Giants start title defense with win over D'backs


Giants start title defense with win over D'backs

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) Tim Lincecum had butterflies, admittedly nervous taking the field with the added hype as a World Series winner.He threw back-to-back balls, then allowed a single up the middle to Willie Bloomquist.The Freak hardly looked like his dominant self in his short exhibition debut Friday, but that's often the case for San Francisco's two-time NL Cy Young Award winner this time of year - and he doesn't worry much about Cactus League numbers. Fittingly, the World Series champion Giants won a familiar one-run decision with a 7-6 victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the majors' first spring training game.
The champs took the field to roaring cheers at Scottsdale Stadium, where a logo painted on the grass behind home plate reads "2010 WORLD CHAMPIONS."
VIDEO: Timelapse of World Champion logo
"Before the game there was a buzz," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We appreciate it. I told these guys: 'You should be honored. You've earned this.'"Lincecum took the mound in a game for the first time since pitching eight innings in the Giants' Game 6 victory Nov. 1 at Texas that clinched the franchise's first World Series title since moving West in 1958 and first overall since '54 in New York."When they say, 'Your world champion San Francisco Giants,' that gives you the tingles," Lincecum said. "Going out there, I was talking to Buster (Posey) and I said, 'Is it weird we have butterflies already?'"Lincecum kept his head down as he walked off the mound to cheers upon giving way to winner Steve Edlefsen after 1 2-3 innings and 33 pitches. He had one strikeout and was tagged for three runs and five hits.
URBAN: Despite beating, Lincecum upbeat
"I felt like I threw a lot of quality strikes," Lincecum said. "Obviously it's not the outcome I wanted."Still, Bochy considers his opening-day starter to be ahead of schedule at this stage compared to a year ago. Last spring, Lincecum was even sent to minor league camp a couple of times to get in some extra work.The 26-year-old Lincecum maintained a workout regimen this winter that he began last September, on the heels of a career-worst five-start losing streak in August."I think he wanted to come into camp and be a little ahead of where he was last year," Bochy said. "I like where he's at right now. We're not concerned with results."
INSIDER NOTEBOOK: Action, torture return
Arizona starter Joe Saunders - who might become manager Kirk Gibson's pick for opening day - threw a 1-2-3 first inning before running into trouble in the second as he began to mix in his off-speed pitches. He took the loss.The left-hander is looking to bounce back from a 9-17 year with the Angels and Arizona. Overall, he was happy with how his arm felt in his first outing despite not being 100 percent."I made some good pitches and they still found some holes," he said. "I was dealing with a little bit of arm soreness issue. A little bit of tightness there. It's just normal spring training soreness. It's stuff everyone goes through."Xavier Nady hit the game's only home run, a solo shot in the third off San Francisco fifth starter Madison Bumgarner.Still, this day was all about the Giants."Bruce, you're the man!" one fan hollered in the final inning.Bochy knows the boos might have come had his club not pulled out this close one. Casey Daigle struck out Collin Cowgill swinging to end it."Didn't you know it was going to go down to the last pitch today with the winning run on second?" Bochy quipped. "I heard a guy in the stands say: 'Torture's back so early. Why can't you break us in?'"Slimmed-down Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, typically a free-swinger at the plate, laid off a slider in the dirt by Saunders in the second before hitting a sacrifice fly.The Kung Fu Panda's winter shapeup got him down 38 pounds to a fit 240. He is coming off a down year during which he batted .268 with just 13 homers and 63 RBIs and grounded into an NL-high 26 double plays in his second full season in the big leagues."A focus for Pablo this year is to show a little better discipline," Bochy said.NOTES: Mark DeRosa, playing 2B for the Giants, hit an RBI single in the second and drew a walk after missing most of 2010 with a left wrist injury that required surgery. ... Giants 1B Aubrey Huff, nursing a sore left wrist, said he would play his first game Saturday against the rival Dodgers. "It's just old-guy stuff. I think I slept on it wrong," Huff said. ... Aaron Rowand started in CF for the Giants, who used Andres Torres as DH. Rowand, making 12 million this season, insists he is in the best shape of his life after cycling more than 1,000 miles this offseason in the Las Vegas area. While Torres is the leading candidate to play center and lead off, Rowand hopes to make his case to play. "I'm going to do what I can do, that's it," Rowand said.

Limping Love leads Stanford to Big Game win over Cal


Limping Love leads Stanford to Big Game win over Cal


PALO ALTO — Bryce Love rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown despite missing most of the fourth quarter after aggravating an ankle injury, and No. 20 Stanford held off California 17-14 on Saturday to keep its Pac-12 title hopes alive.

K.J. Costello completed 17 of 26 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown, Ben Edwards made a key interception in the fourth quarter and Cameron Scarlett rushed for 49 yards on the final drive in place of Love to help the Cardinal (8-3, 7-2 Pac-12) milk the clock and win its eighth straight Big Game.

Stanford can earn a spot in the Pac-12 championship game against USC but needs some help.

