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News, Scores, Teams, Stories & More on Northeast OH Sports on cleveland.com

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    After playing slightly more than two NFL quarters, the hype machine is boiling over when it comes to Baker Mayfield. Watch video

    BEREA, Ohio -- I'm a little worried about Baker Mayfield.

    Before fans who love the Browns rookie quarterback start up with the angry emails and tweets, let me explain a bit.

    I was not a Baker Mayfield believer before the draft -- or even during the spring practices.

    But the Baker Mayfield who showed up in the summer had a knowledge of the playbook and more poise than any other Browns rookie quarterback since Bernie Kosar.

    He made me a believer.

    But I also know the NFL is a very hard place.

    Especially for a rookie quarterback on a team that came into the season with a 5-43 record in the previous three seasons.

    Mayfield's first game is the best debut I've witnessed from a Browns quarterback...ever.

    He was 17-of-23 passing for 201 yards. He had three passes dropped. He also had what could have been a costly interception dropped in the end zone by a New York Jets defender.

    It was an inspiring performance, leading the Browns from a 14-0 deficit to a 21-17 victory playing slightly more than two quarters.

    So none of what I'm writing is a criticism of Mayfield the quarterback.

    Jon GrudenOakland Raiders Coach Jon Gruden is swooning over Baker Mayfield.  

    SINGING MAYFIELD'S PRAISES

    "I think the guy (Mayfield) has the 'it' factor," Oakland Coach John Gruden told the Cleveland media. "He has the charisma. He has the competitiveness. He has the feel. He has the ability to be great."

    If you remember his ESPN specials, Gruden loves to gush about quarterbacks. He seemed to love every quarterback who came to his camp and appeared on his show.

    But Gruden is just part of a chorus singing the praises of Mayfield.

    "He can make every throw," said Browns veteran receiver Jarvis Landry. "He can make every check. He can make every read...He is a football player...He walks it like he talks it."

    Receiver Rashard Higgins told the media how Mayfield could end up "on the LeBron wall," meaning the old picture of LeBron James in downtown Cleveland.

    Yikes!

    Hue Jackson tries to temper his comments about Mayfield, but the coach can't contain himself. He finally has a quarterback who should be able to win some games.

    "Magnetism about himself," said Jackson. "He likes to lead...He has that leadership quality that a lot of people do not have when it comes to leading men."

    Jackson talked about Mayfield "completing the ball. He gets the ball into guys' hands so they can make plays."

    Jackson wisely said, "He's not great yet...This young man is not a finished product by any stretch of the imagination."

    But the coach knows Mayfield can be a franchise changing quarterback for the Browns.

    "I saw the ball going to the right person with zip, momentum and assurance," said Jackson. "This is a talented young man who likes to play, who has fire and intensity and the competitiveness that you want."

    Cleveland Browns vs. New York Giants, August 9, 2018Fans have to be ready some rookie ups and downs for Baker Mayfield.  

    WHY WORRY?

    Mayfield is a rookie.

    He's with the Browns, a team that has had only one constant -- losing.

    Everything else from the front office to the coaching staff to the players keeps changing.

    So much hope and what probably are unrealistic expectations are being placed on the shoulders of this 6-foot, 215-pound rookie who is only 23 years old.

    I do love how Mayfield responded when told he'll be the 30th Browns quarterback to start since 1999.

    "It's 2018," he said. "I don't care."

    I'm not worried about Mayfield, other than he could make a rookie mistake of trying to run for a first down and become injured rather than step out-of-bounds.

    San Francisco's Jimmy Garoppolo was the latest to do that. He suffered an ACL knee injury Sunday. Brian Hoyer did the same with the Browns in 2013, right after he took over as the starter.

    I do worry some fans and media members will feel a major letdown when Mayfield has a few bad games -- as he probably will. The impatience will hit. 

    The Browns and their fans are so desperate for someone to save the franchise, and it's unfair to throw all that on Mayfield.

    As one fan emailed, "I like Baker, but let's not build a statue to him after two quarters."

    I think that's fair and wise.



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    Nearly half the league's starting QBs entered the NFL in the last five years, and they'll lead the league forward. Mayfield is in that group.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers all entered the NFL between 2000 and 2005. 

    They've owned the league for more than a decade, winning games and piling up passing yards.

    Soon, the league will belong to a new group of quarterbacks. And Baker Mayfield should be part of that group.

    On this episode of Takes By The Lake from cleveland.com, I was joined by Kevin Cole, the director of data and analytics for rotogrinders.com, to discuss how to evaluate all these new quarterbacks.

    We also got into the Browns defense and how it was built, but mostly, this was about Mayfield.

    Subscribe to Takes By The Lake in any of these ways, and thanks to everyone for listening.

    There's an Apple podcast channel for Takes By The Lake.

    You can subscribe on Google Play.

    If you have an Android device, find a way to subscribe.

     


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    Mary Kay Cabot and Dan Labbe preview Sunday's game against the Raiders. Watch video

    BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders play on Sunday afternoon in Oakland. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST.

    Mary Kay Cabot and I looked ahead to Sunday's game and made our predictions. We talked about the Raiders and their fast starts. We also talked about the Browns pass rush and how it could impact Derek Carr. Then we talked about what it means that the Raiders no longer have Khalil Mack.


    Get the best Browns news and perspective in your inbox at lunch time every weekday. Sign up for our Browns newsletter.


    Go inside the Browns every week with cleveland.com's Orange and Brown Podcast, featuring Mary Kay Cabot and Dan Labbe. Listen and subscribe here.


    Want more Browns? Subscribe to our Browns YouTube channel for interviews, analysis and more.


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    The Penn State quarterback plays nothing like the Browns quarterback, yet ... Watch video

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Easy comparisons aggravate me, so the plan was to attack any implication that Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley is like Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.

    They're short, scrappy and white. But the only way McSorley is getting on stage as the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft is if Nick Bosa or Ed Oliver gives him a piggyback ride.

    McSorley, listed at 6-foot and 201 pounds, is lucky if he's that. Mayfield hit the combine at 6-1 and 215 pounds, and if you think 15 pounds doesn't matter, let's get Mayfield and McSorley to wrestle.

