Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bumgarner, Giants one win from title after 4-0 win

2010 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – WORLD SERIES GAME 4

On Halloween Night, Giants rookie starter Madison Bumgarner came to Game 4 of the World Series dressed as a dominant ace.

Consequently, the team in orange and black is one win away from its first Series title since moving to San Francisco.

Bumgarner held Texas to three hits over eight innings, Aubrey Huff hit a two-run third-inning homer and the Giants beat the Rangers 4-0 in Arlington, Texas, Sunday night.

The win gives the Giants a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. The Rangers now find themselves one loss from elimination after being shut out for just the second time since Sept. 23 -- but also the second time in three games.

Huff handed Bumgarner an early lead, and the Giants essentially coasted from there. Andres Torres led off the third with a double that bounced off first base and caromed down the right-field line, and Huff hit Rangers starter Tommy Hunter's one-out offering out of the yard to right.

Torres' seventh-inning two-out double to the center-field wall plated Edgar Renteria, who had singled and was running from first base with the pitch. Catcher Buster Posey added a solo shot in the eighth for the final margin.

San Francisco closer Brian Wilson pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning in a non-save situation, striking out Josh Hamilton on a failed check swing for the final out.

Bumgarner, 21, the fifth-youngest pitcher to start a Series game, only allowed one runner past first base, stirking out six batters with two walks.

Renteria went 3-for-4, while Torres was 3-for-5.

Hunter took the loss for Texas, allowing two runs on five hits over four innings. He issued one walk and struck out one.

Game 5 is Monday night in Arlington, matching Game 1 starters and aces Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee. The Giants and Lincecum earned an 11-7 win in the opener, while the previously nearly unbeatable Lee gave up seven runs without finishing the fifth inning.

NOTES: Bumgarner and Posey were the first rookie batterymates to start a World Series game since 1947. The Yankees' Spec Shea and Yogi Berra did so against the Brooklyn Dodgers that year. ... Texas reliever Alexi Ogando left in the top of the sixth inning with a left oblique strain. It was not immediately clear whether he will be available for the remainder of the series. ... San Francisco's Cody Ross' 10-game postseason hitting streak came to an end, one game shy of tying the franchise record held by Irish Meusel. ... The Giants have won 14 of 15 against Texas. ... Former President George W. Bush threw out the opening pitch, a strike, to team president Nolan Ryan. His father, former President George H.W. Bush, looked on. ... The shutout was the Giants' fourth of the playoffs, tying the 1998 Yankees and 1905 New York Giants for the most in a single postseason. ... San Francisco's Nate Schierholtz and Travis Ishikawa made their first starts of the postseason.

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Photo above: Madison Bumgarner pitches Sunday. (Matthew Campbell-Pool/Getty Images)

Audio credit -- San Francisco Giants Radio Network/ Rangers Radio Network

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Long balls give Texas first win of World Series, 4-2

2010 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – WORLD SERIES GAME 3

The Texas Rangers came back home for Game 3 of the World Series having been thoroughly beaten by San Francisco in Games 1 and 2.

All it took was a three-run homer from their No. 9 hitter and some effective pitching to pick up their first-ever World Series win.

Mitch Moreland hit a three-run homer in the second inning, starter Colby Lewis turned in another solid outing on the hill and the Rangers beat the Giants 4-2 in Arlington, Texas, Saturday night.

Lewis didn't seem otherworldly on the mound but allowed just two runs and five hits over 7 2-3 innings against a San Francisco club that looked much more like the team that struggled to score runs in the regular season than the Giants who outscored Texas 20-7 in the first two World Series games at home.

The right-hander, who went 12-13 during the regular season but is now 3-0 in the playoffs, never trailed, thanks to Moreland and the Rangers offense. Nelson Cruz doubled Jonathan Sanchez's first pitch of the second inning off the center-field wall and Bengie Molina walked with two outs.

Moreland then took the ninth pitch of the at-bat out to right for a 3-0 edge. Josh Hamilton supplemented the lead three innings later with a two-out solo homer, his fifth of the playoffs.

