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Giants beat Cardinals 6-1 to force NLCS Game 7

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Giants beat Cardinals 6-1 to force NLCS Game 7

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) The San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals sure have something about going down to final games this postseason.

So it's fitting that the two previous World Series champions are playing a winner-take-all Game 7 for the chance to get back to baseball's biggest stage.

Ryan Vogelsong struck out a career-best nine in another postseason gem in his biggest start yet, and San Francisco staved off elimination for the second straight game, handing St. Louis a 6-1 loss Sunday night to force the deciding game in the NL championship series on Monday.

San Francisco's Matt Cain and St. Louis' Kyle Lohse are set to pitch in a rematch of Game 3, won by the Cardinals. There's a forecast of rain in the Bay Area during the day.

``You've seen us the last couple years, it seems, unfortunately, we don't win until we absolutely need to,'' Lohse said. ``So, it's one of those things where we would love to have taken care of business the last two games. We haven't. ... It's time to get it done.''

Lohse and manager Mike Matheny will need to get more from the Cardinals' offense if they're going to get a shot at defending their title against the Detroit Tigers, who have been waiting since completing a sweep of the Yankees on Thursday.

Marco Scutaro delivered a two-run double and Buster Posey drove in his first run of the series with a groundout in the first inning as San Francisco struck early to support Vogelsong. He followed up Barry Zito's stellar Game 5 outing in St. Louis with one of his own.

``I just kind of saw the way our team reacted the other night when Barry came out ... early and was throwing up zeroes,'' Vogelsong said. ``I saw how our team was feeding off that. I just knew that I had to go out there and keep them off the board.''

These wild-card Cardinals sure seem to like the all-or-nothing route in October, while San Francisco thrives on playing from behind.

In five games with their year on the line, the gutsy Giants have pulled out five wins in the postseason. After winning the one-game wild-card playoff at Atlanta, the Cardinals were on the brink against Washington before a remarkable four-run rally in the ninth for a 9-7 Game 5 win in the division series.

``Clutch performances are just guys playing normally in big spots. You can't be petrified by the situation, and neither of these teams have been,'' St. Louis' Lance Berkman said. ``One of the things that makes Game 7's so interesting is that I don't think either of these teams is going to choke it away.''

Pitching to chants of ``Vogey! Vogey!'' from the sellout crowd of 43,070 at AT&T Park, the right-hander didn't allow a hit until Daniel Descalso's broken-bat single to center with two outs in the fifth. Vogelsong struck out the side in the first and had already fanned five through two innings.

``This place is going to be loud, I can tell you that,'' Vogelsong said of Monday night.

Scutaro had no chance for a collision with Matt Holliday this time. In their first game back at AT&T Park since Holliday took out the second baseman with a hard slide in Game 2, Holliday was scratched about an hour before first pitch because of tightness in his lower back, and Allen Craig replaced him in left field.

It hardly mattered the way Vogelsong pitched.

The Cardinals managed their only run on Craig's two-out single in the sixth. St. Louis had gone 15 innings without scoring after left-hander Zito won 5-0 on Friday in Game 5.

Vogelsong had his second impressive seven-inning performance against the Cardinals in a week, allowing four hits and one run. He walked one in a 102-pitch performance and lowered his postseason ERA - all this year - to 1.42.

The 35-year-old Vogelsong toiled through the minors, Japan and even winter ball to finally pitch under the October spotlight for a chance at the World Series. His latest impressive outing put the Giants one win away.

``I just believe that it's my time,'' Vogelsong said.

After taking a 3-1 lead back home at Busch Stadium, Matheny's Cardinals will have to find some offense in a hurry if they want to get back to the World Series.

``Everything is on the line, and we couldn't be happier to have Kyle Lohse on the mound knowing that we're going to have another tough day with Matt Cain,'' Matheny said. ``We've had some games where we stack on runs and then we go absolutely hitless, almost, for a while. But any day we know our offense can pull out quite a bit of production.''

These Cards might just prefer close calls. Just like last year.

They won the NL's second wild card on the second-to-last day of the regular season, then won at Atlanta to reach the division series. The Cardinals rallied from a 6-0 deficit with a four-run ninth inning to stun the Washington Nationals 9-7 in Game 5 of the division series.

