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Romo closes out Game 2 for Giants in style

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Romo closes out Game 2 for Giants in style

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) There's a bearded and boisterous reliever pulling pranks in the dugout and closing out games for the San Francisco Giants in the World Series again.

No, it's not Brian Wilson - though it might be hard to tell.

Sergio Romo pitched a perfect ninth inning for his first World Series save Thursday night, stranding Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera - the potential tying run - on deck to finish off San Francisco's 2-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 2.

The sold-out crowd of 42,982 cheered Romo's every gyration.

``You don't feel alone out there. I'm 5-10. I don't feel 5-10 out there,'' said Romo, who helped the Giants take a 2-0 Series lead. ``I feel 6-10. I feel much bigger. I feel important. I feel like my teammates legitimately feel like I'm somebody.''

So does an entire city.

On the Fox broadcast earlier in the game, Romo teased teammates, popping up behind them for all the television cameras to catch - photobombing. The jokes helped him become a worldwide trend on Twitter and showed that Wilson, out since April recovering from elbow ligament replacement surgery, might not be the only San Francisco closer with some personality.

``He's a little different than me,'' laid-back lefty reliever Jeremy Affeldt said of Romo. ``And it works for him.''

For all his antics, Romo looks totally in control in the ninth.

Romo, a self-described ``fan for the first five innings,'' had the look in his eye as soon as he ran out to the bullpen in third-base foul territory to roaring cheers from the crowd. He got Quintin Berry to fly to left and struck out Austin Jackson swinging on 79 mph slider that energized the orange-and-black faithful even more.

The right-hander capped his 11-pitch inning by forcing Omar Infante to pop up to first. With the ball still in the air, Romo punched his glove and jumped, then hugged catcher Buster Posey in a rather casual celebration by his standards.

``It's just a way to show personality and just kind of show who I am,'' Romo said. ``And I appreciate that opportunity to do so. All in all, it's just fun to be on this stage and do so.''

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PANDAMONIUM: Pablo Sandoval had more than 300 text messages on his phone when he woke up Thursday morning. Players from around major league baseball, including the rival Dodgers' Matt Kemp, acknowledged his accomplishment on social media. Even Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez tweeted in Spanish, ``There goes the third! Pablo makes history!''

Sandoval's three World Series swings truly were heard around the globe.

A day after joining Babe Ruth (who did it twice), Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players to hit three home runs in a single World Series game, Sandoval soaked in the moment before Game 2. He said he was overwhelmed by the reaction his long balls created from San Francisco to the East Coast to Venezuela and beyond.

``I still can't believe it,'' Sandoval said. ``In the morning when I wake up, all the stuff, my friends keep texting me. But, you know, you have to realize what's going on right now in your life, so you have to keep your head up and keep focused.''

The Kung Fu Panda's pops highlighted his remarkable turnaround.

The portly third baseman was benched during San Francisco's 2010 World Series championship run. His production and confidence went down, and his went weight up. Even Giants general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy basically told Sandoval to shape up - or he might be out.

So Sandoval spent that winter running up desert hills in Arizona. He has made the All-Star team the last two season - starting for the first time this July - although his weight remains a testy topic even now, with more questions typically surfacing anytime he slumps.

``Right now we like where he's at,'' Bochy said, drawing laughs.

Pablo's brother, mentor and workout partner, Mike, was all smiles in AT&T Park's tunnel after Sandoval's homers. Sandoval connected twice against Detroit ace Justin Verlander and once off Al Alburquerque to power the Giants past the Tigers 8-3 in Wednesday night's opener.

``I've always been proud of him,'' Mike said. ``I haven't seen him have a big moment like this. This one is really special. It's a blessing and a dream come true.''

``Wow! That's all I can say,'' tweeted Kemp, who used the hash tag ``panda.'' Even Sandoval's fellow Venezuelan and former Giants infielder Omar Vizquel was in disbelief watching the third baseman's homers as a fan in the ballpark.

``Magnifico!'' Vizquel said. ``What did Pablo eat today? My God.''

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DESIGNATED PITCHER: Giants manager Bruce Bochy has been contemplating who to use as his designated hitter when the World Series shifts to Detroit for Game 3 on Saturday night - a pitcher has not been among them.

Maybe one should.

Entering Game 2 on Thursday night, San Francisco is the first team to have a pitcher with an RBI in four consecutive games in the same postseason. Barry Zito, who batted .075 with only two RBIs all season, has a pair during the current streak - including an opposite-field RBI single to left off Justin Verlander in the fourth inning of Game 1.

