<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Bay Area Sports]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.comen-usSun, 26 Jun 2016 23:14:49 -0700Sun, 26 Jun 2016 23:14:49 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[A's Blow Lead, Can't Complete Sweep of Angels]]> Sun, 26 Jun 2016 20:47:15 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/as-angels-26.jpg

ANAHEIM — The A’s dangled in that odd state of limbo Sunday, trying to see the good of taking three of four on the road, but processing a defeat that never should have happened.

Their bullpen couldn’t hold a four-run cushion and the A’s had the rug pulled out from under them in a 7-6 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels that denied Oakland its first four-game sweep in nearly two calendar years.

Get six quality innings from Sonny Gray, a grand slam from Coco Crisp and another homer from Marcus Semien, and it should equate to a festive A’s clubhouse afterward. Instead, reliever John Axford addressed reporters in a quiet voice and summed up the collective feeling.

“We kind of just wasted a good effort by Sonny, a big day for Coco at the plate with that home run,” Axford said. “A lot of good things wasted, but tomorrow we’ll just turn it over and start fresh again.”

Axford was left in the game to try to gather himself during the Angels’ two-run game-tying rally in the eighth. The veteran reliever has struggled lately, with six runs, 10 hits and four walks allowed in his past six games, covering just 3 1/3 innings. But with Bob Melvin saying he had “a couple” relievers unavailable Sunday, the manager stuck with Axford, who gave up two runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning as the Angels tied it 6-6 before winning it in the ninth on Jefry Marte’s walk-off sacrifice fly.

Melvin didn’t say which relievers weren’t available, but surely one of them was Ryan Dull, who’s been exceptional this season with men on base but had thrown each of the previous two days. Sean Doolittle, who pitched two of the past three days, most likely was the other, with closer Ryan Madson being saved in case the A’s re-claimed the lead.

"You go through points in the season where maybe you’re not at your best,” Melvin said of Axford. “The velocity is still good, I think he still has good movement. .. Probably just the command at this point is not what we saw earlier.”

Sonny Gray pitched well enough to win, giving up two runs over six innings, but he was denied his first victory since April 22, a span of 10 starts. He took the high road when asked if there was frustration building over his winless streak.

“All you can do is continue to put your team in a good chance to win,” Gray said. “That’s, in my opinion, what a starting pitcher’s job is. Sooner or later it’ll turn around.”

Still, the A’s (32-43) enter Monday’s start to the four-game Bay Bridge Series having won four of six. They have 30 games remaining until the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline. Who knows what moves will be made before then? Right fielder Josh Reddick and left-hander Rich Hill — both on the verge of returning from the disabled list — will be popular names in the trade rumor mill, as will third baseman Danny Valencia and perhaps others.

One thing the A’s can feel good about after taking three of four from the Angels, besides escaping the AL West cellar for the time being, is the revival their offense enjoyed. They scored 25 runs over the four-game series, collected 44 hits and homered seven times. That’s encouraging for a team that is tied for the second-fewest runs scored in the AL and has hit the fewest home runs in the league in June (21).

Crisp turned back the clock a couple years during the Angels series, impacting the game from the leadoff spot in a variety of ways. His fourth-inning slam off Hector Santiago was his first since July 5, 2007 when he was with Boston.

“It was just one of those rare moments where I was sitting on off-speed, and he threw it and I hit it,” Crisp said.

The A’s will need the overall quality of play they displayed in Anaheim to do any damage against the Giants, who have won 13 of 15 and sport the majors’ third-best record at 49-28.

“We’ve been on the same page,” Crisp said of the A’s recently. “It’s been kind of our downfall this year, when the pitchers pitch well we haven’t hit, and vice versa. Hopefully we can continue to be on the same page and get some more victories.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Gillaspie's RBI Single in Ninth Lifts Giants Over Phillies]]> Sun, 26 Jun 2016 17:45:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/giants-626.jpg

SAN FRANCISCO — Jake Peavy went out of his way after Friday night’s win to tell reporters how much he respected the way the Phillies play the game. It sounded like a nice compliment. It ended up being a warning.

The Phillies came back to tie Sunday’s game three times, but Conor Gillaspie walked them off in the ninth. With the 8-7 win, the Giants, not the Cubs, became the first National League team to reach 49 wins.

The Giants jumped out to a 5-1 lead when young Aaron Nola completely lost his command. Nola hit back-to-back hitters in the third (he hit three in 3 1/3 innings) and also gave up five hits as the Giants put up a four-spot.

Johnny Cueto was cruising, with the Phillies reaching base just once until there were two outs in the fourth. That’s when Cueto appeared to get revenge, drilling Maikel Franco with a fastball. The wheels came off from there. A walk and two singles put two runs on the board in that inning and Cueto gave up two more in the fifth.

Brandon Crawford’s RBI single put the Giants back on top in the sixth, but as they have done all weekend, the Phillies fought back. Odubel Herrera opened the seventh with a solo homer to center. Angel Pagan’s fourth hit was a double off the wall in the seventh that gave the Giants the lead, but the Phillies again punched right back, tying the game against Josh Osich in the top of the eighth.

Ramiro Pena hit a high fly to right with one out in the ninth and it dropped into the corner for a double. Gillaspie followed with a shot down the line.

Starting pitching report: On Saturday night, the Phillies became the first team since April 15 to put more than two earned runs on Madison Bumgarner’s line. A day later, they became the first team since May 2 to do the same to Cueto. The right-hander gave up six earned in his six innings.

Bullpen report: Cory Gearrin is having an underrated season. He worked around two singles in the ninth, lowering his ERA to 2.16.

At the plate: Pagan had his ninth career four-hit game and fifth as a Giant. He’s batting .355 since coming off the DL.

In the field: Brandon Belt made a diving stop on Cesar Hernandez’s grounder in the fourth and then backhand-flipped the ball to Cueto for the third out of the inning, saving at least one run.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[US Olympic Swimming Trials: Lochte Beaten in 400 IM]]> Sun, 26 Jun 2016 17:55:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/LochteSwimmingTrials-AP_217437856132.jpg

The first event of the U.S. Olympic swimming trials produced a huge stunner, as Ryan Lochte failed to qualify for the team Sunday night in an event he won at the 2012 London Games. 

Lochte raced out to a big lead on the first two legs of the 400-meter individual medley but had nothing left for the breaststroke and freestyle. After the race, Lochte revealed that he pulled a groin muscle during the morning preliminaries and had no choice other than to try to build a commanding lead in the butterfly and backstroke and hope it would hold up. 

It didn't. Not even close. 

Chase Kalisz (KAY-lish) won in 4 minutes, 9.541 seconds, while Jay Litherland rallied to take the second spot for Rio in 4:11.021. 

Lochte, his legs totally gone, labored home in third at 4:12.021. 

"I had to go out faster than usual because I couldn't use my legs in the breaststroke," said the 31-year-old Lochte, who still has several other events to claim his spot on his fourth Olympic team — assuming he can overcome his injury. "I did everything I could in that race, it just wasn't enough. Just got to forget about that and move forward." 

