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Core Four that has fueled their recen

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    February 15, 2019 1:42 AM GMT

    SAN FRANCISCO - The San Francisco Giants have their own version of the Core Four that has fueled their recent October dominance. Malik Jefferson Bengals Jersey . While players with catchy nicknames like the Panda, the Freak and MadBum, and shiny trophies like former NL Rookie of the Year and MVP Buster Posey get most of the accolades, a quartet of relievers has played almost as big a role in putting the Giants in position to win a third World Series title in five years. Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo are among the seven players who have played in all three post-season runs for San Francisco since 2010, providing stability to a role that can be so hard for some teams to fill come October. One thing that we have thats kind of nice is we have that continuity, Lopez said. Weve been around each other for, this is now our fifth year together for most of us especially in that back end of the pen. That parts kind of nice. We know what we can do, and we complement each other. With a win in the World Series starting Tuesday night in Kansas City, the Giants will join the New York Yankees teams led by Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada as the only teams in the past 40 years to win it all at least three times in five seasons. Like those great Yankees teams that won four titles from 1996-2000, the Giants have relied on stellar relief pitching. Its nice to have these four guys with their experience and calmness they bring to the bullpen, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. Lopez has had a steady role as a left-handed specialist whose submarine delivery is lethal against lefties, and Affeldt is another tough lefty who can pitch longer because he is almost as effective against right-handed hitters. Casilla and Romo have had their roles change over the years as the Giants are looking to win their third title with a third closer. Brian Wilson handled the job in 2010 with Romo and Casilla serving as setup men. That changed in 2012 when Casilla stepped into the closer role after Wilson got hurt early in the season. Casilla didnt last in the role as Romo proved more effective and ended up closing out the World Series by striking out Miguel Cabrera. Casilla and Romo flopped roles again this year after Romo blew three saves in June. We had a lot of success when he was the closer here, and its not easy sometimes, Bochy said. But he never said anything, never complained. For a manager, you appreciate that. He wanted to do everything he could to help the team. Thats the only way this works. The four have combined for a 6-1 record with eight saves and a 1.31 ERA over 87 post-season appearances since 2010. Affeldt has gone 18 straight appearances without a run, Casilla 17 and Lopez 15. With 68 2-3 innings, they have accounted for nearly one-fifth of San Franciscos post-season innings since 2010, and more than the more heralded starters. Every time Ive been in the playoffs, it seems like bullpens are used to their maximum, Affeldt said. Guys have come in in different situations and thrown strikes and come in for guys when maybe we have to come in mid-inning, guys on base, stuff like that. Weve done a pretty good job. The four have gotten help this post-season from journeyman Yusmeiro Petit, whose nine shutout innings of two-hit relief were big reasons for San Franciscos wins in Game 2 of the division series against Washington and Game 4 of the NLCS against St. Louis. Petit has been let go four times in his career, including briefly last season by the Giants, making him a perfect fit in a bullpen of mostly castoffs. Of the seven relievers who have pitched this post-season, only Affeldt hasnt been released, waived or designated for assignment in his career. Casilla was signed to a minor league deal before the 2010 season after being let go by Oakland. Lopez was designated for assignment four times in his career before being acquired in a deadline deal with Pittsburgh in 2010. Romo is a former 28th round pick who was designated for assignment by San Francisco in 2008 before earning a regular role in the majors. Now they are all proven major leaguers and post-season stars that the Giants would never think of letting go. They thrive on being out there in a tight game, in a late situation, Bochy said. They certainly help me make my decisions a lot easier. Andrew Billings Bengals Jersey . Louis Cardinals a hard-fought victory. The Colorado Rockies intentionally walked Yadier Molina with one out and runners on first and third to load the bases for Kozma. Malik Jefferson Jersey . The 24-year-old Raley was 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA for Chicago in his first two career