    I watched all of McSorley's highlights from last year's 39-38 loss to Ohio State, and among McSorley's short-game flips and deep-ball lobs, I didn't see any throws like this one that Mayfield ripped through a window against the Buckeyes last season, a throw that Mayfield makes with ease on a regular basis.

    via GIPHY

    Before the season, both Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso of ESPN picked McSorley as their early Heisman favorite, and Herbstreit called him the Mayfield of 2018, with the caveat that he wasn't talking about how McSorley plays, but in how he leads and will carry Penn State.

    I'm like Ryan Gosling, not in the way I act or look, but in the way we both like Doritos.

    That drove me nuts, and I even asked McSorley about the Mayfield comparisons at Big Ten media days in July, with the intent of using his answer in a story about how he's not Mayfield.

    "Both of us have that same kind of competitive attitude, that same chip on the shoulder," McSorley said, and of course they do.

    Then Dave Jones at pennlive.com called McSorley the most beloved player in Penn State history, and Mayfield single-handedly turned around the Browns in a half, and Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins proclaimed himself a McSorley fan and dropped the dreaded comparison.

    "He's a competitor, kind of like Baker is," Haskins said. "He has that type of personality, you know, competitive edge."

    So what if Mayfield threw for 1,329 yards and 13 touchdowns in the first four games of his senior year and McSorley has 763 yards and eight TDs?

    You love Mayfield. You love Haskins. You love McSorley.

    Forget about nit-picking the comparisons. Just sit on the couch, watch, appreciate and enjoy, and tell the guy from "The Notebook" to pass the Cool Ranch.

    Buckeye Take is a quick 300- to 400-word column on a single aspect of Ohio State football. We're trying to replicate in written form the feel of our Buckeye Talk Podcast, where we drop a multitude of opinions every week. We know not all of you listen to the pod (though you should), and we don't want you to miss out on what we're thinking about the Buckeyes.


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    Coming off a last-place finish, the Cleveland Monsters open the American Hockey League season with some fresh faces on a young roster.

    STRONGSVILLE, Ohio -- The Cleveland Monsters will be one of the American Hockey League's youngest teams this season.

    Just like last season.

    But not everything has to be the same. The Monsters expect to improve on the 25-41-7-3 record they posted in the 2017-18 campaign.

    "First and foremost, we want to be good," center Nathan Gerbe said after Thursday's practice at the OBM Arena in Strongsville.

    "It's learning the game, playing the right way, our daily habits. We want to get off on the right foot this season and change a lot from last season."

    The Monsters open next Friday night against the Rockford IceHogs at Quicken Loans Arena. The teams will play again on the Q ice the following afternoon. 

    Cleveland has moved to the AHL's Eastern Conference North Division after playing in the Western Conference Central Division last season.

    Gerbe, 31, totaled four goals and 14 assists in 24 games last season with the Monsters. Having played 396 National Hockey League games over nine seasons, he is one of the few veterans on a squad loaded with youngsters. 

    So is forward Zac Dalpe. In parts of eight NHL seasons, he's played 140 games. Last season, the former Ohio State standout appeared in 12 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Monsters' NHL affiliate, and had 11 goals and 15 assists in 35 games with Cleveland.

    The Monsters scored 2.5 goals per game last season, last among the 30 AHL teams.

    "We're optimistic," Dalpe said. "We have some young guys in here who can make plays and see the ice well. I think with our defense, having another year under the the belt for the young players helps. They kind of know what the league is like now. 

    "It's up to us as forwards. We have a good group of core guys who have returned, and we have to pick up the slack."

    Forwards Eric Robinson, 23, Kole Sherwood, 21, and Vitaly Abramov, 20, are newcomers who add scoring potential to the Cleveland roster.

    The Monsters may not get much help, at least early on, from players sent down by Columbus, which has some injury problems.

    On the other hand, several players who helped Cleveland to the 2015-16 AHL Calder Cup championship were key players for a Blue Jackets' team that lost a competitive first round playoff series, 4-2, to the eventual champion Washington Capitals last spring. The Blue Jackets will be among the NHL's youngest teams, as well.

    Third-year Cleveland coach John Madden, who played on three Stanley Cup champions as one of the NHL's top defensive forwards, says the team will count on goalkeepers Jean-Francois Berube, 27, and Mattis Kivlenieks, 22. Berube has played in parts of three NHL seasons. Kivlenieks was in net for 43 Monsters games last season. 

    "(Kivlenieks) struggled at times, but played well at times," said Madden, 44. "He won't shoulder the load by himself. Berube put up some good numbers last year in the NHL. We'll have two good goalies in there."

    The Monsters have bolstered their defense with the addition of veterans Tommy Cross, 29, and Dillon Simpson, 25. Both have some NHL experience.


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    Who has the most wins since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993? See all-time Big Ten standings for last 25 years. Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin.

    COLUMBUS, Ohio - In the quarter-century since Penn State joined the Big Ten as the league's 11th school, Ohio State has dominated the conference for both wins and titles.

    Next - and grouped closely together for win totals - are Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State.

    Here are the league records for each Big Ten member since the league expanded with Penn State in 1993, later adding Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers. (These records are for games played, not adjusting for games later vacated because of NCAA penalties.)

    1. Ohio State - 164-38-1
    2. Michigan - 134-69
    3. Wisconsin - 132-68-3
    4. Penn State - 128-75
    5. Michigan State - 111-91-1
    6. Iowa - 108-94-1
    7. Northwestern - 93-110
    8. Purdue - 79-121-3
    9. Minnesota - 68-135
    10. Illinois - 59-143-1
    11. Indiana - 48-155

    Later additions:

    • Nebraska - 34-25
    • Maryland - 11-24
    • Rutgers - 7-28

    Including ties, there have been 37 Big Ten champions in the 25 years. Ohio State has won 12 titles since Penn State joined the league and Wisconsin six, followed by Michigan (5), Penn State (4), Michigan State (3), Northwestern (3), Iowa (2), Illinois (1) and Purdue (1).

    However, Ohio State now is recognized as a champion during 11 of these seasons. The 2010 title was later taken away because of NCAA penalties..