While college teammates Kalisz and Litherland celebrated, Lochte hung on a lane rope, totally exhausted. He finally made it over to the side of the pool, struggling just to climb out of the water. He said he get a cortisone shot to help deal with the pain. 

"I'm going to keep working on it day in and day out, and hopefully it gets better," Lochte said. "I thought about it this morning, about scratching, but I mean, it's the Olympic trials. If I had a broken leg, I'd still go out there and swim." 

Michael Phelps, who won the 400 IM at both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, finished fourth behind Lochte in London and dropped the grueling event from his program. With no races on the first day of the meet, Phelps watched from the stands. 

"I wasn't surprised with Jay," Phelps said. "He's like a shark in the water. He knows how to rise to the occasion." 

Phelps was especially happy for long-time training partner Kalisz, who like Litherland is heading to his first Olympics. 

"He's like a brother to me," Phelps said. 

Unaware of Lochte's injury, Phelps said he could tell that Lochte had nothing left when he got to the breast. And the two freestyle laps were downright painful to watch, as Lochte closed with a sluggish pace of 1:00.56 — more than 3 seconds slower than the 20-year-old Litherland, who swam with Kalisz at the University of Georgia. 

"I know what Ryan felt like in that race," Phelps said, remembering his loss at the 2012 Olympics. "I felt the same thing. It's tough to swim two 400 IMs in one day at that level. We saw that. 

"When you overdo it in that first 200, you're not going to have anything left."

Check out the live stream of the final session of the U.S. Olympic swimming trials here: http://stream.nbcolympics.com/us-olympic-swimming-trials-day-1-finals?chrcontext=ksnd

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Tony Stewart Wins NASCAR Race at Sonoma Raceway]]> Sun, 26 Jun 2016 16:09:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/stewart12.jpg

Tony Stewart returned to victory lane for the first time in three years in vintage fashion - refusing to let Denny Hamlin steal a win at Sonoma Raceway away from him on the final lap Sunday.

Now he's probably got a shot to run for a fourth NASCAR championship in his final season before retirement.

Stewart, mired in an 84-race losing streak dating to 2013, finally won to stop a slide of poor performances, injuries and personal turmoil that has tarnished the end of his career. He missed the first eight races of this season, his last as a NASCAR driver, with a back injury suffered in an off-road vehicle accident one week before the season opened.

It meant Stewart would have to win a race and crack the top 30 in points to have one last shot at glory before he stepped out of the No. 14 Chevrolet for good. It was a long shot considered the way he has run the last three years, but those who know Stewart knew not to count him out.

And anyone who has followed his career now that's Stewart is best when he's in a bad mood, and Smoke was ornery all weekend in the picturesque wine country.

He complained about young drivers, snarked that NASCAR will be without any tough guys once he retires and grumbled he has no fun driving a Cup car anymore.

Well, he sure had fun on Sunday.

The 45-year-old took the lead on fuel strategy during a caution with 24 laps to go, and had to hold on after another yellow flag stalled the race. The final restart came with 14 laps remaining - the same number as Stewart's car - and he held off a trio of Toyota drivers for his third career victory at Sonoma.

Hamlin made it interesting by pouncing on a Stewart mistake to snatch the lead away from Stewart in the seventh turn of the final lap. Stewart grabbed it back in tricky turn 11, where he dove to the inside of Hamlin and as the two raced side-by-side, Stewart pushed Hamlin toward the wall.

Stewart got past Hamlin and charged to the checkered flag with the entire side of his car crumpled and his tires slightly smoking from the contact with Hamlin.

Dozens of drivers then pumped their fists out their window to salute Stewart on his victory lap. Crew members lined the wall to slap his hand, and teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch were among the drivers to rush to speak to Stewart while he was still inside his car.

So did Hamlin, a former teammate of Stewart's who has become somewhat of a protector to his one-time mentor. As leader of the Driver Council, Hamlin got the council to split the cost of a $35,000 fine Stewart received this year for criticizing NASCAR.

"He just told me he was proud of me, he knows what it means. We were teammates a long time," an exhausted and emotional Stewart said in victory lane. After chugging a Coca-Cola, he slumped to the ground and sat alongside his car.

Hamlin, meanwhile, didn't indicate he gave the win to Stewart but chalked it up to his own mistake to allow Stewart to snatch the lead away from him.

"Looking in the rearview more than looking out front," Hamlin said. "I just slid up a little bit in the middle and allowed him to get inside me. I knew he was going to put me in the wall. All is fair in love and war."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bumgarner Unravels, Giants Fall to Phillies ]]> Sat, 25 Jun 2016 22:28:28 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/178*120/543104322.jpg

If you had forgotten, there's a good reason why games are not decided on paper. 

Facing one of the worst teams in baseball on a night when their ace opened up with four hitless innings, the red-hot Giants lost. Madison Bumgarner was sharp early but fell apart in the seventh, allowing three runs that would be the difference in a 3-2 loss to Philadelphia. 

Bumgarner worked around a walk in the first and error in the second. Through three innings he had four strikeouts, all looking. Peter Bourjos led off the fourth and swung over the top of a cutter. Two soft grounders got Bumgarner through four hitless innings on 55 pitches, but Maikel Franco was having none of it. He led off the fifth by pulling a double a couple feet inside the left field line. 

The Giants had a 2-0 lead at the time, but the shutout and then the lead would disappear in the seventh. Former Giants prospect Tommy Joseph hit a leadoff double and scored two batters later when Blanco bounced a single up the middle, just past Bumgarner’s glove. Cameron Rupp blasted a 3-2 fastball into the net in center, ending Bumgarner’s night and putting the Phillies up a run.

Joe Panik led off the eighth with a single and took second on a wild pitch, but he wouldn’t score. With two outs, Brandon Crawford hit a liner to right and Panik took off for home. When St. Francis (Mountain View) alum Tyler Goeddel made a diving catch, Panik was doubled off. 

Starting pitching report: Bumgarner was a few outs away from passing Jake Arrieta and getting into second on the MLB ERA chart, but he ended up with three earned on his line in 6 1/3 innings. He had not allowed three earned runs since April 15, a span of 12 starts. The ERA, by the way, is still microscopic: 1.99. 

Bullpen report: On a night when Bruce Bochy wanted to rest Santiago Casilla and Cory Gearrin, George Kontos got five easy outs after replacing Bumgarner.

At the plate: Jeremy Hellickson had no intention of going on Bumgarner’s highlight reel on a night when the Giants handed out bobbleheads of their ace swinging a bat. Hellickson worked carefully in the second, walking Bumgarner with two on. The walk was Bumgarner’s fifth, tying a career-high.

In the field: Goeddel’s catch was the play of the night. The 23-year-old was born in Hillsborough and taken 41st overall in 2011 out of St. Francis.

Attendance: The Giants announced a crowd of 41,928 human beings who inexplicably booed when the umpire awarded time on a pitch in the eighth. Buster Posey had asked for it.

