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Published: Friday, October 06, 2017 @ 9:42 AM
— The Cincinnati Bengals are back home this weekend after breaking into the win column against the Browns.
Will the rejuvenating effects of a weekend vacation on Lake Erie carry over against the 3-1 Buffalo Bills?
There’s no doubt the vibe around the team was different this week, but this is a sneakily big game.
For all the positives of the past two games following a disastrous start, the Bengals could be just 60 minutes of football away from 1-4 with the Pittsburgh Steelers up next.
This is a fascinating matchup because I’m not sure anyone knows how good either of these teams are.
The consensus would probably be the Bills have outperformed expectations while the Bengals have underperformed.
Cincinnati let one get away against Buffalo last year, and I see the Bengals getting payback this time around.
A handful of explosive plays from a superior group of offensive skill players figures to be key for Cincinnati because both of these defenses have looked great so far this season, neither team has an offensive line to brag about and both quarterbacks are average.
Prediction: Bengals 17, Bills 10
How about Ohio State?
The Buckeyes play host to a Maryland team that seems to be getting lumped in with dregs Ohio State faced the past three weeks.
That is a mistake. The Terrapins are no world-beaters, but they are better — probably a lot better — than Army, UNLV and Rutgers.
The raw stats say Maryland has a good offense and a bad defense.
The advanced stats (courtesy Football Outsiders) say they are right in the middle of the pack in both areas.
One thing to keep in mind about Maryland is they have some dudes.
There are generally two ways teams are built: A handful of future pros surrounded by holes or average across the board with few difference-makers.
The Terrapins are the former while Wisconsin and Iowa are usually examples of the latter.
PREVIEW: Ohio State hosts Maryland
The jury is still out on new quarterback Max Bortenschlager, a sophomore who was a three-star recruit forced into duty after not one but two season-ending injuries at that position, but running backs Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison are dangerous and the receiving corps is pretty deep.
This should be a nice challenge for the Ohio State defense after two weeks off, but the Buckeyes have too much firepower on offense.
I’ll be interested to see if they work on the running game more after focusing on the pass since the loss to Oklahoma.
Prediction: Ohio State 38, Maryland 21.
How’s this for a start to the Reds Hot Stove season: They could be in contention for Japanese star Shohei Ohtani.
We called him the Japanese Babe Ruth yesterday, but he could also qualify as the overseas equivalent to Hunter Greene as a prospect who could make it in the majors as a hitter or a pitcher.
(I doubt either of them are going to hit 700 home runs, to be honest.)
Who knows how this works out, but it’s encouraging to see the Reds continue to try to turn over every stone to acquire talent.
Their willingness to at least consider this type of financial investment is a good sign, too.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Reds reveal interesting winter plans
I know the economics of baseball can be discouraging to small-market teams, but I think it’s more a matter of smart investing than not having the capital to keep a winning team together.
They were proactive (though not soon enough) in selling off assets once the downturn started in 2014, but I still believe they would have tried to spend the money to keep Johnny Cueto if they were still as close to contending as they were in 2012...
The high school football season got off to a great start Thursday night with Sidney topping Tippecanoe 49-42 in a barn-burner.
The Yellow Jackets have a Big Ten running back and buzz building throughout Shelby County.
“It takes a little bit longer now to go to the grocery story,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said. “People used to turn and go the other way down the aisle to avoid me. Now, everywhere you go, people want to talk about (Sidney football). There is an excitement, no matter where you go in town. It’s neat. That’s what high school football should be like.”
Gotta love it.
Here’s a look at the rest of the high school football schedule this weekend, including Wayne at Beavercreek, Northmont at Springfield and Catholic Central at Greenon.
The Fighting Irish are 3-3 but on the cusp of the playoffs. Plus they have an influx of new players since the start of the season.Follow @marcushartman
Published: Monday, June 25, 2018 @ 10:10 AM
— I’m pretty sure I stunned a friend last week when I told him I had expected the Reds to be around a .500 team this season.
He’s an Indians fan and a casual one at that, but it still seemed unimaginable this could have been a respectable team now given the way things started, right?
Well, they haven’t lost since, so I guess it’s nice not to seem totally crazy.
>>RELATED: Reds rally to win Sunday, sweep Cubs
One good week does not a season make, but it sure beats the alternative.
Now, why did I think the 2018 Reds would be around a .500 team?
Well, they had shown they could hit, had a handful of starting pitching prospects finish last season strong and made some additions to the bullpen that looked smart.
Of course it was easy to forget all those things as nothing went right during the first month or so of the season.
The starters weren’t good most of the time, the bullpen had a few blowups and worst of all they couldn’t hit.
But they when the regulars are in there — including Eugenio Suarez and Scott Schebler, who were both hurt in April — and Joey Votto isn’t slumping, the offense is a lot better.
>>PHOTOS: Reds beat Cubs 8-6
Yes, it turns out this team can score as expected even though Adam Duvall and Billy Hamilton still are hitting in the low .200s and having a hard time getting on base.
The bullpen actually is good — better than expected despite one of last year’s stalwarts (Wandy Peralta) struggling.
The rotation is still hit or miss at best, which assures there will be no miracle run to relevance between now and October.
However, the (admittedly modest) goals from the start of the season may be back on the table if they can avoid chasing this winning streak with another winless week.
» PROSPECT WATCH: How the top Reds minor leaguers are doing
And what are those goals?
To sum things up: The 2018 Reds can still make the 2019 Reds look like a team that will be worth following, which is all we ever wanted, wasn’t it?
Of course not all the news from the weekend was good.
Two other Reds notes to start the week:
Top prospect Nick Senzel’s development is halted — again — after he tore a finger ligament.
This is not the end of the world, but it means he won’t be getting his feet wet in the majors this season.
That’s just as well because they don’t have anywhere to put him — yet.
After a second battle with vertigo in less than a year, Senzel had been red hot at Triple-A Louisville, so I would say there is no doubt he’s ready for a call-up when healthy.
There are a few different scenarios for getting him into the lineup.
Not everyone who’s starting now — Schebler, Duvall, Scooter Gennett — is going to be here in 2019, but who goes will determine where Senzel comes up.
In better prospect news, Hunter Greene had another strong start Saturday for the slumping Dayton Dragons.
He pitched into the seventh inning for the first time, though he took the loss because he allowed three runs and that is too many for the Dragons to win right now.
Greene was efficient with no walks and 62 of his 87 pitches were strikes. He relied on the fastball but also used his slider at times as an out pitch. He lowered his ERA to 5.13 and has a 2.37 ERA over his last six starts.
“I feel like every outing I’ve been getting better,” Greene said. “I’ve go to continue to learn and get better for sure and stay healthy and to continue to execute pitches.”
Published: Monday, June 25, 2018 @ 9:53 AM
BEAVER DAM, Wis. — Sprint car racer Jason Johnson died Sunday from injuries suffered after a crash at Saturday night’s World of Outlaws race at Beaver Dam Raceway, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. He was 41.
Johnson crashed on the 18th lap of the race at the Wisconsin track. Johnson, of Eunice, Louisiana, was racing for the lead in the dirt-track race with eventual winner Daryn Pitman when his car flipped and crashed through the billboards near Turn 3, the Journal-Sentinel reported.
With heavy hearts, we inform you of the passing of Jason Johnson. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. Please send prayers and respect their privacy. https://t.co/VLxy5oUjvE— World of Outlaws (@WorldofOutlaws) June 24, 2018
Johnson was airlifted to a hospital in Summit, Wisconsin, where he died, the newspaper reported.
Johnson debuted in the World of Outlaws series in 1998 and began racing full time on the circuit in 2015, according to Bleacher Report.
He was the league's Rookie of the Year in 2015. Johnson had 12 victories on the circuit, including two this year, Bleacher Report said.
Johnson is second driver in four years to die from injuries suffered in a sprint car crash at Beaver Dam Raceway. Scott Semmelmann was killed in an accident in practice at an Interstate Racing Association in September 2014, the Journal-Sentinel reported.
Published: Sunday, June 24, 2018 @ 10:36 AM
— NASCAR pit reporter Wendy Venturini suffered a skull fracture and concussion Saturday after she was hit by a car while jogging in Novato, California, according to a news release from Venturini Racing.
Venturini, 39, was in California to cover Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Cup race in Sonoma. She will remain in the hospital for several days, the news release said.
“She’s completely coherent and conversational, and I have talked to her on two occasions today," said Doug Rice, president and general manager of Performance Racing Network. "They told her she would have a really good headache for a couple of days.”
Published: Sunday, June 24, 2018 @ 4:01 PM
CINCINNATI — Jesse Winker bounced as he rounded third base, hopping high into the air before slapping hands with third-base coach Billy Hatcher.
“I was pretty happy,” Winker said.
Winker did come back down to earth after his pinch-hit, three-run home run in the seventh inning. The Cincinnati Reds, however, continue to soar. Their 8-6 victory against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday at Great American Ball Park gave them a season-high seven victories in a row and 10 wins in their last 12 games.
Winker’s home run came in a seven-run seventh inning as the Reds rallied from a 6-1 deficit to sweep four games from the Cubs in Cincinnati for the first time since April 1983. None of the current Reds were born when that sweep occurred. Joey Votto was born five months later.
“We were focused on today’s game,” interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “It wasn’t about a sweep. It’s about trying to just get better and better and win some ballgames. We just really have put a nice string of games together. These other games we were up and really played flawless. Today we were down and kept pushing and came back and got it.”
» PHOTOS: Reds beat Cubs 8-6
While the Reds (32-45) still sit in last place in the National League Central Division, four games back of the Pittsburgh Pirates, they are making up ground fast. They trailed Pittsburgh by 9½ games on June 9. The Reds trailed first-place Milwaukee by 17½ games on June 9 and are now 13½ games back.
“We know what we can do as a team,” Winker said. “We can all play this game. It’s fun to win. But I don’t think anybody’s surprised by what we’re doing. If you look around, we’re all kind of acting pretty normal right now. It’s what we expect to do. It’s cool coming to the field expecting to win. It’s a very good feeling. Right now, we’re on a good wave, and we’re going to ride the wave.”
» RELATED: Reds set sights on escaping basement
The Reds completed their first perfect homestand of at least six games since May 2008. In the last seven games, Reds batters are hitting .322 with 14 home runs.
The Reds even got home runs by pitchers on consecutive days for the first time since 2006. One day after Anthony DeSclafani hit a grand slam in an 11-2 victory, Michael Lorenzen hit a solo home run with the Reds trailing 5-0 in the fifth.
“You just feel the momentum in here,” Lorenzen said. “A game like today, it just feels like we’re not meant to lose.”
Lorenzen and Winker hit pinch-hit home runs, making Riggleman look good.
“With Lorenzen, it’s a matter of not using a bench player with nobody on base,” Riggleman said. “If we had somebody on base, we would have had somebody else hitting. With Wink, he’s a great option to have off the bench. He’s done great things coming off the bench.”