Pitchers’ duel turns into a laugher as Giants take 2-0 lead

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You wouldn’t know it by the lopsided 9-0 final score, but Game 2 of the World Series was actually an outstanding pitchers’ duel for six-and-half innings Thursday night. Seriously.

Matt Cain extended his postseason scoreless streak to 21.1 innings with his third straight gem and C.J. Wilson nearly matched him pitch for pitch before exiting with a blister on his left middle finger. At that point Edgar Renteria had produced the game’s only run by homering off Wilson as the latest unlikely source of offense for the Giants’ grind-it-out lineup.

And then Texas’ bullpen imploded, allowing seven runs in the eighth inning, all of them with two outs.

This bullpen mess was different than Game 1 of the ALCS because the Rangers were already down by the time the musical relievers started, but just like he did against the Yankees manager Ron Washington let the game slip away in the eighth inning while using just about every pitcher in the bullpen except his best guy, closer Neftali Feliz.

Feliz sat by as Derek Holland came into a 2-0 game and walked three straight batters, forcing in the Giants’ third run. And when Washington mercifully removed Holland from the game to bring in a fresh arm it was Mark Lowe, who missed nearly the entire season with a back injury and was only added to the World Series roster after sitting out the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Lowe promptly followed Holland’s lead by walking in the Giants’ fourth run, gave up a single to make it 6-0, and then gave way to another reliever, rookie Michael Kirkman, who allowed back-to-back extra-base hits to make it 9-0. And all because Washington held back his best reliever–who hadn’t worked in six days and gets another day off Friday–for a “save” situation that never arrived.

Would the Rangers have been able to rally for two runs off Giants closer Brian Wilson? Probably not, but that comeback was at least within the realm of possibility had Feliz wriggled out trouble rather than the no-name trio of Holland, Lowe, and Kirkman turning the game into a blowout.

We’ll never know how things would have turned out had San Francisco taken a two-run lead into the ninth inning, but here’s what we do know: Texas is in an 0-2 hole and the last 13 teams to lose the first two games on the road have gone on to lose the World Series. They’ll have to win at least two of three in Texas to send things back to AT&T Park … where the Rangers are now 0-11 all time.

Somewhat lost in Cain’s brilliance and Washington’s bullpen mismanagement is that the Giants have now scored 20 runs in two games, which is remarkable for a team that ranked 17th in runs per game during the regular season. They now have nine wins this postseason and in seven of those games they faced a pitcher who ranked among MLB’s top 27 in ERA with a mark of 3.35 or lower: Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt (twice), Tim Hudson, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and now C.J. Wilson.

Game 3 opponent Colby Lewis wasn’t among those ERA leaders, but he’ll provide another very tough test for the Giants’ offense after shutting down the Yankees in Game 6 of the ALCS. San Francisco will counter with Jonathan Sanchez, whose 3.07 ERA put him in that top-27, but the control-challenged southpaw lasted just two innings against the Phillies in Game 6 of the NLCS after back-to-back strong starts to begin the playoffs.

For the Rangers to get back into the series they simply need Lewis to come up big again, but for the Rangers to win the series they’ll also need Washington to cease being dramatically out-managed by Bruce Bochy.

Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.

Alex Wilson broke his leg on a 103-MPH comebacker

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This one is brutal. Tigers’ right-handed reliever Alex Wilson was diagnosed with a broken leg after taking a blistering 103.8-MPH line drive off of his right leg during Saturday’s game against the Twins. According to the Detroit News’ Chris McCosky, it’s a non-displaced fibular fracture, but will still warrant an extended recovery period and signal the end of Wilson’s season.

Wilson replaced Drew VerHagen to start the eighth inning and worked a full count against Joe Mauer. Mauer roped an 93.3-MPH fastball back up the middle, where it struck the pitcher on his right calf. While Mauer took first base, Wilson got to his feet and tried to toss a warm-up pitch, but was in too much pain to continue and had to be helped off the field.

Even in a season that isn’t going anywhere in particular, this isn’t how you want it to end. The Tigers have yet to announce a recovery timetable for the 30-year-old reliever, but he won’t return to the mound until 2018. He exited Saturday’s outing with a 4.35 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 6.3 SO/9 over 60 innings.

The Tigers currently trail the Twins 10-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning.