Urban: NLCS Live Playoff Blog, Game 1


Urban: NLCS Live Playoff Blog, Game 1

Oct. 16, 2010
UPDATED: 9:53 P.M.
Mychael Urban

PHILADELPHIA -- It must be quite the mind-bend to take the mound with a huge game on the line and a full stadium of rude and rabid hecklers thirsting for your blood.OK, the bloodthirst bit is a tad dramatic. But so was the situation Brian Wilson started down tonight while locking down Game 1 for the San Francisco We-Only-Win-By-A-Run-And-Youll-Like-Its.One mistake and he either blows the save or loses the game. Four outs to get, a million reasons to be a little freaked out.Only Wilson doesnt do freaked out. We know this by now. Hes told us, in fact. Told us hes a mental assassin. Not quite sure what that means, but thats Wilson. If he had webbed feet, hed be the ultimate odd duck. Heres how he described pitching in Philly tonight: Fifty, 60,000 people screaming, thats what you want, he said to me. It doesnt matter if theyre for you or against you. You dont even hear the boos. You just feel the energy -- the energy of being out there with all these people watching. And you feed off that. Never mind the attendance tonight was just over 45,000. Thats one hell of an answer -- and one hell of an approach to dealing with the inherent stress of the gig.In other words, embrace the hate. Fear the beard and embrace the hate. One on the front, another on the back. Somebody out there is already printing T-shirts, and I better get one!Thats all for tonight, gang. Time to close up shop. Tomorrows Sunday, and dont forget to pray to Cody Ross. Because yes, he is God.UPDATED: 7:31 P.M.He didnt have his best stuff, he didnt have the greatest command, and he was working with an umpire who didnt seem to have a clue.All of which makes Tim Lincecums performance here tonight that much more impressive. His line of three runs on six hits and three walks over seven innings certainly dont look like statistical evidence of an evening of domination, but consider that the three runs came on two homers. One was a bad pitch, the other was the result of a bad ballpark. Lincecum, who struck out eight to bring his 16-inning postseason total to 22, dominated when he had to, and the seventh inning said it all.Giants manager Bruce Bochy opened himself up to some serious second-guessing when he let Lincecum hit for himself in the top of the inning. A lot of people see a one-run lead and a pitch count over 100 and think the right call is always a pinch hitter in that situation.Lincecum makes you think differently. Bochy needed another inning from his starter. Desperately. He so badly didnt want to have to use a lefty reliever this early that he had Madison Bumgarner warming up in the sixth. He wanted to save Javier Lopez to face Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the eighth, but he needed Lincecum to give him a perfect seventh first.Groundout, strikeout, groundout.And whaddya know? Lopez starts the eighth and quickly retires Utley and Howard. Four outs to victory.UPDATED: 6:58 P.M.Welcome to the playoff party, Juan Uribe.Just 2-for-17 in the National League Division Series, and 0-for-2 tostart the NL Championship Series, Uribe stroked an RBI single up themiddle off some stiff named Halladay to give the Giants a 4-1 lead inthe sixth inning.Uribe was such a big part of the Giants offense all year, such ajovial and likeable player, it was painful to watch him struggleagainst the Braves. One of the happier guys youll ever meet, even inbad times, he likes to tell everyone, Uribe always up.But Uribe, deep down, was down. During battingpractice, he left the cage wincing after a round littered with foulballs, meek grounders and lazy fly balls. It wasnt a wince of physicalpain, either. It was the wince of a man weighed down.Uribe up again now, though, and that 4-1 lead seemed pretty big at thetime. But lets not forget where this game is being played. Citizens Bank Park is every bit the bandbox its said to be, and JaysonWerth just illustrated that with his opposite-field homer to cut thelead to 4-3.And if you think Tim Lincecum isnt hot under the collar right now,youre as wrong as the people I saw walking past a cheesesteak shop andinto a McDonalds today.Not only has home-plate umpire Derryl Cousins strike zone been thesize of a thimble for most of the night, the park plays like a thimbleat times, too.Whens Cody Ross up again?UPDATED: 6:30 P.M.