    Database: Find standings for any season

    Click here to load this Caspio Cloud Database

    Rich Exner, data analysis editor for cleveland.com, writes about numbers on a variety of topics. Follow on Twitter @RichExner.

    Penn State vs. Ohio State, sports and otherwise


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    Some fans argue with injuries mounting and generally sloppy play, the NFL should stop playing games on Thursdays. Watch video

    NFL Thursday night games may have been entertaining recently, but they have caused a lot of tension between the league and players who put their bodies on the line. Some fans argue with injuries mounting and generally sloppy play, the NFL should stop playing games on Thursdays. Still, people love NFL football, and any day there is football on TV is a good day. What do you think?

    PERSPECTIVES

    NFL's Thursday Night Football is great in theory, but in practice, it's a nightmare. Players have less time to recover between games, forcing them to play at 50 percent or even less. It means a product that is barely watchable. It means a lot of dropped balls and more risk for injuries. Just ask Richard Sherman, who knew of the horrors of Thursday Night Football before he tore his Achilles tendon:

    The NFL preaches player safety. The league says it wants to do everything in its power to protect its players. But when it comes down to it, it's not the players that the NFL protects.

    It's the Shield...

    Thursday Night Football is just another example of the NFL's hypocrisy: The league will continue a practice that diminishes the on-field product and endangers its players, but as long as the dollars keep rolling in, it couldn't care less.

    Thursday Night Football needs to go.

    Drew Brees Says Thursday Night Football Is 'Absolutely' Not Safe

    More football is good football. The NFL is in possession of the best professional league for the country's most popular sport. Having Thursday night games rewards the fans for their loyalty, and now they don't have to wait six days for more NFL football. Sure, you're going to have some bad games, but that's the case on Sundays and Mondays, too. You also get the barn burners like San Francisco-Los Angeles matchup where the teams put up 80 points combined.

    Thursday Night Football is awesome, and everyone needs to realize that.

    The Tylt is focused on debates and conversations around news, current events and pop culture. We provide our community with the opportunity to share their opinions and vote on topics that matter most to them. We actively engage the community and present meaningful data on the debates and conversations as they progress. The Tylt is a place where your opinion counts, literally. The Tylt is an Advance Local Media, LLC property. Join us on Twitter @TheTylt, on Instagram @TheTylt or on Facebook, we'd love to hear what you have to say.

     

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    Taylor made the trip to Oakland but his back is still bothering him and Drew Stanton will likely be the backup QB.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Tyrod Taylor will make the trip to Oakland today for Sunday's game against the Raiders, but Drew Stanton will be the backup QB to Baker Mayfield.

    Taylor is listed as questionable with his concussion and back issues, and was limited in practice again on Friday, primarily because of the back.

    Based on the fact that Taylor did almost nothing in practice on Thursday and was limited again today, Stanton will get the nod to back up his mentee, who's making his first NFL start.

    A 12th-year pro, Stanton has an 11-6 record as a starter and went 3-1 as a starter with the Cardinals last year.

    Stanton has taken all of the backup reps in practice this week and is poised to step in for Mayfield if he gets hurt.

    Offensive coordinator Todd Haley praised Stanton's contributions to the team this season.

    "He's been tremendous,'' said Haley. "He's a unique, unique quarterback. He has insight that I haven't seen from very many guys. He has a unique feel for how to deal with Tyrod and how he deals with the young guys, whether it was (former Browns QB) Brogan (Roback) or it was Baker. It's a great situation for a young guy to be developing in.''

    Stanton, signed by the Browns as an unrestricted free agent in March, didn't dress for the first three games.

    In other Browns injury news:

    * Linebacker James Burgess has been ruled out with his knee injury.

    * Tight end Seth DeValve is questionable with his hamstring.

    * Starting free safety Damarious Randall is questionable with his heel. Briean Boddy-Calhoun will replace him if he can't go and Gregg Williams has 'no qualms' about that.

    * Linebacker Christian Kirksey (shoulder, ankle) and defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah (ankle) both participated fully today and are expected to play.


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    Big Games Saturday for Ohio State, Notre Dame and West Virginia to keep their national title hopes alive. Watch video

    CLEVELAND, Ohio - Conference games for AP Top 25 teams begin this week and several big matchups are on the books. The headliner has No. 4 Ohio State at No. 9 Penn State, which will be prime time TV (7:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC).

    Considering the weakness of the Big Ten this season, the winner of this game stays in the national title picture while the loser could very well fall out of the Top 10.

    One conference game to watch starting the day has unranked Syracuse at No. 3 Clemson in the ACC at noon. With the quarterback drama going on at Clemson the past few weeks, and the fact Syracuse has proven capable of big road upsets in the recent past (see at Miami, 2017) this could trigger a day filled with surprises.

    No. 12 West Virginia at No. 25 Texas Tech is no gimme for the Mountaineers in a Big 12 matchup.

    But pending what happens to teams above them, a West Virginia victory on the road could not only vault WVU well inside the AP Top 10, but also start talk about the Mountaineers getting into the title conversation.

    In a non-conference matchup, but also key in the national title picture, No. 7 Stanford is at No. 8 Notre Dame. The Irish have also made a QB change in recent weeks, so this will be the first major test for Ian Book. Like OSU-Penn State, this game has national title implications as well, for the winner.

    AP TOP 25 GAMES THIS WEEK.

    Thursday, Sept. 27
    No. 16 Miami 47, North Carolina 10
    Saturday, Sept. 29
    Louisiana at No. 1 Alabama, Noon, SEC Network
    Syracuse at No. 3 Clemson, Noon, ABC
    No. 12 West Virginia at No. 25 Texas Tech,  Noon, ESPN2
    Central Michigan at No. 21 Michigan State, Noon, Fox Sports 1
    Tennessee at No. 2 Georgia, 3:30 p.m., CBS
    Baylor at No. 6 Oklahoma, 3:30 p.m., ABC
    Pitt at No. 13 UCF, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU
    No. 18 Texas at Kansas State, 3:30 p.m., FS1
    Southern Miss at No. 10 Auburn, 4 p.m., SECN
    No. 14 Michigan at Northwestern, 4:30 p.m., Fox
    Florida at No. 23 Mississippi State,  6 p.m., ESPN
    Virginia Tech at No. 22 Duke, 7 p.m., ESPN2
    No. 4 Ohio State at No. 9 Penn State, 7:30 p.m., ABC
    No. 7 Stanford at No. 8 Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m., NBC
    No. 20 BYU at No. 11 Washington, 7:30 p.m., Fox
    South Carolina at No. 17 Kentucky, 7:30 p.m., SECN
    Ole Miss at No. 5 LSU, 9 p.m., ESPN
    No. 19 Oregon at No. 24 Cal,  10:30 p.m., FS1


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    Terry Francona says he wants to 'maximize' the Tribe roster on the bench and in the bullpen vs. Houston.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Last year, Cleveland Indians manger Terry Francona was forced to make a handful of roster decisions based on sudden changes in player availability just before the start of the American League Division Series.

