Giants 1 win away from swiping series from Reds


Giants 1 win away from swiping series from Reds

CINCINNATI (AP) With an out-of-character win, the San Francisco Giants are on the verge of an unprecedented comeback.

And everybody in Cincinnati is saying: Uh-oh.

Angel Pagan hit the first leadoff homer in Giants postseason history, and Gregor Blanco and Pablo Sandoval connected later for an 8-3 victory over the Reds on Wednesday that evened their NL division series at 2-all.

After dropping their first two at home, the resourceful Giants have moved one victory away from the NL championship series - unthinkable when they landed in town on Monday. No team has recovered from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series by winning three on the road, according to STATS LLC.

This one can do it with a victory on Thursday at Great American Ball Park.

``Thanks to the win today, there will be a tomorrow,'' Pagan said. ``And we are ready for that.''

Matt Cain, who lost the series opener and has yet to beat the Reds in three tries this season, will start Game 5 against Mat Latos, who has a little personal history against the Giants. He was with San Diego in 2010 when the Giants eliminated San Diego on their way to a World Series title.

That offseason, Latos signed three baseballs with ``I Hate SF!'' as part of a fundraiser for the major league players' alumni association. After Wednesday's game, his wife, Dallas, tweeted: ``2010 Padres are not the 2010 Reds.''

There's plenty of angst to go around town. The Reds haven't won a postseason game at home in 17 years, going 0-3. They also dropped a one-game playoff for the NL wild card to the Mets in 1999.

One thing in their favor - they haven't dropped three straight at home all season.

``I'd like to think that we still have the advantage,'' Reds outfielder Jay Bruce said. ``We're at home. I expect Mat to come up with a big game. I'm looking forward to it.''

So are the Giants, who were barely able to get a hit, let alone a win, while dropping the first two games. The pressure pulled them closer. Hunter Pence gathered them for inspirational speeches before the two games in Cincinnati.

``We feel good,'' NL batting champion Buster Posey said. ``When you're down 0-2 you see what you're made of. We're not done.''

It wasn't all about the offense. San Francisco's overlooked Cy Young winner played a starring role, too.

Tim Lincecum was relegated to the bullpen for the playoff series because of his dreary season - 15 losses, 17 wild pitches. He entered in the fourth inning, pitched out of a threat that kept the Giants up 3-2, and kept going. The right-hander struck out six while allowing just one run in 4 1-3 innings.

``I knew he would play a huge role in this,'' manager Bruce Bochy said. ``And I know of other situations where starters have been in the `pen and really done a great job to help their team win. We knew Timmy would play a critical role in the series like he did tonight.''

The Reds were hoping to start ace Johnny Cueto, but had to drop him off the roster a few hours before Wednesday's first pitch because he was still bothered by a strained muscle in his right side. He won't be available if Cincinnati wins Game 5 and reaches the NL championship series.

The way the Giants have started hitting, that's now in doubt.

They broke out against Mike Leake, who replaced Cueto and had a rough time. Leake threw his first career complete game in San Francisco on June 29 and was 3-0 career against the Giants.

Pagan homered to start it off for the Giants. Blanco hit a two-run shot in the second. The Giants had another breakthrough in the fifth, when back-to-back doubles by Joaquin Arias and Pagan ended an 0-for-14 slump with runners in scoring position during the series.

Sandoval's two-run shot in the seventh made it 8-3, matched the Giants' season high for homers and drew loud boos from the crowd of 44,375 - the third-largest at Great American Ball Park. Fans quietly settled into their seats and used their white rally towels as lap warmers against the evening chill.

The Giants normally don't hit many homers - only 103 during the season, fewest in the majors. They're only the seventh team since 1900 to reach the playoffs after finishing last in the majors in homers.

While the offense went to work, Lincecum bailed out the bullpen.

Bochy didn't hesitate to put the guys he wanted on the mound, using four pitchers in the first four innings. Lincecum settled things down, giving up only two hits in his second relief appearance of the series.

He threw 42 strikes out of 55 pitches and even batted twice - just like a starter.

``The last two games, it's been about scratching and leaving it on the field,'' Lincecum said.

NOTES: The Reds honored RHP Homer Bailey on the field before the game for his no-hitter in Pittsburgh on Sept. 28, presenting him and C Ryan Hanigan with framed photo montages. ... LH Barry Zito started and lasted only 2 2-3 innings, his shortest postseason appearance. ... San Francisco has won each of Zito's last 12 starts. ... The Giants hit three homers in a game eight times during the regular season.


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Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game


Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game

You thought the Caps had a goalie rotation before, but now they have added a third netminder in the mix.

Pheonix Copley has been recalled from the Hershey Bears and will backup Philipp Grubauer for Washington's game in Detroit, the team announced Thursday.

The move comes in response to an injury concern for Braden Holtby.


Dallas Stars forward Remi Elie collided with Holtby midway through the third period on Tuesday as Holtby was extending to make a save. Holtby reacted awkwardly to the collision and could be seen skating and flexing his leg during the next stoppage.

With only nine games remaining in the regular season, Holtby's injury is a major concern. Given his recent struggles, the final few weeks of the season offered a chance for Holtby to get his game back to form. Just where his game will be when he is 100-percent healthy again is certainly a storyline to watch.


The good news for Washington, however, is that Grubauer is perhaps more ready this season to lead the team than he ever has been and confidence in him around the team should be high.

Since Thanksgiving, Grubauer has played in 22 games with a 17-11-4 record, a .939 save percentage, 1.85 GAA and two shutouts. No goalie who has played in 20 games or more has registered a better save percentage or GAA. He will certainly be looked upon to carry the load until Holtby returns. Whether this means he now has the inside track on starting in the playoffs, however, remains to be seen. That will depend largely on just when Holtby is ready to return and how Grubauer plays down the stretch.

Copley, 26, has gone 14-16-6 with two shutouts, a .898 save percentage and 2.86 GAA in 38 games in Hershey this season. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Washington in 2014. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the package that netted the Caps T.J. Oshie, but was reacquired by Washington in Feb. 2017 in a trade deadline deal that included Kevin Shattenkirk.

At the time, it was believed Copley would be the team's backup for the 2017-18 season with Grubauer likely headed to Vegas in the expansion draft. Vegas, however, took Nate Schmidt instead which led to Copley spending the season in Hershey. The Caps now will be happy for the extra goalie depth for as long as Holtby's health remains a concern.

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Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


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