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Column: Surprising Giants win 2nd title in 3 years

Column: Surprising Giants win 2nd title in 3 years

DETROIT (AP) It ended exactly the way it should have, with the Triple Crown winner frozen at the plate.

Miguel Cabrera was so focused on a slider that his bat never moved as a fastball zoomed by for a called third strike. What made it even more fitting is that Sergio Romo, the guy who threw it, has been San Francisco's closer for all of two months.

Anyone who predicted the World Series would end in a sweep must have had it the other way around. The bookmakers in Vegas certainly did. But the improbable has been the Giants' calling card all postseason.

In all, they faced six elimination games and won every one. Down 0-2 in a best-of-five against Cincinnati, San Francisco became the first team to sweep the next three on the road. Down 1-3 against St. Louis in the championship series, they won their next three and the National League pennant.

Then came four straight against a loaded Tigers team, sealed when closer Romo outfoxed Cabrera, the most fearsome hitter in Detroit's loaded lineup, to get the final out in the bottom of the 10th inning Sunday night for a 4-3 win.

``He just knew that Cabrera was looking for a slider,'' San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said afterward, ``and he commands his fastball so well.''

In a somber Tigers locker room afterward, Cabrera acknowledged as much.

``I didn't think he was going to throw the fastball,'' he said. ``But he got me with it.''

Exactly how the Giants locked up their second title in the last three years is likely to be the subject of much conjecture. Moments before Bochy paraded down the hallway of the visiting clubhouse with the gold trophy held aloft, Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti ducked almost unnoticed into a side room with a blue binder pressed closely to his chest, shielding it against the champagne being sprayed on all sides.

When someone called after him for a look, Righetti didn't even bother to turn around. It might be easier to get your hands on state secrets than the blueprint Bochy and his staff put together to limit Cabrera and the rest of the Tigers to a measly .159 batting average over the course of four games - the lowest in a World Series in 43 years. As if that wasn't bad enough, the Giants weren't letting much slip, either, about how their own hitters steadily chipped away at Detroit's rock-solid rotation and bullpen for just enough runs to win.

``Slingshots and rocks,'' third base coach Tim Flannery cackled in that same crowded hallway. ``That's what we come to play with.''

There were a few times this season when everything else about the Giants seemed just that improvised. When closer Brian Wilson went down, Bochy employed a bullpen by committee for most of the summer. Romo got his first save in early June, but didn't lock down the role until late August.

Even the regular lineup was in a state of flux through much of July. Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence arrived just ahead of the trading deadline, but played defense immediately like they'd been there for years.

In Scutaro's case, nothing could be further from the truth. He was one of the guys featured in a 2005 documentary titled ``A Player to Be Named Later,'' and San Francisco was his sixth major club in the last 10 years. But his new teammates made room for him so quickly, both on the field and inside the clubhouse, that he immediately felt at home.

``We put guys in different roles, nobody ever said a word, complained or anything, and that's the only way it got done,'' Bochy said. ``They set aside their own agenda and asked what's best for the club.''

As if to prove that point, Scutaro combined with the guy whose job he took at second base to score the winning run. Beginning the 10th inning, Tigers reliever Phil Coke had struck out all seven batters he'd faced up to that point in the series. But Ryan Theriot lofted a single into short right, then took second on a sacrifice bunt. One batter later, Scutaro coolly worked the count to 3-1.

In the Giants dugout, meanwhile, his teammates barely knew whether to cheer or keep quiet. Scutaro had repaid their support all postseason, delivering so many clutch hits before, they were almost afraid to plead for one more.

``You worried when guys like that come up,'' Giants starter Matt Cain recalled. ``You worry that maybe you've used them all up.''

Not quite. Scutaro lined a soft single back up the middle.

``He had another one,'' Cain marveled afterward, ``the biggest one left.''

---

Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.

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Machado homers as Orioles beat Rangers 6-5

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USA TODAY Sports

Machado homers as Orioles beat Rangers 6-5

For well over six seasons, Manny Machado's value to the Baltimore Orioles has been solely his ability to hit and play the field.

All that has changed, now that the Orioles are looking to receive a huge return for their All-Star shortstop in a blockbuster trade.

Machado homered before being removed on a wet day, Adam Jones hit a three-run double and Baltimore rallied past the Texas Rangers 6-5 Sunday.

Machado was taken out of the game in the fifth inning by manager Buck Showalter after a 26-minute rain delay. The move was designed to get their star player off a sloppy field, because the last-place Orioles are entertaining offers for Machado before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

"Obviously there's a different situation going on with Manny. You all know that," Showalter said. "That had a lot to do with it."

Plain and simple, the Orioles can't afford to have Machado get hurt. Now, more than ever.

"A month ago he wouldn't have come out of the game," Showalter acknowledged. "We know that. You know it."

After being replaced by Jace Peterson, Machado sat in the dugout, wearing a sweatshirt and joking with his teammates.