    He went with 11 pitchers instead of 12 and left veteran relievers Zach McAllister and Dan Otero off the roster in favor of starters Danny Salazar and Mike Clevinger. Francona's reasoning was that he could make a 25-man roster into a 27-man roster with more versatile arms in the bullpen.

    This season, Francona has said he will again try to "maximize" the Tribe's playoff roster both in the bullpen and on the bench.

    In this week's Cleveland Baseball talk podcast, Paul Hoynes and Joe Noga talk about how the Indians' playoff rotation could shake out and how the Tribe matches up against Houston.

    We also pay tribute to Josh Tomlin, who might have pitched his final game for the Indians on Thursday, and look ahead to what the team will do during the four-day break before next week's playoff opener.

    As always, we answer some reader-submitted questions. And we speculate on just how much C.C. Sabathia would miss an extra $500K. 

    Got a question you want answered on the podcast? Submit it to Paul or Joe on Twitter or via email.

    Listen along to the show and leave your comments. You can download the audio here.

    Subscribe on iTunes.
    Subscribe on Google Play.


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    Williams becomes Ohio State's first commitment since July 27, and the second receiver in OSU's 2019 class.

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State football landed a commitment from Class of 2019 receiver Jameson Williams on Friday. Here's what it means for the Buckeyes:

    * Williams is a 6-foot-2, 170-pound receiver from St. Louis who's rated a four-star prospect, and the No. 130 overall player in the 247Sports composite rankings. He chose Ohio State over a list of finalists that also included Alabama, Oregon, UCLA and Nebraska.

    * This is the first commitment for Ohio State since Urban Meyer's suspension, and ended a commitment drought for the Buckeyes that stretched back to July 27, when three-star 2019 tight end Cormontae Hamilton gave his pledge. OSU has played this 2019 class slow in general, and had a minor pause in recruiting while Meyer was away from the program, but Williams' commitment could re-start things with the class now sitting on 15 commitments with less than three months until the December early signing period.

    * Williams is the second receiver commitment in OSU's 2019 class, joining five-star prospect Garrett Wilson. While Wilson is a well-rounded receiver who looks like he could play any of the three positions in Ohio State's offense, Williams looks like a prototypical Z-receiver in the mold of Devin Smith, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon. But he's also a threat on bubble screens similar to a Parris Campbell, which should give him versatility in Ohio State's offense.

    * The track star has been clocked at 10.54 seconds in the 100-meter dash, and holds the state record in the 300-meter hurdle, a record previously held by former Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott.

    * You can start to see the receiver pieces falling into place in this class, and it's a position of need with what could be walking out the door after this season. Campbell, Dixon, McLaurin and C.J. Saunders are all seniors, while K.J. Hill, Austin Mack and Ben Victor are all draft-eligible after this season.

    The Buckeyes took three receivers in the 2018 class, and seem poised to take at least three more this year. Wilson and Williams are important gets, and complement each other well as outside receivers. The missing piece is someone who can play the slot at H-back. That player could be three-star prospect Wandale Robinson, who's officially visiting Ohio State on Oct. 6.

    * Williams had 36 receptions for 1,062 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior at Cardinal Ritter Prep, and scored three touchdowns on kick returns.

    * Count this as the first significant recruiting win for new receivers coach Brian Hartline. Williams had long been pegged to land in Ohio State's 2019 class, but his lead recruiter was former receivers coach Zach Smith.

    While Williams' standing with Ohio State never seemed to waver much, even with Smith being fired and Meyer's suspension, credit Hartline for jumping right in and helping OSU end its commitment drought with a four-star player at a position of need.


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    Mike Clevinger makes his final start of the regular season on Friday night when he faces the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

    KANSAS CITY -- Here are the starting lineups for Friday night's game between the Indians and Royals at Kauffman Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 8:15 p.m.

    INDIANS

    SS Francisco Lindor.

    LF Michael Brantley.

    2B Jose Ramirez.

    DH Edwin Encarnacion.

    3B Josh Donaldson.

    1B Yonder Alonso.

    RF Melky Cabrera.

    2B Jason Kipnis.

    C Roberto Perez.

    RHP Mike Clevinger, 12-8, 3.07 ERA.

    ROYALS

    2B Whit Merrifield.

    SS Adalberto Mondesi.

    LF Alex Gordon.

    DH Salvador Perez.

    1B Ryan O'Hearn.

    3B Hunter Dozier.

    CF Brian Goodwin.

    RF Jorge Bonifacio.

    C Cam Gallagher.

    RHP Ian Kennedy, 3-8, 4.59.

    UMPIRES

    H Kerwin Danley, crew chief.

    1B Mike Estsabrook.

    2B Bruce Dreckman.

    3B Chad Fairchild.


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    Here's the schedule for the Indians intrasquad game on Tuesday at Progressive Field.

    KANSAS CITY - A big league manager has to be able to adapt on the fly and Terry Francona has proven capable of doing that more than once.

    In 2016, he helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series with what amounted to a 21/2-man starting rotation - Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer, who was pitching with a drone-damaged pinky on his pitching hand.

    When it comes to adjusting the start time for Tuesday's intrasquad game at Progressive Field to make room for a Justin Timberlake concert, that's small potatoes. Timberlake is performing at The Q across the plaza from Progressive Field and a lot of players have tickets.