Up next: Johnny Cueto faces young Aaron Nola.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[A's Win Third Straight Game Against Angels ]]> Sat, 25 Jun 2016 22:40:39 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-543106526.jpg

The A's won their third straight game Saturday night to take their four-game set with the Angels in prospect Dillon Overton's debut.

Overton allowed three runs -- all solo homers -- in 5 2/3 innings pitched to grab a 7-4 win over the Angels in his first time with the big league club. 

Coco Crisp and Danny Valencia led the A's with three hits apiece. Crisp showed his speed with two doubles, while Valencia flexed to smash his 11th homer of the year.

Photo Credit: Getty Images ]]>
<![CDATA[Oregon Track and Field Star Pierced in Eye With Javelin ]]> Sat, 25 Jun 2016 15:15:04 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ambulance-shutterstock_565683792.jpg

An Oregon track and field athlete’s eye was pierced with a javelin after he tripped and fell onto the spear during a meet Friday, NBC News reported. 

Parker Kennedy, 18, was competing at the USA Track & Field Oregon Championships when he fell face-first into the javelin, Hood River Valley High School track and field coach Donnie Herneisen said. 

Kennedy was hospitalized, where he was upgraded from serious to stable condition. 

Kennedy is a star athlete and won the State Pole Vault Championship in May. Kerneisen said the athlete was signed to compete for the University of Washington.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Move to 'Impressive' 31-9 in Last 40 Games]]> Sat, 25 Jun 2016 10:01:42 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-542898386.jpg

SAN FRANCISCO — As Brandon Belt addressed about a dozen reporters late Friday night, Brandon Crawford and Matt Duffy snuck in behind the cameras. They kept a straight face while Belt recounted his game-winning, bases-clearing double in the seventh, and as he moved on to discuss the team’s winning streak, Derek Law joined the scrum. Other teammates started to inch over, but Belt didn’t flinch.

“Pro-fess-ion-al,” he said emphatically, looking at his teammates. “I can’t be rattled. I knew y’all were back there.”

Belt stood proudly for a second. His teammates smiled and dispersed.

Such is life when you’ve won 31 of your last 40 games.

“Wow,” Belt said after a tense 5-4 win over Philadelphia. “I didn’t know that. That (streak) is pretty impressive. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun when you’re winning.”

It certainly looked that way Friday, as the hottest team in baseball returned to AT&T Park with a flourish and carried that swagger into the clubhouse. The Giants are banged-up. They’re occasionally putting their fans through a next level of their infamous “torture.” But they’re also winning, over and over and over again.

“It comes from the top down,” Belt said. “We don't ever feel like we’re out of games.”

Opponents might say the same at times, and the bullpen certainly has made plenty of these wins — they’re at 12-of-13 the last two weeks — interesting. Three relievers combined to give up two runs in the eighth an inning after Belt’s smash had given the Giants a lead. Santiago Casilla loaded the bases in the ninth as Chris Stratton and Hunter Strickland warmed, but he got a slow roller to third and Ramiro Pena’s charge-and-throw was enough for a thrilling final out that was confirmed by a 36-second review.

“Exciting game,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “That game had a bit of everything. You look at the Belt hit and think that won the game for us, but those guys came back.”

The comeback and the rest of this game only solidified what has become glaring in recent weeks: The Giants are deeper than anyone — including themselves — thought, and they can get enough big hits to make up for the loss of a Hunter Pence or Duffy. But they could use another arm or two, and with the way Jake Peavy is throwing, that addition should be in the bullpen, not in the rotation.

Peavy continued his renaissance, giving up two runs over seven. He has a 1.91 ERA in his past six starts.

“I just got more consistent,” Peavy said. “Those (early) games, it wasn’t as far off as the numbers showed.”

Peavy said his return to form is built on two pillars: When you get to two strikes, finish it; When you get two outs, get back into the dugout.

That formula got Peavy his fourth win, but it didn’t come easy. He left trailing, but the Giants loaded the bases in the seventh before Belt’s shot to the wall. With that hit, the team is batting .407 with the bases loaded.

“It’s good concentration and determination,” Bochy said.

Said Belt: “For the most part, it’s just trying to keep the same approach as you would any other time. Get a good pitch to hit and make them come to us.”

These Phillies kept pushing, leading Bochy to make some unusual moves. He pulled Josh Osich in the middle of a plate appearance in the eighth and Javier Lopez, not Casilla, started the ninth. Pitching for the third straight day, Casilla went walk, single, hit-by-pitch with two down in the ninth. Bochy stepped onto the dirt and looked at Stratton, but then he went into a jog.

Bochy’s jog means you get one more batter. When he got to the mound, he looked Casilla in the eyes.

“He’s probably not going to be honest with me, but at least I can look at him to make a determination,” Bochy said.

He saw enough, and the game was soon over. Bochy said Casilla will be off Saturday and Cory Gearrin needs a breather, too.

The timing works out perfectly, as Madison Bumgarner will get the ball in the second game of this series. That, too, could be a lot of fun.

--- Peavy on Trevor Brown, who threw out two runners early: “Brownie, since he has been here, has watched and been attentive and been friends with Buster.” He said it’s getting to the point back there where it doesn’t matter as much when Posey needs a day off, which is about the highest praise you can give a young backup catcher.

--- Bochy doesn’t often pull a pitcher in the middle of a plate appearance, but he said he felt he had to after Osich threw a wild pitch that put a second runner in scoring position with a 2-1 count.

“I was going to do what I could to keep them from scoring,” Bochy said.

Osich didn’t look pleased after the game and you can’t blame him. That’s a brutal way for a reliever to leave a game. Some fences might need mending. Gearrin entered and walked the batter anyway, and the next hitter singled to left.

“It didn’t play out,” Bochy said.

--- Peavy did something somewhat unusual. After answering all the questions from reporters, he hung around for another beat and said he needed to say something else. He wanted to compliment the Phillies.

“They’ve got a lot of good young talent, and you watch how hard they play,” he said. “I respect the way they went about it, and they played awfully hard down to the last out. The old fightin’ Phils! They’ve got a young bunch coming.”

He's right. There are a few teams around the league that could take a lesson from this young team that kept punching back despite what the standings and scoreboard say. You can see some of the talent already — tonight’s starter, Zach Eflin, is just 22 — and waves are on the way. The Phillies aren’t all that far from competing again.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[A's Get Lift From 'Strong, Strong, Strong Human Being']]> Sat, 25 Jun 2016 10:09:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-542896120.jpg

ANAHEIM — Khris Davis believes his defense in left field might get overlooked.

For that he can blame his offense.

The A’s left fielder made a pretty diving catch in left-center Friday night, but it was his three-run homer that ultimately made the difference in a 7-4 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. Aware that Angels pitchers had been trying to elevate fastballs, Davis was looking for a heater on an 0-2 pitch in the eighth from Fernando Salas and he got one about chest-high.

He drilled a liner that seemed destined for the left-center gap. The ball instead cleared the wall, and his team-leading 18th homer snapped a 4-4 tie.

