Cardinals Carlos Beltran's knee keeps improving


Cardinals Carlos Beltran's knee keeps improving

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran was among only a handful of St. Louis players who stopped by AT&T Park during Saturday's off day of the NL championship series.

He received more treatment on his troublesome knee to get ready for Game 6 against the San Francisco Giants on Sunday.

His hard work in the training room is helping his strained left knee. Beltran was in the lineup again and batting third for Sunday night's Game 6.

The 35-year-old Beltran was injured running out a double-play ball in the first inning of Game 3 and missed the rest of that game along with Thursday's Game 4. He underwent acupuncture treatment to increase blood flow to the knee, then returned for Friday's 5-0 loss to San Francisco.

``Well, the progress he made, first of all, was getting on the field,'' manager Mike Matheny said Sunday. ``We were concerned we wouldn't have him, and it took down to right at the last minute before we got him in that last game. But he came out and the first at-bat gets a base hit and then steals a base - pretty indicative of how he's feeling.''

Beltran is batting .382 with three home runs and six RBIs this postseason, his first with St. Louis after spending the second half of 2011 with the Giants before missing the playoffs.

``I salute him and our medical staff for getting really ahead of this and hopefully we'll be able to keep riding this out and it doesn't flare up again,'' Matheny said.

Yet the manager was left to scramble and rewrite his lineup about an hour before first pitch when left fielder Matt Holliday was scratched with tightness in his lower back.


HARD TO WATCH: When Sergio Romo is pitching in the ninth inning of a nail-biting postseason game, Giants general manager Brian Sabean and his staff have had a tough time watching.

The Giants never faced an elimination game on the way to winning an improbable World Series title two years ago. On Sunday, they played their fifth this fall already.

While Sabean has kept his mind busy charting pitcher's velocities or keeping track of the count, he says other members of his front office staff have actually left the room or covered their faces they were so anxious.

``I don't sit in the stands,'' Sabean said. ``The replay helps. We have the delay on.''

Sabean stays in the GM booth because he knows being outside might be too tempting to become emotional - and show it for more than 40,000 fans to see. He said he might just throw a water bottle in frustration without intending to do so.

``I try to distract myself during the game because I can scout the game, I've got my own note taking system,'' Sabean said. ``I'm not comparing this team to the 2010 team. When you get this far, especially where we're at now, the anxiety is just hoping they can pull it out because they're so committed to it and such a good group of people. I really don't know at the end of the day how talented we are but somewhere between the like to win and hate to lose.''

Just how many water bottles has he tossed this October?

``None. I've been very well behaved,'' Sabean said with a smile, acknowledging he has dropped some curse words here and there.


TIGERS WAIT: There's plenty of chatter about whether the Detroit Tigers have too much time off to wait for the World Series. Detroit capped a four-game sweep of the Yankees with an 8-1 win Thursday in the AL championship series.

That left Jim Leyland's club plenty of time to get rested and ready for whoever's next - and Detroit will hit the road first for Wednesday's Game 1 with the National League holding home-field advantage.

``They are going to deal with quite a lay off,'' Giants GM Brian Sabean said.


TONY AND MIKE: San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy is the first one to manage against both Tony La Russa and Mike Matheny in the postseason.

He sure is impressed how Matheny, a former Giants and Cardinals catcher, has handled the daunting task of following La Russa - especially one season after the Cardinals captured a World Series title.

And it's pretty clear to Bochy that Matheny picked up a lot from La Russa. Matheny is the 14th rookie manager in major league history to take his team to the league championship series, and the first in Cardinals franchise history.

``Both have done a great job,'' Bochy said. ``I respect and revered Tony and his career and what he accomplished. And of course the job he did last year, especially handling the bullpen the way he did. And Mike's done a tremendous job with the club. It's not an easy act to follow when you're following a Hall of Famer like Tony and keep things going as they are. So, I think they're similar, really, in the way that they have their guys ready to play and the success that they've had.''


PENCE'S PEP TALKS: First, Hunter Pence fired up his San Francisco teammates in Cincinnati with pregame pep talks. The Giants rallied from a 2-0 deficit to stun the Reds in the division series - the first team to win three straight on the road in a best-of-five series.

Pence got vocal again before a 5-0 Game 5 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Friday night.

The right fielder has surprised a few teammates with his vocal nature this October. Pence arrived at the trading deadline from the Philadelphia Phillies.

``We all know what situation we're in,'' said Matt Cain, who would go Game 7. ``So it's not really something that has to be said. But I think it's just something that really gets the guys together and gets them thinking about let's go out there and leave it out there. Whatever happens, happens. It gets everybody on the same mindset. We all understand what situation we face. I think it's great for all the guys to really get on the same page.''

Manager Bruce Bochy offered a few words of his own, but mostly left the stage for Pence.

``I really was trying to tee it up for Hunter and let him go, more than anything,'' Bochy said. ``But we knew what was at stake. ... I just felt like I should say something there before Hunter did because these guys ... I couldn't be prouder of how they're going out there every day and fighting. That's what the game is about.''