    "Most of the guys wanted to go to a concert that night," said Francona. "That's OK with me. Kluber came and told me. He said if it gets in the way (we can forget it). I told him, 'No, it's not going to get in the way.'"

    Francona said he will not attend the concert, but here's how Tuesday will unfold for the Indians as they prepare to face the Astros in the best-of-five ALDS on Oct. 5 at Minute Maid Park.

    Q. What the start time?

    A. Probably sometime around 3 p.m.

    Q. What about pre-game activities?

    A. "We'll probably come out and hit and take ground balls around noon," said Francona. "Then we'll go in grab a sandwich and then come out and play a game."

    Q. Is the public invited?

    A. The Indians had discussed the idea, but decided against it. Team employees have been invited.

    Francona said they'll use the scoreboard. Andre Knott, SportsTime Ohio's Indians reporter, will be working the dugout as well.

    Q. How many innings will the game last?

    A. "We don't know how many innings because we don't know how much work guys will need," said Francona. "But I'm guessing it will be six or seven innings, so we can get everybody a couple of at-bats."

    Q. How will the Indians' roster be divided into two teams?

    A. "We'll play our starting lineup as one team against everybody else," said Francona.

    Q. Who is going to manage the other team?

    A. "We're all going to stay in one dugout just so we can (manage) both. We want it to be as normal as we can so Sarbie (third base coach Mike Sarbaugh) can give signs to guys and things like that," said Francona.

    Q. Does Francona worry about the injury factor in an intrasquad game with the postseason at hand?

    A. "Yes, I do, but I (worry) more about having four days off (between end of the regular season on Sunday the start of the postseason on Oct. 5)," he said. "That bothers me. I don't think you put your best foot forward playing in a game (on Oct. 5) because the speed of the game is so drastically different, even compared to these games right now, and I don't want that to affect us. So, I think it's something we need to do."

     


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    The American superstars suddenly looked cold and tired and defeated, a mere shadow of the group that swaggered through the morning losing only a single point in fourballs. Watch video

    SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France -- Jim Furyk surveyed the waning moments of his marvelous team taking the worst beatdown in France since Marie Antoinette recommended everyone stick to cake.

    He somehow forced a weak smile.

    Maybe it was the only way to keep from crying.

    Maybe he was trying to suppress the doomed feeling that sweeps over so many U.S. Ryder Cup captains when they realize what they've gotten themselves into.

    As the winds started to whip across Le Golf National, the Europeans clearly felt right at home. And just like that, Furyk's group of American superstars suddenly looked cold and tired and defeated, a mere shadow of the group that swaggered through the morning losing only a single point in fourballs.

    The afternoon foursomes quickly turned into a rout of historic proportions, the scoreboard filling with blue numbers -- Europe's color -- as one U.S. team after another wilted away.

    By the time it finished -- and if you were waiting for a match at the 17th or 18th holes, you didn't even see a shot -- the Europeans had swept all four points in a session for the first time since 1989. For the first time ever, they tossed a shutout in foursomes, the format where two players take turns striking a single ball.

    "We didn't play our best golf," Furyk said in an epic understatement. "What happened, I think it happens a lot in golf, is the momentum. You start seeing those putts go in. You start seeing the birdies. You start seeing the blue numbers on the board. I think the guys press a little too hard."

    Thankfully for the Americans, it was only Friday. As Furyk rightfully pointed out, there's plenty of time to rally over the next two days, with 20 points still on the table for a U.S. team that needs a 14-14 tie to retain the prize it recaptured two years ago at Hazeltine.

    For now, Europe's lead is just 5-3.

    It only seems like a lot more.

    "We've played for eight points so far out of 28," Furyk said, looking for any bright spot he could find. "The event's still pretty young."

    To predict the Americans are all done would be pure folly. This is an immensely talented team, filled with major champions (including Tiger Woods for the first since 2012) and 11 of the top 17 players in the world golf rankings.

    They didn't suddenly forget how to play this game during one lost afternoon in the Paris suburbs.

    "I think our guys will respond, I really do," Furyk said hopefully. "Obviously, it's going to leave a sour taste in their mouth tonight and they have to sleep on that. We'll come back tomorrow, and I bet we'll be fine."

    But Furyk certainly has some issues to sort out, most notably what role Phil Mickelson will play the rest of the weekend.

    At age 48, Lefty is the oldest player at the Ryder Cup. He has only one victory in the last five-plus years. His driving statistics are atrocious, which is really a hindrance on the Albatross course, with its tight fairways and thick rough.

    Mickelson sat out the morning session, then came out in the afternoon paired with Bryson DeChambeau. They turned in a brutal performance against Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren, losing five straight holes to make the turn 7 down. A couple of late birdies were mainly for pride. The Europeans romped to a 5-and-4 victory.

    "I thought if we could shoot around par, it would be a heck of a day," Mickelson said. "We played poorly on the front, but they shot 4 under. It was just some very impressive golf, and we just didn't keep up."

    Furyk expressed no regrets about picking Mickelson for the team, pointing to a resume that's better than anyone in the team room except Woods. But it might be a good idea to sit him for both sessions Saturday and hope he can muster some of the old magic for the singles competition on Sunday.

    "I realize the golf course is tight. I realize you have to hit a lot of fairways," Furyk said. "It's also a place where you're probably not hitting a lot of drivers if you're Phil Mickelson. You're hitting a lot of 3-woods and a lot of irons. Looking at his game, he's a very good iron player, so I felt comfortable."

    Furyk pointed out that the Mickelson-DeChambeau pairing wasn't much worse than the other U.S. foursome teams. He certainly had a point.

    Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler managed only one birdie in their 3-and-2 loss to Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose. Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson had just two in a 4-and-2 loss to Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter. Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas were downright atrocious, coughing up four bogeys and a single bogey in their 5-and-4 blowout at the hands of Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood.

    "Their scores," Furyk said of Mickelson and DeChambeau, "were pretty similar to pretty much the best scores we had on the team."

    Tiger Woods wins PGA Tour Championship; his first win since 2013

    There were also questions about Woods' health.

