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Giants getting good rolls so far this World Series

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Giants getting good rolls so far this World Series

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Gregor Blanco is chasing down line drives in left field, laying down perfect bunts and making run-saving relay throws.

He has had a hand, glove and bat in just about everything so far in his first World Series to give the San Francisco Giants a commanding 2-0 lead against the Tigers as the Series shifts to the Motor City.

Blanco surprised himself when his bunt single dribbled about halfway down the third base line and stopped next to the white chalk, inches fair. It helped get the Giants on the board in the seventh inning of Thursday's 2-0 victory - and all he meant to do was move the runner over.

Several Detroit players stood over the ball, almost in disbelief.

``I don't know about baseball gods, but I'll tell you one thing: I hope the ball keeps bouncing our way,'' reliever Jeremy Affeldt said. ``It's been huge for us.''

Blanco has been a beneficiary of all that good fortune, all right. And even a scary moment, when his line drive struck Tigers starter Doug Fister just above the right ear in the second inning but the pitcher stayed in the game.

The 28-year-old Blanco reached on that perfect bunt in the seventh inning, then the Giants went ahead moments later on Brandon Crawford's bases-loaded double-play grounder.

No arguing, the best bunt of his career.

``It has to be,'' Blanco said, ``and I think the best at-bat of my career, too.''

He sure has helped this city move on from Melky Cabrera, suspended 50 games in August for a positive testosterone test and left off the postseason roster once he was eligible to return.

Blanco ran to first as third baseman and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, catcher Gerald Laird and pitcher Drew Smyly converged on the ball but it settled on the dirt - a space of maybe six inches - between the chalk and the grass.

As soon as he hit it he told himself it had to be headed foul. The ball cooperated, though he's not sure how.

``I was joking with Roberto Kelly when I got to first base, `We practiced that today,''' Blanco said. ``That was a perfect bunt. I wasn't really trying to do that. I think it was just meant to be and I'm thankful that I did it.''

Now, because of plays like that, the Giants go into Game 3 on Saturday ahead for a change. They rallied from behind in both the division series against Cincinnati and NL championship series with the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals.

``You hate to say it, but sometimes you need some luck,'' said Ryan Vogelsong, who will start Game 3 at Comerica Park. ``I used to be one of those guys who said you create your own luck, but sometimes in this game that's not the case and the ball has to bounce your way.''

San Francisco also made a great play at the plate to save a run in the second. Had Prince Fielder scored then Detroit might have grabbed some early momentum on the heels of an 8-3 loss in Wednesday's opener.

After Fielder was hit by a pitch from Madison Bumgarner leading off the second, Blanco - who made a pair of pretty diving catches in left field during Wednesday's win - chased down Delmon Young's double but overthrew the first cutoff man. Second baseman Marco Scutaro wisely hustled over to third base, however, and caught Blanco's throw before making a perfect relay home to catcher Buster Posey just in time to nail a sliding Fielder at the plate.

``I don't know what Scutaro was doing there, but I'm thankful that he was there,'' Blanco said. ``The ball took kind of a funny hop and I said, `I've got to throw to the cutoff man the quickest way I can.'''

Scutaro insists he was just doing his job to back up on the play.

``To cut off relays, always you have to do that,'' Scutaro said.

Manager Bruce Bochy figured Fielder would score when the ball hit the wall.

``It was a bang-bang play,'' Bochy said. ``That's not an easy call there. He was out, and good quick tag by Buster. It took a perfect relay to get it done.''

Omar Infante hit a leadoff single in the fourth but Pablo Sandoval made a nice play to snare Cabrera's sharp liner. Infante was later thrown out trying to steal second.

Sure, the Giants made it this far with sparkling defense down the stretch. But a few good hops never hurt.

Bochy has acknowledged that getting some breaks along the way can make a huge difference in October, on the big stage when the stakes are high. And he would know, he took San Francisco to a championship two years ago.

``Baseball's so hard, this game's about having luck,'' Blanco said. ``You can hit the ball 10 times with a line drive to center field and go 0 for 10.''

On Wednesday in the Series opener, Angel Pagan had a double that bounced off the bag at third and shot into left field.

In Game 5 of the NL championship series last Friday at St. Louis, Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn fielded an easy comebacker in the fourth inning and quickly turned to try to start a double play at second base. Instead, his throw caromed off the bag and the throwing error allowed a run to score in the Giants' four-run inning.

Barry Zito - the Game 1 World Series winner - wound up pitching his team to a 5-0, season-saving victory.

``We're definitely not going to complain about them,'' Vogelsong said. ``It's been crazy, but it's good. You hate to say luck becomes present in a game, but obviously it does.''

San Francisco flew home to the Bay Area trailing the defending champions 3-2 and won two more to reach its second World Series in three years - with help from another bizarre ball in Game 7, of course.

Hunter Pence broke his bat making contact in the third inning. The ball then hit the broken barrel two more times on the follow through, sending a slicing liner toward shortstop that fooled St. Louis' Pete Kozma and went through for a double. Two runs scored and a third crossed the plate when center fielder Jon Jay made an error, breaking the game open.