“I was expecting it to go off the wall, but man, the thing just got out in a hurry,” said Stephen Vogt, who was running at third. “He’s a strong, strong, strong human being. It’s a lot of fun to watch him hit the ball a long ways.”

Davis described the sequence in his own uniquely entertaining way.

“In that situation I just had enough ‘sav’ to know they were trying to climb the ladder, and he didn’t climb it high enough.”

He actually seemed a bit more jazzed to talk about his diving catch that robbed Jett Bandy in the sixth. He covered a lot of ground to get to the ball, then extended full out for a diving catch that likely prevented extra bases for Bandy in a tie game.

Davis arrived to the A’s in the offseason with the reputation of having a weak throwing arm, and opposing runners at times have taken advantage of that. But both Vogt and manager Bob Melvin talked up Davis’ all-around skills as an outfielder. Davis also defended his own glove work.

“It’s easy for people to look at my arm and be like, ‘Oh, he can’t play defense,’” he said. “But where I lack with my arm, I make up somewhere else.”

Davis' heroics were needed on a night the A’s committed three errors and got just 3 2/3 innings from starter Eric Surkamp. Fernando Rodriguez, Ryan Dull, John Axford and Ryan Madson covered the final 5 1/3 innings in relief. Rodriguez gave up Mike Trout’s RBI single on his first batter in the fourth, but right fielder Max Muncy came up with a great throw on the play to nail Johnny Giavotella at third, Muncy’s first outfield assist in the majors.

Melvin pointed to that play as a critical one because it kept Albert Pujols from batting with runners aboard and the Angels already up 4-2. But in the end, it was Davis’ power at the plate that made the difference. His 18 homers are tied for sixth in the American League, his 49 RBI tied for eighth. At this rate, he’s got a shot at a 40-homer season.

In short, he’s given the A’s all they could have hoped for and then some in production since coming over in an offseason trade from Milwaukee.

“He does his damage in a hurry,” Melvin said. “He may go a few games without getting any hits, then all of sudden he knocks in three runs with one swing of the bat.” Davis, who was born in nearby Lakewood and attended Cal State Fullerton, had about 50 family members in attendance Friday.

“I feel like I don’t play good in front of my family,” Davis said, “but they’ve supported me my whole life.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Raiders' Hayden Still Has One More Chance]]> Fri, 24 Jun 2016 15:47:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/Hayyyydynn.jpg

Before Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie hit home runs with his top two picks in 2014 and 2015, Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, there was DJ Hayden in 2013.

The cornerback from Houston impressed McKenzie with his skill set and style of play, so McKenzie traded out of his No. 3 overall slot in 2013, picked up additional draft help and took Hayden with the 12th selection.

As every Raiders fan knows, Hayden has been far from a home run. He’s been more of a pop-up.

The cornerback has lost time to injury and been inconsistent, flashing nice talent on one play or over one or two games, only to follow it up with key mistakes. In 2015 he had the opportunity to seize a starting job, yet faltered. The team announced a few weeks ago, too, that it would decline the fifth-year option (for 2017) on Hayden’s rookie contract.

In 34 games over three seasons, Hayden has just three interceptions.

Now, following the Raiders’ offseason program, Hayden’s status for 2016 seems shaky, with David Amerson and Sean Smith penciled in at the starting corners and several other young DBs – such as TJ Carrie and Neiko Thorpe -- ready to challenge Hayden’s spot in training camp.

Yet recently, Hayden’s somewhat dim future received some light from head coach Jack Del Rio.

Del Rio told the San Francisco Chronicle that “it’s never too late” for Hayden to take a step up.

“DJ Hayden had a really good spring. He really did,” Del Rio told the Chronicle. “I’m excited about his development.”

Hayden had to sit out the final day of the team’s recent full-squad minicamp because of a minor leg injury, but Del Rio dismissed the injury as nothing that would keep Hayden from competing for a job when training camp opens in July.

Del Rio still believes Hayden cab win the job as the team’s No. 3 corner and slot defender.

“He has terrific foot quickness,” Del Rio said. “He’s intelligent. Those things are definitely factors that help you in that slot.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[49ers' Ellington Could be Double Threat in 2016]]> Fri, 24 Jun 2016 15:44:01 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/ellyreturrrn.jpg

The 49ers’ change in coaching staff and offensive scheme could be a huge boost for wide receiver Bruce Ellington, who appears to be the leading candidate to be the team’s slot receiver in 2016.

But Ellington appears to be the No. 1 contender for the 49ers’ job as kick and punt returner, too.

The Niners have been looking for a difference-making return specialist for a couple of years now and Ellington – a fourth-round pick out of South Carolina in 2014 – could be it.

In 2015, Ellington had an up-and-down year returning kickoffs and punts for San Francisco. He returned 26 kickoffs for a 25.6-yard average and 19 punts for a 7.2 average. But, at times he had trouble holding on to the ball.

New special teams coordinator Derius Swinton II, however, sees great potential in Ellington as a possible game-breaking returner.

“Bruce brings a weapon and a skill set that is rare in this league,” Swinton told a writer for the team’s website. “He’s a guy that we’re going to try and get the ball in his hands. He has the chance to be one of the more dynamic returners in this league if we just block him up.”

In 2015, Ellington showed what he could do, with a 40-yard kick return and a punt return of 36 yards, both career bests.

But the downside to Ellington’s speed and quickness is his ball security. In 2015, he muffed a punt against Arizona that was recovered by the Cardinals. He also lost a fumble out of bounds while returning a kickoff against Seattle. The 49ers’ special teams coach last season, Thomas McGaughey, said in early December that those type of mistakes were unacceptable.

“You’ve got to take care of the ball,” he said of Ellington’s mistakes. “Everybody’s got a job to do. Do your job.”

New head coach Chip Kelly, however, sees the potential for Ellington to be a playmaker. That stands out to him more than Ellington’s mistakes. He sees the 5-foot-10, 197-pounder as an exciting, athletic player who can make things happen as both a receiever and returner.

Said Kelly earlier this offseason: “It’s our job to figure out how we can use that (talent) to help us win games.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Shaq Is US Sports Envoy to Cuba]]> Fri, 24 Jun 2016 13:16:33 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-508873874.jpg

Months after President Obama's historic trip to Cuba, 15-time NBA all-star Shaquille O'Neal will visit the island nation.

The State Department announced Friday that O'Neal will be part of a U.S. Department of State Sports Envoy to promote sports to the Cuban youth for four days starting this weekend.

The retired NBA star will be joined by Dallas Mavericks Assistant Coach Kaleb Canales to lead basketball camps for youth and demonstrate how sports can serve as a means of developing academic, leadership, and teamwork skills, according to a State Department news release. He is expected to visit historically significant cultural sites in Havana and further promote positive ties between the United States and Cuban people.

O'Neal played in the NBA for 19 seasons and retired following the 2011 season. He played for the Miami Heat from 2004 to 2008, winning his fourth championship, after many years with the LA Lakers and Orlando Magic.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Semien Homers Off Lincecum to Lift A's Over Angels]]> Thu, 23 Jun 2016 22:36:53 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/as-angels-623.jpg

ANAHEIM — Given another crack at Tim Lincecum, the A’s made life a little rougher on him this time.