    Coming off his thrilling victory at the Tour Championship, he teamed with Patrick Reed in the morning -- the only U.S. fourballs loss, it turned out -- but sat in the afternoon. Furyk dismissed any speculation that Woods' surgically repaired back was acting up again, or that he'll be limited to one round a day as a precaution.

    Woods will be back on the course Saturday morning for another fourballs session. After that, Furyk will have some decisions to make. Does he let Woods play again? Does he bench Mickelson?

    "We're making a game plan," Furyk said. "We'll figure it out."

    There's still time.

    -- By Doug Ferguson, AP golf writer


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    Indians outfielders started carrying their personalized scouting reports onto the field when them about two or three months ago.

    KANSAS CITY - Indians' outfielders will go into the postseason this year carrying their scouting reports with them.

    Before each game Mark Budzinski prepares baseball card-sized scouting reports for each of the Tribe's outfielders. He puts them in plastic card holders and leaves them at each outfielder's locker.

    If you've noticed an outfielder with his head down between pitches looking at his hand, he hasn't sneaked a cell phone onto the field to order a postgame pizza. He's checking out where he should be positioned against the next batter.

    More and more teams have been doing this over the last couple of seasons.

    "We started doing it two or three months ago," said Budzinski, completing his first year on manager Terry Francona's coaching staff. "Millsie (Brad Mills, bench coach) and I talked about it. We had seen some other teams do it the last couple of years, so we came to the decision to do it."

    The front office championed the move as well.

    "A couple of guys had asked about it," said Budzinski. "I think it actually started with Tyler Naquin. He said, 'It would be helpful to know where I'm headed next after a play.' So, we created them and kept them very simple."

    Budzinski said the Indians still want their outfielders to develop their own skills about positioning, getting good jumps on balls, judging the wind and studying player's swings.

    "After we created them we said, 'If we make them, just be sure to keep looking into the dugout in case we want to make an adjustment on the fly,'" said Budzinski. "We told them if you see anything on the fly go with your gut and instincts. That's the reason you're out there."

    Some outfielders use them. Some don't. Veteran left fielder Michael Brantley doesn't use them, but Rajai Davis, another veteran, does.

    "We leave it up to them," said Budzinski.

    Said rookie Greg Allen, "It has all the other team's hitters on there and where they want us to play them. They have what they do against left-handed and right-handed pitchers and it can be adjusted during the game. It's not written in stone.

    "If you see something happening with a hitter or pitcher that day, you can shift something. It can help you. After you get through the lineup two or three times, you tend to remember where you want to play guys. It's just a visual reference."

    Budzinski said the cards contain the latest information available to the Indians.

    "Every series I look at outfield balls put in play by the other team's hitters," said Budzinski. "Then we're also looking at the matchups. Is there any history there based on where they hit the ball? They're made every day based on the latest information."

    A basic card contains the opposition team's starting lineup and the bench players. There a left-handed pitcher side and a right-handed pitcher side. Separate cards are made for the left fielder, center fielders and right fielder.

    Players keep the cards in their back pockets. During the hot weather, the information on the cards tended to fade because the players were sweating. Budzinski adjusted on the fly and put the cards in plastic card protectors.

    Gonzalez update: Erik Gonzalez is not expected to play in the Tribe's final three regular season games. He was hit on the head by a pitch Wednesday night against the White Sox and is in MLB concussion protocol.

    Francona said Gonzalez may be available to play in Tuesday's intrasquad game at Progressive Field.

    Gonzalez was in the clubhouse Friday afternoon playing cards.

    Stop thief: The Indians went into Friday's game leading the big leagues with 132 steals. They have four players with 20 or more steals in Jose Ramirez (34), Francisco Lindor (23) and Allen and Davis with 21 each.

    Francona likes that feature of his offense, but he likes another speed element even more.

    "It's not just the stolen bases," he said. "It's the fact that you can steal, so they have to defend it. But then it's going first to third base. That's the biggest thing, I think, for me. I think that creates momentum in your offense. It's just so much easier to score when you have runners on first and third than when you have runners on first and second. It just makes it hard on the other team because they have to defend so much."

    The Indians have never led the big leagues in steals.

    Let's talk: Francona has been meeting with select players to tell them if they're on or off the ALDS roster. As he said Thursday, he's going to wait until the end of the regular season to make an official announcement.

    The Tribe's final roster doesn't have to be submitted to the commissioner's office until the morning of Oct. 5.

    Don't walk (off) this way: The Indians have lost 13 games in walk-off fashion this season. It's the second most in the big leagues next to the Twins, who have lost 15 such games. It's the most walk-off losses for the Indians since 1925. ... Josh Donaldson had his first three-hit game for the Indians in Thursday's 2-1 loss.


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    Josh Donaldson highlights a 10-run seventh inning by the Indians on Friday night with a grand slam. It was the Indians' 11th slam of the season.

    KANSAS CITY - There are two games left in the regular season as the Indians prepare to play Houston the ALDS.

    They have been in a version of spring training since clinching the AL Central title on Sept. 15. That much free time has led to some interesting lineups and even more interesting outcomes.

    In the last four games of this final trip of the regular season, the Indians have fallen into a unique pattern. They either win by blowout or lose by walk-off.

    Friday night the blowout ruled as the Indians beat Kansas City, 14-6, to win their 90th game. The Indians have won 90 or more games for the last three years.

    In the dwindling days of the season, personal goals have been achieved. Edwin Encarnacion reached 100 RBI, Corey Kluber won 20 games and Mike Clevinger reached 200 innings. Clevinger ended last year in the ALDS bullpen for the Indians. But he made it clear last winter and in spring training that the bullpen was not the place for him.

    He was thinking of the starting rotation and 200 innings. Well, he made both.

    In his 32nd and final regular season start of the season, Clevinger (13-8, 3.02) allowed one run on three hits in 6 2/3 innings. He retired the first two Royals in the seventh before allowing a double to Ryan O'Hearn. Manager Terry Francona must have had his calculator working in the dugout because those two outs gave Clevinger 200 innings and his night ended after O'Hearn's double.

    Jason Kipnis gave the Indians a 1-0 lead with a leadoff homer off Ian Kennedy (3-9, 4.05) in the third inning. It gave Kipnis 18 homers and 75 RBI for the season.

