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Giants getting good rolls so far this World Series

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Giants getting good rolls so far this World Series

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Gregor Blanco is chasing down line drives in left field, laying down perfect bunts and making run-saving relay throws.

He has had a hand, glove and bat in just about everything so far in his first World Series to give the San Francisco Giants a commanding 2-0 lead against the Tigers as the Series shifts to the Motor City.

Blanco surprised himself when his bunt single dribbled about halfway down the third base line and stopped next to the white chalk, inches fair. It helped get the Giants on the board in the seventh inning of Thursday's 2-0 victory - and all he meant to do was move the runner over.

Several Detroit players stood over the ball, almost in disbelief.

``I don't know about baseball gods, but I'll tell you one thing: I hope the ball keeps bouncing our way,'' reliever Jeremy Affeldt said. ``It's been huge for us.''

Blanco has been a beneficiary of all that good fortune, all right. And even a scary moment, when his line drive struck Tigers starter Doug Fister just above the right ear in the second inning but the pitcher stayed in the game.

The 28-year-old Blanco reached on that perfect bunt in the seventh inning, then the Giants went ahead moments later on Brandon Crawford's bases-loaded double-play grounder.

No arguing, the best bunt of his career.

``It has to be,'' Blanco said, ``and I think the best at-bat of my career, too.''

He sure has helped this city move on from Melky Cabrera, suspended 50 games in August for a positive testosterone test and left off the postseason roster once he was eligible to return.

Blanco ran to first as third baseman and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, catcher Gerald Laird and pitcher Drew Smyly converged on the ball but it settled on the dirt - a space of maybe six inches - between the chalk and the grass.

As soon as he hit it he told himself it had to be headed foul. The ball cooperated, though he's not sure how.

``I was joking with Roberto Kelly when I got to first base, `We practiced that today,''' Blanco said. ``That was a perfect bunt. I wasn't really trying to do that. I think it was just meant to be and I'm thankful that I did it.''

Now, because of plays like that, the Giants go into Game 3 on Saturday ahead for a change. They rallied from behind in both the division series against Cincinnati and NL championship series with the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals.

``You hate to say it, but sometimes you need some luck,'' said Ryan Vogelsong, who will start Game 3 at Comerica Park. ``I used to be one of those guys who said you create your own luck, but sometimes in this game that's not the case and the ball has to bounce your way.''

San Francisco also made a great play at the plate to save a run in the second. Had Prince Fielder scored then Detroit might have grabbed some early momentum on the heels of an 8-3 loss in Wednesday's opener.

After Fielder was hit by a pitch from Madison Bumgarner leading off the second, Blanco - who made a pair of pretty diving catches in left field during Wednesday's win - chased down Delmon Young's double but overthrew the first cutoff man. Second baseman Marco Scutaro wisely hustled over to third base, however, and caught Blanco's throw before making a perfect relay home to catcher Buster Posey just in time to nail a sliding Fielder at the plate.

``I don't know what Scutaro was doing there, but I'm thankful that he was there,'' Blanco said. ``The ball took kind of a funny hop and I said, `I've got to throw to the cutoff man the quickest way I can.'''

Scutaro insists he was just doing his job to back up on the play.

``To cut off relays, always you have to do that,'' Scutaro said.

Manager Bruce Bochy figured Fielder would score when the ball hit the wall.

``It was a bang-bang play,'' Bochy said. ``That's not an easy call there. He was out, and good quick tag by Buster. It took a perfect relay to get it done.''

Omar Infante hit a leadoff single in the fourth but Pablo Sandoval made a nice play to snare Cabrera's sharp liner. Infante was later thrown out trying to steal second.

Sure, the Giants made it this far with sparkling defense down the stretch. But a few good hops never hurt.

Bochy has acknowledged that getting some breaks along the way can make a huge difference in October, on the big stage when the stakes are high. And he would know, he took San Francisco to a championship two years ago.

``Baseball's so hard, this game's about having luck,'' Blanco said. ``You can hit the ball 10 times with a line drive to center field and go 0 for 10.''