Five days after beating Oakland in his 2016 major league debut, the former Giant lasted just three innings Thursday as the A’s made their early offense stand in a 5-4 victory in the opener of a four-game series.

Marcus Semien hit a three-run homer to highlight a four-run second off Lincecum, but they inflicted the rest of their damage in more subtle fashion. Opposite-field singles, grounders that found holes, bloopers that fell — including one dropped by Angels third baseman Yunel Escobar for an error.

No doubt that good fortune was shining on the A’s in some at-bats, but their approach against Lincecum clearly seemed better than it did Saturday, when he held them to two runs over six innings at the Coliseum. Manager Bob Melvin came away from that game saying he thought the A’s bailed out Lincecum (1-1) at times with their impatience at the plate.

It was a better showing Thursday, as the A’s beat the Angels for just the second time in seven games this season.

Kendall Graveman (3-6) took advantage of the early lead, working 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball and notching the first victory by an A’s starter since Sean Manaea beat the Twins on June 1. That 17-game streak without a victory by a starting pitcher wound up one short of the Oakland streak, an 18-game streak in 1997.

Khris Davis added a solo homer off Deolis Guerra in the fifth, a towering shot that kept carrying until it cleared the wall in left-center for Davis’ team-leading 17th home run of the season.

Starting pitching report

Graveman has been in sharp form over his past two starts, keeping the ball down in the zone and cutting down on the walks that had been contributing to big innings. Surely it helped to be handed an early 4-0 lead. The right-hander entered the night with the fifth-lowest run support in the AL (3.16 per game) among pitchers with at least 60 innings. He’s now 8-1 in 15 career starts with three runs of support or more, 1-14 in 20 starts with two or less.

He didn’t issue a single free pass Thursday, and he’s walked just four total over his past four starts. Before that, Graveman had walked 14 over his previous five outings. Twelve of his 20 outs Thursday came on ground balls, including two double plays.

A’s starters entered the night 0-9 with a 5.29 ERA over the previous 17 games.

Bullpen report

Melvin operated his late-inning relief corps in reverse again, as he’s done on occasion. He brought in Ryan Madson to face the heart of the Angels’ order in the eighth, and Madson responded with a 1-2-3 inning, including strikeouts of Mike Trout and C.J. Cron. Sean Doolittle came on for the ninth. He gave up Jett Bandy’s two-run homer to close the lead to 5-4. Then with two outs, home plate ump Paul Emmel suffered a gash in his head when Jefry Marte’s bat flew out of his hands and struck Emmel’s mask. Emmel was helped off the field, holding a towel to his head, and the game was delayed several minutes. Third base ump Quinn Wolcott took over behind the plate and Doolittle needed just one pitch after the delay to get Marte to pop out to end it. It was Doolittle’s fourth save.

Give an assist to lefty Marc Rzepczynski, who relieved Graveman with a man on first in the seventh. After Andrelton Simmons stole second, Rzepczynski retired Kole Calhoun on a grounder to keep it a 5-2 game at the time.

At the plate

Semien had mentioned before the game that he thought he and his teammates might benefit from having just faced Lincecum five days earlier. He also said he felt he tracked Lincecum’s off-speed stuff pretty well in that first encounter. On a 1-1 pitch in the second, he drilled an off-speed pitch low in the zone for a three-run homer to left to give him his 13th homer.

In the field

Danny Valencia made an excellent bare-hand play and throw to first to highlight the A’s defensive effort. Graveman made a nifty stop to begin a 1-6-3 double play.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Warriors' Klay Thompson to Play For Team USA]]> Fri, 24 Jun 2016 00:00:02 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-535930176_594_screen.jpg

Team USA on Thursday got a little bit better.

Warriors guard Klay Thompson will reportedly play for the United States in the upcoming Rio Games, joining teammate Draymond Green, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.

Stephen Curry will not play, as the two-time MVP is taking the summer to rest. Cleveland's LeBron James just announced earlier Thursday he, too, will not be participating.

Thompson, a two-time All-Star, is coming off his second straight NBA Finals appearance. He was the Warriors' second leading scorer in the team's record-breaking 2015-16 season, averaging 22.1 points a game.

The 6-foot-7 Thompson just finished his fifth season with the Warriors. It's his first trip to the Olympics.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Niners' Armstead, Buckner Ready to Make an Impact]]> Thu, 23 Jun 2016 11:03:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/niners+image.jpg

Just a few years ago, the 49ers defensive line was anchored by Justin Smith on one side, Ray McDonald on the other and Isaac Sopoaga at nose tackle.

While the trio got some breaks, it was for the most part a stable foundation of the 49ers’ 3-4 defense.

But in 2016, the 49ers defensive front will most likely be a much more fluid revolving door of defensive linemen as the defensive coaching staff seeks to keep players fresh, especially with the team’s offense working so quickly that the defense could be on the field for extended minutes.

So, while 49ers fans are most likely eager to see a pairing of the team’s top picks from 2015 and 2016 – former Oregon defensive ends Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner – those two aren’t expected to be ironmen in the way Smith and McDonald were.

Armstead and Buckner will share time at the defensive end spots with Quinton Dial, Glenn Dorsey, Tony Jerod-Eddie and rookie Ronald Blair. At nose tackle, Ian Williams, Mike Pucell, Dial and Dorsey could share playing time.

Once the exhibition season begins, 49ers fans will start to get a look at what each player brings and how the coaching staff will rotate players.

Armstead and Buckner – good friends and roommates at Oregon – are eager to make an impact with the 49ers. The two 6-foot-7 linemen are gifted athletically and have a friendly rivalry.

In his rookie season, Armstead came on stronger as the season progressed, but wasn’t a marquee player. Over 16 games he was in on 19 tackles and had two sacks. Buckner last season with the Ducks was in on 83 tackles and had 10½ sacks.

Armstead told reporters after Buckner was drafted that he was eager to play with his friend.

“You couldn’t focus on either one of us because you had me or him on the other side,” Armstead said of their time together at Oregon. “We have big plans playing together, trying to dominate people.”

Buckner told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group that Armstead has improved a lot in his one season in the NFL.

“I’m catching up with him,” he said. “It was always a friendly competition back at Oregon, like on the sideline, ‘Who can get the quarterback first?’ Arik’s doing really well. I’m following his footsteps right now, because he’s got a year over me.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Raiders Eager to See Contributions from Draft Class]]> Thu, 23 Jun 2016 10:57:28 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/raiders+image.jpg

It’s far too early to tell if the Raiders’ rookie class of 2016 will have the impact of the classes of 2015 and 2014, but one thing is certain: all seven draft picks have been signed and are ready to contribute.

With minicamp over and training camp set to open in July, general manager Reggie McKenzie has no holdouts or contract squabbles to solve. With the signing of linebacker Shilique Calhoun, a third-round pick from Michigan State, the entire 2016 draft class is under contract.