Hi, its me again. Cody Ross.You remember me, right? Big home run a few innings ago?Just in case yall missed it, I did it for you again. See, I cant control what Tim Lincecum or Carlos Ruiz or that scary-looking Jayson Werth does.But when someone does something that threatens to steal my thunder, I take it right back.Ruiz takes Timmy deep to wipe out the 1-0 lead I gave him? Fine. Heres another, pretty much a carbon copy of the first. I dont know what the big deal is about this Roy Halladay, anyway. Hes no Madison Bumgarner, Ill tell you that right now.Not that I wouldnt take Madison deep. After all, I am Cody Ross! Its what I do. Its my new thing: Playoff god.I dont know what that Werth fella is doing with that look of his,either. He looks like he should be wearing cutoff jean shorts, Red Wingboots and a short-sleeved, red flannel shirt -- chopping wood somewheredeep in the Ozarks, a half-empty case of Hamms on its side nearby,while the 20-year-old boom box with a broken antenna behind him grindsout Gammas greatest hits.Wait, where was I? Oh yeah. Homers. Halladay. Me. King Kong.Its pretty cool. But I am getting a little tired of carrying an entire team on my back. Lil help?

UPDATED: 6:05 P.M.

The bottom of the third inning was a serious test for Tim Lincecum, and he passed it. Barely.Carlos Ruiz opened it by slamming a way-high fastball the other way fora game-tying homer, and Roy Halladay followed with a single.(Is there anything Halladay cant do, by the way? Does he cook gourmetdinner for the team after his starts, then head to the studio to laydown some tracks for his No. 1 album before heading home to sleep onthe bed he made himself while on a Peace Corp trip? Uncle.) Lincecum erased Halladay with a double play, but then came a double, awalk and a passed ball by Buster Posey to move the runners to secondand third with two out.At the plate: Ryan Howard, whod doubled off Lincecum in the secondinning and generally owns Big-Time Timmy Jim. Going into the at-bat hewas batting .350 (7-for-20) with three homers against the Freak, andthere isnt another person alive whos taken Lincecum deep three timesin the big leagues.Yet if theres one thing above all others that has fueled Lincecums greatness, its his ability to get bigger than the moment. Runners in scoring position? Lincecum usually grows from 5-foot-10 to 7-foot-10.On a 2-2 count, then, he absolutely buried an 86-mph slider that buried Howard and silenced the sellout crowd.As he walked off the field toward the dugout, Lincecum looked 10-foot-2.

UPDATED: 5:41 P.M.

Im Cody Ross, and yes, I sold my soul.I sold it for moments like this, becoming the first player to get a hit off Roy Halladay in the postseason. With a homer. On the road. In the NLCS.After almost single-handedly getting the Giants here.And again, off Roy Freaking Halladay.Soul, schmoul. You see that little skip I took out of the batters box?You see my teammates going bonkers, like kindergarteners being told the field trip has been changed from the Museum of Natural History to Baskin-Robbins?You see that smile on my face in the dugout after almost killing Mark DeRosa with a chest bump?It was worth it. And no, the Amish look Im rocking wasnt part of the deal.UPDATED: 5:31 P.M.Remember all the love that Pat Burrell got when he came back here for the first time with the Giants? He was showered with cheers, and it was a nice little moment for the man who spent most of his career in the City of Brotherly Love.Then he had the audacity to hit a homer. And then he homered again. Now they hate him.As Burrell strode to the plate for his first at-bat of the NLCS, he was booed hard. Plenty of boos during the pregame introductions, too.But wait. Now they love him again. He just struck out, missing a Roy Halladay slider off the outside corner by a good foot. Cheers all around.The cheers got louder when Halladay retired Juan Uribe to end the top of the second, his 11th consecutive postseason inning without allowing a hit. Youve probably heard hitters say the ball looks like a beach ball when theyre locked in. It must look like a chickpea when Halladays locked in.Tim Lincecum appears pretty dialed so far, too, putting to rest any concern that hed be over-amped for his first road playoff start. He just shrugged off a leadoff double by Ryan Howard with a classic escape: strikeout, popup, fly ball.So there will be no double no-hitter. A whole bunch of zeros, though? Thats a pretty safe bet right now.UPDATED: 5:12 P.M.Michael Buffer? Seriously? Oh, its gonna be a long night for Giants fans forced to follow this bad boy via Fox. Could be a long night for the Giants, too, if Roy Halladays first inning is any indication. Actually, it might be a short night. Strike one, strike one, strike one. Thats what Halladay does. He gets ahead of everybody, and he just got through Andres Torres (first-pitch lineout), Freddy Sanchez (0-2 flyout) and Aubrey Huff (1-2 groundout) in an eight-pitch hurry.Thing is, the Giants cant sit back and wait. Halladay is the kind of pitcher against whom you have to be aggressive early in the count, because hes not going to walk you. Its why his games, as long as the opposing pitcher works at a decent pace, are usually over within a couple of hours or so.Tim Lincecum likes to work fast, too, and while he gave up a couple of deep drives in the bottom of the first, he got through it on seven pitches. So make your trips to the bathroom or fridge quickies, folks. This isnt the Yankees and Red Sox in a four-hour slog. This is Doc vs. the Freak, both of them sprinting.

