From Comcast SportsNetCINCINNATI (AP) -- Not just any comeback would get San Francisco back to playing for a pennant. It would take one of Giant proportions.And Buster Posey believed it could happen. Even after the Giants left the West Coast down two games, the National League batting champion insisted his team could pull it off, despite the long odds.With one swing, he got everyone else believing it, too.Posey hit the third grand slam in Giants' postseason history on Thursday, and San Francisco pulled off an unprecedented revival, moving into the championship series with a 6-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds."You don't want to be in a lose-and-you're-out scenario," reliever Jeremy Affeldt said, wearing a brace on his left wrist so he didn't hurt it in the champagne-flavored clubhouse celebration. "We've been in that situation for three days. We're probably going to sleep well tonight."They'll play either Washington or St. Louis for the NL pennant, Sunday, not caring at all who they face."We could go up against anybody at any time," shortstop Brandon Crawford said. "Being down 2-0 and coming back and winning three at their place, it's an unbelievable feeling."Game 1 of the NL championship series will be Sunday, either in Washington against the Nationals or in San Francisco vs. the Cardinals. In the meantime, the Giants will stay in Cincinnati until their next opponent is determined Friday night when the Cards and Nats play Game 5.The Giants became the first NL team to overcome a 2-0 deficit in the division series, which began in 1995. Major League Baseball's changed playoff format this season allowed them to become the first to take a best-of-five by winning the last three on the road.Posey's second career grand slam off Mat Latos put the Giants up 6-0 in the fifth and sparked a joyous scrum in the San Francisco dugout. The ball smacked off the front of the upper deck in left field, just above Latos' name on the video board.For the first time in the series, the Giants could exhale."I don't think anybody gave up," Posey said.Will Clark, in the 1989 NLCS, and Chuck Hiller, in the 1962 World Series, hit the other Giants slams in the postseason.Matt Cain and the bullpen held on, with more help from Posey. The All-Star catcher threw out Jay Bruce at third base to snuff out a sixth-inning rally that cut it to 6-3. The Giants had a pair of diving catches that preserved the lead in the eighth.There was more drama in the ninth. Ryan Ludwick singled home a run off Sergio Romo. With two runners aboard, Romo fanned Scott Rolen to end it.The Giants raised their arms, hugged and huddled by the side of the mound, bouncing in unison."It was a spectacular moment," outfielder Hunter Pence said.In Cincinnati, the home-field meltdown had a sickeningly familiar feeling. The Reds haven't won a home playoff game in 17 years. After taking the first two on the West Coast, all they needed was one more at home, where they hadn't dropped three straight all season."You get tired of the disappointments, but then you get over it," manager Dusty Baker said. "It hurts big-time."Once Posey connected, the Reds were the ones facing a steep comeback. They've never overcome a six-run deficit in the playoffs, according to STATS LLC.Couldn't do it this time, either."Buster Posey's swing was a series-changer," said Reds star Joey Votto, standing on second base when the game ended. "That made it very difficult to come back. You know they're going to throw the kitchen sink at us."The Giants never trailed in any of their three postseason series when they won it all in 2010. They beat the Braves 3-1 in the division series, knocked out the Phillies 4-2 for the NL title, then took four of five from Texas for their sixth World Series title and their first since they moved from New York to San Francisco in 1958.They really had to scramble this season to get another shot at it.The bullpen took a huge hit when closer Brian Wilson blew out his elbow, and that was just the start. All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera got a 50-game suspension in August after a positive testosterone test, taking a .346 hitter out of their lineup. The Giants have decided not to bring him back, even though he's eligible to return for the NL championship series.Two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum pitched so poorly -- 15 losses -- that he got relegated to the bullpen for the division series.And don't forget that Posey was coming off a broken leg that wiped out most of his 2011 season, making a great comeback of his own."Unreal," Romo said, with champagne dripping off his scraggly beard. "That guy's definitely the MVP of our team. We believe he's the MVP of the league. We wouldn't be here without him, that's for dang sure. He's the one that's been the face of the team all season long. What a great story with all he's been through last year."The Reds won't forget the first inning of the series, when everything changed. Ace Johnny Cueto pulled muscles in his right side and had to leave the game. He wound up getting dropped from the playoff roster because of the injury.Latos pulled them through that opening game, pitching in relief on short rest for a 5-2 win. Latos came to Cincinnati from the Padres at a high price -- pitcher Edinson Volquez and three former high draft picks -- and with a clear purpose in the offseason. He was expected to take them to the next level.The right-hander allowed three hits through the first four innings, then fell apart in the fifth. Crawford had an RBI triple and scored on rookie shortstop Zack Cozart's error. A four-pitch walk and a single loaded the bases for Posey.As soon as he connected, Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan stood and turned away, unable to watch the ball head for the seats.Cincinnati's 17-year history of playoff futility was about to go on.NOTES:Posey's other career grand slam came on July 7, 2010 at Milwaukee. ... The Reds are 3-3 in winner-take-all playoff games, including 1-2 in best-of-five series and 2-1 in best-of-seven series. .. Teams that lose the first two games in a best-of-five series are 7-59 all-time. ... Cain gave up six hits and three runs in 6 2-3 innings, the longest appearance by a Giants starter during the series.
