Bay Area Topics
Giants Lose Game 2
Hunter Strickland pumps 100 mph gas. As they say, sometimes the pitchers supply the power.
As if the St. Louis Cardinals need help in that department this postseason.
A team that hit the fewest home runs in the NL this season continued to display more October clout than a Chicago alderman. Pinch hitter Oscar Taveras hit a tying shot off Jean Machi in the sweet-spot seventh inning, then the Cardinals extended their magic hour to the eighth when Matt Adams sent a Strickland fastball through the low clouds and into the right field seats.
And after the Giants tied it with another two-out-in-the-ninth run that could only be anointed by the heavens, the Cardinals crushed some more. Kolten Wong sang the fastest recessional hymn in history as the bottom of the ninth lasted all of two pitches. The second one was a changeup from Sergio Romo, and Wong drove it over the right field fence as the Cardinals used four solo shots to take a 5-4 victory over the Giants in Game 2 of the NLCS at Busch Stadium Sunday night.
The Cardinals hit an NL-fewest 105 home runs in the regular season. They’ve hit 11 in six postseason games.
The Giants were seven outs away from joining the Kansas City Royals in tucking a commanding 2-to-none lead in their wheeled upright as they head home in their League Championship Series. Instead, the Cardinals powered their way square.
49ers vs. Rams
A week after facing Kansas City’s Alex Smith, an opponent they know like family, the 49ers will face a quarterback they wouldn’t recognize if he strolled in their locker room.
Ever heard of Austin Davis? No worries. You’re not alone if you’re clueless.
Here’s defensive coordinator Vic Fangio when asked if he knew anything about the Rams quarterback before last week: “I did not personally,” Fangio said.
Of course, Fangio and his players have since learned plenty about Davis, 25, in advance of their visit to St. Louis (1-3) on Monday night.
And here’s what they’ve discovered: The former undrafted free agent who entered the NFL in 2012 and was released twice last year looks like, well, a legitimate NFL quarterback.
Three starts into his career, Davis ranks seventh in the NFL in completion percentage (67.8), eighth in yards per attempt (7.9) and 10th in passer rating (96.8). For comparison, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick ranks 16th in each of those categories. With Davis, the Rams are 1-2, but have averaged 26 points and 417.7 yards a game.
It’s safe to say non one saw this coming. Davis was released from the Dolphins’ practice squad 13 months ago and spent five weeks unemployed before he was signed by the Rams. He was a third-stringer in training camp this summer.
“He’s there for a reason,” said 49ers safety Eric Reid, “despite where he started the season.”
Davis became the next man up after injuries to Sam Bradford and backup Shaun Hill. Bradford sustained a season-ending ACL tear in the preseason and Hill was knocked out of the season opener with a calf injury.
Hill is now healthy, but Davis has claimed the starting spot by posting a 100.6 rating in his three starts. Last week, he threw for 252 yards and two touchdowns in the final two quarters and the Rams nearly erased a 27-point second-half deficit in a 34-28 loss to the Eagles. Jim Harbaugh said Davis’ performance had him unexpectedly riveted.
“It was one of the rare times where I’ve watched coaches’ tape and been excited about the game,” Harbaugh said. “… This was a quarterback that was making throws, an offense that was making plays. And then the last drive, they had a chance to win the game and I’m like, ‘Maybe they got the score wrong. Maybe the Rams really won this game.’”
Davis’ next start, however, will be his most daunting. Davis has started against the Buccaneers (30th in yards allowed per game), Cowboys (21st) and Eagles (28th). The 49ers rank second in total defense and opposing quarterbacks have a 75.7 passer rating against them, the third-lowest in the NFL.
“I think they’re probably the best all-around defense we’ve seen so far,” Davis said. “Huge, huge challenge for us and I think we’re ready for it.”