This year’s class consists of first-round pick Karl Joseph, a safety from West Virginia; second-round pick Jihad Ward, a defensive lineman from Illinois; Calhoun; fourth-round pick Connor Cook, a quarterback from Michigan State; DeAndre Washington, a fifth-round pick from Texas Tech; Cory James, a linebacker from Colorado State taken in the sixth round; and guard Vadal Alexander of LSU, a seventh-round choice.

Draft analysts gave McKenzie solid marks for this year’s draft, most often in the B to B+ range, while noting that the GM accomplished his goal of upgrading the defense.

Only Joseph, who is rehabilitating from knee surgery, has been unable to fully participate in workouts since the draft. But Joseph is expected to be fully ready by training camp.

The four drafted rookies on defense should help give coordinator Ken Norton Jr. more depth and options. Veteran linebacker-defensive end Khalil Mack has been impressed by the influx of talent defensively.

“The early impressions of those guys, Shilique and Jihad and all the other rookie guys, especially on the defensive side of the ball, (I’m) very impressed,” Mack told the team’s website. “Seeing the guys work with their hands and seeing the hustle and the pursuit they have to the ball. Just knowing all those different things that coach Norton preaches. They came in and have been doing it immediately. That’s great to see.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sen. Boxer Loses NBA Finals Bet, Wears LeBron James Jersey]]> Wed, 22 Jun 2016 20:35:01 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0622-2016-BoxerLebron.jpg

A sight most Golden State fans don’t want to see – a Californian wearing Cleveland Cavaliers gear.

“Wine and gold looks great on you,” Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown tweeted Wednesday, regarding Barbara Boxer wearing a Lebron James Cavaliers jersey as part of an NBA Finals bet too hard to pass up on.

Both senators, who represent the states of the Warriors and Cavaliers, made a wager before the NBA Final Games.

This isn’t the first time they wagered on their teams – last year, it was Boxer who had the big win.

Boxer posted an old tweet from their last bet on Twitter where Brown is photographed wearing a Warriors jersey and had said “I enjoyed all the trash talking… until today.” The Warriors took home the win last year in the NBA Final Championship.

She coaxed him further by saying, “Hey @SenSherrodBrown...double or nothing? #DubNation #Back2Back”

Brown accepted the bet, using the Cleveland hashtag #ALLin216.

If Brown lost, he would have to wear Curry’s shirt and serve Boxer a taste of Platform Beer Brewery.

If Boxer lost, she would have to wear James’ shirt and serve Brown a taste of San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery.

A playful bet ensued through social media with each team’s advancement in the championship .

After the Warriors lost to the Cavaliers in Game 7, it was Boxer who had to fly the white flag.

Photo Credit: Barbara Boxer
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<![CDATA[Giants Rally From Five Down to Defeat Pirates]]> Wed, 22 Jun 2016 20:13:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/166*120/giants-622.jpg

This was no 22-hit explosion. But it might have been more impressive.

The Giants fell behind by five runs Wednesday night and saw their starter get knocked out after the third inning, but they stormed back for a 7-6 win over the reeling Pirates. The bullpen, relying heavily on young arms, was brilliant, throwing six shutout innings.

John Jaso ambushed Jeff Samardzija’s first pitch, a cutter that Jaso crushed out to deep right-center. Lefties continued to get to Samardzija in the first, with Gregory Polanco lining a single and scoring on Matt Joyce’s two-out single.

Samardzija went to his splitter to keep the top of the order off-balance in the second inning, and it worked when he struck Jaso out on a nasty 86 mph pitch that held up. But the next pitch was a splitter that sat across the heart of the plate, and Polanco demolished it. The three-run shot put the Pirates up 5-1.

Jung Ho Kong opened the third with a solo shot on an 0-2 slider. Samardzija’s day was done after the third, but he wouldn’t take a loss. The Giants kept chipping away until they took the lead.

Brandon Crawford’s single drove in a run in the fourth and Buster Posey and Angel Pagan added on in the fifth. With Francisco Liriano out of the game, the Giants completed the comeback against Jared Hughes. Ramiro Pena’s double got the Giants within one in the sixth and Gregory Polanco dropped Joe Panik’s liner to left, allowing two more runs to score.

Starting pitching report: The three-inning start tied for the shortest of Samardzija’s career. He gave up 10 earned in three innings for the White Sox last year and allowed eight earned in three innings for the Cubs two years ago.

Bullpen report: Pitching at home for the first time, Pittsburgh native Derek Law had two very impressive innings. Law struck out three and stranded two in the fifth.

At the plate: Mac Williamson’s second-inning single had an exit velocity of 115 mph, giving him the two hardest-hit balls by a Giant this season. He lined out at 115 mph against the Dodgers earlier this month. Williamson, who has just 65 big league at-bats, also had the hardest-hit ball by a Giant last season (114).

In the field: The official scorer in Pittsburgh does not believe in errors.

Up next: The final game in Pittsburgh is Albert Suarez (2-1, 3.69) vs. lefty Jonathon Niese (6-4, 4.74).

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Brewers Homers Doom A's; Angels, Lincecum Next]]> Wed, 22 Jun 2016 19:21:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/178*120/as-622.jpg

OAKLAND -- Scooter Gennett and Kirk Nieuwenhuis homered to back Junior Guerra's first victory in more than a month, and the Milwaukee Brewers earned a split of their quick two-game interleague series against the Oakland Athletics with a 4-2 win Wednesday.

Gennett connected on a two-run shot in the fifth and Nieuwenhuis in the eighth.

Guerra (4-1) struck out eight over seven innings while facing the A's for the first time in his career. Milwaukee improved to 8-2 in games when he starts, but he won for the first time in six outings since beating the Cubs on May 19.

Martin Maldonado had five hits for the season coming into Wednesday's game, then added three more.

Coco Crisp homered in the fourth then made an error in left field the following inning that helped set up Milwaukee's first run.

Ramon Flores hit a one-out double in the fifth then advanced to third on Crisp's off throw.

Ryan Braun had a single and three strikeouts as the Brewers concluded a 2-7 road trip all in California - through San Francisco, Los Angeles and back to the Bay Area to face the A's - with just their 13th road victory in 36 games.

Guerra allowed two runs and five hits with one walk. The right-hander was the first acquisition by new general manager David Stearns when claimed off waivers from the White Sox last Oct. 7.

Tyler Thornburg finished for his second save.

A's starter Daniel Mengden (0-3) struck out nine in his third career start but is still seeking his first major league win. The right-hander was promoted to the majors on June 11 after only 43 appearances and 34 starts over three seasons in the minor leagues.

He allowed seven hits and three runs with one walk over six innings.

With Crisp's miscue in left, Oakland committed its 10th error over the last nine games and 13th in 15.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[New Las Vegas Team Will Play in Sharks' Division]]> Wed, 22 Jun 2016 14:28:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/462082324-nhl-logo-generic.jpg

The Sharks will have a new division rival beginning with the 2017-18 season.

