – Like a handful of NHL goaltenders, Martin Jones prefers not to speak to the media on the morning of nights he’s playing. So when the 27-year-old Sharks netminder was named as an All-Star before a game in Edmonton on Tuesday, the media in attendance respected his typical game day routine.

His friends and family, though, may not have been aware of his preference for limited interaction. Congratulations were in order for Jones, who will be a part of the Pacific Division team in Los Angeles for All-Star weekend from Jan. 27-29.

“I was trying to push it to the next day, obviously we had a game that night,” Jones said. “Lots of texts from family and friends. Everyone was pretty excited.”

Jones knew it was a possibility that he might be named. In his second season as the Sharks’ primary starter, and coming off of a brilliant playoff run, he’s tied for fifth in the NHL with 21 wins and his 2.26 goals-against average is ninth. He’ll return to the venue where he started his NHL career as a backup to Jonathan Quick from 2013-15.

Asked for his reaction when he got the news Tuesday morning, which was also his birthday, he said: “I was excited, it’s going to be a fun event. Just going to be really cool to play with all those guys, and it’s kind of fun that it’s in L.A., as well.”

Other than Brent Burns, a case can be made that Jones’ is the Sharks’ most valuable player through the first half. The club hasn’t been scoring goals at its typical rate; rather, it’s been relying on its defensive structure to keep the other team from getting on the board.

That, of course, includes Jones. Although he doesn’t often see many shots, as the Sharks are give up the third-fewest at 27.0, he usually has to make a handful of difficult saves on a nightly basis. That’s a result of Pete DeBoer wanting his club to play an aggressive style, in which defensemen are encouraged to get involved in the offensive end.

“I’d like to think that we’re aggressive and we still don’t give up a lot of chances, but there’s no doubt we give up a handful of quality chances a night,” DeBoer said. “That’s the difference in the games, and [Jones] knows that. He might not get 40 or 50 shots, but he’s going to get 25 and a handful of quality chances. If he can make a couple big saves a night for us, that’s usually the difference.”

Paul Martin said: “I think he solidifies our team in general. When you have him back there to make the easy consistent saves, and stand on his head and make big saves – you need those in critical parts of the game. I think he’s continued just to get better, as well.”

Jones has been much more consistent than the start of last season, when he got off to a scorching start, cooled off in November and December, but was a rock over the second half and in the playoffs.

This season, he posted a 2.15 GAA and .916 SP in October, followed by a 1.96 GAA and .924 SP in November, followed by a 2.24 GAA and .916 SP in December.

That’s consistency, and it’s all an NHL team wants from it’s goaltender. The knowledge that he will be there to make the routine saves with some spectacular ones mixed in gives confidence to the group to just play its game. Jones is doing that.

DeBoer said: “The guys just want to know what to expect every night, and that he’s going to stop the ones that he should stop. That’s all anyone’s looking for, and I think he does that as well as anyone in the league.”

There’s another part of it, too, according to the coach. It’s something that can’t be measured on scoresheets.

“The guys like him,” DeBoer said. “That’s the other part about goaltending that you have to remember, is the guys have to want to play hard for you. He’s a great teammate, and a real popular guy, and the guys want to go the extra mile when he’s in there because of that.”

That’s why on that morning in Edmonton, while Jones was in game-prep mode, his teammates were happy to comment on their goaltender, who they will need to continue to play well over the next three months and beyond. The All-Star nod is the latest evidence that Jones is well on his way to establishing himself as one of the NHL’s best.

“This year with the year he’s had and getting the All-Star nod, it’s nice to see that he’s become a star in this league now,” Joe Thornton said on that chilly morning in Alberta, while Jones was sitting in the corner, unstrapping his pads.

Three takeaways: Sharks' power outage continues vs Blues

Three takeaways: Sharks' power outage continues vs Blues

SAN JOSE – The Sharks’ suffered one of their worst defeats of the season, getting shut out by a Blues club that had been having tremendous difficulty keeping the puck out of its own net lately. The three main takeaways from the ugly 4-0 loss…

1 – Thornton awaiting punishment?
It’s difficult to say whether the NHL will further punish Thornton for spearing Paul Stastny. Perhaps the five-minute major and game misconduct midway through regulation was plenty for the transgression. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was fined for a similar play in a December game Ottawa in on Erik Karlsson, though, and it wouldn’t completely shock me if Thornton gets Monday’s game off against Winnipeg as those kinds of stick infractions are frowned upon. We’ll see.

The bigger issue though is just how confused the Sharks looked without their top line center. They managed just 11 shots over the final 29 minutes when Thornton was kicked out, and never really looked like they were into the game after that. Perhaps that was partly due to St. Louis turning up the intensity, but signing Thornton to an extension only looks that much more important after witnessing how the team played without him – even if he is slowing down a bit, and looking for that first goal into a manned net.

2 – Still powerless
It’s baffling just how bad the Sharks power play looks on most nights. Saturday was no different. Sure, Joe Pavelski should have converted on that five-on-three, but that was really their only dangerous chance on that advantage. Then, after the Blues gifted them a four-on-three power play after Thornton’s major, they didn’t get any good looks on that one, either.

This was a Blues penalty killing unit that had been brutal lately, too, allowing at least one power play goal against in eight of its last nine games. The Sharks got just three shots on goal in 3:20 of power play time, while allowing Colton Parayko to score on a brief St. Louis advantage.

“The power play could have been a turning point for is in a positive way for us, and wasn’t,” Pete DeBoer said.

Brenden Dillon said: “Special teams are huge. It can win and lose games, and tonight unfortunately we were on the opposite side of that.”

The Sharks are now just 15-for-106 on the power play since Nov. 1 (14.1 percent). On this team, that’s inexcusable.

3 – Sinking in the standings
The Ducks, Kings and Oilers all won on Saturday night, making the division as tightly packed as it’s been in some time. San Jose has dropped to third place, four points behind the Ducks and one point behind Edmonton, although the Sharks have played two fewer games than each. They’re also just three points ahead of Calgary, whom they lost to on Wednesday, with three games in hand.

The Sharks continue to give up points to Western Conference opponents, too. While they’ve feasted on the east, going 15-6-0, they are just 10-10-2 against the west. Nine of their next 10 are in the Western Conference, too, so that had better start changing.