``It's been huge,'' Bochy said. ``Pitchers can just help themselves in different ways, whether it's hold runners, fielding their position or find a way to get a bunt down or even drive in a run. I mean, they're part of the offense, too.''

Bochy has been leaning toward backup catcher Hector Sanchez to DH for Game 3. He already has said he plans to have All-Star Buster Posey catch every game.

Bochy could also have Pablo Sandoval DH and shift slick-fielding Joaquin Arias to third. Aubrey Huff and Ryan Theriot are also options to DH.

Since interleague play began in 1997, the American League has a 2,081-1,883 record against the NL in the regular season. The last time the NL won the season series was in 2003. The AL is 8-7 in the World Series during that same span.

Through Game 1, the NL is 24-19 in its home parks during the World Series since 1997. The AL is 27-11 in its home park in the Series during that time.

Detroit has had to put designated hitter Delmon Young in left field in San Francisco. Andy Dirks and Quintin Berry split time in left most of the season.

``I think it's different for your pitcher not only in that he's pitching a game, but now that those moments that he takes underneath to sit and relax between innings, now he's hitting,'' Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

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REFLECTING ON THE `62 SERIES: People ask Willie McCovey almost daily about the 1962 World Series the Giants lost in seven games to the New York Yankees. This week, the Hall of Famer has been the one reflecting on that heartbreaker.

Fifty years since San Francisco lost to the New York Yankees, McCovey admits he still thinks about the way it ended often. The Giants lost 1-0 in Game 7 when McCovey lined out to second baseman Bobby Richardson with runners on second and third for the final out.

``I think about the line drive, yes,'' said McCovey, now 74 years old. ``Can't get away from it.''

Two years ago, when the Giants won the franchise's first World Series since moving from New York in 1958, it helped eased the pain for players such as McCovey, Juan Marichal, Willie Mays and Felipe Alou. Seeing San Francisco back in the Fall Classic again has brought those smiles back to McCovey's face even more.

``We're kind of getting spoiled,'' he said. ``This is two in three years. People don't realize how hard it is to get here. We've been pretty lucky.''

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AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this story.

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Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

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Wizards have to find a way to stop DeMar DeRozan to climb back in series

Wizards have to find a way to stop DeMar DeRozan to climb back in series

The Toronto Raptors' best player has become a serious problem for the Washington Wizards, as they now face a 3-2 series deficit and the bleak reality that one more loss means their season is over.

DeMar DeRozan, who began this first round series with a modest 17 points in Game 1, has since raised his game to a new level to beyond even what we have seen in the past. In Games 2-5, DeRozan has averaged 31.8 points, including his 32-game outburst in Game 5 that tilted the series in Toronto's favor.

DeRozan is averaging 28.8 points through five games against the Raptors. That's up considerably from his 22.5-point career playoff average.

DeRozan scored his 32 points in Game 5 with efficiency. He shot 12-for-24 from the field and even made three of his four shots from three.

He didn't even need the free throw line like he normally does. DeRozan shot six free throws, less than his regular season average.

The Wizards are having trouble with DeRozan particularly in the first half. DeRozan is averaging 14.8 first-half points during the playoffs, second only to LeBron James. 

DeRozan had 20 points by halftime in Game 5.

"DeMar was in his element tonight," forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. said. "He got it going early. It was kind of hard to shut him off."

The Wizards are paying for disrespecting DeRozan's three-point shot. He shot just 31.2 percent from long range in the regular season, but is shooting threes at a 45.5 percent clip in the playoffs.

If DeRozan is knocking them down from outside, his offensive game is as complete as just about anyone in the NBA. He has shown in this series an impressive ability to not only get to the rim, but finish through contact or draw fouls.

DeRozan does a good job of maintaining body and ball control going straight up against Wizards' big men and is often rewarded by the referees. He shot a playoff career-high 18 free throws in Game 4.

The Wizards are actually doing a decent job of taking away his midrange shots, which usually account for much of his points. Though DeRozan is hitting an impressive 66.7 percent from 5-to-9 feet, up from his season clip of 47.6, his numbers are down from further out.

DeRozan is shooting 40 percent from 10-to-14 feet out, down from 41.5 percent in the regular season, and just 28.6 percent from 15-to-19 feet, down from 43.7.

DeRozan is hurting the Wizards from long range and within nine feet of the rim. He is taking what the Wizards are giving him and Washington has to adjust.