starts after being called up from Iowa on Aug. 7. He was optioned to Iowa on Monday after losing 3-0 to Cincinnati in Chicago on Sunday.AVONDALE, Ariz. - Matt Kenseth did his best to put on a brave face following his worst performance of the season, which just happened to come at the worst possible time in his championship battle with Jimmie Johnson. Dark sunglasses shielded the disappointment in Kenseths eyes when he climbed from his car. His voice cracked just once during what was clearly a concession speech. Instead of harping on the negatives — he was saddled with an ill-handling car all day at Phoenix International Raceway and every fix crew chief Jason Ratcliff attempted only made it worse — Kenseth focused on the positives. His first season with Joe Gibbs Racing has been the best of his 14 years in the Sprint Cup Series. He won a career-best seven races, added a Southern 500 victory to his resume and crossed Chicago, Darlington, Kentucky and New Hampshire off the list of active tracks where hed never won a Cup race. And at 41 years old, a decade removed from his only Cup championship, Kenseth was in the mix again. Although Kenseth is still mathematically eligible to win the title, his 23rd-place finish at Phoenix sends him into Sundays finale at Homestead trailing Johnson by 28 points. It would take a massive failure for Johnson not to win his sixth championship. "You hope to go down to Homestead and race for it on performance," Kenseth said. "On the other hand, Im extremely happy. Im really, really happy with my team. Its a special group of guys. Weve had just an amazing, incredible season and we still have one week left. Hopefully, we can go to Homestead and go down there and contend for a win." It was an admirable post-race performance on an abominable day for Kenseth and the entire No. 20 team that came out of nowhere at a time when there was zero margin for error. The rest of the garage had noted from the opening practice Friday that Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team had shifted into another gear. Coming off a rout of the field at Texas, the No. 48 team gave every indication it was poised to do the same at Phoenix. Joey Logano said Johnson was in "kill mode" and Kenseth teammate Denny Hamlin sounded as if a Johnson title was inevitable. "I think everyone in the garage knows that they can turn it up at will, and this is typically the time of year they start doing that, especially when they are in championship contention," Hamllin said. Jessie Bates III Bengals Jersey. With the pressure on, Kenseth had to be perfect. Instead, his car was terrible from the start, every adjustment backfired and strategy didnt play into Ratcliffs hands. When the crew chief tried to make a call on the fly, it led to a botched pit stop that put Kenseth down two laps from the leaders. "Itd be great if we came in here and everything worked out like we had on paper, you went out and won the race and go to Homestead tied," Ratcliff shrugged. "Thats why its so hard to win these championships. People work their guts out for them and theyre very rewarding when you do get them." Ratcliff called it "a pretty rough day," but noted the No. 20 team had very few of those this year — Kenseth had two engine failures and a crash that contributed to three of his five finishes worse than 23rd this season — and that on this particular Sunday, things just spiraled out of control quickly in a sport that moves at almost 200 mph. "Everybodys going to say, Oh, the pressure got to them," Ratcliff said. "Just poor execution on a track thats so hard to pass. Youre trying to make up for something that happened earlier and it just snowballs on you." This is a team that led just 190 laps a year ago when Joey Logano drove the car and Ratcliff won his first race as a Sprint Cup crew chief. This is a team that took Kenseth to New Hampshire, where hed led 89 laps in 26 previous races and hadnt finished in the top-five since 2005, and got him to Victory Lane for the first time in his career. The New Hampshire victory marked back-to-back wins to open the Chase and put Johnson on alert. After Johnson moved into the points lead heading into Martinsville, the No. 20 team went into another one of Kenseths weaker tracks and delivered a second-place finish that tied the championship race. Sometimes, people just have bad days. Sunday was one of them for Kenseth and crew. It was the wrong day against the wrong opponent, and behind his sunglasses, Kenseth had to be wondering if hell ever have an opportunity like this again. But deep down, he knew this season itself was one to be treasured. "Disappointing day here, but yet what a great season," he said. "I really appreciate this whole group. Theres not a car out here Id rather be driving than this one. Im a pretty lucky guy." 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