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Giants lead Cardinals 7-0 in Game 7 of NLCS

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Giants lead Cardinals 7-0 in Game 7 of NLCS

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Hunter Pence doubled home two runs with a slicing, broken-bat hit during a five-run third inning that chased Kyle Lohse, and the San Francisco Giants took a 7-0 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals through three innings in the decisive Game 7 of the NL championship series Monday night.

Pablo Sandoval's run-scoring groundout in the first gave him an RBI in five straight games, matching a Giants postseason record. Home run king Barry Bonds set the mark in 2002.

Matt Cain worked out of a jam behind a strong defensive effort and extended San Francisco's lead with a two-out single in the second. A Giants pitcher has driven in a run in three straight games. During that same span, St. Louis has scored one run as a team.

Lohse left after he walked Buster Posey to load the bases with no outs in the third. Pence then connected on a pitch from reliever Joe Kelly that broke his bat. The ball hit his bat twice more creating an awkward spin that fooled shortstop Pete Kozma, who first broke to the right. Kozma could not recover to field the slicing ball and it went for a double. A third run scored when center fielder Jon Jay misplayed the ball for an error.

The hit highlighted a run-scoring blitz that put the Cardinals in a major hole and whipped an orange towel-twirling crowd at AT&T Park into a frenzy.

The winner of the game between the past two World Series champions will host the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night.

After some light rain during batting practice, sunshine broke through and a rainbow formed beyond the outfield, providing another scenic San Francisco backdrop.

And once again, the Giants started strong.

Cain struck out Jay on four pitches before Carlos Beltran blooped a single to center to open the first inning. Beltran stole second with two outs - moving to 11 for 11 for his career in the postseason, the most steals ever without getting caught in a postseason career - but Cain got Allen Craig to pop out to third.

In the bottom of the inning, Pagan and Marco Scutaro singled to put runners on first and third. Pagan scored on Sandoval's groundout to give the Giants a 1-0 lead, although San Francisco squandered chances for more when Lohse quickly retired Posey and Pence.

The team that had scored first is 5-1 in the series. The one loss came in Game 3, when St. Louis rallied to beat the Giants 3-1 with Cain and Lohse on the mound.

Cain, San Francisco's ace who threw a perfect game against Houston earlier this season, was hardly at his dominating best - but his defense helped clean up his mistakes.

Yadier Molina singled and David Freese walked leading off the second. Molina moved to third when first baseman Brandon Belt made a diving stop on Daniel Descalso's grounder, throwing from his knees to get Freese at second. After Cain struck out Kozma, shortstop Brandon Crawford leaped to catch Lohse's soft liner to keep St. Louis scoreless.

Cain singled to center to score Gregor Blanco from second in the bottoming of the inning. Lohse cut off the relay throw and fans roared to their feet in celebration.

Crawford added another RBI in the third inning when Kozma fielded a weak grounder and threw home late, and Pagan grounded into a fielder's choice to put San Francisco ahead 7-0.

Lohse left after allowing six hits, walking one and striking out one.

About the only thing St. Louis could rely on was history - at least recent history, anyway. The Cardinals overcame a 6-0 deficit to stun the Washington Nationals in the decisive Game 5 of the division series.

Only this time, the stakes were even higher - and the deficit even larger.

The Giants were going for their 20th pennant while the Cardinals were chasing their 19th. In winner-take-all Game 7s, the Cardinals are 11-4 and the Giants are 0-5.

Since 1976, 14 home teams have won a Game 6 to force Game 7, with 13 of the 14 going on to win Game 7, according to STATS LLC. The lone loser was the 2006 Mets against the Cardinals. Beltran struck out looking with the bases loaded on Adam Wainwright's curveball for the final out in New York's 3-1 loss.

The only other time the Cardinals opened a 3-1 lead in the NLCS came in 1996, when they lost to the Atlanta Braves in seven games. San Francisco, which never faced an elimination game in winning the 2010 World Series title, is 5-0 when pushed to the edge this postseason.

St. Louis has won its last six games when facing elimination.

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Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

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Early returns show solid Redskins squad, with potential for more

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USA TODAY Sports

Early returns show solid Redskins squad, with potential for more

More than 100 days remain before the Redskins take the field in meaningful NFL action.

