Warriors

Pablo Sandoval makes history in Game 1 win...

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Pablo Sandoval makes history in Game 1 win...

From Comcast SportsNetSAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A roly-poly Kung Fu Panda outslugged the Triple Crown winner. An October outcast outpitched the Cy Young ace.With Pablo Sandoval and Barry Zito taking star turns, this World Series is off to a rollicking start.Sandoval hit three home runs and joined Reggie Jackson, Babe Ruth and Albert Pujols as the only boppers to do it in the Series, and the San Francisco Giants jolted Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers 8-3 on Wednesday night in Game 1."Man, I still can't believe it," Sandoval said.A boisterous AT&T Park crowd -- a sea of black and orange outfits -- roared as Sandoval connected in his first three at-bats. Popular in the Bay Area for his outgoing personality and unusual physique, he went 4 for 4 and drove in four runs. A Giant panda for sure.From the first pitch to last, it was basically a perfect game by the Giants. Coming off a Game 7 win over St. Louis on Monday night, they looked totally fresh."We played our last game only two days ago," Sandoval said. "We're still hot. We just came here and played our game."Verlander, the reigning Cy Young winner so dominant in this postseason, looked uncomfortable from the outset and constantly pawed at the mound.As fans filed out singing along with Tony Bennett's standard "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," the final score raised a nagging question for manager Jim Leyland and his favored Tigers: Did too much rest after a playoff sweep of the Yankees mean too much rust?"I just didn't execute tonight," Verlander said. "It was kind of a battle from the get-go. They took advantage of that and swung the bat pretty well, especially Pablo and (Marco) Scutaro. A couple of good bounces their way, bad for us."Game 2 is Thursday night, with Doug Fister starting for the Tigers against Madison Bumgarner.Left off the 2010 World Series roster by the champion Giants, Zito shut out the Tigers until Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera's RBI single in the sixth. The Giants won for the 14th straight time with Zito starting."Just the opportunity alone was mind-blowing. Me and my wife were dancing around when I heard," Zito said of getting the Game 1 start. "And then the boys came out swinging and played great defense."Sandoval did his damage with his bat. He donated the wood he used for the first two homers to the Hall of Fame -- no need for it anymore, he broke it on the backswing of his second shot.It was certainly a moment of retribution of Sandoval. He was benched during the 2010 World Series, his production and confidence down, his weight up. In the stands on this night, fans wearing furry panda hats celebrated with him."You have to keep working. I've never lost faith to be here," he said.Get this: It was the first three-homer game at the stadium originally known as Pac Bell Park since the very first one, when Kevin Elster did it for the Dodgers in 2000. Nope, not even home run king Barry Bonds had done this.Tagged by Sandoval for a solo shot in the first inning, Verlander could only mouth Wow!' when the Giants star launched a two-run drive in the third that set off another blast of fog horns. Sandoval reprised his power show from this year's All-Star game, when his bases-loaded triple highlighted a five-run first inning against Verlander.Quite a blast from a team that finished last in the majors in homers."We're not known for our power," manager Bruce Bochy noted.And if there was any doubt that Verlander was shaky, the clearest sign came in the fourth. That's when Zito, a career .099 hitter, sliced an RBI single with two outs off the current AL MVP for a 5-0 lead.The festive crowd stood and applauded when it was announced that Verlander was being pulled for a pinch hitter in the fifth. Sandoval gave his followers another reason to get up moments later when he hit a solo homer off reliever Al Alburquerque in the fifth, answering the cheers by waving his batting helmet in a curtain call.The Tigers seemed out of sorts in their first game following a five-day layoff. That was an issue in 2006, too, when Verlander and his teammates had nearly a week off before getting wiped out by the Cardinals."I'm one that's been around long enough to know that a lot of things happen in this game. This was a big-hyped game with Justin, probably a lot of pressure on him," Leyland said."But I don't think it had anything to do with the pressure. His fastball command was not good. He got out of sync. He got on fast forward. He just did not pitch well tonight. It's that simple," he said.Pujols homered three times last year, Jackson accomplished the feat in 1977 and Ruth did it in 1926 and again in 1928.For good measure, Sandoval lined a single his last time up."We were hoping for a water shot but he got a lousy single. Kind of killed the whole deal for us," Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt kidded.Sandoval is one of a record nine Venezuelans on the Series rosters, and his power performance attracted attention way beyond the ballpark."There goes the third! Pablo makes history," Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez tweeted in Spanish.Scutaro, the NL championship series MVP, twice hit RBI singles after doubles by Angel Pagan. NL batting champion Buster Posey contributed two hits, left fielder Gregor Blanco made diving catches to rob Cabrera and Prince Fielder, and Tim Lincecum came out of the bullpen to prevent further damage.The Giants kept getting good bounces, with Pagan hitting a double that hopped off the third-base bag. ALCS MVP Delmon Young, meanwhile, failed to run after a tapper in front of the plate that the Giants turned into a double play.Pitching in San Francisco for the first time since 2008, Verlander scuffed at the rubber while warming up for the first inning, pulled off his glove after badly overthrowing a curve and kept taking deep breaths. He hardly resembled the guy who was 3-0 with an 0.74 ERA in three playoff starts this year.Ever since two poor outings in the 2006 Series against St. Louis -- punctuated by two throwing errors -- Verlander has worked hard to harness his emotions and 100 mph heat in the early going.Verlander was trying to settle in when Sandoval tagged him, pouncing on an 0-2 fastball and lining it into the front row over the center-field wall.Verlander got into trouble again the third, and pitching coach Jeff Jones strolled to the mound when the count went to 2-0 on Sandoval. Verlander stared at Jones and shook his head. On the next pitch, Verlander could do little but watch the ball sail into the front row in left.To some, this looked somewhat similar to the 2010 Series opener. That day, the Giants beat up the supposedly unhittable Cliff Lee on their way to a five-game romp over Texas."Well, you know, it's hard to figure this game sometimes. You hear the old adage -- That's baseball.' These guys are human, and sometimes they're not quite on top of their game," Bochy said.This is how bad it got for the Tigers: Former closer Jose Valverde made his first appearance in 11 days. Leyland still isn't sure what he'll get from the struggling reliever.Lincecum, meanwhile, retired seven straight batters and struck out five of them. The two-time Cy Young winner has embraced his new role in the bullpen.Jhonny Peralta hit a two-run homer for the Tigers in the ninth off mop-up reliever George Kontos.NOTES:Tampa Bay's Desmond Jennings was the only other player this year to homer twice in a game off Verlander. ... Willie Mays and fellow Giants Hall of Famers Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry took part in the first-ball ceremony. ... Tigers great Al Kaline, now a team executive, watched Detroit take batting practice from behind the cage. ... The Game 1 winner has won eight of the last nine championships. ... Cabrera and Posey marked the first set of batting champs to face each other in the World Series since 1954 when it was Mays of the New York Giants and Bobby Avila of Cleveland. When Cabrera walked on a close full-count pitch, he playfully patted the Giants' All-Star catcher on his way to first base. ... Tigers bullpen catcher Jeff Kunkel wandered the stands well before the teams took the field for warmups, snapping pictures of the stadium and field with his cell phone. ... The Giants franchise played its 106th Series game -- they have won 50 -- trailing only the Yankees (225) and Cardinals (112). The Dodgers are fourth with 105.