    The score was still 1-0 when the Indians scored 10 runs in the seventh inning off three Royals pitchers. The last time they scored 10 runs in an inning was on Sept. 30, 2012 against the Royals in the fifth inning at Progressive Field.

    Josh Donaldson opened the inning with a double and eight batters later circled the inning with a yellow highlighter by hitting a grand slam into the seats hanging over the Indians bullpen in left field. Two more runs scored on a throwing error by O'Hearn on Francisco Lindor's grounder to first.

    The Indians added three more runs in the ninth. They finished the night with 16 hits. Donaldson drove in four runs and Roberto Perez three.

    But the night did not end quietly or quickly.

    Cody Allen started the ninth with a strikeout, but that was the last out he recorded as the next four Royals reached base. Adam Plutko relieved and gave up a grand slam to Brian Goodwin.

    What it means

    It has been a year of extremes for the Indians. Donaldson's slam was their 11th of the season. On Thursday night, they lost for the 13th time in walk-off fashion.

    The Indians are tied for first with Cincinnati for the MLB lead in slams and rank second in walk-off losses to the Twins, who have 15.

    The pitches

    Kennedy threw 102 pitches, 72 (71 percent) for strikes. Clevinger threw 102 pitches, 72 (72 percent) for strikes.

    Thanks for coming

    The Indians and Royals drew 15,920 fans to Kauffman Stadium. First pitch was at 8:10 p.m. with a temperature of 57 degrees.

    Next

    Kluber (20-7, 2.83) will face the Royals and right-hander Jakob Junis (8-12, 4.42) on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. SportsTime Ohio, WTAM and WMMS will carry the game.

    Kluber, who won his 20th game in his last start, is 3-1 with a 3.24 ERA in four starts against the Royals this season. Junis, 1-2 with a 5.58 ERA against the Tribe, has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 10 of his last 12 starts.


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    A soft regular season has helped the Indians prepare for the playoffs.

    ABOUT THE REGULAR SEASON

    The Indians are coming to the end of one of their strangest seasons -- ever.

    It feels as if they haven't played a big game since the 2017 ALDS series with the Yankees.

    Tribe fans painfully remember how their team was up 2-0 in the best-of-5 series, then lost the last three games to New York.

    The 2018 season began with the goal of getting back to the playoffs...and reaching the World Series.

    Because the Central Division was so pathetic, by July 4 there was no doubt the Tribe was headed back to the playoffs. No one else in Central Division could even manage a winning record.

    Unlike the NBA, baseball rewards its six division winners. They don't have the 1-game playoff facing the four wild card teams.

    I still remember the Tribe ending the 2013 season with a 10-game winning streak. They finished the regular season with a 92-70 record.

    That gave them home field for a one-game Wild Card playoff game -- and they lost, 4-0, to Tampa Bay.

    Season over. One and done.

    That's why the Indians winning the Central Division is meaningful for the playoffs, setting them up to face Houston in the best-of-5 ALDS.

    It's been a fun year to watch different players.

    1. Corey Kluber won 20 games.

    2. Edwin Encarnacion drove in 100 runs.

    3. Jose Ramirez played liked an MVP for four months.

    4. Francisco Lindor is building a Hall of Fame career.

    5. Trevor Bauer looked like a Cy Young award contender until he was hit with a line drive.

    6. Michael Brantley made a remarkable comeback from major ankle surgery.

    My guess is you also have your favorite players and moments for this team that went into the weekend with 90 victories.

    But the last six weeks of the season have felt like six months. Or maybe another spring training. The games have meant almost nothing in terms of the standings.

    Terry Francona admitted he has been trying to prepare certain players for the post-season rather than making the moves needed to win the game that day.

    "I hate it," Francona told the media. "I'm tired of this."

    Why?

    "I can't wait until we start playing games where we can do what we're supposed to do," he said.

    He meant playing to win rather than having guys pitch a few innings after an injury. Or acting as if this was spring training, part two.

    How will this impact the Indians for the playoffs?

    That's a huge question because the regular season gives no clues.

    LOOKING BACK

    It's been a long time since this team has been challenged. You have to go back to 2017. There are several reasons they lost to the Yankees:

    1. Encarnacion suffered a sprained ankle in Game 2 and missed the rest of the playoffs.

    2. Ramirez and Lindor were 4-of-38 (.105) with one HR and four RBI.

    3. Brantley was playing hurt and was 1-for-11.

    4. Gio Urshela was playing third base and made two costly errors in Game 5.

    5. As a team, the Indians batted .171 and scored only five total runs in the last three games (all losses).

    But I wonder if the series would have been different with a healthy Kluber.

    The Indians and Kluber insisted nothing was wrong with their Cy Young Award winner, even though they pushed his start back to Game 2. That led to Bauer starting on three days rest, and a rather messy rotation.

    Kluber had a back problem. He had a 12.79 ERA in two post-season starts.

    Kluber finished this season with a 20-7 record and a 2.83 ERA. He was 8-2 with a 2.95 ERA after the All-Star break.

    He looks healthy. That could be the difference in the Houston series.

    And this year, there is no discussion about someone else starting the playoff opener for the Tribe.

    Cleveland Indians vs. Boston Red Sox - September 22, 2018So far, the Josh Donaldson experiment has been working for the Tribe.  

    ABOUT JOSH DONALDSON

    1. Donaldson doesn't appear to have any problems from those cranky calf muscles that kept him out of action from the end of May until September. The Indians traded for Donaldson hoping he'd be healthy for the playoffs. He is a career .292 hitter (.836 OPS) in 31 postseason games.

    2. Donaldson has looked good at third base. That is another indication he's healthy.

    3. Donaldson has batted .295 (13-for-44) with three HR and seven RBI. He's played only 13 games, and this really has been spring training for him. He's had one game where he drew three walks. He has had two infield hits. He has hit the ball pretty hard. It's encouraging.

    4. Ramirez moved from third to second. He's not played as well at second as he has in the past, although the Indians don't think that will be a major issue.

    5. You can argue that Ramirez is hitting .163 (7-for-43) since moving to second base. But he was in a slump long before the switch. He's hitting only .224 since the All-Star break. It was .302 before the break.