The Giants got to St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter again. The Cardinals' winningest postseason pitcher with 10 victories looked out of sync for the second straight start - and he left with a nearly identical line as in his 7-1 Game 2 loss here last Monday, down to the hits, earned runs, unearned runs and innings.

Carpenter was done in by one big inning this time, too. He allowed six hits and five runs, two earned, in four innings.

Vogelsong reached on shortstop Pete Kozma's fielding error in the second, scoring Brandon Belt after he led off the inning with a triple. Scutaro came up two batters later and doubled home two more runs.

The 10 unearned runs allowed by the Cardinals are the most in an NLCS, according to STATS LLC - topping the nine given up by the Braves in 2001 and Dodgers in 1985.

San Francisco never faced an elimination game in 2010 on the way to winning the World Series, but has had to go the distance in each of its first two postseason series this year. They became the first team in major league history to come back from a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-five series by winning three straight on the road, doing it at Cincinnati.

``We're enjoying this moment. We know how to handle this situation,'' San Francisco third baseman Pablo Sandoval said.

They have Vogelsong along for this year's run.

``He was on top of his game again,'' Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. ``He's probably been as consistent as any starter this year.''

The Giants put pressure on Carpenter right away.

Scutaro drew a one-out walk and Sandoval doubled off the wall in center on a ball that eluded Jon Jay. Posey followed with a groundout to third to score Scutaro for a 1-0 lead.

Scutaro is batting .458 (11 for 24) during the NLCS.

``I don't really know, man,'' Scutaro said when asked to explain it. ``Just excited to come to the field every day. ... Being in this opportunity, just being in the playoffs, is amazing.''

While the Giants have won five straight games facing elimination this postseason, the Cardinals have won their last six dating to last year. This is the first time the NLCS has gone seven games since 2006, when St. Louis beat the New York Mets 3-1 at Shea Stadium. Carlos Beltran, now with the Cardinals, struck out looking when Adam Wainwright froze him on a curveball.

``This night, this moment belongs to every player in here and every fan in the stands,'' San Francisco right fielder Hunter Pence said. ``There's still another story to be told, and we'll just have to wait and see if we're going to enjoy it.''

NOTES: Giants 1B coach Roberto Kelly worked his first home game of the series after sustaining a concussion during the initial workout day Oct. 13 before the NLCS began. ... San Francisco is 5-1 when scoring first this postseason. ... The most unearned runs allowed in any LCS is 13, by the Angels in 1986 against the Red Sox.

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Need to Know: The forecast for Redskins Park today is a media circus

Need to Know: The forecast for Redskins Park today is a media circus

Here is what you need to know on Tuesday, August 21, three days before the Washington Redskins host the Broncos in their third preseason game. 

Talking points

Looking at a few different topics this morning:

—What was going to be a normal, ho-hum Tuesday preseason practice at Redskins Park will now be on hyperdrive thanks to the addition of Adrian Peterson. After mostly ignoring the Redskins for most of the offseason the national media will turn out in force to chronicle the arrival of AD. Yes, it’s AD as in All Day as I was reminded by several Sooners on Twitter in the past few days. I suppose that now that he’s here I’d better get it right. 

Derrius Guice underwent surgery to repair his torn ACL yesterday (see his tweet below). I haven’t heard but I assume that someone will say that the surgery was a success. Looking at a recovery time of about nine months, Guice could be ready for the start of OTAs in mid-May. But given how cautious this organization tends to be with injuries during the offseason program, we may not see him on the field until training camp. 

—Speaking of injuries, there were over a dozen players who were not participating in practice on both Saturday and Sunday. As I noted here a couple of days ago Jay Gruden has become very tight-lipped when it comes to giving out information on injuries. And teams are not required to give out any injury information at all during the preseason. So it’s hard to sort out veterans’ days from players with minor injuries that are being rested because the game isn’t until Friday from injuries that are reasons for legitimate concern. The first injury report will come out two weeks from tomorrow, so we are mostly in the dark until then. 