Poole's 2017-18 NBA predictions: It's the Warriors ... and everyone else

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USATSI

Poole's 2017-18 NBA predictions: It's the Warriors ... and everyone else

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1) Warriors: Rave all you want about Steph and KD and Klay and the incredible offense, but the foundation is the hyperactive, highly intelligent defense.

2) Rockets: Behind James and CP, they will score and score often. They will be better on defense. This will push them, for the second time in 20 years, past the Spurs.

3) Thunder: Russ, PG and Melo all together in GM San Presti’s petri dish. There will be fireworks, and it shouldn’t take long to see if they’ll be beautiful or destructive.

4) Spurs: LA is plodding, Kawhi is limping and Tony P is at least two months away from being a ghost of his former self. This is Pop’s biggest challenge.

5) Nuggets: Millsap is going to help this team. A lot. If Joker stays healthy and the point guard play is solid, they could make a run at a top-4 seed.

6) Timberwolves: Thibs has gathered many pieces, some good and some duplicative. Why does this feel like a salad mixing old avocados and tomatoes with fresh lettuce?

7) Clippers: CP3’s absence gives this bunch a strange look, like a room without a roof. Not much to be ‘Happy’ about, though, except what The Logo can do for the future.

8) Trail Blazers: Points are going to come, but can anybody play D? Some team has to earn the 8-seed and I like the work Dame, CJ and Nurk put in late last season.

9) Pelicans: Boogie and The Brow. This could be epic, or epic fail. Only if Jrue stays healthy and Raj plays young (good luck with that) can this squad make some noise.

10) Jazz: Gordy and G-Hill are gone. Exum may miss the season. Coach Quin is solid, yes, but how far he can go if the second-biggest paycheck is going to Aussie Joe?

11) Grizzlies: Gonna miss oldes Zach and Vince and also The Grindfather, the best nickname in the league, in his element. Glory days are gone, so invite the dawn.

12) Mavericks: Someday, maybe 25 years from now, Cubes will let Dirk limp his way to the Hall. Until then, it’s mediocrity and less. How long will they pack the house?

13) Suns: They’re young and tantalizing. They may be good someday, but for now it’s the Desert Day Care center, with Papa Earl trying to keep the peace and survive.

14) Lakers: The Ball family is in the house, and Lonzo brings the promise of joy. They’ll be more half-watchable this year, because you don’t wanna see this D.

15) Kings: Titanic may be rising from the deep. Nice idea, adding old heads to work with youngsters De’Aaron, Skal and Buddy. But the Kangz are in the wrong division.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1) Celtics: This could take a few weeks. That five-game homer, post-Thanksgiving, should be the time for Kyrie, Gordy & Co. to go to work. What you got, Coach Brad?