Any and all excitement needs to be tempered, significantly, because what happens on a practice field in May without pads does not represent what will happen in September, October and beyond. 

Still, the Redskins group that took the field this week for OTAs showed promise. 

New quarterback Alex Smith looked crisp, connecting with a variety of wideouts and commanding the huddle. New wideout Paul Richardson made the best play of the session when he streaked down the field past rookie cornerback Greg Stroman and hauled in a deep pass from Smith. The play showed Smith's ability to identify open receivers downfield, as well as Richardson's ability to go up and grab a contested catch. Even Stroman, the seventh-round rookie, positioned himself well, he just fell victim to a perfect pass and tremendous athleticism.

That was only one play in a two-hour session. Again, don't take too much from May, when players don't wear pads or engage in any of the violence that the NFL is predicated upon. But the OTAs do serve a purpose, both for players and coaches, and there were nuggets to absorb and try to project for the fall. Here they are:

  • Jay Gruden made clear he's not concerned about the health of his offensive line. Trent Williams and Morgan Moses are recuperating from offseason surgery, but Gruden believes both are on track for when things start to matter. It's a good thing the coach isn't concerned because this was the 'Skins line in OTAs (left to right): Geron Christian, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, John Kling. Should that lineup take the field this fall, there will be trouble. 
     
  • The Redskins lost Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland this offseason, and the secondary depth will be something to watch throughout training camp. At OTAs, newly signed veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick lined up opposite Josh Norman in the team's base 3-4 defense. In nickel and dime coverage, Quinton Dunbar lined up opposite Norman and Scandrick moved to the slot. As things progress, it will be interesting to see if Dunbar surpasses Scandrick in base coverage, and what becomes of 2017 third-round pick Fabian Moreau. Stay tuned.  
     
  • Rookie running back Derrius Guice looked every part of the first-round talent many judged him to be before draft season rumors caused him to slide to the late second round. Guice cuts with authority and is able to see holes before they form and patiently wait to hit the open space. Guice also looked fine in pass-catching drills, one area that was a question coming out of LSU (but that says more about LSU's prehistoric offense). Watching the Redskins offense work, it seems clear Guice will be the heaviest used runner this fall.
     

  • That said, don't count out Robert Kelley. He looks leaner and plenty quick, showing a few impressive runs during the session. Byron Marshall also looked good, and Gruden pointed out his success in his post-OTA press conference. The running back group will have plenty of competition all the way through Richmond. 
     
  • Jonathan Allen has switched jersey numbers from 95 to 93. Rookie Daron Payne is now wearing 95. Payne and Allen both went to Alabama, both are huge, and both play defensive line. The number switch will take some getting used to. 
     
  • Zach Brown missed the OTA session as he was moving, and interestingly in his spot with the starting defense was Josh Harvey-Clemons. The second-year pro out of Louisville showed impressive speed in coverage, and remember he played safety in college and performed quite well. He has ball skills and great size to be a coverage linebacker. Some were surprised when the Redskins kept JHC last season at the cut to 53, but his development appears to be paying off for the organization. 
     
  • Another linebacker that made a play was Zach Vigil. He impressed for the Redskins late last season and was running the Washington second-team defensive huddle. At one point, Vigil broke through the line of scrimmage and blew up a run play. That prompted D.J. Swearinger to yell from the sideline, "OK Zach. OK ZACH!"
     
  • Speaking of Swearinger, the Redskins defensive captain seemed in midseason form when it comes to yelling encouragement on the field. Nobody hypes up the defense like Swearinger, particularly when the secondary makes a big play. On one pass Dunbar made a nice diving play to break up a pass, and Swearinger and Josh Norman got very fired up, shouting and jumping around. The entire defense responded. Little stuff like that helps disrupt the monotony of offseason work. 
     
  • Jamison Crowder looks jacked and quick. The end. 

 

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

After dispatching Tampa Bay in Game 7, the Caps claimed the conference crown for just the second time in franchise history. But they're not done yet. Now it's on to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps' win over the Lightning and look ahead to the matchup with the Knights.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.