The Giants' Cody Ross continued his improbable postseason hot streak with a seventh-inning home run to left. Andres Torres hit a homer to right in the eighth to cut San Francisco's deficit to 4-2.

Texas closer Neftali Feliz made his first appearance of the World Series and retired the Giants 1-2-3 in the ninth to earn the save, striking out Pat Burrell, getting Ross on a flyout to deep right and punching out Juan Uribe.

Elvis Andrus and Michael Young each had two of Texas' eight hits.

Game 4 is scheduled for Sunday night in Arlington. The Rangers' Tommy Hunter will face San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner.

NOTES: Burrell went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. He's struck out eight times in the series. ... Texas' Jeff Francoeur and the Giants' Pablo Sandoval each made their first starts of the series. The Rangers' Vladimir Guerrero was also back in the lineup as the designated hitter after sitting out Game 2 following a two-error night in the field in Game 1. ... This marked the third World Series game played in the state of Texas after the Astros hosted Games 3 and 4 of the 2005 Series, which they lost to the White Sox. ... Texas team president and former ace Nolan Ryan threw the first pitch to former Ranger Ivan Rodriguez. The pitch was reportedly clocked at 87 mph in the stadium.

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Photo above: Mitch Moreland, left, receives congratulations from Texas manager Ron Washington, center, and teammates after hitting a home run Saturday. (David J. Phillip/AP)

Audio credit -- San Francisco Giants Radio Network/ Rangers Radio Network

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ross, Cain, Giants beat Phils 3-0, take 2-1 NLCS lead

2010 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – NLCS GAME 3

In the third spectacular NLCS pitching matchup in as many games, the Giants' Matt Cain dominated the Phillies on the hill and turned a little run support into a Game 3 victory.

Cain pitched seven two-hit innings, Cody Ross continued his mastery of Philadelphia's Cole Hamels with a fourth-inning tiebreaking RBI single and the Giants beat the Phillies 3-0 in San Francisco Tuesday to take a 2-1 series lead.

Cain's strong effort earned him his first career playoff win. Ross, who homered three times in the first two games of the series, victimized Hamels again after doing so regularly with division rival Florida prior to coming to San Francisco as a waiver-wire pickup in August.

This time, Ross came up in the fourth inning with two outs and knocked in Edgar Renteria, who had walked, one batter before Aubrey Huff singled home former Phillie Pat Burrell.

One inning later, the Giants' Freddy Sanchez's infield single -- initially ruled an error on Phillies second baseman Chase Utley -- scored Aaron Rowand, another ex-Phillie, who had doubled.

Philadelphia, which hadn't been shut out since August, couldn't do much against Cain. The Phillies got two runners on with two outs in the seventh, but Shane Victorino grounded out to end that inning.

The Phillies' only baserunner after that came in the ninth, when Jimmy Rollins singled with one out. But Giants closer Brian Wilson induced a game-ending double play from Raul Ibanez to give San Francisco the series lead.

Cain struck out five batters and walked three. Hamels allowed three runs on five hits in six innings of work, with eight strikeouts and a walk.

Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday night. Giants rookie Madison Bumgarner will face Philadelphia's Joe Blanton.

NOTES: Ross has an RBI in each of the last four postseason games in which he had a plate appearance. ... San Francisco's Juan Uribe was back in the lineup after missing Game 2 with a bruised left wrist. Reportedly, tests showed no structural damage. ... Cain was pitching on 10 days' rest, the longest stretch of his career. He received a no-decision in the Giants' loss to Atlanta in Game 2 of their division series.

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Photo above: Matt Cain pitches in Game 3. (Ben Margot/AP)

Audio credit -- Giants Radio Network/Phils Radio Network

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rangers beat Yankees for first-ever home playoff win

2010 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – ALCS GAME 2

One game after squandering a five-run lead in their potential first home playoff win ever, the Texas Rangers used a complete team effort to make sure it didn't happen again, and tie up the ALCS in the process.