"We’ve gotta pretty much get it out of [his] hands. Make sure we take care of everybody else," Oubre said.

The Wizards should look to how the defended him in Game 4 as a good example of how to limit his impact. DeRozan had 35 points, but required 29 shots from the field and 18 free throws to get there. 

Washington forced DeRozan into an inefficient night and forced others to try to beat them. The result was the Wizards' best defensive game overall, as the Raptors scored a series-low 98 points.

DeRozan isn't the only defensive concern for the Wizards as they look ahead to Game 6 on Friday. Backup point guard Delon Wright scored 18 points for the second time this series and Toronto hit 11 threes in the game.

The Wizards held the Raptors to just seven threes in Game 4 and it was no coincidence they won that game. They have to lock down the perimeter and, as this series has shown, that includes DeRozan even though he isn't known for making threes.

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Wizards go cold late to drop Game 5, as Raptors take 3-2 series lead

Wizards go cold late to drop Game 5, as Raptors take 3-2 series lead

The Washington Wizards lost to the Toronto Raptors 108-98 in Game 5 of their first round playoff series on Wednesday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Ice cold: When the Wizards needed it most, their offense failed them. With John Wall running the show, they can traditionally score with the best of them. But from the 4:05 mark in the fourth quarter, they went scoreless for a stretch of three minutes and 49 seconds.

Meanwhile, the Raptors converted turnovers into points to close the game on a 14-5 run. The Wizards shot brick after brick from long range and missed 11 of their last 15 shots. It was a shocking collapse in a game that had been going well for the Wizards.

By beating the Wizards in Game 5, the Raptors took a 3-2 series lead which historically means they have nearly an 83 percent chance of winning the series. Those aren't good odds for the Wizards, who can look at one area of the court to blame.

The Wizards made only five threes on 26 attempts. The Raptors, conversely, went 11-for-25 (44%) from the perimeter. The Wizards' five threes were their fewest in a game since Jan. 12.

DeRozan was a killer: As has been the case this entire series, DeMar DeRozan led the charge for Toronto. The perennial All-Star came out on fire with 20 points in the first half alone.

This time, it wasn't just free throws. He was 4-for-4 at the half, but 7-for-13 from the field and 2-for-2 from three. Usually, threes aren't his game.

DeRozan kept it up in the second half to score 32 points on 12-of-24 from the field. That's a pretty efficient night.

Otto looked a bit hurt: Otto Porter, who was held to nine points and four rebounds, didn't appear to be moving very well. He was running around with a limp, which suggests his right lower leg strain is still bothering him.

Head coach Scott Brooks said last week that Porter is 100 percent, but that doesn't seem like the case, unless there was some sort of setback in the time since. Porter, however, is such a smart player and such a good shooter that he can still make the most of his time on the court.

Solid start: The Wizards aren't used to playing well in the first quarter this series. They entered Game 5 with an average deficit of -7.2 points in the first quarter. In this game, however, they led by one point after one.

That was thanks to a buzzer-beater by John Wall (26 points, nine assists, nine rebounds). Ian Mahinmi got the offensive rebound and it set up Wall for a last-second shot. He got to one of his spots and sent it in:

It was just the second time in five games this series that the Wizards have been leading after one. The other time was Game 3, when the Wizards beat the Raptors handily to earn their first win.

The Wizards, though, couldn't finish. They also couldn't protect the ball. At least Wall couldn't, as he committed seven turnovers, one short of his playoff career-high.

Backup PGs: The Raptors again played without point guard Fred VanVleet, their best bench player and a guy who is arguably one of the best backup point guards in basketball. The loss has been evident for the most part, despite his replacement Delon Wright doing a solid job, including with 18 points in Game 5.

On Wednesday, Washington's backup point guard also shined. Despite not playing a single game during the regular season, Ty Lawson continues to make smart plays and create scoring opportunities for others.

He had four assists in this game and made one of the best plays of the night. Check out this move he put on to set up Ian Mahinmi:

And this dude was playing in China like two weeks ago? If he keeps this up, there will be an easy case to make that the Wizards should re-sign him for next season.

Clearly, they want Tomas Satoransky to play more off the ball and the coaching staff hasn't gained full trust in him. Lawson and Satoransky could make a solid reserve backcourt if they have some time to develop some chemistry.

Up next: The Wizards and Raptors are back at it on Friday night in Washington for Game 6. The tipoff time has not been announced, but the game will be aired on NBC Sports Washington.

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