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Giants catching 'lucky' breaks in World Series run

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Giants catching 'lucky' breaks in World Series run

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) The way the Giants are scoring runs this postseason has been typical San Francisco style: unconventional.

Angel Pagan added another unusual Giants hit with two outs in the third inning of Wednesday night's 8-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the World Series. The left-handed hitter's one-hopper bounced off the corner of third base and ricocheted past Miguel Cabrera sideways and into short left field to spark a three-run inning and a San Francisco surge.

``There's nothing wrong with being a little lucky sometimes,'' Pagan said. ``At this time of the year, you take whatever you can get. I don't care if it's a good bounce, an error by the other team or whatever.''

The World Series wackiness is only the latest for San Francisco this October.

Hunter Pence hit a weird two-run double against St. Louis in Game 7 of the NL championship series. He shattered his bat around the label and the broken barrel hit the ball twice more. That put a rolling, slicing spin on the ball and caused it to change directions, juking shortstop Pete Kozma right while the ball scooted past him into left-center field.

In San Francisco's Game 5 win at St. Louis, right-hander Lance Lynn fielded Pence's grounder back to the mound. With Marco Scutaro on first and Pablo Sandoval on second, Lynn rushed his throw to second and the ball bounced off the bag and into center field for an error.

Now Cabrera, the Triple Crown winner, is San Francisco's latest fooled foe.

``At that point, yeah, when that ball hit the bag I just said, `Wow. Anything can happen right now,''' Cabrera said.

After Pagan's double, Scutaro fouled off two 98 mph full-count pitches and lined a single into center. That set the stage for the second of Sandoval's three home runs, powering the Giants to a 4-0 lead against reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander.

Even some of the Giants are running out of explanations.

``We've been doing that in a lot of games. I think we have God on our side,'' Giants left fielder Gregor Blanco said. ``This is crazy. This is a crazy game.''

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GIANT CATCH: Gregor Blanco began sprinting in before he even heard the crack of Miguel Cabrera's bat.

With speedy Austin Jackson running from first base and San Francisco only up a run in the third inning, the left fielder committed all the way. He sprinted forward, then cut to his left, and stretched out to make a diving grab that robbed the Triple Crown winner of a hit. Blanco's catch kept the Giants in the lead at a critical point in San Francisco's 8-3 victory in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night.

``I just said to myself, `We cannot let them start a rally,''' Blanco said. ``They have great hitters. If you let them have confidence with their offense, it's going to be trouble for us.''

Thanks to Blanco, the Giants never let that happen.

The same man who made a diving catch on the warning track in right-center field to rob Jordan Schafer and save Matt Cain's perfect game on June 13 against Houston came through in the biggest moments again.

In the sixth, Prince Fielder flipped his bat as soon as his slicing line drive zipped off his bat - then stopped his sprint when Blanco made another diving grab. Blanco, sprawled out on the grass, raised his right glove hand and brought the home fans roaring to their feet, a familiar site at AT&T Park.

``I had some funky spin on (the pitch), and that was so impressive because not only did he dive, but he had to stay with the path of that ball,'' said Giants starter Barry Zito, who shut out the Tigers until Cabrera's RBI single in the sixth. ``Blanco is just such a huge part of this team in every way.''

Has been all season.

The 28-year-old from Venezuela, who has gotten most of the playing time in left field since Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games, also ran down a hard-hit ball by Allen Craig in left-center in the third inning against St. Louis in Game 7 of the NL championship series. But no matter how many spectacular snags he makes, Blanco - and just about everybody else in San Francisco - will always remember his perfect-game saving catch.

``Any ball that is close to him, I've got a good feeling he's going to dive and catch it,'' said Cain, the Game 4 starter. ``He makes a lot of diving catches and, maybe most importantly, knows when to do it.''

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SECRET HANDSHAKE: Don't dare try to talk Detroit slugger Prince Fielder into offering any specifics about his signature handshake with Tigers Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.

It's not going to happen - even though he knows everybody is clamoring to learn it from the leader himself.

``It doesn't have a name but it definitely is awkward when I see a grown man wanting to do it while I'm walking down the street,'' Fielder said. ``It's just something me and Miguel do, and it's top secret. It's borderline weird, `Hey, come on,' and I'm like, `Hey, come on, I'm an adult.' It's cool, it's funny. It just feels weird sometimes.''

The complicated move features the two players reaching out their right hands for a low handshake, then another backward slap before a high-five that's followed by them bringing both of their arms out as if to form a `W' above their heads. Next, they move their right hands together as if sprinkling dust - then come together in a warm embrace. Cabrera might pat Fielder's head just to punctuate things.

Would Fielder just walk everybody through it already? It's the World Series, after all.

``I can't do it,'' Fielder said, grinning. ``It's top secret.''

Even grizzled manager Jim Leyland said he's fine with the playful antics.

``They say I'm old school. I'm really not. I'm old, but I'm not necessarily old school,'' Leyland said. ``But I don't really get into that, whether it's our team or the other team. I kind of don't really look, to be honest with you. But it's kind of a new wave of baseball and entertaining to some people. ``

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BUMMED OUT: Madison Bumgarner joked before his last World Series start that the pressure of pitching on baseball's biggest stage felt similar to his high school championship. After all, he was only 21.

Two years later, the lefty has little room for laughs.

That tends to happen after two terrible postseason starts, getting passed over in the rotation and having his mechanics and fatigue questioned. Bumgarner will get another chance - and perhaps his last this postseason - at redemption when he tries to pitch the Giants to a 2-0 Series lead starting opposite Detroit Tigers right-hander Doug Fister on Thursday night.

``That wasn't fun at all,'' Bumgarner said of his previous start. ``But watching everybody fight back and then pick me up, and everybody is picking everybody up right now, that's what's special about our team.''

The North Carolina native finished 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA in the 2010 postseason, including a Game 4 win at Texas in the World Series when he allowed only three hits in eight innings. He struck out 18 and walked only five in four appearances - three starts - to help the Giants to their first World Series since moving from New York in 1958.

This season, the southpaw won 16 games for the NL West champions, but has struggled mightily in the playoffs with an 11.25 ERA. He lasted just 3 2-3 innings in his last start, giving up six earned runs in a 6-4 loss to St. Louis in Game 1 of the NL championship series. Barry Zito took Bumgarner's spot in Game 5 for the first of three straight San Francisco victories.

Bumgarner's velocity has decreased slightly in both starts, making his off-speed pitches less deceptive. He spent the extra time working on his mechanics with pitching coach Dave Righetti before games.

Even with his starter's struggles, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he is confident Bumgarner - who signed a $35.56 million, six-year contract through 2017 earlier this year - can turn things around against the hard-hitting Tigers.

``He's done well, and he's dealt with the adversity that you have to deal with as a player,'' Bochy said. ``The good ones bounce back. They're resilient. We certainly feel that way with Madison. I don't care how good you are, occasionally, you're going to have to deal with some adversity. But he's a tough kid. We forget sometimes, he's only 23 years old, and he's already done a lot in his career. But he can handle things thrown at him, and he's a guy that doesn't get his confidence shaken.

``It may not go well, but he still wants to be out there on the mound,'' Bochy said.

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AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.

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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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Baltimore Ravens crash Andrew Luck's homecoming with 20-19 preseason win

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Baltimore Ravens crash Andrew Luck's homecoming with 20-19 preseason win

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.