Saturday, April 09, 2016

The Great Escape

The Golden State Warriors won their 71st of the season with a furious comeback in the fourth quarter, and escaped Memphis with a one point win, 100-99.

It was another horrible shooting night for Steph Curry, and by now this repetition might be concerning for the playoffs.  He was especially off on 3s, going into the locker room at half time with five misses and no made 3.  He made a crucial one in the fourth quarter, but in the last seconds he had two opportunities to seal the win and missed them both.  He ended up with 3, barely continuing his streak of games with made 3s, and making the mark of 400 in a season less likely.  (He's at 385, so it's not impossible.)

But he contributed in other ways, with assists, and in the final seconds, on defense. It looked as though he blocked or altered what could have been the winning shot.

Steve Kerr held Andrew Bogut out, and that makes the victory more impressive because Bogut has become so essential on both ends.  So Bogut will be fresh for San Antonio, where he did not play last time because of injury, and his absence was crucial in that loss.

So Golden State can still make history, and they will need to make a bunch of it on Sunday, handing the Spurs their first home loss of the season, and breaking their own decades-long losing streak in San Antonio.  If they do, they will tie the single season record for wins, with a chance to break it at home, against that Memphis team they barely beat today.

The San Francisco Giants almost escaped with another win over the Dodgers--they were leading 2-1 in the ninth with one out and a double-play ball on its way to the day's second baseman Kelby Tomlinson.  But it was starting to rain again in a rain-delayed game, and the ball was doing funny things in the wet infield.  It took just one weird bounce to tie the game, and the Dodgers--who had left runners in scoring position all day--finally cashed one in, and eventually won 3-2.

Neither Bumgarner nor Kershaw got a decision.  Kershaw pitched the more efficient game but Bumgarner showed flashes of his typical dominance, and left with the lead.  Part of that lead came from what everybody will talk about from this game--Bumgarner's laser shot home run off Kershaw, the only pitcher to ever ding him more than once.

The 4-0 Pittsburgh Pirates lost their first game of the season, with ace Gerritt Cole again failing to beat Cinncy.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Wild MLB Night, Unfair NBA sked

Think you've seen it all?  On Friday the San Francisco Giants played 10 innings, got not a single, not a double, not a triple, and won the game against the LA Dodgers 3-2.  They were no-hit for 7 plus innings.  They got just two hits in total, but they both happened to be home runs.

Ross Stripling, the Dodgers afterthought of a fifth starter, starting his first MLB game, dazzled the Giants.  He had a no-hitter going in the 8th.  But he was showing signs of wildness and after he walked Pagan on his 100th pitch, new Dodgers manager Dave Roberts took him out, reportedly on front office instruction.

The next batter was second string catcher Trevor Brown, brought up in late summer for a look last year, and who won the backup job in spring training.  He had never hit a major league home run.

But if you've noticed, the 8th inning is home run inning for the Giants this year. And Brown lofted one off reliever Chris Hatcher.  When you're being no-hit, a 2-0 score against you looks huge.  One swing and the game was tied.

Shortly afterwards Roberts went nuts and got thrown out of the game.  The Dodgers had chances but couldn't score.  First batter in the bottom of the 10th was Brian Crawford, who smoked an opposite field line drive over the left field fence.  Game over.

Roberts' decision was the butt of jokes on the Internet even before then.  In baseball terms he was trying to save the arm of a young pitcher who had never even approached 100 pitches before.  But imagine the noise in LA this weekend.

Lost in the fireworks (and there were scheduled fireworks at the Giants yard) was a strong start by Matt Cain.  He kept the Giants in the game through 6.

This game was played in the mist and rain.  The Pirates played in frigid Cinncy.  They fell behind but were powered to the win by Sterling Marte's first grand slam. His swing on this was beautiful.  Wearing a black face mask against the cold, he looked like Batman or maybe the Lone Ranger rounding the bases.

Tomorrow the Giants go for the sweep with Madison Bumgarner against Kershaw. More good news for the Giants--agreement on a long-term contract for first baseman Brandon Belt.

In the NBA, the SA Spurs played their subs in Denver and almost but not quite pulled off the win.  But the loss coupled with the loss at Golden State in their previous game means that the Warriors are the only team not to lose two in a row so far this year.

The Warriors play in Memphis Saturday and in San Antonio Sunday.  This is their second game in San Antonio this year, and the second time it is the second of road back-to-back games.  When the Spurs went to Golden State in January, they had two days off after their game a few hundred miles away in LA.  They had a day off before the Warriors came to San Antonio--the Warriors played in Dallas the night before.  They had a day off between road games when they came to Golden State on April 7.  And they will have a day off between a road game and their home game against the Warriors on Sunday.  Don't seem fair, do it?

#70 and #1

Golden State Warriors with a "convincing" win over the Spurs became the second team in NBA history to record their 70th victory in a season.  Perhaps more importantly, they secured the #1 seed and home court throughout the playoffs.

They also avoided back to back losses, and Steph Curry's shooting recovered. They took advantage of a Spurs injury to run a big lead.

These teams each have a game with another opponent before they meet again in San Antonio.  The Warriors visit S.A. again one day after a game in another city.  According to their coaches, the Spurs will rest their starters for the next game (in Denver) before returning them against the Warriors at home.  Popovich says this strategy has nothing to do with the opponent, nor the home winning streak.  Sure.  Right.

