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Giants beat Tigers 2-0 for 3-0 World Series lead

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Giants beat Tigers 2-0 for 3-0 World Series lead

DETROIT (AP) -- Nothing is stopping them -- not even the Triple Crown winner at the plate with the bases loaded.

Armed and accelerating, the San Francisco Giants became the first team to throw consecutive World Series shutouts in nearly a half-century, blanking Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers 2-0 on a chilly Saturday night for a commanding 3-0 lead.

"I'll say this: The club is playing well," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

No team has ever blown such a huge margin in the World Series. And with the way Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum and the Giants are pitching, it seemed unlikely the Tigers would even score a run, yet alone win a game.

Gregor Blanco hit an RBI triple and trotted home on Brandon Crawford's single in the second inning, and that was ample for the Giants. Timely hits, combined with another dominant effort on the mound and sharp defense put them close to their second title in three years.

After playing a nearly perfect Game 3, the Giants will turn to Mr. Perfect Game himself -- ace Matt Cain -- to try for a sweep Sunday against Max Scherzer.

At this rate, it appeared only a bailout by the San Francisco staff could help the Motor City.

Don't count on it. Switching to an AL park, chilly weather and a crowd of towel-waving fans ready to rock didn't slow `em down at all.

"Well, it's a good situation, but there's nothing been done yet," Bochy said. "It's a number, just like I said about two. Now it's three. But that's not the Series."

The Giants won their franchise-record sixth straight postseason game, and haven't trailed in any of them. Quite opposite for the Tigers: Coming off a sweep of the Yankees in the AL championship series, they haven't held a lead in the Series.

"We couldn't get the killer hit or the killer blow," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

Vogelsong, a career journeyman whose path to the World Series took a detour to Japan, improved to 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in four starts this postseason.

"I knew my stuff was pretty good," Vogelsong said. "I was really pumped up to be out there."

Vogelsong induced two early double plays, then faced his stiffest test in the fifth.

The bases were loaded with one out when Vogelsong fanned rookie Quintin Berry. That brought up Cabrera, honored on the field before the game with an actual blue-and-gold crown for his Triple Crown accomplishments.

With the fans chanting "M-V-P!" and likely sensing the whole Series was riding on this at-bat, Vogelsong seemed completely calm while chewing gum. He won the matchup, too, getting an easy popup that prompted Cabrera to slam his bat to the ground and elicited cheers in the San Francisco dugout.

Lincecum took over with two outs in the sixth, and the two-time reliever looked as if he had been coming out of the bullpen his whole life and shut down the Tigers.

Closer Sergio Romo finished off the combined five-hitter with his second save of the Series.

Blanco punctuated the ninth inning with his latest fancy grab, a sprinting catch into foul territory in left field.

Combined with Madison Bumgarner's effort in Game 2, San Francisco threw the first consecutive shutouts in the Series since Baltimore in 1966, when Jim Palmer, Wally Bunker and Dave McNally did the trick to finish off the Dodgers.

Shut out only twice all year, the Tigers once again looked lost at the plate. When fan favorite Prince Fielder struck out in the eighth, some boos bounced around Comerica Park. Big hitters with teeny numbers, Cabrera and Fielder are a combined 3 for 19 against the Giants.

"It is what it is," Fielder said.

The fearsome Tigers have totaled a mere three runs and 15 hits while hitting .165 in three games, and were shut out twice in a row for the first time since April 2008.

Only one team in baseball history has overcome a 3-0 deficit in the postseason, with Boston doing it in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees.

"Well, you don't really have to tell them anything. They can count," Leyland said. "They're big guys, they know what the situation is."

For the Tigers, it was the sixth straight Series loss dating to 2006 against St. Louis. They got a fine effort from pitcher Anibal Sanchez this time, but it wasn't enough against these Giants.

It was 47 degrees at gametime, a drop of 17 from Thursday night at AT&T Park, and the Tigers clearly knew this was their chance to pull back into the Series.

Soon enough, Game 3 took on a familiar look.

During the Giants' early two-run burst, Detroit's body language said all you needed to know about this Series. At one point in-between pitches, Cabrera put his hands on his hips at third base, shortstop Jhonny Peralta scuffed the dirt, second baseman Omar Infante turned his back to the infield, Fielder stared down at first.

A losing posture, plain and simple.