On Wednesday in Las Vegas, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made it official that the league is expanding to 31 teams with the addition of a franchise in Sin City. The yet-to-be named club will be the eighth team in the Pacific Division, joining the Sharks, Ducks, Kings, Canucks, Flames, Oilers and Coyotes.

The Sharks will play Las Vegas at least four times. The club, owned by Bill Foley, will play its home games at the recently opened T-Mobile Arena, located on the Las Vegas strip.

“In the fall of 2017, when we celebrate the 100th birthday of the NHL, we will do so as a League of 31 teams,” Bettman said in a statement. “We are pleased to welcome Bill Foley and the city of Las Vegas to the League and are truly excited that an NHL franchise will be the first major professional sports team in this vibrant, growing, global destination city.”

The NHL expansion is the first since 1997, when the league phased in Nashville, Atlanta, Columbus and Minnesota over a three-year span.

The expansion fee of $500 million “will be distributed in equal shares to each of the NHL’s 30 presently existing clubs,” according to the league.

An expansion draft for Las Vegas will take place on June 21, 2017. Current clubs will be permitted to protect seven forward, three defenseman and one goalie; or eight skaters and one goaltender. Players with no movement clauses must be protected, while all first and second year players and unsigned draft choices will be exempt. Las Vegas must select one player from each of the 30 teams.

The NHL deferred the expansion application for a team in Quebec City, citing geographic imbalance and the weak Canadian dollar.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Trio of Mack, Williams and Smith Sets Tone of Defense]]> Wed, 22 Jun 2016 10:58:56 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/kaymacke.jpg

By almost any measure, the Raiders’ Khalil Mack ranks among the NFL’s best defensive players.

In 2015, Mack became the first NFL player ever selected to the Associated Press All-Pro Team at two positions in the same season: defensive end and linebacker. He nearly led the NFL in sacks, falling just short with 15½, and was a dynamo against the run.

“I do whatever I can to help the team win,” Mack said. “I’m a team guy. … Whether it’s dropping in coverage or rushing the passer, I can do either. I think they (All-Pro voters) saw that.”

Mack has been the foundation of a turnaround on the Raiders defense. Now, as the Raiders head toward training camp in July, they’re eager to see what they can do with some additional pieces on defense, including linebacker-pass rusher Bruce Irvin, cornerback Sean Smith and safeties Reggie Nelson and Karl Joseph.

Already, analyst Bill Barnwell of ESPN wrote this week that the Raiders have the 14th-best trio of defenders in the NFL. In ranking the best defensive “triplets” across the league, Barnwell says the threesome of Mack, Smith at corner and Dan Williams at defensive tackle is a formidable group. Barnwell says the three players give the Raiders a strength up front and in pass coverage that they haven’t had in a long while.

Williams, who played his first season in Oakland in 2015, “is a wildly underrated anchor” for the Raiders’ run defense, and Smith – paired with David Amerson – should give the team its best pair of corners in a long while.

But when it comes to picking the three biggest-impact defenders on the Oakland roster, Irvin might have been a better choice than Williams. The tandem of Mack and Irvin, working together on opposite sides of the field, should put tremendous pressure on opposing quarterbacks in 2016. Though Irvin was an important piece of the defense in Seattle in recent seasons, he could rise to star status this coming season in Ken Norton Jr.’s defensive scheme.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cal Gymnast is First to Compete For Team Jamaica ]]> Wed, 22 Jun 2016 09:30:43 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/cal-gymnast.jpg

When Toni-Ann Williams heads to the Rio Games later this summer, she will be the first female gymnast from Cal to compete in the the Olympics. She will also be the first to do so for her parents' home country, Jamaica.

The 20-year-old from Maryland is a dual citizen and is looking forward to enhancing that link to her family's native land.

"It was something that I could contribute to my homeland and my family and be able to connect with them," Williams said.

That's not to say she isn't feeling a little anxious, being a pioneer athlete for an entire country.

"I definitely have some moments during the day that I realize the whole country is looking to me for this sport," Williams said. "It's definitely a lot of pressure."

Cal head coach Justin Howell is also Jamaica's Olympic coach. He said he never could have imagined going to the Olympics with the Caribbean island nation.

"To have the experience to go with an athlete that deserves so very much to be there and to be her coach is quite an honor," Howell said.

Cal associate head coach Elizabeth Crandell-Howell agreed, adding that Williams doesn't realize how good she is. "When she experiences these moments of something amazing happening, to her it's all new and exciting," Crandell-Howell said.

For her part, Williams is staying focused on trying to inspire a country and its children as she prepares for Rio.

"I want kids to realize there is more to life than just track and field or not going to college," Williams said, "and definitely using gymnastics as an opportunity to open doors for them."

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Bowman Eager to Show He's Among Best in NFL in 2016]]> Wed, 22 Jun 2016 08:21:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/170*120/navvvvbowww.jpg

After losing all of 2014 to a knee injury, 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman came back strong in 2015.

It was obvious he wasn’t quite the player he had been – his speed and lateral movement weren’t quite as dynamic as in 2013, when he was among the best inside linebackers in the NFL.

Still, Bowman’s return was one of the pluses to a bad 2015. Bowman started all 16 games, was in on 154 tackles, had 2½ sacks and forced a fumble.

To Bowman, it was a season to build on. With a strong offseason under his belt, he believes he’ll be back in 2016 to being the dominant defensive player he was before his injury. He’s ready to start proving it in July with the opening of training camp and the exhibition season.

“I feel great,” Bowman, 28, told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group recently. “I’m adding on days on top of days (of workouts). I feel it sometimes, but it’s nowhere near what I went through last year, with the constant attention I had to put on it. This year, I’n able to wake up and ride.”

Recently, Bowman was left off the NFL Network’s list of top 100 current players, and also didn’t make the list of top 101 players put together by the analytic website Pro Football Focus.

PFF wrote that Bowman “was a shadow of himself” in 2015, particularly against the pass.

“The 49er was actually still very good against the run in 2015,” wrote PFF. “He led all linebackers in both tackles and stops by a significant margin, but his play fell away in coverage, where he allowed 90.3 percent of passes thrown his way to be caught and a passer rating of 110.9 when targeted.

“Bowman at his best was a complete linebacker, but the player of 2015 was far more one-dimensional. If he rediscovers the rest of his play this year, he will jump back onto the (top 101) list.”

Bowman, meanwhile, is completely confident in what he can do at his position.

“I’m an inside linebacker and know I’m at the top of that,” he said. “Anyone that’s (better) than me at that list at inside linebacker, you’ve got to put a question mark by it.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants' Bats Come Alive in 15-4 Rout of Pirates]]> Tue, 21 Jun 2016 20:07:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/171*120/giants-621.jpg

Eleven different Giants had a hit Tuesday night at PNC Park. You can bet all 11 of them avoided Madison Bumgarner on the bus ride back to the hotel.

A night after the Giants lost 1-0 despite Bumgarner’s complete game, they smacked 22 hits and crushed the Pirates, 15-4. The offensive outburst was the biggest since a 15-2 blowout in Philadelphia last July.

