The Giants can't seem to win at home

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The Giants can't seem to win at home

From Comcast SportsNetSAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The San Francisco Giants are showing how little home-field advantage matters in the baseball playoffs.Madison Bumgarner allowed two homers and got knocked out early for the second time this postseason and the Giants once again got off to a bad start to a series at home, losing Game 1 of the NL championship series 6-4 to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night."We hate to lose them at home. But it happens," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We've got to wash this one off and come out and be ready to go tomorrow."The Giants have lost all three home games so far this postseason, with Bumgarner taking the defeat in two of them. They managed to overcome that in the first round against Cincinnati by becoming the first team ever to win the final three games of a best-of-five series on the road.But if San Francisco is to make it back to the World Series for a second time in three years, the team must win at AT&T Park at least once this series against the wild-card Cardinals.Game 2 will be Monday night with San Francisco's Ryan Vogelsong taking on St. Louis' Chris Carpenter.Playing at home has usually been a big advantage for the Giants, who excel with the nightly sellouts and spacious dimensions that help the pitching staff. San Francisco had a 48-33 record at AT&T Park during the regular season and won five of seven postseason home games on the way to the World Series title two years ago.That hasn't been the case this October as the Giants have been outscored 20-6 in the three home games. The common theme so far has been subpar starting pitching with Bumgarner the main culprit. After going 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA as a rookie in the postseason two years ago, Bumgarner hasn't made it through five innings in either start this year."You have to try to find a way, which I wasn't able to do," Bumgarner said. "You just have to keep battling, keep trying to find a way to get the ball where it's supposed to go."Bumgarner looked in good form at the start, needing just 11 pitches to get through a perfect first inning. But nothing was easy after that.Yadier Molina lined a single on an 0-2 pitch with one out in the second. David Freese then drove a 3-2 pitch over the wall in left-center to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.Bumgarner then couldn't make it out of the fourth. Daniel 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. That marked the first time all year that Bumgarner allowed two homers in a home game and gave him an 11.25 ERA in the postseason."I haven't had a lot of life on the ball," Bumgarner said. "In cases where your stuff might not be as sharp you have to try to find a way to get it where it's supposed to go. I'm just missing over the plate a little bit."Even a strong night from Tim Lincecum and the bullpen couldn't overcome Bumgarner's rough outing. Five Giants relievers combined for 5 1-3 hitless innings with Lincecum throwing two.The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner had been demoted to the bullpen so far in the playoffs after a rough regular season. He has allowed just one run in 8 1-3 innings so far and gives Bochy an option if he decides not to give the struggling Bumgarner another start.No Giants starter has made it through the sixth inning so far this postseason."If we avoid bumps early I feel like we'll be all right," Lincecum said. "It's not ideal when our starters do what they're doing right now."The Giants bats woke up in the fourth inning when RBI hits by Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford and a two-run triple by Gregor Blanco cut the deficit to 6-4. The rally ended when second baseman Daniel Descalso made a diving stop of Angel Pagan's grounder up the middle with runners on first and third."He made a great play," Pagan said. "You have to give him credit. I just did my best. He threw a very nice sinker down in the zone that I put in play. I was just hoping it would go through so we could get a run at least."But they managed only two hits in 5 1-3 innings against the Cardinals bullpen and find themselves in a 1-0 series hole.

The case against Tom Brady playing to 45 isn't as strong as you think

The case against Tom Brady playing to 45 isn't as strong as you think

Robert Kraft relaying Tom Brady’s intention to play another six or seven years was . . . alarming. Brady is 39 and will be 40 when next season begins. Six more years would make him 45. Seven more years would make him 46. Math life. 

But back to the “alarming” thing. As you’ve probably heard by now, quarterbacks don’t usually play to their mid-40s, and they certainly don’t play at a high level into their mid-40s. As such, it’s easy to laugh off the idea that Brady could do it. 

(No it isn’t. This is Boston and a lot of people would probably bet their lives that Brady could win a Super Bowl at like 65.)

At any rate, the problem with writing off Brady’s six (or seven)-year plan is that the cases against it aren’t entirely relevant. 

The list of the oldest quarterbacks in NFL history is not impressive. The top eight is led by a guy who was pretty much a kicker who played to 48 and rounded out by a hobbled Brett Favre at 41. 

So in that respect, nobody has played great into their mid-40s. But it’s also worth noting that nobody great has really attempted it. 

Of that list, which also includes such names as Vinny Testaverde, Warren Moon, Doug Flutie and Mark Brunell, only Favre was a starter in his final season. Steve DeBerg was retired for four-plus years and came back for one more season as a backup at 44. Pro-Bowlers like Moon and Brunell had seen their stars fade years earlier.

Basically, the super old quarterbacks sucked and good quarterbacks didn’t last until they were super old. By even reaching what he’s done now, Brady has proven to be an outlier. 

The gawd Michael Hurley illustrated Brady’s prowess last season compared to other Hall of Famers (or eventual Hall-of-Famers) at age 39. Brady had the highest completion percentage (67.4) and a staggering 112.2 passer rating; the next-highest passer rating was by Moon, who posted a 91.5 mark. 