The Comerica crowd, so pumped earlier in the postseason, quickly fell silent. Desperate to cheer for anything, the fans hollered for a long, albeit routine, flyout by Delmon Young.

Detroit grounded into the most double plays in the majors this year, and two slick turns by Crawford at shortstop added to the Tigers' total.

Both DPs came with two on and one out, by Fielder in the first and the speedy rookie Berry in the third. Berry put both hands on his batting helmet as he zoomed well past the base, running out his frustration.

Working on 12 days' rest, Sanchez may have been the latest Detroit player to be caught in the Rust Belt, at least in the second inning. That's when he constantly overthrew his fastball and did not resemble the pitcher who had made two sharp starts this postseason.

The San Francisco hitters also were amply familiar with Sanchez. This was the fourth time he had matched up with Vogelsong in the last two years -- Sanchez twice won duels, then lost a slugfest.

Hunter Pence, who scored one run and drove in the other during a 2-0 win in Game 2, drew a four-pitch walk to begin the second. It was a telling sign -- Sanchez had not walked a right-handed batter since August.

Pence stole second, took third on a wild pitch and, with the Tigers' infield playing in, trotted home when Blanco tripled off the wall in right. Crawford looped an RBI single with two outs for a 2-0 lead, and Rick Porcello began warming up in the Detroit bullpen.

NOTES: Cabrera has safely reached base in all 23 postseason games in his career. ... A few fans outside the ballpark climbed part of the way up the exterior gate to catch a glimpse of the action from left field before a stadium attendant inside told them to get down.

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Tom Wilson does the little things in Capitals’ 3-2 overtime win at Colorado

Tom Wilson does the little things in Capitals’ 3-2 overtime win at Colorado

To call it a hit is generous. To call it a huge play is accurate. 

Capitals forward Tom Wilson backed into a loose puck along the boards in the defensive zone of Friday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. He waited for a hit sure to come from behind. 

Colin Wilson, the Avalanche center, moved in to dislodge the puck. Instead he got dislodged from gravity. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Tom Wilson, barely moving and braced for contact, used his own leverage to launch Colin Wilson into the air, arms and legs akimbo. 

By the time Colin Wilson crashed to the ice, Tom Wilson had chipped a blind backhand pass to center ice, where Alex Ovechkin stopped it with his skate, dropped it to teammate Nicklas Backstrom, who gave it back as they entered the offensive zone. Ovechkin crossed from left to right and ripped a shot past former teammate Philipp Grubauer in goal for Colorado. 

It was a wonderful pass from Backstrom, who put the Avalanche on their heels. Ovechkin’s shot was a bullet that left little chance for Grubauer. But make no mistake – it all started with Wilson, who was prepared to take a hit to make a play. It is those little things that the Capitals missed during Wilson’s 16-game suspension by the NHL. It was the little things that helped them to a 3-2 overtime victory.  

“[Wilson] brings so much energy to this group,” Backstrom said. “He’s everywhere out there. That’s what we need. He’s playing PK, he’s playing power plays, he’s doing everything. He’s a valuable guy in this group so we’re happy to have him back.”

The game-winning goal in overtime by Backstrom was a perfect example. Wilson took a drop pass from defenseman John Carlson 12 seconds into overtime with Washington on a 4-on-3 power play. That’s when he went to work. 

For six seconds Wilson and Avalanche center Carl Soderberg did battle along the right boards high in the offensive zone. Just as Wilson was knocked to the ice, he slipped a pass back to Backstrom alone at the point. 

With Soderberg on top of him and both out of the play, Wilson watched Backstrom take advantage of the extra space in what effectively became a 3-on-2. He passed to Carlson in the right faceoff circle and then got the puck back in the high slot and beat Grubauer blocker side for the win. That doesn’t happen without Wilson. 

“When you’re playing with good players, you just try and keep it simple, win your battles and they’ll do the rest,” Wilson said. “And that’s exactly what happened on both those plays. At the end there, I thought about throwing it across the ice a couple times, but I’m not that comfortable out there yet so just kind of ragged on the wall and waited. Nicky got open for me and made it easy, I just threw it over to him and it was in the back of the net.”  

