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Pablo Sandoval crushes three homers in Game 1 victory

I heard an interview with Detroit Tigers starter Justin Verlander before Game 1 where he was talking about what the fans wanted to see from him. It was something about fans wanting to see him pump fastballs past hitters instead of nibbling the corners, and that would be his approach. Well, maybe the long layoff hurt him and the Tigers, or maybe he should avoid worrying about what fans want in terms of pitching advice, as the Tigers got thumped in Game 1 of the World Series.

Meanwhile, Pablo Sandoval hit three homers in a row, two off of the mighty Verlander, as he joined Reggie Jackson, Babe Ruth and Albert Pujols as the only hitters to hit three homers in a World Series game.

It’s been a crazy postseason in baseball, and anything can happen, but this was a great start for the Giants.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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The All-Star Game Counts, But Do We Act Like It?

It’s the tenth anniversary of the travesty that was the 2002 MLB All-Star Game. You know, the one that ended in a 7-7 tie and led to the decision that from then on, the winning side in the game would receive home-field advantage in the World Series. Prior to 2003, the year the rule was implemented, home-field advantage alternated between the AL and NL from year to year.  It’s one of three separate but inarguably connected rule-based controversies that dog the “Midsummer Classic” year in and year out. The second being that popular fan vote decides the starting hitters for each side. The third is that all 30 teams must have at least one representative in the game.

The rules are linked because what was formerly an exhibition game meant to showcase baseball’s best and brightest (in other words, a money-making scheme) now has actual value. As such, many take issue with the game’s starters being decided based on fans clicking mouses and sticking mini pencils through holes. Equally many argue that requiring a player from each team often leaves superior players off the rosters, which detracts from the notion that the contest spotlights the game’s best.

It’s impossible to gauge the impact of playing the first and last two games of the World Series at home. In the nine years the rule has been in effect, the American League has won the All-Star Game seven times. The AL won the game every year from 2003-2009, but its representatives were only champions in four of those seven years. The rule’s effects were minimal, if it had any, as the World Series never saw a seventh game. But in the past two years, the National League has had home-field. In 2010, the San Francisco Giants quickly won their first two home games, and had the Rangers playing scared en route to a 4-1 series victory. Last year was the first time the Series went seven, and the St. Louis Cardinals won the game, and the series, at home.

Even if it is impossible to truly gauge the effects, if you’re a fan of a contending AL team, does it sit right with you that Billy Butler might be in a position to decide if your team gets home-field advantage with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth? Or if your team’s in the NL, that Huston Street (who has only pitched 21 innings this season) might have to get that final out? Those are just some examples of the possibilities of the “one from each team” rule. Let’s take a look at who the fans chose, and decide whether they deserve to be starting, or in some cases, even playing.

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Report: Lincecum, Giants remain far apart in contract talks

San Francisco Giants Tim Lincecum throws to the Philadelphia Phillies in the third inning at AT&T Park in San Francisco on August 7, 2011. The Giants defeated the Phillies 3-1. UPI/Terry Schmitt

The San Francisco Giants have had a rather quiet winter. Sure they made two trades in efforts to improve their weak offense, but acquiring outfielder Melky Cabrera for starter Jonathan Sanchez, and Angel Pagan for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez was hardly the moves fans were expecting. The Giants essentially said that they would be frugal this offseason and thus far, they’ve kept their word.

But nobody expected the club to struggle re-signing one of its coveted pitchers, especially the ace of the staff.

According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, there is still a “sizable gap” in long-term contract talks between the Giants and Tim Lincecum. The club is believed to have improved upon its initial four-year offer from this summer, but Lincecum is thought to be seeking an eight-year deal.

Those close to the negotiations tell Heyman that both sides are weighing one-and-two-year contracts in case a long-term deal cannot be reached. Considering Lincecum already owns two Cy Young awards, helped the Giants win their first World Series title in San Francisco, and is coming off a season in which he posted a 2.74 ERA with 220 strikeouts, one would think San Francisco would jump at the chance to re-sign one of its prized pitching possessions. But apparently frugal is winning out at the moment.

The Giants also have a decision to make about No. 2 starter Matt Cain, who becomes a free agent at the end of the season. Cain posted career-highs in ERA (2.88) and WHIP (1.083), even though he only won 12 games last season. He’s been repeatedly burned by lack of run support over the years and if the Giants don’t want to pony up to keep him happy, maybe he’ll think about moving on after the 2012 season. He could potentially win 20 games with a team like the Yankees or Red Sox, who are constantly looking for good pitching.

