Cardinals beat Giants 6-4 in NLCS opener

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Cardinals beat Giants 6-4 in NLCS opener

SAN FRANCISCO - Carlos Beltran hit his 14th career postseason homer and David Freese also went deep as the St. Louis Cardinals took a 6-4 lead over the San Francisco Giants after six innings of the NL championship series opener on Sunday night.

Two nights after rallying from a 6-0 deficit to win the decisive Game 5 of the division series against Washington, the Cardinals found themselves trying to hold onto that same lead.

Freese hit a two-run homer in the second and Beltran followed with one in the fourth as the Cardinals knocked out Madison Bumgarner with six runs in 3 2-3 innings.

But Lance Lynn struggled to hold onto that lead in his first postseason start after 10 career relief appearances. Lynn, an 18-game winner in the regular season, moved into the rotation to take the place of Jaime Garcia, who was taken off division series roster with an injured left shoulder.

After starting the game with three hitless innings, Lynn ran into trouble with two outs and a runner on first in the fourth. Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt followed with singles to drive in San Francisco's first run. They both scored on Gregor Blanco's triple. Brandon Crawford followed with an RBI double to make it 6-4 and Lynn left after walking pinch-hitter Aubrey Huff.

Joe Kelly got out of the jam when second baseman Daniel Descalso made a diving stop of Angel Pagan's grounder up the middle.

This marked the first time since 1958 that the two most recent World Series champions met in the postseason. That year, the New York Yankees avenged a loss in 1957 to beat the Milwaukee Braves for the title. The Cardinals were involved the only other two times that happened, losing to the Yankees in the 1943 and 28 World Series.

Bumgarner breezed through a perfect first inning but ran into trouble in the second when Yadier Molina singled on an 0-2 pitch with one out. Freese then drove a 3-2 pitch over the wall in left-center to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

That gave Freese 25 career RBIs in the postseason - tied with Molina for third most ever for the Cardinals. Only Albert Pujols (52) and Jim Edmonds (41) have more.

Bumgarner then couldn't make it out of the fourth. Descalso doubled and scored on Pete Kozma's double. Jon Jay added a two-out RBI single and Beltran ended Bumgarner's night with the homer.

George Kontos got out of the fourth and two-time NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum pitched two hitless innings as he once again excelled in his new role out of the bullpen.

Giants fans didn't know if they would be back at the ballpark this year after watching their team fall behind 2-0 in their first-round series to Cincinnati when Bumgarner lost to the Reds exactly a week ago. But San Francisco made it to the NLCS by becoming the first team ever to win three straight road games after falling behind 2-0 in a best-of-five series.

The Cardinals may have had an even more improbably comeback to get back to the NLCS. St. Louis overcame a 6-0 deficit in Game 5 of the division series to Washington - the largest ever in a winner-take-all postseason game, according to STATS LLC. The Cardinals trailed 7-5 heading into the ninth inning before scoring four runs to keep their repeat hopes alive.

Both teams kept the same roster they ended with last round. The only change was at first-base coach for the Giants, where assistant batting coach Joe Lefebvre took over after Roberto Kelly was sidelined with a concussion after being hit in the head by a ball in batting practice Saturday.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

Despite discord, Goodell's reign may not be nearing end

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Despite discord, Goodell's reign may not be nearing end

Monday may have marked a low point in the relationship between the NFL and its on-field employees.

The fight between the league and its best player of the past two decades was in the headlines again. Tom Brady, tied to the NFL’s bumper and dragged around for almost 500 days, had his NFLPA legal team baring its teeth again in the Deflategate mess. The eye-gouging and hair-pulling in that imbroglio over a puff of air allegedly being removed from footballs has cost the league and the PA about $25M so far.

Meanwhile, NFLPA President Eric Winston was saying the league "cannot be trusted to do the right thing when it involves players.” That comment flowed from a Congressional report alleging the NFL tried to exert influence over who would conduct studies regarding Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), the condition that’s been blamed for a myriad of former players winding up addled, incapacitated or dead.

I say “may have marked” because the relationship between the two sides has cratered so frequently over the past two years, it’s hard to know exactly what the low point has been. Or how much lower it can go.

And, with the 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement only half done, there is ample opportunity for things to get worse. Because, really, why would they get better?

With the NFL’s owners safe knowing that their emperor/puppet/human shield is still in place to take the hits and do their dirty work, there’s seemingly no groundswell among that group to relieve Roger Goodell of his duties. Despite reports of growing owner discontent over Deflategate, the Ray Rice investigation, and an appeal of a case in which the league was found to have withheld $100M from players, there is no Sword of Damocles dangling over the league to cut ties with Goodell.

He was able to oversee the league’s re-entry in Los Angeles (though that “triumph” was fraught with owner acrimony), is going to get a game played in China, keeps edging closer to getting a franchise based in Europe and may even land one in Las Vegas, has enhanced the league’s reach on social media (the announcement of some games being aired on Twitter) and keeps making billions hand over fist.

Goodell’s presence won’t be an impediment to a new labor deal getting done for another five years. By then, when the issues of Goodell’s role in player discipline, drug testing and his relationship with the union come to the fore, the owners might feel compelled to cut him loose after 15 seasons in charge.

But even then, the league’s owners will be in the business of pointing out to the players how good they’ve had it under the current CBA. The league’s salary cap structure – decried as a disaster in the first years of the deal – has seen the cap grow from $120M in 2011 to $155M this year. Players’ practice time and the wear and tear on their bodies has been reduced thanks to the new limits on contact enacted. Benefits are better. Retired players are getting better care. Players have more off-field marketing opportunities with companies that want to affix themselves to the most popular sport in the United States.

As bad as the headlines have been for Goodell, in five years (or probably fewer since negotiations on a new CBA will begin in 2020) who will remember the disaster that’s been Deflategate? How inspired will players be to miss games and paychecks for the satisfaction of knowing Goodell can’t be his own arbitrator anymore?

To sum it up, Goodell’s dark disciplinary reign may well continue unabated for a few more seasons. But as long as the league rains money on its players through the end of this decade, the clock isn’t ticking on Goodell and the owners in the form of labor strife.

Smith: Brady made an 'incredibly generous offer' to settle Deflategate

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Smith: Brady made an 'incredibly generous offer' to settle Deflategate

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith joined the Dan Patrick Show -- hosted by Ross Tucker on Monday -- to discuss the petition that was eventually filed to the Second Circuit requesting a rehearing for Tom Brady's case. 

During the discussion, Smith insisted that Brady made a settlement offer long ago that might've resolved things. But because the NFL wanted more, a deal was never struck. Now here we are, almost 500 days since the AFC Championship Game in January of 2015, and Deflategate is still a living, breathing thing. 

"Tom's a standup guy," Smith said. "And I think he made a settlement offer to resolve this. The league chose not to take it, and that's where we are . . . I don't want to go into details, but it was an incredibly generous offer to resolve this. The league asked for something that no man should agree to do."

Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran explained on Monday's episode of Quick Slants that Brady was willing to accept a one-game suspension for a lack of cooperation at the outset of the investigation. But the league was looking for a face to take the blame, Curran explained. 

Both Jim McNally and John Jastremski were willing to take the heat off of Brady, but Brady insisted that he would not throw anyone else under the bus because he believed that there was no wrongdoing on his part or anyone else's when it came to the preparation of game footballs. 

With no one offered up to shoulder the blame, the NFL declined to agree to any proposal from Brady's camp. At that point, it would have been almost impossible to predict that this case would one day be only a step or two from getting the US Supreme Court involved. 

Yet here we are.