The Cardinal can get there if No. 15 Washington State loses to No. 16 Washington next week. If the Cougars — who beat Stanford 24-21 on Nov. 4 — beat the Huskies, they get the nod because of the tiebreaker.

The nation's leading rusher going into the game, Love was held in check most of the game by Cal's defense and sat out the final 11:43 after re-injuring his ankle that has bothered him for the past month. He did stay on the field long enough to score a 57-yard touchdown — his 11th run of 50 yards or longer this season.

Scarlett, Love's primary backup all season, also came up big for Stanford. Scarlett rushed for 61 yards, the majority coming on the Cardinal's last drive that took the final 7:25. Scarlett's 2-yard gain on 4th-and-1 kept the drive going.

Patrick Laird ran for 153 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries while Ross Bowers passed for 182 yards and a touchdown for California. The Golden Bears (5-6, 2-6) need a win in their final game to become bowl eligible in coach Justin Wilcox's first season.


California: The Bears made the Cardinal sweat and kept the game a lot closer than many thought possible. Wilcox's defense did a good job bottling up Love most of the game but couldn't stop Scarlett on the final drive which was huge. Still, there are plenty of positives for Cal to take out of this one.

Stanford: It wasn't the best game for David Shaw's team but the Cardinal gritted it out and held off a pesky Cal team that had plenty to play for. The conference title can still happen but before that Stanford has a pretty big game coming up against Notre Dame.


California: Ends the regular season at UCLA on Saturday.

Stanford: The Cardinal stay home and will host No. 9 Notre Dame on Saturday. Stanford has won the last two and six of last eight against the Irish.

Raiders counting heavily on lightning rod CB against Patriots


Raiders counting heavily on lightning rod CB against Patriots

MEXICO CITY – The Raiders cornerback David Amerson didn’t practice all week, but ran just well enough to be considered “doubtful” for Sunday’s game against New England.

Translation: Outlook for Sunday is not good, but Jack Del Rio’s fingers remained crossed real, real tight. The Raiders hope there’s a way he can be active against Tom Brady’s buzz saw attack, because their cover men are beat up.

Amerson has missed two straight with a foot injury, and has dealt with injury all year. Gareon Conley’s season officially ended Monday, when he was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Antonio Hamilton and Demetrius McCray were already there.

Reggie McKenzie hasn’t reached out for reinforcements. That leaves TJ Carrie, Dexter McDonald and Sean Smith to play cornerback. Carrie’s been the rock, a sure tackler who hasn’t made spectacular plays but doesn’t give them up. McDonald has been forced into action, with holes let in his game.

Smith should be the No. 1 guy in this group, the steadying presence on the outside. That hasn’t been the case this year, where he lost a starting job in training camp and sub-package snaps during the season, only to have injuries to Conley and Amerson bring him in the fray.

He’s also been dealing with felony assault and battery charges in Los Angeles stemming from a July 4 incident in Pasadena.

Smith has been a lightning rod for fan criticism, a byproduct of his $9.5 million salary this year and explosive plays allowed early in the year.

If there’s an anvil weighing on his mind, teammates insist you’d never know.

“We’re human at the end of the day,” Amerson said. “You feel it, but you have to find a way to remain even keel and professional and do your job well.”

Smith will be counted on heavily Sunday against New England, especially if Amerson can’t play as expected. He has proven vulnerable to speed without help and proper disruption at the line of scrimmage, though that hasn’t been an issue lately because the Utah alum has recovered well after a rough start.

He got pulled after struggling against Vernon Davis in Washington. He didn’t play against the Chargers after giving up two huge plays to Baltimore the week before.

Amerson originally sprained his foot in Week 7 against Kansas City – he hasn’t played since – and Smith was called upon to respond. He wasn’t targeted in that game, and has been strong in coverage ever since.

Smith has allowed three catches for 12 yards in four targets over the last two games. The ninth-year veteran insists he wasn’t doing anything markedly different, and had zero interest in patting himself on the back for recent jobs well done.

“I’m not,” Smith said. “I’m out there doing my job, man, the best way I can.”

Smith says the off-field distractions during a roller-coaster season, one of his career’s most trying yet, haven’t impacted him much

“Nope. Not at all,” Smith said. “As long as I wake up a Raider, I’m all right. I’ll deal with whatever happens. I’ll always be there for my guys, and I’ll do whatever it takes to help our team win.”

Raiders defensive backs laud Smith’s locker room presence, saying he’s an excellent teammate. Cornerbacks in general must have a short memory when things go bad, to refocus and prevent that from happening again. Smith apparently has that in spades.

“I know how things go, especially when you have a target on your back,” Amerson said. “Sometimes you get hit with the perfect pass and you give up some plays. You can’t do anything about that but take advantage of the next opportunity. Sean’s a good player, and he definitely has that mindset.”

Smith will lend experience to this big game, something the Raiders need after suffering so many injuries.

"It sucks that so many of us have gone down,” Smith said. "You want to have all your guys out there, but that’s the NFL. Injuries happen. As long as everybody comes to work and acts like a pro, we’ll be all right. We all have a job to do. We all would like to start, but you have to be ready when your number’s called.”