The Ovechkin goal put Washington ahead 2-1 at 18:29 of the second period. The Backstrom winner came 22 seconds into overtime. Wilson, in his third game back after his original 20-game suspension was reduced by a neutral arbitrator, played a career-high 24 minutes, 24 seconds. He moved to the power play for 4:19 with T.J. Oshie out with an upper-body injury and contributed 1:35 on the penalty kill – a little less than usual. 

Wilson played on the PK for 5:23 in his first game back Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild. He scored a goal in that game, too, by driving the net hard and has been a jolt of energy for a team that was scuffling coming into a difficult four-game road trip. The Capitals are 2-1-0 with one game left Monday at the Montreal Canadiens. 
 
“Tom is one of those guys that was vocal in our room, vocal on the bench that we’re fully in control of that game still even though we gave up the late goal,” Washington coach Todd Reirden said. “But that’s a tough start [after the suspension], three in four, and then add in the altitude and the minutes that we’re counting on him playing because they aren’t easy minutes. And then obviously having to chase around that top line tonight from Colorado is no easy task. Just really happy with the fact that we got him back a little earlier than was originally set up for us. It’s been a good bounce for our team.” 

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Avalanche

5 reasons the Caps beat the Avalanche

A shorthanded Capitals team marched into Colorado and took a 3-2 overtime win over the Avalanche on Friday.

Here are five reasons the Caps won.

A big glove save

With no T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov or Braden Holtby, the Caps were a bit shorthanded heading into the game. After the Avalanche took a 1-0 lead just 68 seconds in, it felt like it could be a very long night for Washington.

It could have been if not for an early breakaway save by Pheonix Copley.

Soon after the goal, Nathan MacKinnon grabbed the puck on a breakaway. MacKinnon is one of the best offensive players in the league and not the guy you want to see going in alone on Copley on a breakaway.

Copley, however, flashed the glove and made the save to keep the game at 1-0.

One year ago to the day, the Caps lost 6-2 in Colorado. With the injuries Washington was dealing with, it’s not a stretch to think this game could have gone off the rails quickly had the Avalanche jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

Tic-Tac-Toe

The Caps struggled through the first period to get any real penetration on Colorado’s defense and were kept largely on the perimeter with very few high-danger opportunities. The Avalanche defense got a bit more porous in the second and Washington took advantage.

Travis Boyd collected the puck in the offensive zone below the goal line. As he skated along the wall, he found himself face-to-face with four Colorado players who were all just following the puck. As far as defense goes, that’s not an ideal situation. Boyd found a wide-open Chandler Stephenson on the cross-ice pass, Stephenson goes back left to Devante Smith-Pelly who had an empty net to shoot on to get the Caps on the board and tie the game at one.


Game speed

After six seasons in Washington, Philipp Grubauer has faced literally thousands of shots from Alex Ovechkin in practice. But he never faced one of those shots in a game until Friday. Those shots come off the stick a bit faster when it counts as Grubauer learned.

Nicklas Backstrom entered the offensive zone with the puck and backhanded it to Ovechkin. Backstrom kept driving to the net drawing the defense with him except for Tyson Barrie. Backstrom’s passed to the left, but Ovechkin collected it going right which caught Barrie flatfooted. Ovehckin easily skated around Barrie to find an open shooting lane, then snapped a shot past Grubauer to put the Caps up 2-1. Ovechkin’s celebration was almost instantaneous, he knew he had Grubauer beat.


A late penalty

The referees really put away the whistles in the third period. They even missed a clear high-stick to Dmitry Orlov that drew blood and should have been a double-minor. Colorado came back to tie the game, but Smith-Pelly finally drew a blatant holding penalty from Ian Cole with just over a minute left to go in regulation.

The Avalanche survived to force overtime, but Nicklas Backstrom scored the game-winner on the power play just 22 seconds in for the win.

Tom Wilson making a Tom Wilson play

Space is important in hockey. That’s what makes a four-on-three power play harder to cover than a five-on-four power play. You know what’s even better? A three-on-two.

The Caps entered overtime on a power play which gave them a four-on-three to start. Tom Wilson had the puck on the wall and took a hit from Carl Soderberg. He saw the hit coming and took it so he could make the pass to Backstrom. He won the board battle and the hit took Soderberg out of the play, giving the Caps a three-on-two in the offensive zone to work with. Backstrom passed to John Carlson who passed back to Backstrom. He had all day to fire the game-winner and it was all thanks to a tremendous play from Wilson that most people would not have noticed.

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