Urban: NLDS Live Playoff Blog, Game 4


Urban: NLDS Live Playoff Blog, Game 4

Oct. 11, 2010

Mychael Urban
UPDATED: 7:16 p.m.

ATLANTA -- Loved, loved, loved the decision to send Santiago Casilla back out for the eighth inning.Casilla, who has steadily climbed the ladder of responsibility in theGiants bullpen all year, got off to a shaky start in the seventhinning when he fell behind 3-1 to the first batter he faced. Fivestrikes later, including three foul balls, the at-bat was over, and thenext two Braves taped harmlessly back to the righty.it had to be tempting to turn to a matchup game for the eighth, but theGiants made the right call in sticking with Casilla, who is well-restedand bursting with confidence.He struck out Derrek Lee to open the bottom of the eighth, and after asingle by Brian McCann, who is hitting .429 in the series (it seemslike hes batting .942), Casilla got Alex Gonzalez on a little looperto shortstop Edgar Renteria.With lefty Jason Heyward up next, that was it for Casilla, who just climbed another rung -- passing Sergio Romo along the way.
UPDATED: 6:53 p.m.

Why wasnt Nate Schierholtz running for Pat Burrell there in the seventh? Probably because Bruce Bochy wanted Burrell in the game for his bat incase Cody Ross didnt come through and the score had remained tied.Ross did come through, of course, and Burrell was gunned down at theplate while trying to score from second behind Buster Posey on Rossclutch single to left.Its a 20-20 hindsight thing, I guess, but do you really want Burrellout there in left field late in a tie game? Tough call, to be sure. Im not sure what Id have done in that situation. All I know is thatRay Rattos multi-colored scorecard is starting to look like somethingmy 6-year-old would draw on acid, and Aaron Rowand owes Ross a fatsteak.

UPDATED: 6:33 p.m.

Bobby Cox is no dummy. With the Giants threatening -- two on, one out in the seventh -- theBraves esteemed skipper slowly walked from the dugout to the mound fora chat with his starter, Derek Lowe. Most times the manager makes that walk, its to make a change, and thecrowd was not pleased. Cox was booed every step of the way.Crazy old coot, the crowd seemed to be thinking.Crazy like a fox, maybe. He talked to Lowe, turned around and went back to the dugout. The crowd went wild.Cox knew it would, too. Thats what he was doing. Trying to get them back into full froth.Mission accomplished -- momentarily.Lowe buzzkilled it, though, by walking Pat Burrell to load the bases,so Cox had to come right back out. And this time he had no choice butthe give Lowe the hook.UPDATED: 6:20 p.m.

Not exactly the shutdown inning for which Madison Bumgarner was looking.As quickly as Cody Ross tied things up with his homer in the top of thesixth, Brian McCann untied them by lining Bumgarners first pitch inthe bottom of the sixth over the wall in right.The kid bounced right back, though, by striking out Alex Gonzalez and,after a one-out single by Jason Heyward, coolly escaping the inningwithout further incident. Its going to be interesting to see how long Bruce Bochy and DaveRighetti let their prize rookie roll. His pitch count is at 85, thesame as Derek Lowes after six innings, and if the Giants were leadingright now that might be it for the kid.The Giants bullpen, remember, is mostly fresh, and Tuesday is a dayoff even if this bad boy goes to a fifth game. Chances are, Bumgarnergets one more inning -- with a very short leash.UPDATED: 6:12 p.m.
Well, that was quite the bolt out of the blue. Bunt, schmunt. Jerk one out.Cody Ross did just that with one out in the sixth inning, sending ascud into the shallows of the left-field bleachers. And just like thatDerek Lowes no-hitter, shutout and lead are gone. Troy Glaus, by the way, is now playing so far in on the infield grassthat he can tell what kind of nose-hair trimmer Andres Torres uses.UPDATED: 5:59 p.m.

Anyone wondering why the Giants havent yet tested Troy Glaus at third base?Its not like their offense is this close to breaking out. Time to make something happen. Edgar Renteria successfully bunted on Glaus in Game 2. And yeah, Glausis surely expecting more of that. Hes inching in, constantly.Fine. Test him anyway. Hes rusty, hes big, hes not fast and hes not been asked to throw on the run in a long, long time.Mike Fontenot. Cody Ross. Andres Torres. Freddy Sanchez. Somebody. Anybody.If this game passes without Glaus having to try to make some kind ofathletic play, the Giants dont deserve to win it -- on the grounds ofignoring the obvious.UPDATED: 5:34 p.m.

