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Defense Delivers For Giants in World Series Game 4

Defense Delivers For Giants in World Series Game 4

Oct. 31, 2010GIANTS PAGE GIANTS VIDEOMLB POSTSEASON

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Pitching got the Giants into the World Series. Big hits and fielding may win it for them.

Freddy Sanchez started a pair of double plays and made a leaping stop of a line drive that put him on his back. Catcher Buster Posey threw out Josh Hamilton stealing. Cody Ross slid after making a shoestring catch.

Even rookie pitcher Madison Bumgarner got into the action Sunday night in Game 4 with his glove, deflecting Hamilton's liner that Sanchez recovered in time to tag Michael Young.

The Giants put on a defensive clinic and Aubrey Huff hit a two-run homer to back Bumgarner's brilliant outing in a 4-0 win over the Texas Rangers, moving them within one victory of the city's elusive World Series crown.

San Francisco gets its first chance to win it all in Game 5 on Monday night. It will be two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum against Texas ace Cliff Lee in rematch of San Francisco's 11-7 win in Game 1.

The Giants' dependable defense has taken a back seat all season to their standout pitching. Not in this one, even if Bumgarner was at his best on his biggest stage yet.

San Francisco made one mistake all night, when third baseman Juan Uribe misplayed Hamilton's seventh-inning chopper for a fielding error.

Sanchez set the tone from the start. The postseason first-timer finishing up his ninth big league campaign followed up his big day with the bat in Game 1 with an equally impressive outing at second base.

If the Giants go on to capture the franchise's first championship in 56 years, and first since the club moved West from New York in 1958, Sanchez's defense will be a big reason.

His gutsy grab on Jeff Francoeur's sharp liner ended the second inning with a Rangers runner on first base. Sanchez wound up on his back making the play, holding his glove in the air with half the ball showing.

His teammates came through, too. Manager Bruce Bochy benched slumping left fielder Pat Burrell and went with Ross in his place, while Nate Schierholtz earned his first postseason start playing right and Travis Ishikawa made his first start in these playoffs at first base. Huff was the designated hitter, delivering his first homer of the postseason in 51 at-bats.

For the 32-year-old Sanchez, this deep run is a huge relief. He was a disappointment after joining the Giants in a 2009 trade deadline deal from Pittsburgh.

A three-time All-Star and the 2006 NL batting champion for the Pirates, he was limited to 25 games for San Francisco because of injuries after the trade.

He had left knee surgery late last season, then underwent a procedure on his non-throwing left shoulder Dec. 23 that landed him on the disabled list to start the year.

Still, the Giants had faith Sanchez would return to health, giving him a 12 million, two-year contract after the 2009 season.

Sanchez said he was embarrassed not to be able to help the Giants down the stretch last year, and San Francisco missed the playoffs for a sixth straight season.

Now, no one will argue he has made good.

Sanchez had four hits with three doubles and drove in three runs in the World Series opener last Wednesday. This time, his defense was spot on.

Aside from that athletic catch on Francoeur's ball, he started inning-ending double plays in the first and sixth and nearly took a hit away from Young leading off the fourth. Sanchez lunged to his left to field the grounder but couldn't quite control the ball and barely missed throwing out Young for what became Texas' first hit off Bumgarner.

Reports: Giants dismiss Dave Righetti as pitching coach, reassign others

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Reports: Giants dismiss Dave Righetti as pitching coach, reassign others

In a shocking move, the Giants appear to be moving on from longtime pitching coach Dave Righetti and other coaches.

According to FanRag Sports, the Giants will reassign Righetti within the organization, likely to a front office position. Righetti has been with the team since 2000 and has served as Bruce Bochy's right-hand man since he took over as manager in 2007.

Bench coach Ron Wotus and hitting coach Hensley Meulens will also be reassigned, according to FanRag Sports.

Bullpen coach Mark Gardner will also be reassigned within the organization, according to USA Today.

The coaching staff shake-up comes on the heels of the Giants finishing in last place in the NL West with a 64-98 record.

On Thursday, The Mercury News reported that the Giants interviewed current Red Sox hitting coach.

More to come...

What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense

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What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense

SANTA CLARA – Rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon did not win the right to suit up for the 49ers’ first four games. Behind the scenes, he made it his mission to earn a contributing role.

“He really started to get better with his coordination with his feet from the bump-and-run coverage and from playing ‘off.’ There’s always a light that goes on,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “And we felt that for a couple weeks from Ahkello. Once he did that, he definitely earned the right to be out there.”

The plan was for Witherspoon to rotate into the action and share time with starters Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson. But he played just six snaps on Oct. 8 against Indianapolis before sustaining a concussion. Witherspoon returned to action last week and played 34 of the 49ers’ 74 snaps last week at Washington. He showed enough to coninue getting significant playing time.

“He’s earned the right to play,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He works his tail off in practice. He’s so deliberate in his approach. Whether it was scout team, whether it was team reps, whether it was walk-through, it didn’t matter.”

Witherspoon, the 49ers’ third-round draft pick at No. 66 overall, had a pedestrian training camp. Taking his lumps in August showed him what he needed to do to get into real games in October.

“I really turned up my focus, my intent every day in practice,” Witherspoon said. “What I did in camp wasn’t good enough to be a starting corner in this league, and that’s what I learned.

“I really focused on being aware of what it takes. That’s something I implemented these last four weeks -- that every day focus and competing on every single ball, and taking the mindset that no ball’s caught on me. I think that’s really helped my game, and helped these coaches trust me, as well.”

Witherspoon expected Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins to attack him. But of the 25 plays he was in coverage last week, Witherspoon saw only three passes come his way. He surrendered two receptions for 33 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Just being a rookie, I thought it was going to come, where they were going to be taking that one shot,” Witherspoon said. “I kept waiting for it to happen, but it didn’t happen. Going up against a smart quarterback, I know he saw me out there.

“There were a few times he looked my way in coverage. I wasn’t perfect in coverage, but I think he was looking. And I thought I did a good job.”

Witherspoon (6 foot 3, 195 pounds) is comfortable lining up on either side of the field, which he did during his college career at Colorado. He said he has not put on much weight but he has added more muscle, which has allowed him a better chance to compete physically against bigger NFL receivers.

Witherspoon fully expects to be challenged on Sunday when he is expected to see considerable playing time against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium. Witherspoon figures Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will be paying particularly close attention any time Dez Bryant lines up on his side of the field.

“They’re going to be looking at the ‘rook,’ ” Witherspoon said.

Said Shanahan, “They’re going to try to do that with all our DBs, so I don’t think it even matters who’s out there. They’re going to attack when we’re in single safety, which we are the majority of the time. They’re going to go outside and keep going out there until you stop them.”

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch Kyle Shanahan's full sit-down interview with Matt Maiocco on "49ers Game Plan," which is scheduled to air Saturday at 9 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3).