"I don't know why (Showalter) did it or not," Machado said. "He just told me, `I'm going to take you out. You had a good first half and go represent us well in the All-Star Game.'"

Machado is Baltimore's lone representative for Tuesday's showcase. He has spent his entire career in Baltimore, but his contract expires after this season and the Orioles don't appear interested in locking him up with a long-term deal.

"I'm going to the All-Star Game as an Oriole and as a shortstop. It's just always a blessing," Machado said. "I thank God. I thank my family for always supporting me, my teammates, the fans, the organization. I mean it's just been very incredible."

In a matchup between two teams staggering into the break, Texas got a first-inning grand slam from rookie Ronald Guzman but quickly gave the lead away in losing for the seventh time in nine games.

Machado ignited the comeback with his 24th homer, and Jones' bases-clearing double in the third off Mike Minor (6-6) put Baltimore ahead to stay.

"I'll be fine," said Minor, who yielded five earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. "I'll reflect a little bit and then get back to it."

The game ended when Texas pinch-runner Carlos Tocci was thrown out at the plate on a double by Elvis Andrus. Running from first base, Tocci was tagged out by catcher Caleb Joseph following throws by right fielder Mark Trumbo and second baseman Jonathan Schoop.

"Textbook," Showalter said.

Texas manager Jeff Bannister called it a "situation where they had to throw it on line to throw Tocci out. They executed well."

Tanner Scott (1-1), the first of four Baltimore relievers, earned his first big league win.

Zach Britton, another Oriole supposedly on the trading block, worked the ninth for his fourth save, the second in two days.

Texas broke on top when Miguel Castro issued three straight walks and Guzman sent a one-out drive over the right-field wall for his first career grand slam.

It was 4-1 in the third when Joseph hit an RBI double and Jones doubled down the left-field line following a walk to Machado.

Shin-Soo Choo homered in the seventh to get the Rangers to 6-5.

STREAKY

Choo opened the game with a walk, extending to 51 his single-season club record streak of games reaching base via a hit, walk or HBP. ... Texas' Delino DeShields went 0 for 3, stretching his hitless drought to 28 at-bats. ... Jones snapped a 1-for-16 skid with his third-inning double.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rangers: RF Nomar Mazara was given the day off after hurting his hand Saturday night in the outfield.

Orioles: RHP Chris Tillman (back) was set to make his final rehab start Sunday for Triple-A Norfolk. ... INF Steve Wilkerson (oblique) and OF Craig Gentry (rib fracture) likely won't come off the DL before August, Showalter said. ... RHP Andrew Cashner (neck strain) will be activated from the DL on Saturday or Sunday to face Toronto, Showalter said.

UP NEXT

Rangers: The rotation after the All-Star break, beginning Friday against visiting Cleveland: Martin Perez, Bartolo Colon, Cole Hamels, Yovani Gallardo and Minor.

Orioles: After the All-Star break, Dylan Bundy will start at Toronto on Friday night.

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Murphy's big hit helps Nats beat Mets 6-1

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Murphy's big hit helps Nats beat Mets 6-1

Daniel Murphy and Trea Turner each hit a two-run single in Washington's five-run seventh inning, helping the Nationals beat the New York Mets 6-1 on Sunday.

Matt Adams added two hits and scored a run as Washington salvaged a split of its four-game set against New York. A preseason favorite to win the NL East and contend for a World Series championship, the disappointing Nationals hit the All-Star break with a 48-48 record, good for third in the division.

Jeremy Hellickson (4-1) pitched six crisp innings in his second straight win. The veteran right-hander allowed one run and two hits, struck out six and walked two.

Jose Reyes drove in Michael Conforto with a fielder's choice in the second, tying it at 1, but Washington grabbed control in the seventh.

Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon opened the inning with walks against Anthony Swarzak (0-2). Tim Peterson then came in and surrendered singles to Adams and Murphy, who came off the bench to hit for Michael A. Taylor.

Jerry Blevins replaced Peterson with two out and runners on second and third. But he hit Wilmer Difo and Adam Eaton before Turner's single gave Washington a 6-1 lead.

New York wasted a solid start by Corey Oswalt, who allowed two hits in five innings. The Mets got off to a fast start this year, but hit the break last in the division with a 39-55 record, a percentage point behind fourth-place Miami.

WAITING

A steady drizzle delayed the start by 47 minutes.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) pitched 5 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Class A Potomac. He allowed three runs, struck out seven and walked one. Strasburg has been on the disabled list since June 10.

Mets: Yoenis Cespedes is scheduled to play five simulated innings in left field at the team's facility in Florida on Monday. Mets manager Mickey Callaway said the 32-year-old outfielder, who has been sidelined by a right hip flexor and strained quadriceps, could return as the designated hitter next weekend against the Yankees If he is able to play on consecutive days.

MAKING MOVES

The Nationals recalled right-hander Trevor Gott from Triple-A Syracuse. Right-hander Austin Voth, who took the loss in his big league debut Saturday, was sent back to Syracuse.

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