The explosion started when Brandon Crawford once again came to the plate at PNC Park with the bases loaded. This time, Crawford didn’t hit the grand slam — he simply set it up.

Crawford’s 11-pitch walk in the fourth finally got the Giants on the board in Pittsburgh and Angel Pagan followed by hitting a reeling and worn-down starter’s next pitch for a grand slam. The sequence was part of a seven-run inning for the Giants, their biggest of the season.

The Giants hit around before making an out in the big frame. A single, double and walk loaded the bases for Crawford, who famously hit a grand slam in the Wild Card Game at PNC Park two years ago. Crawford fouled off seven pitches from rookie Wilfredo Boscan before taking his base and pushing a run across.

The next pitch was a low fastball and Pagan jumped on it, crushing a grand slam into the seats in right-center. After a Gregor Blanco bloop double, Conor Gillaspie skied a two-run shot to the last row of the right field bleachers. Gillaspie was making his first start in place of the injured Matt Duffy.

The Giants kept pouring on, scoring a run in each of the next three innings and then five in the eighth. Gillaspie had four hits and drove in four runs and Gregor Blanco reached base five times, giving the banged-up Giants a potent attack at the bottom of the order.

By the end, the Pirates put backup catcher Erik Kratz on the mound. He struck out Brandon Belt and got Mac Williamson to ground out. With two on, Blanco flied out to end a scoreless inning.

Starting pitching report: Cueto entered with a 10-2 record and 1.91 ERA in 16 career starts at PNC Park. This one was more of the same. He allowed one run on four hits in 6 2/3 innings. For an inning, Cueto was one of five MLB starters (Bumgarner is also one) with an ERA under 2.00, but he gave up a run in the seventh, pushing it back to 2.06. Which is still good.

Bullpen report: Javier Lopez continues to search for his old self. He walked two lefties when he came on for Cueto in the seventh, and only a couple of gift strike calls from the home plate ump prevented a third walk. Lopez walked just seven lefties all of last season. He already has walked seven this season.

At the plate: Pagan’s slam was his first as a Giant. His only previous grand slam came August 1, 2009, when he was a New York Met.

In the field: Gregor Blanco made a sliding catch in the seventh to keep a run off Cueto’s line and at least one off Lopez’s line.

Up next: Jeff Samardzija tries to keep the good run going. He allowed one run in a complete game win in Tampa Bay last week.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Warriors Will Do All They Can to Land Durant]]> Tue, 21 Jun 2016 15:11:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/usat-kein-durant.jpg

OAKLAND – Joe Lacob stands a few feet outside an empty Warriors locker room late Sunday night digesting a season that ended not with celebration but instead with a defeat that sends him back to the laboratory of his mind.

As proud as the team’s CEO is of the previous nine months, he’s already thinking ahead, mentally exploring his options.

Lacob is a man who strives to solve everything, and he firmly believes losing the NBA Finals demands a search for solutions.

“We have nothing to be ashamed of,” Lacob told CSNBayArea.com. “It was an incredible season: 73 wins, fought a lot of adversity in the playoffs with injuries and NBA suspensions – which other people will comment on, and I’ll leave it to them. But you’ve got to give (the Cavaliers) credit. They did something no one else has ever done. They came back from 3-1 and beat us twice in this place.

“What are you going to do? Just give them credit. We’ll move on and try to get better – and we will do whatever it takes, within reason, to get better.”

Lacob mentioned no names of potential targets; that would be tampering. But the Warriors, always speaking in generalities, have long made it clear they covet Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant.

Aside from building a new arena in his chosen San Francisco location, Lacob would like nothing more than acquiring Durant.

Three factors are behind the desire for Durant, who on July 1 becomes an unrestricted free agent. One, he’s an MVP-level talent. Two, he’s a wing, nearly 7-feet tall, with the ability to guard three positions. Three, his generally mellow personality is perceived to be a seamless fit with a Warriors team that values its chemistry.

With Steph Curry and Draymond Green, the Warriors have two players conceivably among the league’s 10 best players, surely among the top 15. Durant would make three. Add Klay Thompson to the group, and you have four All-Stars.

The Warriors would part with anybody else on their roster if that’s what it takes to land Durant. That was true before Harrison Barnes disappeared too often this season, before Andre Iguodala turned 32, before Andrew Bogut turned 31 and before they actually lost The Finals.

Bringing Durant to Oakland would require serious financial moves, all of which the Warriors are willing to make. The luxury tax would not frighten Lacob, for he’s already paying it.

Durant was in Austin, Tex. Monday for the release of his latest shoe. He told reporters his decision, whether he stays with the only NBA team he’s ever known or departs, would be based not on market-size or profile.

“I’m worried about basketball,” he said. “That’s what it is for me. It’s a basketball decision.”

That opens the door to the Warriors, who have best young core in the league.

Durant reportedly will spend the Fourth of July weekend in the Los Angeles area, where every NBA team that thinks it has a chance – and maybe some that that know they don’t – will seek a meeting. The Warriors are bound to have their say.

Though Durant was born and raised in the Washington D.C.-area, he is comfortable picking up and moving. He left to attend college at Texas. He has bonded with Oklahoma City. For what it’s worth, Durant is quite familiar with the Bay Area. His initial NBA agent, Aaron Goodwin, is based in Oakland.

Durant may not leave Oklahoma City. He’s the centerpiece of an elite team and there are millions of reasons for him to re-sign and stay with the Thunder for at least another year.

But the Warriors will do all they can to lure him West. They are committed to getting better, as soon as possible, and nobody on the market could improve them more than Durant.

Photo Credit: Enrico Campitelli]]>
<![CDATA[Raiders' Joseph Has Been Learning, Waiting to Heal]]> Tue, 21 Jun 2016 09:22:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/197*120/kkkkarllll.jpg

As the Raiders head toward next month’s training camp, they have very few injured players.

During the recently completed three-day minicamp, just a handful of players were unable to participate, including tight end Clive Walford, running back Roy Helu Jr. and safety Reggie Nelson. Each is expected to be ready by training camp.

Another player the Raiders are eager to see is first-round draft choice Karl Joseph.

Joseph, a safety from West Virginia, is in the latter stages of rehabilitation from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament that cut short his final college season.

The Raiders knew when they drafted Joseph that he wouldn’t be able to fully partcipate in the offseason program because of his knee. But all along, he’s been on target to be on the field on Day 1 of training camp.

“The knee’s feeling good, I’ve just got to keep strengthening it and getting ready,” he said at the time he was drafted.

Head coach Jack Del Rio, meanwhile, says Joseph has been diligent to learn as much as possible and shouldn’t be behind.

“We’ve made the most of the situation,” Del Rio told Jimmy Durkin of the Bay Area News Group on the final day of minicamp. “Ideally, he’s doing everything. Short of that, what we can do is we can do the walkthroughs, we can do the meetings, we can spend extra time with him. So those are the things that we’ve been doing and we’ll continue to do.”

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