OK, Derek Lowe is officially badass. Three innings, zero hits, zero walks, four strikeouts. His sinker isdiving nearly straight down like a splitter, and early in the counthes starting it just off the outside corner to right-handed hitters,running it back over the black.Later in the count, hes throwing it right down the middle, starting itat the knees. Swing at it and its in the dirt, slipping under yourbat. The result is a lot of 180s by the Giants, and when they hit theball at all, theyre grazing it at best.Single-handedly, Lowe has kept the huge and desperate Atlanta crowdinto the game. They cranked up the Tomahawk Chop between while MadisonBumgarner was warming up for the bottom of the third, and a pair ofsingles and a pair of fly balls rewarded their enthusiasm with a 1-0lead.As quiet as Lowe had kept the Giants bats thus far, thats how loud alot of the balls coming off Braves bats have been. Bumgarner doesnthave his best stuff -- at least not yet -- and its starting to feellike Atlanta is close to a big-time breakthrough if something doesntchange in a hurry.As I banged out that last line, another line drive put runners at firstand second with two out, setting up a BumgarnerJason Heywardconfrontation that had this place buzzing like the gigantic flying bugsyou see here giving people rides to their car after the game.Heyward popped up, but trouble still seems to be a-brewin for MadBum.UPDATED: 5:12 p.m.
Giants third baseman Mike Fontenot just made a bad decision and abad throw in the bottom of the second inning, a physical errorcompounding the mental.With Jason Heyward at first base and two out, Troy Glaus hit a fairlyslow roller to Fontenot, whose momentum was taking him in the directionof first base. But rather than ride the wave and throw across the diamond for whatwould have been an easy inning-ending out Glaus is to fast what friedTwinkies are to heart-healthy Fontenot threw across his body andnearly air-mailed it into right field.Rookie Madison Bumgarner promptly walked the bases loaded, but dontthink for a second that he was unnerved by Fontenots brain cramp.Who would you rather face Rock Ankiel or Derek Lowe? Exactly. Lowe popped out, no harm done.UPDATED: 4:53 p.m.

Derek Lowe seems to be just fine, short rest and all. Two groundersto short and a lazy fly ball to shallow left in the top of the first,and thats about what you should expect as long as hes in the game.Sinkerballers typically hold up better on short rest than, say, a powerpitcher. Being a tad tired, in fact, isnt a bad thing for asinkerballer at all. In fact, Tim Hudson -- another guy with big-timesink often throws about 20 more pitches in the bullpen than otherstarters. He doesnt want to be too strong because that can lead tothrowing too hard, a k a through the sink.Lowe didnt need to throw extra in the bullpen before tonights gamebecause hes already a little tired. Or so youd think. Right now, helooks pretty damn good.As for Madison Bumgarner, he better start getting the ball down. Allthree outs he got in the bottom of the first inning were on fly ballsto center field, and the ball was flying pretty well during BP today.
UPDATED: 4:33 P.M.
Before the first pitch is thrown, a glimpse into the glamorous life of an MLB Insider There were more than 53,000 people at Turner Field on Sunday night. Twoof them almost didnt make it out: CSN Bay Area anchor Scott Reiss andme. When I was done writing for the night, which at this point had morphedinto morning, I went down to the field to see if anyone on our coverageteam here in Atlanta was also done with their duties for the night.Were all staying in the same hotel, so I figured Id check if someonewanted to share a cab back in the wee hours.Scott was the only one finished, so off we went.And went. And went. And went.Ill take much of the blame for what happened, because Ive been herebefore. Granted, it was five years ago, but still. I should know how toget out of the place.Alas, I had forgotten, and you have no idea how difficult it is to getout of a big-league stadium a few hours after the paying customers haveleft. Theres typically one door through which anyone with postgamework to do can exit, and for some reason its often unmarked, randomlyplaced, and harder to find than a supermodel at Sizzler.On the bright side, Scott and I did get to see all there is to see onthe concourses here. Despite both having a comically low level ofconfidence in the advice we received upon asking some troll in anoversized Tonka truck loaded with empty beer kegs, we indeed went insearch of the magic elevator our friend had told us was our salvation. Never found it. But 30 minutes later, we found our way outside. Throughan unmarked door under a staircase. It was like starring in Being JohnMalkovich.Alls well that ends well, though. A cabbie stationed at a bar acrossthe street from the stadium actually saw us looking clueless inside andknew exactly what was going on, so he followed our follies and wasthere waiting for us when we got out.And guess where that exit was? About 20 feet from where we started our journey. Nice.UPDATED: 3:34 P.M.
There is bad and there is Brooks Conrad Bad.

