Redskins

Giants on to World Series with 9-0 win over Cards

201210221911691083649-p2.jpeg

Giants on to World Series with 9-0 win over Cards

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) San Francisco's players, soaked to the core in a driving rain, began running around the field slapping high-fives with fans. Sergio Romo danced through the raindrops and Angel Pagan waved a black Giants flag as he ran, then stayed outside with his daughter well after everyone else had taken the celebration indoors to the clubhouse.

The World Series is back in the Bay Area - two years after the Giants won their first championship in San Francisco.

``We showed up here to win,'' Pagan said. ``And we're going to carry that over into the World Series.''

The Giants got there with another improbable comeback, stunning the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals with a 9-0 victory in Game 7 of the NL championship series after falling behind 3-1 at Busch Stadium.

Hunter Pence got the Giants going with a weird double, Matt Cain pitched his second clincher of October and San Francisco rode Marco Scutaro's steady bat yet again.

``The rain never felt so good,'' Scutaro said. ``We're going to the World Series, this is unbelievable.''

San Francisco won its record-tying sixth elimination game of the postseason, completing a lopsided rally from a 3-1 deficit.

The Giants, who won it all in 2010, will host reigning AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, Triple Crown slugger Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 on Wednesday night.

Verlander is set to pitch Wednesday's opener at AT&T Park. Giants manager Bruce Bochy insisted before Monday's game he had not planned any further in advance.

Scutaro, the NLCS MVP, produced his sixth multihit game of the series and matched an LCS record with 14 hits, and Pablo Sandoval drove in a run for his fifth straight game.

The Giants outscored the wild-card Cardinals 20-1 over the final three games behind stellar starting pitching from Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Cain.

``It's unbelievable, what else can you say?'' Vogelsong said. ``Just when you say we're down, we stand up again.''

They also benefited from some strange bounces.

On Pence's double that highlighted a five-run third, his bat broke at the label on impact, then the broken barrel hit the ball twice more. That put a rolling, slicing spin on the ball and caused it to change directions - leaving shortstop Pete Kozma little chance to make the play. Kozma broke to his right, figuring that's where the ball would go, but it instead curved to left-center.

``It was going to go in the hole and it ended up going up the middle,'' Kozma said.

Injured closer Brian Wilson, with that out-of-control bushy black beard, danced in the dugout and fans in the sellout crowd of 43,056 kept twirling their orange rally towels even through rain in the late innings - a downright downpour when Romo retired Matt Holliday on a popup to Scutaro to end it.

Scutaro just told himself to make sure he caught the ball.

Romo embraced catcher Buster Posey as fireworks went off over McCovey Cove beyond right field.

``It's just very fitting the way everything has gone for us this season,'' Romo said of ending in the rain. ``The ups and downs, the injuries, the personal issues, whatever. What a ride for us all. It's very, very fitting that it rained right there.''

The NL West champion Giants won their first postseason clincher at home since the 2002 NLCS, also against the Cardinals.

These 2012 Giants have a couple of pretty talented castoffs of their own not so different from that winning combination of 2010 ``castoffs and misfits'' as Bochy referred to his bunch - with Scutaro right there at the top of the list this time around.

Acquired July 27 from the division rival Colorado Rockies, Scutaro hit .500 (14 for 28) with four RBIs in the NLCS. The 36-year-old journeyman infielder, playing in his second postseason and first since 2006 with Oakland, became the first player in major league history with six multihit games in an LCS.

Now, he's headed to his first World Series.

The Giants have All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera to thank for helping his teammates secure home-field advantage in the postseason - while Cain was the winning pitcher the National League's 8-0 victory in July. Cabrera was suspended 50 games Aug. 15 for a positive testosterone test, then wasn't added to the roster by the Giants after his suspension ended.

After rain fell on the Cardinals during batting practice, the skies turned blue and the weather cooperated. Anxious players on both sides hung over the dugout rails as the game began.

Cain joined St. Louis' Chris Carpenter as the only pitchers with victories in two winner-take-all games in the same postseason. Carpenter, who lost Games 2 and 6 in this series, did it last year.