—I’m hearing from fans and some in the media that undrafted free agent Cam Sims is a lock to make the 53-man roster. I would suggest pumping the brakes. He has a great opportunity and I have him on the 53 in my last prediction. But he has been erratic. The Jets preseason game, where he made a big-time error when he had a pass bounce out of his arms, turning a completion into an interception then made some key, acrobatic catches was essentially a microcosm of his training camp. He needs a strong finish both in practice and in the two remaining preseason games to get locked into a spot. A few plays like the botched reception and he could be on the outside looking in. 

—Montae Nicholson quietly had a good camp and he has played well in two preseason games (he was one of the few starters to play against the Patriots). He struggled in coverage in the early part of camp. The Redskins are changing their scheme to play left- and right-side safeties instead of free and strong. That means that Nicholson, who played free last year, had to learn the coverage responsibilities for both positions on both sides of the field. It took him some time to get up to speed and during that time it was not unusual to see Nicholson trailing behind a receiver who had a couple of steps on him. He is not immune to making mistakes or just getting beaten on occasion (news flash: NFL rules are set up for DBs to get burned). But he should get the job done most of the time and be the player the Redskins hope he will be. 

Bureau of statistics

Nicholson’s 40 time at the NFL Combine in 2017 was 4.42, the third fastest among safeties and tenth fastest Amon all defensive backs. 

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The agenda

Today: Practice at Redskins Park 1:00; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 3:00

Upcoming: Preseason Broncos @ Redskins (Aug. 24) 3 days; Final cut (Sept. 1) 11 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 19 days

In case you missed it

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page,Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler


 

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Ravens hold on to another close preseason win in Week 2

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Ravens hold on to another close preseason win in Week 2

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Baltimore Ravens spoiled Andrew Luck's Indianapolis homecoming.

They picked him off before allowing a completion, and Terrell Suggs nearly chopped the ball out of Luck's hands on a sack. The Ravens then secured a 20-19 preseason win over the Colts by stopping a late 2-point conversion run.

Luck was just OK in his first home start since Jan. 1, 2017. But he did receive a roaring ovation from the crowd when he took the field, led the Colts to one score and apparently emerged unscathed after going down twice on sacks.

"Not too sharp, certainly red-zone turnovers are a negative, missed a couple of throws I'd like to hit," he said. "And I didn't feel like we, as an offense, got into any semblance of a sustained rhythm."

Expectations were high following a solid start in Seattle.

This time, the Colts (1-1) looked sloppy.

Luck missed his first three throws, the third winding up in the hands of Ravens safety Anthony Levine Jr. Luck rebounded to finish 6 of 13 for 50 yards and set up 45-year-old Adam Vinatieri for a 57-yard field before leaving in the second quarter.

If Luck had his way, he might have played longer. But first-year coach Frank Reich wasn't taking any chances with Luck's surgically repaired arm.

"We just never found a rhythm for him and some of his balls were not his best balls," he said. "But I still have a lot of confidence we're headed in the right direction."

Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens looked better.

Flacco went 7 of 9 for 72 yards and one touchdown. Jackson then showed flashes of what helped him win the 2016 Heisman Trophy.

Jackson was 7 of 15 for 49 yards and a TD and carried four times for 26 yards before giving way to another Heisman winner, Robert Griffin III, in the fourth quarter.

Indy still had a chance at the end after Tarell Basham recovered a fumble at the Ravens 9. Five plays later, Phillip Walker threw a 9-yard TD pass to Zach Pascal with 2:24 left. But the Ravens (3-0) stopped Walker on the 2-point try, recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.

"Happy to get the win," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We did a lot of things that weren't winning football, especially in the second half."

The Ravens made it tough on Indy all night.

They stopped Indy twice in the red zone and nearly had a third when Jordan Wilkins fumbled the ball into the end zone, where it bounced right into the hands of receiver Chester Rogers.

Flacco gave the Ravens a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter when he hooked up with John Brown on a 7-yard score, and Jackson's masterful hurry-up drive at the end of the first half ended with Justin Tucker's 38-yard field goal with 2 seconds left.

When Colts rookie Nyheim Hines fumbled away the opening kickoff of the second half, Jackson hooked up with Chris Moore on a 7-yard TD pass to make it 17-10.