Redskins

Giants found similar winning formula to win again

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Giants found similar winning formula to win again

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) The Giants' championship formula is a familiar one, just with new faces all over the diamond two years later: stellar starting pitching backed by a shut-down bullpen, a late-season surge and a manager making all the right moves.

San Francisco captured its second World Series title in three seasons with a stunning sweep of the Tigers, and only catcher Buster Posey was in the lineup for the Game 5 clincher in 2010 at Texas and also the finale at Comerica Park in 2012.

``We're just happy right now,'' Posey said. ``It's an unbelievable feeling.''

Two of the four games against Detroit were started and won by a pair of pitchers not even on the World Series roster in 2010, and in Ryan Vogelsong's case he wasn't even in the majors back then.

The only regular still around from that team is Posey, and the catcher had to rebound from devastating ankle and leg injuries sustained in a home-plate collision in late May 2011 to put together an MVP-caliber season and become the NL batting champ. He played far more than anybody envisioned his body would allow.

This time, a couple of bench warmers from that last October run shined for San Francisco - MVP Pablo Sandoval and Game 1 winner Barry Zito. The lefty Zito was left off the postseason roster for all three rounds in 2010.

``Just as a player, certainly you want to play on a team that wins the World Series. And to go out there and contribute, there's nothing like that,'' Zito said. ``We were very adamant that we have to step on their throats. We saw what they did to New York.''

Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence were this year's midseason additions, with Scutaro following up Cody Ross in 2010 to earn NL championship series MVP honors. While Scutaro produced the timely hits, including a go-ahead single with two outs in the 10th inning of Sunday's 4-3 win, Pence did plenty and became the motivational speaker of this group. He reminded his teammates to keep the focus even when they jumped out to a surprising 3-0 Series lead against the Tigers.

These Giants showed they could rally back - again and again - and also thrive when playing out in front.

They fell behind 2-0 to the Cincinnati Reds in the division series, then became the first team in major league history to rally back in a five-game series by winning three straight road games. They did it again against the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals, erasing a 3-1 deficit thanks largely to Zito's Game 5 victory at Busch Stadium that sent the Giants back to the Bay Area to finish it off in San Francisco.

Six victories in six elimination games.

``The thing that made this team so special is just playing as a team, caring for each other,'' Pence said. ``We had our backs against the wall and we knew it wasn't going to be easy. It's not supposed to be. That was one of our mottos, and we went out there to enjoy every minute of it and it was hard-earned. Just an incredible, incredible group of guys that fought for each other.''

San Francisco ended the season on a seven-game winning streak.

Reliever George Kontos summed it up the best he could in one Twitter post late Sunday: ``WORLD.....SERIES.....CHAMPS!!!! That's all that needs to be said... This team is special.... We did what no other team could.''

Much like that 2010 team of ``castoffs and misfits'' as they referred to themselves, manager Bruce Bochy had to make some tough calls. He moved struggling starter Tim Lincecum to the bullpen, and he became a dominant reliever. Another spot-on move by Bochy, who became just the 23rd manager to win two or more World Series titles.

Nobody figured the Giants would leave AT&T Park with a 2-0 lead Thursday night for the Motor City and not have to come back home for a Game 6, or 7 for that matter.

Bochy, for one, is tired of hearing people call it luck.

``For us to play like we did against this great club, I couldn't be prouder of these guys,'' Bochy said. ``To be world champions in two out of the last three years, it's amazing. Believe me, I know how difficult it is to get here, and I couldn't be prouder of a group of guys that were not going to be denied.''

When the Giants take to Market Street in downtown San Francisco for Wednesday's Halloween championship parade, there will be no costumes needed. Brian Wilson, whose season ended in April when he needed Tommy John elbow surgery, and the man who finished off the clincher in his place by striking out the side Sunday on 15 pitches - Sergio Romo - are still sporting those dark postseason beards that have made these two such huge hits.

Along with their pitching, of course.

When it comes to pitching, Giants general manager Brian Sabean has never wavered. He has won more often than not by building around a balanced and versatile staff.

And all five starters are under contract heading into 2013.

A couple of big decisions facing Sabean are whether to re-sign Scutaro and center fielder Angel Pagan. It's unclear whether the Giants will consider giving Melky Cabrera a second chance after the All-Star game MVP was suspended Aug. 15 for a positive testosterone test and then not added to the NLCS roster once he was eligible to return.

Sandoval, the Kung Fu Panda, earned Series MVP honors after sparking his club with that three-homer outing in a Game 1 win against Justin Verlander and Co. He batted .369 this postseason with five doubles, six homers and 13 RBIs. That's after he was benched for four of the five games in 2010, when he hit .176 with two RBIs.

In three mighty swings last Wednesday night, he showed how far he has come since then. Even after a pair of stints on the disabled list this season, one for a broken hamate bone in his hand that required surgery.

``You know, I still can't believe that game. It's the game of your dreams. You don't want to wake up,'' the 26-year-old Sandoval said.

The Giants again will ask Sandoval to shape up this offseason - and he is on board. Sandoval wants to be at his best not only for San Francisco but also to play for Venezuela in next spring's third World Baseball Classic.

Zito's turnaround is just as noteworthy. The left-hander, who signed a $126 million, seven-year contract before the 2007 season, went 15-8 for his best season since moving across the bay from the Oakland Athletics, where he won the 2002 AL Cy Young Award.

The Giants won Zito's last 14 starts, and he didn't lose after Aug. 2 against the Mets.

``I think there's a lot of learning that goes on in life away from the ball field,'' Zito said. ``To go through it on the big stage ... the lows are lower, but I've changed the way I think about a lot of things.''

Zito will be part of an experienced rotation heading into 2013, led by ace Matt Cain.