Cain also pitched the Giants' Game 5 division series clincher at Cincinnati, when San Francisco became the first team in major league history to come back from an 0-2 deficit in a five-game series by winning three consecutive road games.

``I think to do it, the guys actually have to believe it can happen,'' Posey said.

Cain delivered on an even bigger stage Monday as San Francisco saved its season once again. The Giants won their 20th NL pennant and reached their 19th World Series.

Cain walked off the mound to a standing ovation when Jeremy Affeldt entered with two outs in the sixth. Affeldt then got Daniel Descalso to pop out with two runners on.

``These guys never quit,'' Bochy said. ``They just kept believing and they got it done.''

Yadier Molina had four hits but got little help from the rest of the Cardinals, who went 1 for 21 with runners in scoring position over their final three games.

``It's about the team that's hot, and we went on a cold streak,'' Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. ``We got to this point by being that team that was hot and taking advantage of opportunities. But we just couldn't make it happen these last two games.''

Cain added an RBI single to his cause and got some sparkling defense behind him.

The play of the game went to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who made a leaping catch of Kyle Lohse's liner to end the second inning with runners on second and third on what would have been a run-scoring hit.

In the third, Scutaro, the second baseman, made a tough stop on a short hop by Carlos Beltran, and left fielder Gregor Blanco ran down a hard-hit ball by Allen Craig in left-center to end the inning.

Cain's second-inning single made San Francisco the first team in major league postseason history to have a starting pitcher drive in a run in three straight elimination games.

Brandon Belt hit a solo homer in the eighth for his first clout of the postseason.

It took production from everybody, even the pitchers, for these scrappy Giants to rally back from the brink one more time.

Cain certainly did his part to keep the staff rolling.

The 16-game winner, who didn't surrender an earned run during his team's title run two years ago, reached 46 pitches through two innings but settled in nicely the rest of the way to avenge a loss to Lohse in Game 3.

Cain even got to repay Holliday for his hard slide into Scutaro at second base in Game 2 here a week earlier. Cain plunked Holliday in the upper left arm leading off the sixth, drawing cheers from the crowd.

Holliday returned to the lineup after missing Game 6 a night earlier with tightness in his lower back. He received loud boos when he stepped in to hit in the first from a fan base still angry about his slide that injured Scutaro's hip.

Beltran is still left 0-fer the World Series, winless in three Game 7s during his 15-year career. And to think just last fall he was on the other side with the Giants as they missed the playoffs a year after winning the club's first World Series since moving West in 1958.

``If you look at the games we made a lot of mistakes and they didn't make any,'' Beltran said. ``They took advantage of those. They were able to put things together, offense, pitching, defense, and we couldn't do that.''

Sandoval's run-scoring groundout in the first that put his team ahead gave him at least one RBI in five straight postseason games, matching home run king Barry Bonds' franchise record set in 2002.

Now, Sandoval and the Giants get to play on.

``It's just surreal. The victory lap right there was the greatest thing,'' said Zito, left off the 2010 postseason roster for all three rounds but now a candidate to pitch Game 1. ``We play best when our backs are against the wall.''

Quick Links

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Safety

nicholsonl_int_vs._oak_usat.png
USA Today Sports Images

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Safety

Training camp opens in three days, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope. Between now and the start of camp, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Safeties

Additions: Troy Apke (drafted in the fourth round)
Departures: DeAngelo Hall (not re-signed)

Starters: D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson
Other roster locks: Apke
On the bubble: Deshazor Everett, Fish Smithson

How the safeties compare

To the rest of the NFL: The Redskins’ safeties have been a sore spot ever since the tragic loss of Sean Taylor in 2007, continually ranking as the worst units in the league year after year. That started to change last year with the signing of Swearinger and the drafting of Nicholson. They were major contributors to one of the league’s better defenses until injuries struck. Their depth is questionable as will be discussed below but the Redskins have a solid safety tandem at the top of the depth chart if they stay healthy. 