David Murphy homered and doubled to knock in two runs, Elvis Andrus stole home in the first inning, pitcher Colby Lewis put up a strong start and Texas beat the Yankees 7-2 in Game 2 of the ALCS in Arlington, Texas, Saturday.

The Texas bullpen, which imploded in an ignominous eighth inning in Game 1, held New York scoreless over 3 1-3 innings in relief of Lewis, who scattered six hits over 5 2-3 frames.

Meanwhile, the Rangers, who staked their pitchers to a five-run lead in Game 1, touched Yankees All-Star Phil Hughes for seven runs and 10 hits, seven for extra bases.

The Rangers' offensive outburst was all the more bewildering for New York, considering who was on the mound. Hughes had pitched 15 1/3 scoreless innings in his career at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, including a no-hit bid he was forced to leave after a hamstring injury in his second major-league start.

Despite the offensive fireworks to come, Texas manufactured its first run. Andrus led off the first inning with an infield single, took second on a Hughes wild pitch and stole third base before Josh Hamilton drew a free pass.

Andrus and Hamilton then executed a double-steal to perfection, with Hamilton breaking for second but stopping shy of the bag and allowing himself to be caught in a run-down. Andrus then broke for the plate and swiped home without a tag, as New York second baseman Robinson Cano's throw to catcher Jorge Posada was wide and late anyway.

Murphy began to heat up at the dish in the second with a one-out upper-deck solo shot to right. After Mitch Moreland and Andrus singled with two down, Michael Young doubled the other way down the right-field line to plate Moreland for a 3-0 edge.

Texas continued to pile up its early lead with two more runs in the third inning. Nelson Cruz led off with a double, moved to second on Ian Kinsler's sacrifice bunt and came home on Murphy's double into the right-field corner. Bengie Molina followed with a two-bagger to the right-center-field wall to score Murphy.

The Yankees cut a run off their deficit in the fourth, when Lance Berkman singled off Moreland's glove to plate Cano, who had doubled on the first pitch of the inning and took third on a wild pitch.

But any momentum New York might have begun to build up was lost when Berkman was caught in no-man's-land and tagged out between first and second base, and the Rangers responded by tacking on two more runs in the fifth. Cruz led off with a double off the center-field wall and Kinsler tripled to score Cruz and chase Hughes.

Moreland greeted Yankees reliever Joba Chamblerlain with an opposite-field single through the left side to score Kinsler and take a 7-1 lead.

New York scored just once more after that, on a Cano homer halfway up the right-field upper deck in the sixth. Rangers relievers Clay Rapada, Alexi Ogando, Darren Oliver, Darren O'Day and Neftali Feliz picked up where Lewis left off, holding the powerful Yankee offense scoreless.

The series heads to New York for Game 3 Monday night, when Texas' Cliff Lee will oppose the Yankees' Andy Pettitte.

NOTES: Texas improves to 1-7 in home postseason games all-time, including 1-5 against the Yankees. They lost Games 3 and 4 of the ALDS to Tampa Bay at home. ... Andrus' swipe of home was the first in a playoff game since the Angels' Brad Fullmer turned the trick, also on a double-steal, in Game 2 of the 2002 World Series. ... Texas has homered in all seven of its postseason games. ... Cruz has hit safely in all seven playoff games. ... Andrus has reached base to lead off the Texas first inning in four straight games. ... Hamilton was the only Texas starter held hitless, but he walked four times, including two intentional passes.

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Photo above: Elvis Andrus, second from left, steals home behind Jorge Posada, right, Saturday. (Barton Silverman/The New York Times)

Audio credit -- Texas Rangers Radio Network

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hamels dominates Reds to complete NLDS sweep

2010 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – NLDS GAME 3

Cole Hamels didn't match Roy Halladay's Game 1 no-hitter, but he was plenty effective enough to get the Philadelphia Phillies to their third straight NLCS.

Hamels struck out nine Cincinnati batters in a complete-game five-hit shutout to help the Phillies complete a three-game sweep of the Reds, winning 2-0 in Cincinnati Sunday night.