Plain ol bad gets you booed; call it Barry Zito Bad.

Brook Conrad Bad is worse, but because many, many people are kind-hearted deep down, Brooks Conrad Bad gets you something of a pass.

Booing or vilifying poor Conrad at this point would be not just to pick low-hanging fruit, but to pick it and throw it against a wall draped with barbed wire until it looks less like fruit and more like something one of the werewolves in True Blood would pull from the sternum of an unsuspecting mortal whod made a wrong turn in the woods.

So Brooks took the field for batting practice here Monday without the accompaniment of heckling or boos or signage suggesting he do unnatural things to himself.

He did, however, take the field as a non-starter for the first time in the National League Division Series between the Braves and the Giants. As it should be. The man has to be the mental equivalent of a squid in a blender on low, grinding in a gross, unsightly slog. So its Troy Glaus at third, All-Star utilityman Omar Infante at second.

Ideal for Atlanta? No. This will be Glaus first start of the year at the hot corner, mostly because hes about as agile as a Fathead sticker, and hes already air-mailed two throws during BP; one nearly decapitated a cameraman.

So perhaps the fielding fun shifts to the left side of the infield tonight. Whatever the case, Derek Lowe might be wise to pound the outside part of the plate against right-handed hitters.

49ers snap count: Reid no longer starter; rookies see more time on offense


49ers snap count: Reid no longer starter; rookies see more time on offense

Veteran safety Eric Reid returned from a knee injury that kept him out three games to discover he lost his starting job.

Strong safety Jaquiski Tartt has continued to serve as an every-down player for the 49ers’ defense. On Sunday, Reid played 48 snaps (64 percent) as the 49ers employed six defensive backs against the Dallas Cowboys three-receiver sets.

The 49ers had to adjust their sub package after nickel back K’Waun Williams sustained a hip injury. Rookie Adrian Colbert entered the game at safety with Jimmie Ward taking over Williams’ role. Colbert played 29 snaps.

Newly signed defensive linemen Leger Douzable and Tony McDaniel saw a lot of action in their 49ers debuts. Douzable played the third-most of any defensive lineman (behind Solomon Thomas and DeForest Buckner), seeing action on 47 of the team’s 75 snaps. McDaniel played 25 snaps.

On offense, the 49ers appear to be making a point to go with younger players. Rookie Cole Hikutini played 21 snaps, taking over as the No. 2 tight end over Garrett Celek and Logan Paulsen.

Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, another undrafted rookie, played a season-high 23 snaps. On fourth-and-4 from the Dallas 28 early in the third quarter, coach Kyle Shanahan decided to go for it instead of kicking a 46-yard field goal. Bourne was the intended target. But he stumbled after a spin move from the slot, and C.J. Beathard’s pass was incomplete.

“As I was throwing the ball he tripped,” Beathard said. “If he hadn’t tripped on a DB’s feet or whatever happened there, it would’ve been a big play.”