To the 2017 Redskins: This depends on Nicholson’s health and how quickly Apke can get ready to contribute. The rookie’s speed could add a dimension that the defensive backfield doesn’t have but he has a lot of rough edges to smooth out. If he can round into form and play in some three-safety formations, the unit could be notably better than last year’s. 

2018 outlook

Biggest upside: By now, most of you have heard of Jay Gruden saying that Nicholson is the defensive equivalent of Jordan Reed because he changes what they can do when he is out there. His speed and tackling set him apart when he is out there. But there are legitimate concerns about his ability to stay on the field after a shoulder injury and a concussion kept him out of half of the games last year. If he can play, Nicholson has Pro Bowl potential. 

Most to prove: The Redskins are Swearinger’s fourth NFL team in five years in the NFL. He was cut by the Texans and the Bucs. The Cardinals put him on their practice squad for a week during the season before promoting him to the 53-man roster. Arizona made little effort to retain him when he became a free agent last year. Swearinger played well in Washington last year but he didn’t get much recognition. He wants to take the next step and show the teams that let him go that they made a big mistake. 

Rookie watch: We touched on Apke above. Some questioned the draft pick, which seemed to be based on the combine stopwatch that measured his 4.34 time in the 40. If Nicholson is healthy, Apke’s development will be an interesting side story. Should one of the starters miss multiple games, his ability to perform in the NFL will be critical. 

Bottom line:  There will be a lot of competition behind the starters. Apke seems safe because of his status as a fourth-round pick. The team values Everett as a special teams contributor and he started eight games last year. They also like Smithson and they brought him up to the 53-man roster late last year to make sure they could retain his rights. And Quin Blanding, an undrafted rookie who had a stellar career at Virginia, could work himself into the conversation for a roster spot if he performs in Richmond. If Nicholson plays, the outlook at safety could be much better in 2018 than it has been in over a decade. 

Quote-unquote

Gruden’s quote on Nicholson’s effect on the defense:

Montae I think is really an important piece. Very similar to the way Jordan Reed is on offense, Montae is on defense. He can cover so much ground.

2018 position outlook series

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

 

Quick Links

Carmelo Anthony to sign with Rockets on minimum contract, report says

usatsi_10775336.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Carmelo Anthony to sign with Rockets on minimum contract, report says

After over a week of speculation, it appears that Carmelo Anthony will indeed sign with the Houston Rockets, as a new report from the New York Times has confirmed Anthony's plans.

Marc Stein notes that Anthony will join the Rockets once he clears waivers and will sign a veteran minimum contract. Anthony will make about $1.8 million from the Rockets on top of the $27.9 million he received in his buyout from the Atlanta Hawks. Anthony was first traded from Oklahoma City to Atlanta.

Anthony teaming up with James Harden and Chris Paul is big news, though his acquisition does carry some risks. The Rockets had a good thing going last year, as they finished one win short of a berth in the NBA Finals. They were up 3-2 on the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals and lost the last two games after Paul got injured.

Adding Anthony, it would seem, could help push them over the top. But Anthony isn't the player he once was and there are questions about whether his style is conducive to winning. Anthony has traditionally been at his best when he's a large focus of the offense and he won't be in Houston.

Plus, the Rockets let some important players walk at Anthony's position. Trevor Ariza signed with the Suns and Luc Mbah Moute went to the Clippers. There will likely be a noticeable drop-off on defense.

There is a chance, however, that Anthony thrives in Houston's system. Head coach Mike D'Antoni has set up a structure of isolation ball while spacing the floor with three-point shooters. Anthony could succeed if he can make his possessions count and score more efficiently with less shots. Last year he wasn't able to do that, as he shot just 40.4 percent from the field, but he also wasn't operating in as lethal an offense as the Rockets.

Anthony going to the Rockets represents an interesting point in the career of a guy who will someday be in the Hall of Fame. This should be the best team he's ever played on and if things go right, he could rewrite some narratives about his inability to win in the playoffs.

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!