UPDATED: 4:53 P.M.

Its finally here. The National League Championship Series. The final hurdle a team must clear on the way to the World Series.Its a big damn deal, and the atmosphere outside Citizens Bank Park before Game 1 reflects that. This is not a baseball game. This is an event.Baseball goes all out for these things. Everything outside the yard is swathed with NLCS logos, and if youd like to own something with that logo on it, theres a huge merchandise tent in which you can get that 45 t-shirt youve always wanted.The street just outside the front entrance to the yard has been converted into a gigantic street party, and from the looks and sounds of things, which are already getting a tad sloppy, nobody has been financially dissuaded from imbibing in 12 beers. (Is the NLCS an aphrodisiac? To the red-clad couple making out next to the row of port-a-potties it is.) For sustenance, you can pick up some meat cooked on whats being hyped as the Playoff Grill. Makes you wonder what they did with the Regular-Season Grill.Theres even a huge stage, featuring with a local band pumping out covers of everything from the Beatles to Queen to Miley Cyrus.You think Paul McCartney is cool with his timeless classics being followed by Hannah Montana tunes?Who knows. But everyone here seems pretty cool with whats about to happen.Roy Halladay vs. Tim Lincecum? Big damn deal.

Three things you need to know after the Raiders’ 33-8 loss to the Patriots


Three things you need to know after the Raiders’ 33-8 loss to the Patriots

MEXICO CITY – Three things you need to know after the Raiders’ 33-8 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City:

1. So you’re saying there’s a chance?

The Raiders aren’t stacking wins as they’d like. Nobody in the AFC West is, either. The Chiefs lost another one, meaning the AFC West crown remains within reach. They’re two games back in the division and one back in the wild card race.

That, above all else, will keep the Raiders motivated after a disastrous loss to New England.

“We're professionals and to me, so long as you have hope, you keep your hope, you keep hope alive,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “So, we'll continue to scratch and claw and fight for everything we can.”

The Raiders can harken Lloyd Christmas from “Dumb and Dumber.” So you’re saying there’s a chance?

The Raiders will only stay in it if they start a prolonged winning streak. There’s a chance do that on an upcoming two-game home stand. They play Denver and the New York Giants, respectively, in Oakland over the next fortnight. Those teams have five wins between them.

Wins can’t be assumed with the Raiders. With their inconsistency and mistake-prone play, they can lose to anyone.

Fight remains in this group. They’ll continue to push, especially with a 9-7 record being a legitimate playoff contender. They haven’t played worthy of such consideration, but remain hopeful a switch gets flipped.

“We are who we are, we're not going to turn on each other, we're not going to turn on anything about what we do,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “Obviously, we know that our culture and everything that we do works, because we have seen it work.”

