Capitals

Sandoval, Cain, Cabrera earned home Series start

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Sandoval, Cain, Cabrera earned home Series start

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) The World Series starts in San Francisco because the All-Star game was a Giant blowout. Pablo Sandoval, Matt Cain and Melky Cabrera made sure of it.

``I don't think you really think about it that much,'' Cain said, ``but it is kind of cool when you do.''

Cain pitched two shutout innings, Sandoval connected off Detroit's Justin Verlander for the first bases-loaded triple in All-Star history and Cabrera hit a two-run home run in the NL's 8-0 rout on that July night at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium.

Since 2003, the All-Star-winning league has gained homefield advantage for the World Series. The Giants host the Tigers in the opener Wednesday night.

``When you go to the All-Star game, you have to take that thing serious,'' Sandoval said. ``That's what we do. Cain, our guys, do our thing to try to bring this to the National League.''

Verlander, the first pitcher in 19 years to sweep the Cy Young Award and MVP, admitted he didn't treat that start like a normal outing. That's part of the reason he'll be starting the Series opener at AT&T Park instead of at his own Comerica Park.

``Do I wish it would have worked out a little bit better and we'd be at home right now?'' he said Tuesday. ``Absolutely, but it didn't, and we're here.''

Verlander allowed five runs and four hits in a 35-pitch first inning. He threw five pitches clocked at 100 mph and another at 101.

``But I had fun,'' he said then. ``That's why I don't try to throw 100 in the first inning. But this is for the fans. It doesn't usually work out too well for me.''

He has a slightly different take now.

``Normally I'm not just pitching one inning, two innings at the most,'' he said. ``I treated it almost like I was coming out of the bullpen, knowing I could go one or two innings. It was just a different scenario altogether.''

Barry Zito, the 2002 AL Cy Young winner, starts for San Francisco after being bypassed for the postseason two years ago when the Giants won their first title since 1954 - before the franchise left New York.

Seeking its first championship since 1984, Detroit is back in the Series for the first time since 2006. Once again, the Tigers have had nearly a week off after winning the pennant. Last time, their rust showed and they lost to St. Louis in five games.

This time they stayed busy by working on bunts, playing against their instructional league team and letting Verlander throw to hitters.

``Well, we just tried to come up with something,'' manager Jim Leyland said. ``It wasn't like in 2006, where some people would indicate we sat around happy to get there, not doing anything, eating bon-bons.''

``That wasn't the case. We ran into bad weather problems in Detroit, so we were really handicapped,'' the manager said. ``So this time we've done some things to try to keep us from being idle for four or five days. I definitely think it affected the last World Series.''

Detroit swept the Yankees in the AL championship series while San Francisco overcame a 3-1 deficit against the Cardinals. That followed a historic division series in which they lost the first two games at home against Cincinnati and then became the first major league team in a best-of-five series to rebound from an 0-2 deficit by winning three in a row on the road.

``You have to throw it all away because it could work in either team's favor,'' Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford said. ``We've been playing every day, so guys might be a little more tired, whereas they've got more rest. Then again, we've been playing, so we've got our timing, where they might not.''

And this little fact: Three times in the past, the World Series has matched a team that went to Game 7 in the LCS against a club that swept its series. In all three instances, the team coming off a Game 7 win breezed: Boston swept Colorado in 2007, St. Louis topped the Tigers in 2006 and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat Oakland in five games in 1988.

``We're fine. I think we're in the groove and feeling good,'' Cain said.

Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera was a rookie with the Marlins in 2003 when they rallied past the Chicago Cubs to win the seven-game NLCS and went on to beat the Yankees in six games for the title.

This time, the Tigers gave themselves five off days.

``We can't focus on, `OK we haven't played, we're going to get down,''' Cabrera said. ``It's tough. We have to be ready to play tomorrow and we'll see what happens.''

These longtime franchises have never met in the postseason, and have played only 12 times since interleague action began in 1997. San Francisco holds a 7-5 edge from games in 2003, `05, `08 and `11.

``I don't really know the Giants that well,'' Leyland said. ``I'm kind of getting a crash course.''

Madison Bumgarner will pitch Game 2 against Doug Fister. When the Series shifts to Detroit on Saturday, Anibal Sanchez starts for the Tigers in Game 3 versus Ryan Vogelsong and Cain goes in Game 4 against Max Scherzer.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy could have flip-flopped, starting Cain on full rest in Game 3.

``Well, I like the way Vogelsong is throwing, too,'' Bochy said. ``He's throwing the ball as well as anybody on the staff, so we just kept it in order. If Vogelsong gets the last start, we have no problem with that. I know Matt has worked hard, he's got a lot of innings. I didn't think we needed to flip-flop the two, to be honest.''

NOTES: Bochy repeated the Giants had no intention of activating Cabrera, who finished serving his 50-game suspension at the end of the division series. Cabrera, the All-Star game MVP, was disciplined following a positive test for testosterone.

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

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Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

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