While GM Brian Sabean has his thoughts about chemistry, he said there can be a time for such rallies.

``You have to be genuine about it,'' he said. ``Chemistry to me is still the Earl Weaver theory: a three-run homer and a three-hit shutout.''

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Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

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Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

Yahoo! Sports ranked all 32 head coaches in the NFL and Washington Redskins fans may not be too happy with where Jay Gruden ended up.

Entering his fifth year as head coach, Gruden was ranked as the No. 27 head coach in the NFL. Here's Yahoo!'s rationale behind his ranking:

"Four years, one playoff berth, one plus-.500 season, one franchise quarterback run out of town."

All that is ... not false, but the whole franchise quarterback being run out of town thing is at least debatable. And even if the ranking is fair, it's still okay to be upset because it's the middle of July, training camp hasn't started yet and the offseason is the perfect time to get irrationally angry about things like these.

Elsewhere in the NFC, Giants head coach Pat Shurmur checks in at No. 23, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is No. 17 and the Eagles' Doug Pederson is No. 2.

Unsurprisingly, Bill Belichick was ranked No. 1; he may be the greatest of all time when all is said and done, if not already. The top five rounds out with Pederson at No. 2, New Orleans's Sean Payton at No. 3, Minnesota's Mike Zimmer at No. 4 and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin at No. 5.


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Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

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Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

TORONTO (AP) -- Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman gave up hits to the first three Baltimore batters Saturday.

The Orioles got just two more hits the rest of the afternoon.

Stroman pitched seven sharp innings for his second win in three starts and Toronto beat Baltimore 4-1 for its sixth straight victory over the struggling Orioles.

"He started working both sides of the plate with his sinker and I think that threw them off a little bit, especially late in counts," Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile said. "Overall it was just kind of vintage Stroman."

Baltimore right-hander Alex Cobb picked up his major league-worst 13th loss. The Orioles dropped to 1-8 against Toronto this season.

"I absolutely hate seeing that win-loss in parentheses next to my name," Cobb said. "It's sickening."

Stroman (3-7) allowed one run and five hits. He threw a season-high 107 pitches, the first time this season he has topped 100.

Stroman is 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA in five starts since returning from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss more than a month. He went 0-5 in seven starts before the injury.

"Since he's come back from the DL he's been really good," manager John Gibbons said. "I just think he's pitching like he's always pitched."

Stroman said he's focused on forgetting his early season struggles.

"I know I didn't have the first half I wanted but I've always been someone who prides myself on the second half and finishing strong," Stroman said. "That's something I'll look to continue to do this year."

Friend and teammate Devon Travis likes what he's seen from Stroman since the right-hander returned from injury.

"He's got that fire back," Travis said. "He's really under control. I think he's locking in on every single pitch."

Seunghwan Oh worked the eighth and Ryan Tepera finished for his seventh save in 12 opportunities.

Baltimore scored one run or fewer for the 27th time, the most in the majors.

The first three Orioles batters all singled, although Jonathan Schoop was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double. After Adam Jones gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead with an RBI hit to right, Mark Trumbo grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The Blue Jays answered with a three-run fourth against Cobb, taking advantage of a key Orioles error.

Justin Smoak opened the inning with a walk and, following a video review, was ruled safe at second after Cobb's high throw pulled shortstop Tim Beckham off the base on at attempted force play.

"That's not it in a nutshell but I can understand why that's the focus, a play we haven't been making," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Randal Grichuk followed with an RBI double, a second run scored on Diaz's double play grounder, and Maile capped the rally with an RBI single.

Diaz had four hits Friday, including the game-winning single in the 10th. He went 2 for 3 Saturday with a pair of singles.

The Blue Jays made it 4-1 in the fifth when Teoscar Hernandez doubled, advanced on a fly ball and scored on Cobb's balk.

Cobb (2-13) lost his sixth straight decision, allowing four runs, one earned, and four hits in five innings. Showalter said Cobb was removed to avoid worsening a blister on his pitching hand.

"I was only going to have a few more pitches going into the sixth so he felt like the risk-reward was not really worth it," Cobb said.

Grichuk made the defensive play of the game, a running catch on the warning track in left center to retire Trumbo for the first out of the ninth.


Jones and Chris Davis got stuck in an elevator at the team's downtown hotel following Friday night's defeat. Jones documented much of the saga on Instagram. The players and fellow passengers were eventually rescued by Toronto Fire Services staff. The sound system at Rogers Centre played a few bars of Aerosmith's `Love in an Elevator' before Jones batted in the fourth inning Saturday.


Toronto won without hitting a home run for just the third time in 26 games this season.


Orioles: Baltimore is expected to demote a reliever when RHP Andrew Cashner (neck) is activated off the 10-day disabled list Sunday.


Cashner (2-9, 4.56) last pitched July 10, when he allowed five runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings against the Yankees. Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ (10-6, 4.29) is 0-3 with a 9.75 ERA in three July starts.