Monthly Archives: July 2017

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SAN FRANCISCO — Brandon Belt was happy the wind was blowing in.
Belt’s routine fly ball to left field dropped next to Starling Marte for a tiebreaking double in the seventh inning Wednesday, lifting the San Francisco Giants over the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1.
Pinch-hitter Miguel Gomez doubled against Tony Watson (5-3) leading off the inning, and Belt’s opposite-field drive appeared catchable. But it fell in to Marte’s side, a few feet from the warning track, on the sunny afternoon.
“He said he broke to the ball because he thought it was hit hard,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “When he put his eyes on the ball, he saw the wind knocked it down. What can you do? It happens.”
Marte said the sun and the wind contributed to the difficulty.
“I heard the sound of the ball off the bat and knew it was hit hard,” he said. “I took my eyes off the ball because of the sun, and when I looked back up I saw the wind had started to take it away.”
Giants starter Jeff Samardzija (5-11) allowed one run and four hits seven innings with eight strikeouts and two walks, winning for the first time since July 2. He had allowed 12 runs in his previous 10 1/3 innings.
“All you want to do is keep your team in the game, eat up innings for the bullpen and if you get a lead, protect it,” Samardzija said.
In the second season of a $90 million, five-year contract, the 32-year-old right-hander expects to remain with the last-place Giants.
“I wasn’t in any trade talks,” he said. “I love being here. Obviously it hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to.”
Hunter Strickland pitched a one-hit eighth, and Sam Dyson finished with a perfect ninth for his sixth save in 10 chances. Dyson is perfect in six opportunities since the Giants acquired him from Texas.
Pirates starter Trevor Williams gave up one run and five hits in six innings. The Pirates have lost four of five following a six-game winning streak.
Joe Panik doubled in the first, advanced on a wild pitch and scored when Brandon Crawford hit into a forceout against Williams, who had walked his previous two batters.
John Jaso walked in the second, advanced on Francisco Cervelli’s single and scored on Adam Frazier’s double. After an intentional walk to Jordy Mercer loaded the bases, Samardzija made a bare-handed grab of Williams’ high chopper on the third-base side of the mound and in a continuous motion threw to catcher Buster Posey for a forceout.
“He’s an athlete,” Hurdle said of the former Notre Dame football player. “At one time he was the best wide receiver in Chicago, and that might include the pro team. It doesn’t surprise me when he makes a play like that.”
Pirates: OF Gregory Polanco (hamstring) is resuming baseball activities. He is hitting and playing catch and riding on a stationary bike.
Giants: San Francisco selected the contract of OF Carlos Moncrief from Triple-A Sacramento, and will be used as a pinch-hitter and spot starter. … RHP Johnny Cueto (blister) threw 45 pitches in a bullpen session before the game. He’s scheduled to throw again Friday and if all goes well, will likely return to action. … RHP Mark Melancon (right pronater strain) threw 30 pitches before the game and will throw again in Los Angeles either another bullpen or to hitters. He could start a rehab assignment soon after.
Pirates: Chad Kuhl (3-7, 4.92 ERA) is to start Friday’s series opener at San Diego. He’s won his only start against the Padres.
Giants: LHP Matt Moore (3-10, 5.82 ERA) starts the series opener at the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday. He’s 2-2 in four starts at Dodger Stadium.

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Bolstered by a pair of veteran free-agent additions and a trio of early-round draft picks, coach John Harbaugh fully expects the Ravens to “put a great defense on the field” in 2017.

Four months removed from signing a $54 million contract extension, star nose tackle Brandon Williams is willing to go a step further, suggesting this year’s defense has the potential to reach the heights of the Ray Lewis era in Baltimore.

“The defense that is being built in Baltimore is one of the best,” Williams told The Reynolds Report, via Gridiron Magazine. “We’re going to do something really special this year, I can feel it. Our defense is amazing.”

The 2016 Ravens finished seventh in total defense and sixth in Football Outsiders’ defensive efficiency ratings. Before Tom Brady shredded the shaky secondary for a season-high 406 passing yards in mid-December, Baltimore actually boasted the league’s top-ranked defense.

Now that the Ravens have shored up that secondary with first-round cornerback Marlon Humphrey and the steady veteran tandem of Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr, Williams has set his sights on the shutdown Super Bowl champions of 2000, one of the greatest defenses of all time.

“The bar set by our defense is already very high and our goal is to notch it up even more,” Williams explained. “The defense that helped us win that 2000 Super Bowl is the standard and every year we’re trying to reach and surpass that standard. We’re never satisfied and we always want to get better.”

As easy as it is to see why Williams and Harbaugh are excited about their prospects this season, it’s worth noting that the offseason additions may have been offset by the losses of Zach Orr, Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy and Tavon Young.

The wild card in the equation is the host of unproven draft picks assuming greater responsibility this season.

A quintet of Brent Urban (2014 fourth round), Carl Davis (2015 third round), Bronson Kaufusi (2016 third round), Willie Henry (2016 fourth round) and Chris Wormsley (2017 third round) will vie for playing time alongside Williams and promising second-year nose tackle Michael Pierce on the defensive line.

Kamalei Correa, a 2016 second-round pick, is the leading candidate to replace Orr next to C.J. Mosley at inside linebacker. A pair of 2017 selections, Tyus Bowser (second round) and Tim Williams (third round), will team with Za’Darius Smith (2014 fourth round) and Matt Judon (2016 fifth round) in a pass rushing rotation designed to complement defensive leader Terrell Suggs.

On paper, this is a deep and talented defense. To meet expectations, though, the Ravens need a handful of those homegrown draft picks to emerge as reliable week-to-week contributors this season.

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Colin Kaepernick remains a free agent, and San Francisco 49ers legend Joe Montana isn’t optimistic the quarterback will find a new home in the NFL.

Everyone thinks it is the stance he took; one of the things you don’t look for is distractions in the locker room,” Montana told Kristian Dyer of The Sporting News on Tuesday. “You can go back to [former 49ers coach] Bill Walsh and as soon as there were guys that weren’t fitting in what he was looking for, it didn’t matter how good you were. You weren’t on the team for very long. You have to have people who want the same thing, fighting for the same thing and willing to put in the time.”

Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem before games last season in protest of the treatment of minorities in the United States made him a polarizing figure in and outside the football world. Montana believes Kaepernick’s actions ultimately played a role in the 49ers parting ways with their former second-round pick as part of their effort to “clean house, [get] a different atmosphere in that building.”

Still, Montana said Kaepernick’s on-field struggles over the past two seasons also explain why he’s not on a team with the opening of training camps looming. Kaepernick has struggled to replicate the numbers he posted in 2013 and 2014 following his breakout season in 2012.

“I’m not sure, I think there’s an injury somewhere he probably gets in,” Montana said about Kaepernick’s chances of signing with a team this season. “… It comes down to his play as much as anything.”

Since hitting the free-agent market, Kaepernick has received little attention from NFL teams. He visited the Seattle Seahawks in May but the team opted to sign quarterback Austin Davis instead.

Former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is convinced in Kaepernick’s Super Bowl-winning acumen, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Ravens coach John Harbaugh have said there’s no concerted effort to keep Kaepernick off an NFL roster.

It remains to be seen if Kaepernick will be back in the NFL when the season kicks off in September.