Here is a look at the 49ers’ playing time on offense, defense and special teams:

(66 plays)
Quarterback – C.J. Beathard 66
Running back – Carlos Hyde 51, Matt Breida 15
Wide receiver – Pierre Garçon 46, Trent Taylor 46, Marquise Goodwin 39, Aldrick Robinson 30, Kendrick Bourne 23
Tight end – George Kittle 31, Cole Hikutini 21, Garrett Celek 18, Logan Paulsen 11
Offensive line – Joe Staley 66, Daniel Kilgore 66, Laken Tomlinson 66, Brandon Fusco 52, Trent Brown 45, Garry Gilliam 20, Zane Beadles 14

(75 plays)
Defensive line – Solomon Thomas 61, DeForest Buckner 50, Leger Douzable 47, Earl Mitchell 38, Xavier Cooper 26, D.J. Jones 25, Tony McDaniel 25, Elvis Dumervil 15
Linebacker – Reuben Foster 53, Eli Harold 31, Ray-Ray Armstrong 27, Brock Coyle 22, Dekoda Watson 9
Cornerback – Dontae Johnson 63, Rashard Robinson 51, Ahkello Witherspoon 35, K’Waun Williams 20
Safety – Jaquiski Tartt 75, Jimmie Ward 75, Eric Reid 48, Adrian Colbert 29

(24 plays)
Elijah Lee 21, Coyle 21, Raheem Mostert 16, Celek 15, Colbert 16, Witherspoon 15, Breida 14, Harold 12, Hikutini 12, Armstrong 10, Tartt 10, Bradley Pinion 9, Jones 8, R.Robinson 8, Ward 8, Johnson 7, Kyle Nelson 6, Buckner 6, Thomas 6, Paulsen 6, Reid 5, Mitchell 5, Douzable 4, A.Robinson 3, Taylor 3, Robbie Gould 2, Foster 2, Staley 2, Kilgore 2, Gilliam 2, Beadles 2, Tomlinson 1, Fusco 1, Brown 1, Dumervil 1, Watson 1, Williams 1

QB Brian Hoyer

WR Victor Bolden
DB Dexter McCoil
FB Kyle Juszczyk (back)
LB Mark Nzeocha
LB Pita Taumoepenu
DL Aaron Lynch (calf)
OL Erik Magnuson

Cowboys expose 49ers' biggest weakness in bashing: Talent


Cowboys expose 49ers' biggest weakness in bashing: Talent

If there is such a thing as being “due” in sports (and there actually isn’t, so you can probably stop reading now), the San Francisco 49ers had Sunday coming to them.
After all, the anomaly of being the “best winless team in football” based on margin of defeat lasts only so long until the “winless” part trumps the “best” part, because even the Los Angeles Chargers – the previous “best bad team in football” – aren’t the Chargers all the time.
So it was that the Dallas Cowboys exposed every weakness the 49ers have with the simplest thing there is.
The Cowboys did everything they wanted, but only whenever they wanted it, in a 40-10 dope-slapping that could actually have been worse than it was. The 49er offense was properly stymied (again), gaining only 290 yards (4.5 yards per play) and the defense was thoroughly Elliotted (as in Ezekiel-ed, who averaged 8.1 yards in his 27 touches). San Francisco’s warts were rubbed until they glowed, and if not for the fact that head coach Kyle Shanahan already knew where they were, he’d have been shocked to see how visible they were.
And therein lies the takeaway from another day at Not-So-Great-America. It turns out that the 49ers weren’t very good at much of anything before Sunday except just how far away they are from what Shanahan and general manager John Lynch believe is their destiny. C.J.  Beathard remained the rookie quarterback he is, and Carlos Hyde's hard-won 68 rushing yards led to no scores. Indeed, San Francisco's only touchdown came on a four-yard improv sprint from Beathard, who is by no means a running quarterback except in abject flight.

Next week in Philadelphia figures to be no less grisly, if you’re waiting for that magic moment when “0” becomes “1.” That is, of course, unless Washington exposes the Eagles as less than what they seem, which is very often the case in the new parity-gripped NFL.

But there are subsequent get-well games at home against Arizona and then at New York against the Giants the week after, so whatever dreams you might have about them running the table backwards and getting the first overall pick in the draft are still light years from realization.
This is, however, another healthy reminder that the job to be done is at least two more years in the undoing before the doing can actually begin. Not that the players or coaches needed another lesson, mind you – they know.
But maybe you needed it, just to keep your delusions in check. Maybe the people who were “due” were all of you.
But that’s unfair, too. You didn’t undo this franchise. All you did was believe, and there’s nothing wrong with that – as long you know there will be more days like this before your team starts handing out the 40-10’s.
In the meantime, there is beer.