So, is there any question who has the best bunting skills on the Giants?

``I guess, Gregor,'' Scutaro said with a smile. ``What do you think? See that bunt?''

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What's next for Barry Trotz?

What's next for Barry Trotz?

Barry Trotz is no longer the head coach of the Washington Capitals and, after resigning Monday afternoon, he is officially free to pursue other opportunities.

So what's next for the now former Capitals head coach?

For those who believe Trotz will simply retire, that seems unlikely. Trotz is only 55 years old.

General manager Brian MacLellan indicated the main issue in the contract negotiations between him and Trotz was term. If Trotz was, in fact, seeking a five-year contract, that doesn't sound like someone who is ready to walk away from the game.

There is only one head coaching vacancy left in the NHL, that of the New York Islanders. New President of Hockey Operations Lou Lamoriello cleaned house after getting hired and fired both general manager Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight earlier in June.

Now, suddenly, there is a Stanley Cup-winning coach on the market.

While it certainly makes sense for the Islanders to pursue Trotz, there's one big reason why Trotz, or anyone, would likely be hesitant to accept the job on Long Island and that is John Tavares.

New York's franchise player is a pending free agent and, until his contract situation is resolved, convincing anyone to take the head coaching job with the Islanders is a tough sell. If the Islanders re-sign Tavares, improve the defense and bring in a dependable starting goalie, then there is no reason to think they cannot be a playoff team.

But those are a lot of "ifs" and Tavares is a big one. If he goes, suddenly the situation on Long Island is much different. Tavares' decision could be the difference between the Islanders being a playoff team or getting a high lottery pick.

For Trotz to walk away from a team that just won the Stanley Cup to go to a New York team that may or may not have its best player back next season does not make a lot of sense.

But just because there may be only one head coaching vacancy open doesn't mean Trotz does not have any options.

The 2017-18 season saw no head coaching changes made during the season for the first time since the league expanded in 1967. Chances are jobs will begin to open up during the season especially if those teams believe they can land a Cup-winning coach as a replacement.

If you're Trotz, you just won a Stanley Cup. There is no reason to rush into another opportunity. Trotz will instantly be near or at the top of every wish list for teams in need of a head coach.

Don't just assume that Trotz will be on Long Island to start the 2018-19 season just because it is the only opportunity currently available. He can wait for the perfect opportunity to come to him.

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Cavaliers are gunning for Kawhi Leonard, though it's doubtful they have enough to interest Spurs

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Cavaliers are gunning for Kawhi Leonard, though it's doubtful they have enough to interest Spurs

With word out that Kawhi Leonard wants a trade from the Spurs, teams are lining up with offers to San Antonio and one of the NBA’s best teams has reportedly already made a call.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have contacted the Spurs about a potential Leonard trade, according to Cleveland.com. Terry Pluto wrote on Sunday that multiple teams have done the same. That is to expected, of course, as Leonard is one of the best players in the NBA. He's a two-time defensive player of the year and he's only 26.

Let's look at Cleveland as a potential destination. It should first be noted that it's questionable whether they have enough to land a player of Leonard's caliber. They have the eighth overall pick in Thursday's draft, but it may take a lot more than that to get Leonard.

They also have Kevin Love, who is an All-Star still in his prime. But if they gave him up, they would then need to seek more help to surround Leonard and LeBron James, if James decides to stay. Though James and Leonard are both top-five players in the NBA, they still likely wouldn't be able to beat the Warriors unless they had another running mate. Those two plus Love and then you're talking.

Whether the Cavs have the goods to land Leonard or not, it's no wonder why they are trying for him. Getting Leonard, a two-time All-NBA selection, would likely be enough to retain James, the best player in the game. If James were to look around the league for a top-shelf running mate, he would be hard-pressed to find one better than Leonard.

That is assuming Leonard is healthy, of course. He did miss all but nine games this past season with a quadriceps injury. That injury was central in a saga of discord between him and the team. Until he hits the court again, Leonard offers no guarantees. Still, he may be worth the risk for Cleveland, as the alternative is potentially seeing James walk. 

If the Cavs got Leonard, that would probably solidify their standing as the best team in the Eastern Conference, even if they lost Love in the process. Leonard is better than Love and they would arguably have the two best players in the East. They may not have enough to beat the Warriors, but that would likely give them the edge over the young teams like Boston and Philly that have been nipping at their heels.

Sending Leonard to the Cavs would get him out of the Western Conference and that might be enticing to the Spurs. If they send him to the Lakers, his reported preferred destination, that could come back to bite them much more often than it would if he was traded to the East. Though putting him in Cleveland would form another very good team, they wouldn't affect the Spurs directly but for two regular season games, unless they were to meet in the NBA Finals.

The Spurs haven't indicated they will actually trade Leonard, but it does seem to be heading in that direction. It sounds like Cleveland will at the very least give it a shot. 

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