However, with the #1 seed accomplished, the Warriors will meet as a team Friday to decide if any of the starters will be held back from the next three games.  If it is up to the players (and it seems to be at the moment) then it's not likely.

So Golden State has to beat Memphis twice, a dangerous team and the kind that the Warriors have fallen to this season.  In between, a day after their game in Memphis Saturday, they go to San Antonio.  They must win out to break the record. Smart money is on them losing in San Antonio (although if they run out to a big lead, those Spurs starters might get another rest.)  But if the Warriors win in San Antonio Sunday it could well be the biggest regular season victory in their history.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants took their home opener against the Dodgers.  The Dodgers had shut out the Padres for their first three games, and in this game were an inning shy of the record for consecutive shutout innings to open the season.  But once the Giants scored, they kept on going, and won 12-6.  Hunter Pence hit a grand slam in the eighth (their big homer inning so far this year), Joe Panik tripled, Kelby Tomlinson had a pinch hit single, and the Giants had 17 hits. Jake Peavy started, had 5 labored innings, and Chris Heston won in relief.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Game On

It's game on at Oracle tonight.  Both the Warriors and Spurs have big stakes to play for, and the word is that the Spurs will not rest its starters.  The Warriors must win out to get the single season record, but the higher stakes are the top seed in the playoffs.  The Spurs can help their cause by beating the Warriors twice, starting tonight.

Also on the line: the Warriors have not lost two games in a row this season, though now they've lost two out of their last three.  The Spurs also haven't lost back to back (though they also have lost two out of three during the season, but not recently.)

Everyone will be watching Steph Curry.  Was his horrendous shooting night against Minnesota a fluke, or is he facing shooting woes the equivalent of his miraculous shooting for most of the season?

Fascinating that while the Warriors broke several regular season records already, the Spurs may quietly break some significant ones that the Warriors couldn't.  They still can win out at home for the entire season (while the Warriors have recently lost twice), and tonight the no back-to-back losses record is in play for the Warriors.

Baseball: The Giants sent their first off-season pitching acquisition to the mound yesterday.  Jeff S. pitched smart and even without his best stuff managed a 3 run no-decision (the Giants ultimately lost 4-3.)  But that was better than the pitcher he essentially replaced, Mike Leake.  Leake (who got a humugous contract) started for the Cardinals for the first time, in Pittsburgh, and had a terrible game.  He walked in a run and was otherwise ineffective as the Pirates swept their central division rivals (one of them anyway).

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Train Wreck at Oracle; Giants, Pirates Looking Good

It had to be one of the worst shooting nights of Steph Curry's life, as he not only had a horrendous first quarter but blew shot after shot in the fourth quarter and in overtime, and the Warriors suffered a stunning defeat vs. Minnesota.  It was the first time this season that they've been ahead by 15 points at any time of the game, and lost.

Now the 73 win season looks much farther away--they have to win out, which means winning two games against the Spurs, one of them in San Antonio.  And two games over Memphis, a depleted team which nevertheless shocked the Bulls who are (or were) fighting for a playoff spot.

Thanks the gods for baseball starting.  The San Francisco Giants are undefeated!  They won their first game on hitting and the second on impressive pitching.  The front office look like geniuses since a lot of the hitting was done by acquisition Denard Span, and the pitching by acquisition Johnny Queto.  The whole team looks good--but they are playing Milwaukee, expected to have a terrible season.

The Pirates are also undefeated but their record is even more impressive because they've won their first two games against division rival St. Louis, the second in 11 innings.  And in the unusual cold at PNC Park.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

In Sight

The Warriors scored 136--their highest point total of the season--to beat Portland for their 69th victory. Though it was close most of the way, the Warriors pulled ahead in the fourth with a tremendous burst that it seems only they are capable of. In the course of the game, Steph Curry hit the 1,000 3 pointer for the team this season, another record.  And they keep another record possibility in hand--no back to back losses.

Their next victory will be the one the Bulls chased 20 years ago: 70.  Only that Bulls team ever had more.

The interesting factor in this game was the return of Ezeli, who started in place of injured Bogut.  He did enough for them to win.  That's a good sign.

San Antonio won at home Saturday, and set a franchise record with their 64th win.
The Spurs also have not lost two games in a row this year, so it's entirely possible that this record will be broken by both teams.

The Spurs have but two remaining home games.  If they win them, they will be the first team to win out at home for an entire season.  One of those two is the Warriors, the other is Oklahoma.  Both teams have beaten them on their home courts.  For all the buzz about the Spurs resting players, can they pass up the opportunity to complete this record in the 3rd and second-to the last games of the year?  I'd be surprised if they did.  Their last game is at Dallas, and they can rest their starters then.  The Warriors on the other hand may well be playing for their 73rd win on the last day of the season, at home.

But the more intriguing possibility is this: if the Warriors win their home games against Minn. and the Spurs at home, and then their away game in Memphis, they will be playing for their 73rd San Antonio.

And as the NBA season nears its end, it's time to play ball! on the MLB diamonds.  The traditional opener featuring St. Louis was on Sunday in Pittsburgh, won by their rival--and another of the elder franchises--the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-1, on the dominant arm of Francisco Liriano.

The San Francisco Giants open in Milwaukee on Monday.  The team's biggest boast of the spring is that they emerged healthy.  It appears that some players--notably Denard Span--were brought along so slowly that they may need real games to get up to speed.  But the waiting is over.  Now it begins.