On Wednesday in the Series opener, Angel Pagan had a double that bounced off the bag at third and shot into left field.

In Game 5 of the NL championship series last Friday at St. Louis, Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn fielded an easy comebacker in the fourth inning and quickly turned to try to start a double play at second base. Instead, his throw caromed off the bag and the throwing error allowed a run to score in the Giants' four-run inning.

Barry Zito - the Game 1 World Series winner - wound up pitching his team to a 5-0, season-saving victory.

``We're definitely not going to complain about them,'' Vogelsong said. ``It's been crazy, but it's good. You hate to say luck becomes present in a game, but obviously it does.''

San Francisco flew home to the Bay Area trailing the defending champions 3-2 and won two more to reach its second World Series in three years - with help from another bizarre ball in Game 7, of course.

Hunter Pence broke his bat making contact in the third inning. The ball then hit the broken barrel two more times on the follow through, sending a slicing liner toward shortstop that fooled St. Louis' Pete Kozma and went through for a double. Two runs scored and a third crossed the plate when center fielder Jon Jay made an error, breaking the game open.

So, is there any question who has the best bunting skills on the Giants?

``I guess, Gregor,'' Scutaro said with a smile. ``What do you think? See that bunt?''

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

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USA TODAY Sports

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise. Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Towes intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. Toews' interception led to a 2-on-0 in the second period. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal. He also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board. Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.

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4 reasons why the Caps lost to the Blackhawks

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USA TODAY Sports

4 reasons why the Caps lost to the Blackhawks

The Caps were outplayed in just about every facet of the game on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. It is hard to narrow it down to just a few reasons they ultimately lost this game, but here are the most glaring.

The first period

The opening 20 minutes of this game was, to be blunt, awful. The Caps managed only nine shots attempts, six of which went on net. Chicago, meanwhile, fired 21 shots on goal with 29 total shot attempts. Washington was held to 21 shots on goal or less six times this season, so to allow 21 to an opponent in 20 minutes is not a good start. Of course, you can’t allow that many shots and escape unscathed and Washington found themselves down 3-1 at the end of the first. The Caps were outskated and sloppy with the puck and thoroughly dominated by the Blackhawks.

A bad early goal

Chicago did not need any help scoring in this one. The first goal of the game came when Jonathan Toews just threw a quick shot from the corner on net that caught Braden Holtby off guard. Holtby allowed six goals on the night, but only two of them looked soft. It was an inauspicious start to the game and a save Holtby really needed to make.

Two breakaways in the second period

A breakaway represents a breakdown in the defense. When you give up two in a span of 1:10, including a 2-on-0, that means you're not having a good night. In the second period, Brooks Orpik tried a cross-ice pass that was easily picked off by Toews that launched a 2-on-0 with him and Patrick Kane. There may not be a worse tandem in hockey to give up a 2-on-0 against than that. Just about a minute later, Ryan Hartman weaved his way through the defense to spark his own breakaway. It wasn't a good pass that launched him or a bad line change. Hartman's feet were moving and the Caps' were not. As bad as the first period was, it looked as if the Caps had stopped the bleeding as the score remained 3-1 with less than four minutes remaining in the second which is in no way is an insurmountable deficit. In the remaining four minutes, Chicago extended its lead to 6-1.

Defense

Holtby allowed six goals in this game before he was replaced by Philipp Grubauer for the start of the third period. Of those six, only two were "soft" goals Holtby should have had. The other four were the result of poor defense. The breakaways were already described in detail above. The second goal of the game came when Orpik and Madison Bowey both challenge Brandon Saad as he drove into the Caps' zone, leaving Vinnie Hinostroza to go in on net unimpeded. When Saad got the pass to him, Holtby did well to stop the initial shot, but could not get the Saad rebound shot. In the closing seconds of the first period, Holtby stopped a Carl Dahlstrom shot, but the rebound went to a wide open Nick Schmaltz who had all the space he could want to shoot in the rebound. John Carlson finished the game with a minus-3, Orpik, Bowey and Christian Djoos were minus-2 and Matt Niskanen was a minus-1.