ALAMEDA – John Pagano can’t implement his scheme in a week. He can’t import his plays and preferences cultivated during five seasons as Chargers defensive coordinator. Full offseason programs and training camps are required for that.
Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was fired on Tuesday. Pagano will call his first Raiders game five days later against Denver at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders’ assistant head coach – defense believes he can impact how the Silver and Black does business.
“There’s always room for change and there’s always room for doing things better,” Pagano said Thursday. “Without telling you our game plan, it’s about how we go out and execute the call, bottom line.”
Head coach Jack Del Rio said the Raiders weren’t playing fast enough. They weren’t creating enough turnovers, weren’t doing well enough on third down and weren’t regularly affecting the quarterback due to a lack of both rush and coverage.
That’s why Norton had to go.
Pagano’s first objective, which must get accomplished in a few days, is getting the Raiders to play with confidence. Then he can add some design wrinkles with some of his personality.
“You have to have that ability of going out there, knowing your assignment and playing faster,” Pagano said. “It’s not to say that there have been times where we’ve simplified things, but taking the thinking out of the game and making them react is, I think, most important. Going out there and playing fast and that’s doing the little extra things, the attention to details of studying and getting those things processed. See ball, go get ball.”
That last sentence sums up how Pagano wants his guys to play. He’s a quality play caller and creative blitzer with a knack making simple plays look complex. He can find and exploit opposing weak links. His defenses have always been good creating pressure and turnovers alike. The Raiders need more of both.
To do that Pagano wants to relieve a player’s mental burden and keep them focused on using talent well.
“The one thing I’ve always stressed and always been about is technique, fundamentals and unbelievable effort,” Pagano said. “I think those three things can get you home.”
The Raiders haven’t been home much as a defense. They’re tied for last with 14 sacks. They’re dead last with six turnovers. They’ve gone 10 games without an interception, the longest single-season drought in NFL history.
A lack of big defensive plays has killed the Raiders this season. It obviously increases points allowed. Good field position has been hard to come by. The offense has to earn everything the hard way. That’s a recipe for losing football, a maddening turn after the Raiders finished second with 30 takeaways last year.
Pagano has a chart listing “MOPs,” short for missed opportunities. There have been many, especially in a secondary he oversaw before this week.
“I talked to these guys this week about we need to do simple better,” Pagano said. “What is simple? It’s fundamentals of covering. It’s tackling. It’s communicating. It’s catching the ball when it comes. We’ve had opportunities. It’s not like we’re out there struggling and straining to dive and layout for the thing. It’s hit us in the hands where we’ve had many, many opportunities.”
Missed opportunities have also plagued a pass rush featuring reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack. Pagano brought up a moment early in Sunday’s lost to New England, when Treyvon Hester forced a fumble near three teammates that the Patriots somehow recovered.
Pagano’s goal is to improve performance. Players must buy in to do that. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin headline a large group close to Norton, one with enough pride and professionalism to get behind a new playcaller in Pagano, who could be here long term.
“There is a human element to this,” Pagano said. “We are family. It’s sad any time a member of your family gets dismissed or something. At the end of the day, we have the Broncos coming in here on Sunday and we have to get our minds right to go play this game. That’s something that they’ve done a great job with this week, truly focusing in on what we need to do.”
Warriors rookie Jordan Bell made an instant impact for the team this season. But as of late, his playing time has dwindled. In four of the Warriors' last five games, Bell has been inactive.
“It's just the life of a rookie,” Bell said to The Athletic. “That's what Steve Kerr always tells me. It's not because I'm playing bad. Just gotta be professional about it and stay ready. It's like being a freshman all over again.”
While Bell wants to be on the court with his teammates, what he appreciates most from Steve Kerr is his communication. Kerr is always honest about when he won't play Bell and he keeps the former Oregon Duck encouraged.
“He talks to me about it every time he sees me,” Bell said. “Lets me know I'm not going to be active. Keep doing what you're doing, you're doing good. But it still f------ sucks. You're playing well and it doesn't mean anything because you're younger. It sucks, but you got to be professional about it.”
Bell has played in 12 of the Warriors' 18 games this season. The 22-year-old is averaging 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds per game over 8.3 minutes per game.
The Warriors bought the 38th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft from the Chicago Bulls and selected Bell. On Friday night, the Warriors, and perhaps Bell, play the Bulls for the first time this season.