The other guys? Peyton Manning sucked (9 touchdowns, 17 picks -- but one Super Bowl, nerd!) and Favre was all over the place (28 touchdowns, 15 picks), while Len Dawson, Sonny Jurgensen and Johnny Unitas all played eight games or fewer. 

Conclusion: Even great quarterbacks can’t do what Tom Brady has done. He is one of a kind, so comparing lesser players to him when determining whether he can do something might not be the most foolproof (it’s foolproof, not full-proof; look it up) strategy .

Additionally, as Tom E. Curran pointed out Tuesday on "Quick Slants," Brady’s preparations to play into his mid-40s are over a decade in the making, dating back to what Curran estimates to be his early days with Alex Guerrero around 2005 or 2006. Curran noted that as being the time that Brady went from more traditional training and nutrition to being the pliability and hydration-obsessed freak he is today. 

Do you think 2010 Brett Favre was in anywhere near the shape Brady is? Of course not. Do you think Peyton Manning had even half a right arm in the 2015 season? Of course not. Comparing Brady to old quarterbacks past is obviously a stretch from a performance standpoint, but it also is from a physical standpoint. 

So yes, Brady playing at a high level until 45 or 46 would be unprecedented, but then again doing what he’s doing now is already unprecedented. We’re comparing the best to ever do it to a bunch of mortals.  

Haggerty: Rask puts up, makes critics shut up

Haggerty: Rask puts up, makes critics shut up

BOSTON -- The decision to sit out Saturday night's game against the Islanders, for whatever issue needed healing, worked wonders for Tuukka Rask.

Rask looked fresh, strong and determined while stopping 24 of 25 shots in a 4-1 win over Nashville on Tuesday night, and, at the very least, temporarily quieting talk of his missing Saturday's win over the Islanders because of a lower-body injury that wasn't disclosed until the day of the game. It also snapped his personal four-game losing streak, in which Rask had allowed 15 goals on 95 shots (an .842 save percentage) and hit rock bottom while surrendering a couple of damaging soft goals in last week's loss to the Lightning.

After watching Anton Khudobin battle, brawl and double-pad-stack his way to a huge win in Brooklyn on Saturday, Rask played with his own battling style Tuesday, fighting through Nashville attackers as he limited the the Preds to one goal.

"I loved [his battle]," said interim coach Bruce Cassidy. "He really worked hard to find pucks in traffic. They created some good opportunities, and even the goal against, he found it. They just tipped it at eye level so it was going to be a tough one, and we need to be better in the shooting lane on that one.

"But I thought he was terrific, very pleased with his performance. If you've got to track pucks, you've got to find pucks and you've got to fight through bodies, and he did a real good job with it.

"I thought we played well in front of him, but when we broke down it seemed to be in those areas where we couldn't break the puck up below our goal line. [There were] lot of bodies, a lot of point shots. This is the type of team, [Ryan] Ellis, [P.K.] Subban, [Roman] Josi, they rely on that part of the game and traffic. It was going to be a test for [the defense] there. I thought [Rask] answered the bell and in a terrific manner."

There were no two ways about it, Rask was truly excellent in a game where he had to be.

He made a save in the second period on Viktor Arvidsson when a David Backes turnover at the half-wall gave Arvidsson a wide open look at the net, and made 9 of his 24 saves in the third period as the Predators ramped up the desperation once Craig Smith had broken through on a tipped Josi shot. He also was the beneficiary of 24 blocked shots from the defenders in front of him. Adam McQuaid had five of the blocks all by himself,  absorbing all kinds of bumps and bruises in the process.

It was clear that the Bruins, as a team, were in late-season urgency mode.

"Well, we needed [a win]," said Rask. "Personally, I mean, I've lost four games but played a couple good games there, and we just didn't get the bounces. But we kind of got in winning habits there in [Broooklyn] and me stepping in here, I just wanted to make sure that I gave us a chance to win. The guys did the rest. So, it was a great team effort today, I think. As I said before, we blocked a lot of shots, which is huge."

So does one solid performance mean everything is settled for the B's No. 1 netminder after sitting out last weekend?

It certainly goes a long way toward putting some distance between Rask and whatever lower-body injury popped up and then disappeared just as quickly, and it puts a bit more of an optimistic spin for the remainder of the season. Rask didn't actively listen to any of the criticism of the last couple of days, but he fully understands that it comes along with the territory of being the No. 1 goalie in a city that takes hockey seriously.

"I can't do anything about what people say," said Rask, who took a pretty good hit on a Predators drive to the net in the third period but kept right on trucking. "I'm not staying home because I want to say home. I'm not playing because I don't want to play. I don't think any athlete does that. Obviously what's happened where I missed a game [vs. Ottawa] last year, people are going to talk about it. That's just the nature of media people, and what they talk about. It's fine.

"[All you can do is] you try not to read any of it, you stay even-keeled and you play the game the right way."

But the bottom line is the Bruins need much more of what they saw from Rask on Tuesday -- determined, tough-minded, a strong No. 1 goalie -- in the final six games if they want to be a playoff team this year.

He played well enough in the first few months, carrying the Bruins through the early portion of the season, to make people forget about calling in sick against Ottawa in the final game of last season. That's to Rask's credit. But last weekend's action, or lack of it, brought some of those same nagging questions back. He needs to build on Tuesday's encouraging performance to continue instilling confidence that he's a big-time No. 1 goalie.