Philadelphia is now one series victory away from its third straight NL pennant. The Phillies await the winner of the San Francisco-Atlanta division series, which the Giants lead 2-1 after a Sunday victory.

The Phillies scored yet another unearned run -- their sixth out of 13 in the series -- to give Hamels all the offense he would need in the first inning. Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera, a two-time Gold Glover, threw wildly to first on Jayson Werth's two-out grounder, pulling first baseman Joey Votto off the bag and allowing Placido Polanco to score from third.

Chase Utley added a fifth-inning two-out solo homer that just barely cleared Cincinnati's Drew Stubbs' glove and the right-center field wall. The play was upheld after video review, giving Hamels and the Phillies a 2-0 edge.

Cincinnati only had a few real scoring chances all night. Stubbs led off the bottom of the first with an infield single and Brandon Phillips lined a shot to left-center, but Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino made an outstanding running catch to save a likely RBI extra-base hit.

In the seventh, Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez doubled to the left-field wall with two outs, but Jay Bruce flew out to Werth to end the inning.

With the Reds down to their final three outs of the season, Phillips singled to lead off the ninth, but Votto grounded into a double play to Utley and Hamels struck out Rolen swinging for the final out.

Hamels' performance and the early Cincinnati defensive miscue overshadowed a solid outing by Reds starter Johnny Cueto, who was making his first career playoff appearance. He allowed two runs, one earned, on five hits, with a walk and two strikeouts.

After a strong effort in Game 1 but faltering in Game 2, the Reds' relief corps was again effective in Game 3. Normal starter Homer Bailey, Bill Bray, Nick Masset and heralded rookie Aroldis Chapman held Philadelphia to three hits over the final two innings.

NOTES: Game 1 of the NLCS is to be played in Philadelphia Saturday. ... Hamels has never lost to the Reds and is 6-0 against them in regular-season play. ... After falling behind 4-0 in Game 2, the Phillies outscored Cincinnati 9-0. ... Philadelphia has won six straight potential playoff clinchers and 10 of 12. ... Utley's homer was his 10th in postseason play, the most in team history. Werth has nine. ... Cincinnati committed seven errors in the series after finishing second in the NL with a .988 fielding percentage during the regular season. ... Cabrera was back in the lineup after leaving Game 2 due to injury. ... The announced attendance at Great American Ball Park was 44,599, the most in stadium history. The previous high was on opening day in 2005. ... Bailey's stint on the mound was his first career major league relief appearance. ... Rolen finished the series 1-for-11 with eight strikeouts. ... Since the Cardinals won the 2006 World Series, NL Central teams have lost 15 of their last 16 playoff games.

Photo above: Cole Hamels pitches during Game 3. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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Audio credit -- Reds Radio Network

Friday, October 8, 2010

Host Northern Ireland draws Italy 0-0 in Euro qualifier

INTERNATIONAL SOCCER SPECIAL COVERAGE – EURO 2012 QUALIFYING GROUP C

After Northern Ireland's historic recent home wins over big boys England and Spain, Italy should probably be satisfied to get out of Windsor Park with a draw.

That was the result -- a 0-0 tie -- between Norn Iron and the Azzurri in a Euro 2012 qualifier in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Friday night.

The finish left Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington pumping his fist as time expired, showing his excitement as his side took down another top-flight team in front of a raucous capacity crowd.

Italy, meanwhile, escaped without a loss, faring better than the English and Spaniards in the last five years. The Azzurri also fell in the teams' last meeting in Belfast in 1958, when Northern Ireland won 2-1 to clinch a World Cup berth.

The Italian side attacked most of the night and took 16 shots to the Green and White Army's 5. But Northern Irish goalkeeper Maik Taylor parried six shots on goal to hold firm.

Italy got off several good chances in the first half in particular. Domenico Criscito's 13th-minute shot from the left side went wide right.

Northern Ireland countered with a scoring try in the 31st minute, but David Healy's header drifted wide left.

Italy's Marco Boriello wasted no time, shooting immediately on a 1-on-1 against Taylor, who stopped him from extremely close range to preserve the clean sheet. Antonio Cassano collected the rebound but proceeded to shoot wide right.