If Buster Posey (leg) makes a full recovery, Pablo Sandoval keeps up on his offseason conditioning, and youngster Brandon Belt takes a major step in his development, the Giants’ offense won’t be as bad as it was in 2011. (Then again, how could be any worse?) But this club is built on its pitching so GM Brian Sabean has a lot of work to do in order to keep guys like Lincecum and Cain around long enough for the offense to finally blossom.

It’s now or never for the Giants and their hapless offense

San Francisco Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff reacts after striking out with two men on base to end the fifth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in Denver on May 17, 2011. Colorado came from behind to defeat the Giants 5-3. UPI/Gary C. Caskey

When Buster Posey was lost for the season following a collision at home plate with Marlins’ outfielder Scott Cousins back in May, one could have pointed to that moment as a low point in the San Francisco Giants’ 2011 season. But oh how things have gotten much worse.

On Monday night, the Cubs’ Randy Wells threw his first career shutout while limiting San Fran’s hopeless offense to just two hits in a 7-0 victory. (For those wondering, yes, that’s 5.00-plus ERA Randy Wells I’m referring to.) The losing pitcher for the Giants was none other than ace Tim Lincecum, who received zero run support for the 10th time in his last 28 starts.

The economy has looked more efficient in the past two weeks than the Giants’ offense has, which is frustrating when you consider how GM Brian Sabean gave away the organization’s best prospect to acquire Carlos Beltran from the Mets. Beltran was supposed to provide the team with just enough offense to get them to the postseason where their pitching could (hopefully) dominate like it did in 2010. Instead, Beltran has been sucked into the same black hole as the rest of the Giants’ hitters (save for Pablo Sandoval) and once again Sabean has been had in a trade (which is nothing new).

Of course, as infuriating as Sabean can be in his decision-making at times (Miguel Tejada or Orlando Cabrera anyone?), it’s not his fault that seemingly every night the Giants send a new player to the infirmary. Posey and second baseman Freddy Sanchez (one of Sabean’s better trade acquisitions) are out for the season while Beltran, Sandoval, Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Jonathan Sanchez, Barry Zito, Mark DeRosa, Cody Ross, Andres Torres, Pat Burrell, and Nate Schierholtz are either on the disabled list now or have at least spent some time on it this season. It appears as though the baseball gods have returned to wreak havoc on the Giants following their magical run in 2010.

Now if you’re among the many people who felt that last year’s World Series title was a fluke, then you’re certainty entitled to your opinion. I think your opinion is pure horse dung, but you’re entitled to your opinion nonetheless.

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In the wake of Posey’s injury, will the Giants bring back a familiar face in Molina?

San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey reacts after the Philadelphia Phillies scored their third run in the third inning during Game 5 of their Major League Baseball NLCS playoff series in San Francisco, October 21, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

In the eyes of the Giants and their fans, the Marlins can’t get on a plane to vacate San Francisco fast enough.

Before Florida came to town on Tuesday, the Giants were riding a five-game winning streak. Sure, luck was a big reason they swept the A’s last weekend but their pitching was also dominant and they had enough clutch hitting to take all three games. It was the same recipe that allowed them to bring the first World Series championship to San Francisco last year.

But two losses and one massive injury insult later and the Giants are wishing the Marlins were left off their schedule this year. After Florida dumped them 5-1 on Tuesday, the Giants rallied from five runs down in the bottom of the ninth on Wednesday to tie the game 6-6 and force extra innings. Too bad they didn’t just take the 6-1 loss in the ninth.

In the 12th, Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins was tagging from third base and, knowing that there would be a close play at the plate with Nate Schierholtz throwing from right field, slammed into Giants catcher Buster Posey. The 2010 Rookie of the Year couldn’t hang onto the ball and worse yet, his left ankle/foot got caught underneath his body in gruesome fashion. As he lie on the dirt withering in pain, it was all the Giants and their faithful could do but to wince right along with him.

Posey will undergo an MRI on Thursday in order to determine the severity of the injury, but a trip to the disabled list seems inevitable. If he’s out for an extended period of time, you can’t help but to feel for the young man who carries himself well beyond his 24 years of age. Without their young catcher, there would have been no championship in San Francisco last year and that’s a fact. That’s how much he has meant to the club since being called up in June last year.

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