Grant Balfour

Backs against the wall, Giants and A’s come through


With four teams combining on just 16 hits and five runs, Tuesday’s games were all about the pitching. Facing elimination, the Giants and A’s survived thanks to the strength of their rotations and bullpens.

Tied 1-1 for most of the day, the Giants tried emptying their bench as a means to score a run in the eighth after the Reds brought in lefty Sean Marshall. They sent up three straight pinch-hitters, none of whom reached base in the inning. The strategy may have proved very costly in time, particularly with Hunter Pence nursing a leg problem that left him hobbled after he reached base in the 10th. The Giants still had catcher Hector Sanchez available, and they could have put Buster Posey at first base and Brandon Belt in the outfield had the need arisen. But if they had made that move, the bench would have been completely exhausted for the rest of the game.

Fortunately, the Giants were able to win the game in the 10th, after a bad-hop grounder led to a Scott Rolen error and an unearned run against Jonathan Broxton. Sergio Romo, who got his first at-bat since 2010 in the top of the 10th, closed out the game.

After Ryan Vogelsong’s shaky first inning, Giants pitchers allowed a total of one-hit to the Reds in the 2-1 victory. Still, one wonders just how differently the game might have gone had Brandon Phillips not gotten thrown out trying to take third in the top of the first. The Reds ended up with three hits and a walk in the inning, yet scored just one run.

That first inning was the only time the Giants were in trouble today. One could say A’s pitchers weren’t even in trouble the once. The Tigers were able to put two men on just once, doing so with one out in the top of the second. Too bad for them that the wrong part of the Detroit lineup was up in that situation. Andy Dirks and Avisail Garcia both grounded out to strand the runners.

Thanks to a couple of sterling plays by A’s outfielders, both on balls hit by Prince Fielder, the Tigers never had an extra-base hit in their 2-0 loss in Oakland. The A’s bullpen, which was so disappointing in the Game 2 loss, rebounded to pitch three scoreless innings, with just two hits and no walks allowed. Sean Doolittle fanned all three batters he faced in the eighth. Grant Balfour gave up a single to Miguel Cabrera in the ninth, only to induce a double play from Fielder afterwards.

And thus the Bay Area teams will live to play another day. By virtue of being at home for the remainder of the series, one imagines the A’s will have a better chance than the Giants of advancing. Of course, they’ll have to keep pitching well, as the offense could be stymied by Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. The Giants haven’t inspired a lot of faith, not with their offense scoring a total of five runs in three games. It’s a good bet that the Reds will put up some runs at least one of these next two games, and the Giants might be hard-pressed to match them.

Mets’ Curtis Granderson wins 2016 Roberto Clemente Award

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 02:  Curtis Granderson #3 of the New York Mets looks on during batting practice before the game against the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field on July 2, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Mets’ outfielder Curtis Granderson has been named the 2016 recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award, an annual distinction bestowed on the major league players whose dedication to the game of baseball is evident both on and off the field.

Granderson is the 47th recipient of the award since its introduction in 1971, and, according to’s Anthony DiComo, the fourth Met honored with the distinction following former members Gary Carter (1989), Al Leiter (2000), and Carlos Delgado (2006).

The 35-year-old contributed 30 home runs and a .237/.355/.464 line during the Mets’ 87-75 run in 2016, but it was his work off the field that set him apart. Over the past six years, Granderson helped fund a new baseball facility at his alma mater, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and partnered with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to combat childhood obesity. He has also been recognized for donations to the YMCA, United Neighborhood Houses, and City Harvest, among other charitable organizations. Most notably, he founded the Grand Kids Foundation, an organization that has furthered the education, fitness, and health of kids living in Chicago since 2007.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred recognized Granderson’s efforts in a brief ceremony preceding Game 3 of the World Series:

Curtis Granderson is an outstanding ambassador for our game and a positive role model for kids. His commitment to the many communities that have touched his life and the great impact of these efforts makes him a very deserving recipient of our most prestigious award. On behalf of Major League Baseball and all of our clubs, I congratulate Curtis and thank him and all of our nominees this year for everything they do to make a difference in the lives of others.

Joe Maddon’s biggest influence? Michael Scott, naturally

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 28:  Manager Joe Maddon of the Chicago Cubs speaks to the media before the game in Game Three of the 2016 World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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We all get inspiration from various sources. Sometimes, it comes from a mentor or peer who has excelled in their field. Sometimes, it’s a video of a dog owner dressing up as his golden retriever’s favorite chew toy (just me? Okay).

If you’re Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon, it’s Michael Scott, regional manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin, Inc., founder of the Michael Scott Paper Company, and one-time star of the hit television show Fundle Bundle. At least, that’s what he told the press during the club’s pregame conference on Friday afternoon.

Thankfully, the Cubs don’t have to worry about Maddon emulating the more outlandish behaviors Steve Carell exhibited on The Office. If anything, the praise Michael heaps on himself as the World’s Best Boss could be aptly applied to Maddon’s managerial style — Spencer Gifts mug and all.