2. Receiver corps becoming a weak spot

The Raiders have a talented group of receivers lacking consistency and production. That was the case on Sunday, when pass catchers hindered offensive flow and scoring opportunities.

Seth Roberts was the biggest offender. He had a drop, a false start and lost a fumble near the goal line with the Patriots up 14-0 late in the first half. Roberts had 12 yards in his pocket but held the ball one-handed, away from his body fighting for more. Marquis Flowers knocked it free and Patrick Chung recovered.

That was the turning point, a true 10-point swing. The Raiders lost a chance to reach the end zone, and allowed New England to get a field goal as the half expired.

“That was a major turn of events,” Del Rio said.

The slot receiver wasn’t the only receiver who stalled the Raiders offense. That group had five drops, according to Pro Football Focus, including two from Michael Crabtree. Johnny Holton wasn’t credited with a drop, but he had a perfectly thrown deep ball clang off his helmet and shoulder pads.

It’s a bad night in a bad year for the Raiders receivers, who haven’t been producing.

3. Lopsided score keeps Marshawn from going Beast Mode

Running back Marshawn Lynch was the only player who had a good Sunday. The bruising back ran roughshod over New England’s front seven, right from the start. He totaled 67 yards on 11 carries, and seemed primed for a big day and a higher-than-usual carry volume.

He and the Raiders run blocking was consistent, allowing him to reach the second level on several occasions.

The lopsided score, however, meant the Raiders had to abandon the ground game.

“I thought we ran the ball well early,” Del Rio said. “I would like to have ended up with 30-plus rush attempts in the ball game, but you got to stay within reasonable amount of the score in order to stick with the run.”

The Raiders were down two touchdowns in a flash, and were three scores behind at the half. That forced Derek Carr to chuck it towards an unreliable receiver corps. That method proved inefficient and never created the big moments.

Lynch has run well since returning from a one-game suspension. He has 25 carries for 124 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games. If there’s a positive to take from Sunday’s beat down, Lynch’s efficiency might be it.

Del Rio calls out NFL for Raiders losing home games to go abroad


Del Rio calls out NFL for Raiders losing home games to go abroad

MEXICO CITY – The Raiders have played in Mexico City the last two years, and have given up a home game to do it.

You already know head coach Jack Del Rio’s stance on the matter. He doesn’t like it. Not one bit.

The NFL announced Sunday morning that Mexico City will host games annually through 2021. The Raiders will be on the short list to return during that span.

“They’ve done a nice job for us over the last two years,” Del Rio said. “If it was a road game, I’d enjoy it. If they stop making (international contests) our home games, we’ll be fine.”

Hate to be the bearer of bad news Jack, but the Raiders will keep giving home games away. That’s expected each year until the Raiders formally move to Las Vegas.

The Raiders might not come back to Mexico for a third straight season, but could host a game in London next year. The NFL sent four games to the United Kingdom this year.

The Raiders have a massive fan base in England and Mexico, which makes them an attractive option to play abroad.

It might make financial sense for the team and the league to expand its base beyond borders, but the football people don’t find it fun.

The Raiders had more fans watching Sunday’s 33-8 loss to the New England Patriots at Estadio Azteca, but it’s no substitute for playing in Oakland.

“I think the crowd down here is pretty excited for the Raiders, so we appreciate that,” Del Rio said. “When you travel four-and-a-half hours, you’re not at home. We appreciate the hospitality and the good people who came out and supported us, but it’s hard to call it a home game.”

This one, especially. The Raiders had overwhelming support last year’s game against Houston, but Patriots fans were a large and vocal minority. They had plenty to cheer, as the Patriots waxed the Silver and Black over four quarters.

It’s hard to say the Raiders had a home crowd this time around, with plenty of noise when they were on offense.

“You know what, traveling down here, I think it was like four hours or something like that, and getting here, I think that hospitality was great, but it really wasn't, it wasn't the Coliseum,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “It didn’t have that feel. Now, we loved playing here, we loved coming down here and playing, but it felt more neutral.”