In the second half, Boriello tested Taylor in the 62nd minute but shot right at him, making for an easy save.

Then, in the 86th minute, Italy's Giampaolo Pazzini headed a shot across the net and wide left.

Northern Ireland then almost completed the miracle victory in the final minute of regulation time, but Steven Davis was stonewalled by Azzurri keeper Emiliano Viviano to effectively end the match.

Italy picked up one point for a total of seven, which leads Group C. Northern Ireland is tied for third place with four.

Northern Ireland's next qualifier is Tuesday at the Faroe Islands. Italy hosts Serbia Tuesday night in its next match.

NOTES: Italy has not lost a road qualifier since 2006, but has never won in three trips to Belfast. ... Azzurri defender Gianluca Zambrotta did not play and remains three appearances shy of 100 caps for Italy.

Photo above: Italy's Antonio Cassano, right, possesses the ball in front of Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley. (News of the World)

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Video credit -- Rai Uno

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Phils' Halladay no-hits Cincinnati in NLDS opener

2010 MLB PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – NLDS GAME 1

Not bad for a postseason debut -- at least for Philadelphia's Roy Halladay.

For the Cincinnati Reds, making their first playoff appearance in 15 years, it couldn't have gone much worse.

Halladay pitched the second no-hitter in postseason history and his second of the season, dominating the Reds 4-0 in Game 1 of the NLDS in Philadelphia Wednesday.

Halladay faced just one batter over the minimum, striking out eight batters -- perhaps thanks in part to the generous strike zone of home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck -- and walking the Reds' Jay Bruce in the fifth inning. He added an RBI single in the second inning to help his own cause.

The right-hander, making his playoff debut after pitching the first 12 seasons of his career in postseason-starved Toronto, threw a perfect game at Florida May 29. The only other playoff no-hitter was Don Larsen's perfect game for the Yankees in the 1956 World Series against Brooklyn.

The Reds -- only six of whom have postseason experience -- fell behind early and never had a chance against Halladay. Cincinnati starter Edinson Volquez surrendered a sacrifice fly to Chase Utley, scoring Shane Victorino, who had doubled and stolen third, for a one-run first-inning lead.

Halladay got in on the fun offensively one inning later, singling home catcher Carlos Ruiz, who had walked. Victorino then knocked in Wilson Valdez, who had singled, and Halladay to chase Volquez after just 1 2-3 innings.

The old adage goes that in any no-hitter, the defense always contributes a few gems behind the pitcher. But Cincinnati couldn't even manufacture any real near-misses at the plate and went quietly before the raucous crowd in the ninth. Halladay retired Ramon Hernandez and pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo before Brandon Phillips chopped an 0-2 pitch in front of the plate, with Ruiz making the final play to end it.

The lone bright spot for the Reds was the work of their bullpen. Travis Wood, Logan Ondrusek and Bill Bray collectively allowed just one hit over the final 6 1-3 frames.

Volquez allowed four runs on four hits, with two walks and no punchouts.

Victorino went 2-for-4, the lone player with a multi-hit night.

Game 2 of the series is scheduled for Friday, with the Phillies' Roy Oswalt set to oppose Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo.

NOTES: Halladay's effort is the sixth no-hitter this season. Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez, Oakland's Dallas Braden, Edwin Jackson of Arizona and Tampa Bay's Matt Garza all accomplished the feat, with Detroit's Armando Galarraga losing a perfect game against Cleveland with two outs in the ninth inning on a blown call in June. ... Halladay is the first pitcher to throw a shutout in his playoff debut since the Mets' Bobby Jones pitched a one-hitter in Game 4 of the 2000 NLDS. ... Halladay also threw just the second playoff shutout in Phillies history. Curt Schilling shut out the Blue Jays in Game 5 of the 1993 World Series. ... Philadelphia's Placido Polanco sat out with back stiffness.

Photo above: Philadelphia's Roy Halladay pitches Wednesday. (Matt Slocum/AP)

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Audio credit -- Reds Radio Network