2) Cavaliers: This is the year LeBron reaches the dark side of the mountain. That’s trouble for The Land. They could win 55, which is about how many games he’ll play.

3) Wizards: It’s time for John Wall to prove it, to take the Wiz to unfamiliar heights. If Brad Beal can stay on the court (that’s asking a lot), they’ll breathe on the Cavs.

4) Bucks: The D improved when Young Jabari went down, and he’ll be out until February. Hmm. OK. It’s close-up time for the Greek Freak. Can anybody make a J?

5) Raptors: The guards can score but can’t/won’t defend. How much does Serge have left? They’ll have it rough unless the big addition, CJ Miles, has a career year.

6) Heat: Love the Dragon. Love/hate Dion and Hassan. Don’t like much of the rest of the roster, though. Coaching truly matters with this bunch, and they have a fine one.

7) Hornets: A 35-win team in the West, which translates to 44 in the East. Malik Monk is OK, but Kemba’s the engine. It’s a low bar for Dwight. Can he reach it?

8) 76ers: Young Ben, aka Fresh Prince, is our pick for Rook of the Year. We like Saric. We believe JJ will help. But this is about The Process. If he plays 50 games, they win 38.

9) Pistons: Avery B will help the D, but until SVG finds a taker for Reggie J, the playoffs are MIA. Stanley J has skills. It’s time for him to show it.

10) Nets: Hello, D-Lo. We see you, Mr. Crabbe. The clowns won’t be so funny this season. Coach Kenny has ’em playing hard and fast. They can go from 20 wins to 30.

11) Magic: Other than AG’s hops, Jonathon Simmons’ grit and Mo Speights’ smile, there is nothing to see here. This club is 20 percent highlights, 80 percent yikes.

12) Pacers: After making the playoffs in six of seven seasons, you flip four of your top six scorers, including PG. What the . . .? It’s Lottery Time in Indy.

13) Knicks: New York works its rump off to make its teams relevant. The Knicks don’t care. KP6 is saddled with a frat-house clothes hamper of an organization.

14) Bulls: They’ve demolished the franchise MJ made famous and slithered into the basement once occupied, seemingly for decades, by the Sixers. We’re thinking 12-70.

15) Hawks: Baze and Schroder are the best Travis Schlenk has on a team that could go 0-for-the-West. We’re thinking 10-72, only because the least of the East is so junky.

--

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

Warriors over Rockets in 5

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

Cavs over Celtics in 6

NBA FINALS

Warriors over Cavs in 4

Shanahan showed patience with Beathard; Will now have to show more

Shanahan showed patience with Beathard; Will now have to show more

Kyle Shanahan is, self admittedly, not a patient person. As he watched quarterback C.J. Beathard run the scout team over the last couple of weeks -- how he visualized an unfamiliar play, went through his progressions and handled the defensive coverages -- the head coach saw rapid improvement every day. But he suppressed any urge to play the rookie before he was ready.

“I tried to wait for the right time for him and the right time for the team,” Shanahan explained.

Down 14-0 to Washington halfway through the second quarter with starter Brian Hoyer struggling, Shanahan knew Beathard’s time had come.

“I felt the team needed it right then,” Shanahan said. “It also made me more confident to do it because I thought he was ready for it, also.”

Moments after the game was over, Shanahan named Beathard the starter. Watching the game tape on the flight home only bolstered his decision.

“By no means was he perfect, missed a couple of things, but that always happens,” Shanahan said. “I thought he came in there, didn’t hesitate, competed. The moment was not too big for him. Made a few plays in rhythm, made a few off schedule plays and was a big reason we got back in that game.”

Beathard led the 49ers on two scoring drives and finished 19-of-36 with 245 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception, though it came on fourth-and-20 on his final pass attempt of the game. On his 45-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson, Beathard extended the play when the fifth year receiver wasn’t where he expected him to be.

“He was supposed to go to the post for a certain coverage, and they had a busted coverage, so he just hung out there which is why C.J. didn’t see it right away,” Shanahan explained. “We had enough protection where he could take a couple more hitches. He drove the pocket and saw where Aldrick was, and he didn’t hesitate. Made that throw with that arm strength.”

Shanahan smirked at his not-so-subtle dig at those who questioned Beathard’s arm strength during the draft process. He sees a quarterback who can make all the throws, and make them from the pocket, and scramble when he needs to. All he needs now, Shanahan contends, is experience.

“It’s about playing in the game and reacting to defenses, reacting to coverages, reacting to adjustments. He’s going to see a lot of things he hasn’t seen before, and that will change each week. It will probably change each quarter.”

Helping Beathard continue to grow through those experiences will require patience, but in this situation, it’s the kind the head coach can handle.

“You’re never going to get a quick answer. You see over time, but he’s got the ability to do it. He’s got the mental toughness to do it. I think he will get better the more he plays.”