Cain's season began with a hefty new contract, then only got better with the first perfect game in franchise history June 13, the start in July's All-Star win that sealed home field for the National League, and then another championship.

``What we just did these last couple months is a pretty full year, and something that I'm going to enjoy definitely sitting down and watching at the end of the year,'' Cain said.

Scutaro was only around for part of it, but with the remarkable numbers he put up since coming from the Colorado Rockies on July 27 nobody would know any better.

``It's what you work for all season,'' Scutaro said. ``I don't even know what to say right now. We just won the World Series. It's still priceless.''

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AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker and Sports Writer Ronald Blum contributed from Detroit.

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Need to Know: What to look for at Redskins OTAs

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Need to Know: What to look for at Redskins OTAs

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, May 23, 65 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What to look for at OTAs

Redskins OTAs started yesterday. The no-contact drills are the first time during the offseason program that the offense and defense are permitted to line up against each other. The-no pads aspect of it does take off a lot of the edge but the reality is that this will be the closest thing to football we will see until training camp starts in late July. 

Here are some things that I will be looking for during today’s practice.

Who’s in? Jay Gruden told us earlier that we should not expect to see some injured key players not participating as they continue to recover from 2017 injuries. Specifically, OT Trent Williams (knee), OT Morgan Moses (ankles), and TE Jordan Reed (hamstring/toe) will only be spectators if they are at Redskins Park at all. Other players who may sit out or participate only in light drills are RB Chris Thompson (leg), and ILB Mason Foster (shoulder). The Redskins have been relatively healthy the past few offseasons so we will see how they deal with the aftermath of the injury scourge that his the team last year. 

Seven-on-seven—Sure, it’s fun to watch the full team drills with 11 on each side. But since blocking and tackling is limited by the rules about contact there isn’t much to be gleaned from watching an off-tackle run. But when they eliminate the guards, tackles, and interior defensive linemen it’s all passing and then we can watch how well Alex Smith and his receivers are connecting. One thing I’ll keep in mind is that Smith decided not to get the receivers together for a “passing camp” before the offseason activities started. He said that he wanted to get to know the playbook first. Because of that they can be forgiven if they are not quite as sharp as they might be. Also, how natural does Derrius Guice look coming out of the backfield to catch passes? His primary job will be to carry the ball but if he is a legitimate pass-catching threat the whole offense will be harder to defend

Rookies vs. pros—In rookie camp two weeks ago we saw Trey Quinn putting defensive backs on the ground with some moves and Troy Apke showing great makeup speed on some long passes. But those tryout defensive backs and quarterbacks are no longer around. How will Quinn look against veteran Orlando Scandrick or second-year corner Josh Holsey? Will Smith’s ball placement negate Apke’s speed? In the one-on-one pass blocking drills, which emphasize technique over power, can Daron Payne get past Brandon Scherff?

The big guys—With Williams and Moses out, who will line up along the offensive line? Does Payne line up at nose tackle or is he used more as an end with Tim Settle in the middle? Is Ziggy Hood in the middle or will he work outside? How is Phil Taylor looking after a quad injury ended his season in training camp? As noted, the rules make it hard to tell much about linemen before Richmond but we try to glean what we can. 

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

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My reaction to this tweet from the NFL illustrating the changes to the kickoff rules:

Timeline  

Today’s schedule:Redskins OTA practice 11:30; Jay Gruden and Alex Smith press conferences, players available coming off the field, after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 20
—Training camp starts (7/26) 65
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 79

The Redskins last played a game 143 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 109 days. 

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New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

Alex Smith in, Kirk Cousins out.

That's certainly the headline, but there are plenty of other questions for the Redskins, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

For the last two seasons, most of the questions going into OTAs for Washington came from the defensive side of the ball. After consecutive drafts with a first-round defensive lineman selection, the defense should be much improved. 

On offense, however, there are a lot of new parts. 

  1. The headliner - No position in sports is as important as NFL quarterback. This will be Alex Smith's first action in a Redskins uniform with media present. The 34-year-old veteran is coming off the best season of his career, and if he can continue that level of accuracy and play-making, the Redskins could be poised for an explosive year.
  2. The speedster - Washington's wideouts lacked separation in 2017. It was apparent through much of the year, and likely played a roll in some of Kirk Cousins' reluctance to make tough throws. Free agent addition Paul Richardson is supposed to help, immediately. He has elite deep speed and the 'Skins brass hopes he can bring a similar element to the offense that DeSean Jackson provided a few years back. Time to prove it Paul. 
  3. The injuries - There are big reasons for concern, namely two very large men in Jordan Reed and Trent Williams. Reed will not participate in OTAs, and has been dealing with a foot/toe injury for the better part of a year. Williams, who seems highly unlikely to attend OTAs, underwent knee surgery in January. Beyond Smith, Reed and Williams are probably the two most important offensive players on the Redskins. OTAs aren't important, Reed and Williams participating, or even attending, OTAs is not important. Both men being healthy and ready to go in September is quite important. 
  4. The Rookie - Has Derrius Guice become the most popular player on the Redskins? Maybe. The dynamic rookie running back, with an interesting draft weekend slide, has the charisma and ability to be a star. The "off-field concerns" that hurt his draft status seem like myths at this point, but there was some injury concern his junior season at LSU (see video above). Guice has an opportunity to be a huge part of the Redskins offense, and all eyes will be watching the rookie. 
  5. The leap? - In 2017, Josh Doctson showed flashes of the player that warranted a first-round pick in 2016. Will 2018 be the year he proves it, week after week, game after game? Getting off to a good start with Smith should help, and even more important would be an injury-free offseason. 

There are questions for the defense too, particularly at cornerback after Josh Norman, but this year, the offense has more new parts. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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