Surging Giants look to stay hot behind Sanchez


Surging Giants look to stay hot behind Sanchez

May 11, 2011

ARIZONA (15-19) vs.
GIANTS (19-16)

Coverage begins at 6:30 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Clutch hitting and stellar pitching have the San Francisco Giants on the cusp of their longest winning streak in 10 months.

Facing the Arizona Diamondbacks may also be playing a part.

The Giants will try to make things a bit easier on their pitchers when they go for a five-game winning streak by continuing their success against the Diamondbacks on Wednesday night.

San Francisco (19-16) has needed just 11 runs and a .218 average to string together four wins in a row - three in walk-off fashion - thanks to the staff's 1.00 ERA.

The Giants last won five in a row from July 10-17, and the pitchers could be key in matching that run.

They've come up big in the last two games. The Giants followed Sunday's 3-0 win over Colorado with a 1-0 victory against Arizona (15-19) as Cody Ross connected for a game-ending RBI single in the ninth inning of Tuesday's series opener.

URBAN: Boss is back

"We kind of have that fire going into those last innings knowing that anything can happen," said Tim Lincecum, who pitched eight innings Tuesday. "And stuff like this does, and it seems to happen to us quite a bit."

The Giants have won 16 of the last 20 meetings with Arizona, including eight of 10 and five in a row at home.

Jonathan Sanchez (2-2, 3.55 ERA) takes the mound Wednesday looking to continue his own home dominance of the Diamondbacks.

The left-hander is 4-0 with a 2.67 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 30 1-3 innings while holding Arizona to a .167 average over five starts in the series at AT&T Park since the start of 2009.

Sanchez, however, has struggled lately, laboring through another outing Thursday. He allowed five runs and five hits with six walks and six strikeouts in five innings of a 5-2 loss at New York.

That came after he walked six and hit two batters while allowing one unearned run and two hits in five innings of the Giants' 2-1 win at Washington on April 30.

"I'm not getting anything over the plate," Sanchez said. "I try to do my best. Nothing's working right now."

Eli Whiteside has caught Sanchez's last two starts, and feels a lack of confidence is the issue.

"I don't think anything drastic needs to be (done)," Whiteside told the team's official website. "Maybe a mechanical thing or something in his head. I think one thing is confidence. Go out there and have a couple of good innings, get his confidence up a little bit and then go back to being the old Johnny."

The Diamondbacks have dropped seven of eight on the road while hitting .204.

Armando Galarraga (3-2, 5.29) gets the ball looking to show some improvement after going 0-2 with a 4.40 ERA over his last three starts. The winless stretch has come after he won his first three games despite a 6.00 ERA.

Galarraga has served up 11 homers, one behind Texas' Colby Lewis for the most in the majors.

His latest effort ended with one out in the fifth inning after he allowed three runs and three hits while matching his career high with six walks in Friday's 4-3, 11-inning loss at San Diego.

Galarraga, though, was impressive in his only start versus the Giants, allowing two unearned runs in six innings of a 7-2 road win with Detroit on June 18, 2008.

Time is now for Sharks to experiment with new lines


Time is now for Sharks to experiment with new lines

The San Jose Sharks were shut out for the first time this season on Thursday night, but it sure didn't feel like it.

You’d be forgiven, albeit mistaken, if you didn't think the loss was their first goose egg of the season. San Jose’s been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league this year, and has scored two or fewer goals in all but two of their six games in November.

The Sharks controlled play, but their raw possession numbers were misleading: Through the first two periods, San Jose was outshot 23-18, and poured it on in the third looking for the game-tying goal.

In order to break out of his team’s extended slump, head coach Peter DeBoer appeared to throw his lines in the proverbial blender. The changes weren't very significant, though, as DeBoer worked mostly around the edges.

Joe Thornton remained with Joe Pavelski, while Melker Karlsson and Timo Meier rotated in on their wing. Joonas Donskoi swapped in with Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, and on and on.

The core pair of each line remained intact, while DeBoer swapped complimentary wingers. Subtle changes, unsurprisingly, didn't lead to drastically different results.

He’s been amenable to bigger changes at times, briefly breaking up longtime linemates Thornton and Pavelski last Sunday against Los Angeles. The bottom six, especially the fourth line, has mostly been a revolving door.

That's a start, but far from enough. 

As long as the Sharks struggle to score, similarly significant changes are in order.

DeBoer shouldn't want to sacrifice the team’s defensive dominance, or its strong possession game. But, the Sharks haven't scored enough through 17 games to justify using the same forward combinations. 

In Thornton and Pavelski’s case, those struggles date back to last season. For just about everyone else, the sample size is getting increasingly more significant as the season approaches the quarter pole.

The Sharks bench boss expressed a willingness to mix up his power play units earlier this week, and needs to do the same at even strength. It's time to try Pavelski on Couture's wing, Meier on Thornton's, or any number of permutations.

Tweaking around the edges hasn't made much of a difference, so far more comprehensive adjustments are not only welcome, but necessary. Of course, DeBoer may not find the perfect lineup solutions.

At this point, though, it's worth a shot. It's hard to imagine the Sharks scoring any less than they have so far this season, and the Sharks need to explore if any line changes can provide a remedy.

What do we make of Warriors already blowing three double-digit leads?


What do we make of Warriors already blowing three double-digit leads?

Captured as we are in the amber jar of Small Sample Size Theatre, there is something about the Warriors worth chewing on as they head for Philadelphia and a date with the precocious Philadelphia 76ers Saturday evening.
They now seem to disregard large leads as beneath them.
I’m not prepared to say what this means, but three of their losses this year (out of four, of course) have featured them hurling up a double-digit lead – 17 in the second quarter and 16 in the third quarter against Houston, 
13 against Detroit and 17 in the second and third quarters against Boston Thursday night.
This is more games in which they have done so than all of last season, in which they blew a 14-point lead Christmas Day in Cleveland and a 17-point lead at home to Memphis 13 days later.
In other words, this could just be a phase they are going through as the team that knows it can produce at will and believes the other teams will cower in fear at the mere sight of their power and fold like 200-thread towels.
But three times in four weeks would be enough for head coach Steve Kerr to find a new way to put foot to hinder at future practices. It suggests that the Warriors, having outgrown their early weariness from a fun-filled summer (hey, they went to China and didn’t get busted for anything, so there’s that), maybe take themselves a bit for granted, and Kerr and team lecturers Draymond Green, David West and Andre Iguodala will now have something to help them all correct in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Oklahoma City and then home again.
I mean, what’s the point of having a big lead if you can’t enjoy it by making it bigger and bigger? What’s the value of leading by 17 and calling it a night when you can lead by 29 and THEN put your feet up? I mean, Houston did it last night and took the whole second half off.
Anyway, that’s today’s Warriors Gristle – what to do when you think you’ve won enough hands and find out you haven’t. Tomorrow, we’ll touch on what they need to do about keeping those old Kevin-Durant-back-in-OKC story lines tired and repetitive.