    6. The Indians don't think fatigue will be a problem for Ramirez. The team has four days off before the playoffs open Friday in Houston. His swing appears long and a little slow. Overall, Ramirez is having a tremendous season: .274 (.949 OPS) with 38 HR and 104 RBI. He's also stolen 33 bases. But the Indians need a hot Jose Ramirez in the postseason.

    7. Jason Kipnis has been OK in center. If the Indians have a lead, they will replace him for defense with Greg Allen. It's been a difficult year for Kipnis (.228, 17 HR, 74 RBI). Since Aug. 1, he's been better at the plate: .245 (.785 OPS) with eight HR and 32 RBI in 47 games.

    8. The Indians have known for weeks they were likely to face Houston. And they know the defending World Series champions are loaded with talent. That's why they made the deal for Donaldson, understanding the veteran also could end up injured again. They wanted to add power to the lineup to avoid the type of offensive meltdown they had a year ago.

    REASONS FOR HOPE

    1. Andrew Miller looks very close to being in top form. Before the All-Star break, the reliever had a 4.40 ERA in 14 innings. He was dealing with knee and shoulder problems. Since the All-Star break, the ERA is 2.37 with 21 strikeouts in 19 innings.

    2. Having the Central Division under control also allowed the Indians to give Brad Hand some rest. And time for Cody Allen to find his missing curveball. The idea is to have three closer-caliber relievers to dominate games in the final 3-4 innings. Allen has not allowed a run in 10 1/3 innings before a rough performance Friday night.

    3. Hand is 0-1 with a 2.36 ERA and has converted 8-of-10 saves for the Indians since joining them at the end of July. Francona doesn't seem set on any one pitcher as his closer. My guess is he'll alternate between Hand and Allen. He'll save Miller for key parts of the game in the middle innings.

    4. Bauer has been making a strong comeback from his broken foot. He is set to make his third relief appearance Sunday in Kansas City, the last regular season game. The Indians haven't made their plans known for Bauer. I do expect him to start either Game 3 or 4 vs. Houston, unless he has a physical setback.

    5. The Astros have the best pitching staff in the American League (3.13 ERA). The Indians are No. 4 (3.74 ERA). The starters are Houston (3.20 ERA) and the Tribe (3.40 ERA) ranking as the top two rotations. That's why it's imperative for the Indians to have their bullpen in order. It has been shaky for much of the year.


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    The Browns are aiming to make the Raiders go 0-4 on Sunday. Watch video

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- For once, the Browns are on the right end of a matchup featuring a winless team.

    They'll visit the 0-3 Raiders on Sunday and try not to become the first team to lose to them this season.

    In the video above, Browns players discuss the keys to beating Oakland, including trying to pick off quarterback Derek Carr and limiting running back Marshawn Lynch.

    The Raiders traded fearsome pass-rusher Khalil Mack to the Bears, but defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will do everything in his power to confuse and rattle rookie Baker Mayfield in his first NFL start.

    Riley on Mayfield: 'He can be as good as he wants to be'

    The Browns lead the NFL with 11 takeaways, and will try to increase that total on Sunday. Christian Kirksey, who will return to the field after missing two games with an ankle and shoulder injury, says it's time for the defense to take it to the next level and score some points of their own.


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    So in a season of "wins and lessons," Smith's new teammates have the ideal example of what not to do.

    INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- JR Smith threw soup at assistant coach Damon Jones. He had a major gaffe at the end of NBA Finals Game 1 that turned him into an Internet meme. He allegedly tossed a fan's cell phone into a construction site in July. 

    And that was just in the last year.

    Truth is, Smith could fill a novel with his career mistakes. Who can forget Milwaukee a few years ago when Smith went over to greet Jason Terry on the Bucks' bench while play was going on? What about the time he untied an opponent's shoe while at the free-throw line? Smith's suspension in the 2015 playoffs, stemming from a violent and uncalled-for swing that connected with Boston's Jae Crowder, nearly cost the Cavs in the conference semifinals.

    The list goes on. But you get the point. His antics over the years were too much for New Orleans, Denver and New York. Will they become too much for Cleveland?

    In a season of "wins and lessons," Smith's new teammates, at the very least, have the ideal example of what not to do.

    "If I ain't a lesson teacher I don't know who is," Smith said recently. "Obviously I've made tons of mistakes throughout my life on and off the court. If you can't learn from my mistakes and listen to what I have to say, then more power to you and God bless you."

    With LeBron James in Los Angeles and youngsters added to the roster this off-season, the Cavaliers are looking for more on-court leadership.

    Smith is 33, one of the veterans on this team. Kevin Love, Channing Frye, Tristan Thompson and Smith are all that remains from the 2016 title Cavaliers.

    "Obviously we had somebody who everybody looked up to and idolized," Smith said of James. "At the same time, I get a lot of these guys in here that were in fourth or fifth grade when I came into the league. Like, 'I remember you doing this, that and the third.' As weird as it sounds I still am appreciative for the younger group and the youth and it makes me want to work that much harder so they can see how I've been able to stick since they were that age to where they are at now."

    Smith admits it's a "whirlwind" to think he's one of the elders on this roster. But he doesn't take it for granted. He's saying all the right things heading into the season. And to his credit, Smith has always owned up to his faults.

    Only words have never been the problem. It's living up to them. This season, with the growth of Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr. and others being placed at the forefront, there won't be room for nonsense. The vets need to set the tone and show the way.

    With a handful of players eyeing Smith's shooting guard spot, there will be even less margin for error.

    "For me every day is a lesson," Smith said. "Coming here and learning my teammates, learning my trainers and still can learn from everybody. Can learn loyalty, can learn respect, can learn trust and all those things that factor on the basketball court. If you can't trust the next guy, then it's not going to work. If I can't trust Kev to be there, send it down and my man scores I can't look at him and say, 'Kev what the hell are you doing?' And he can't do vice versa to me then it's not going to work. Been like that since Day One. That's basketball 101.

    "No one thing you can sit there and point out because so many things you learn throughout the course of a season."

    For Smith, it's been more than most.


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    Here is my prediction for the Browns and Raiders. Watch video

    OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Browns have not won two games in a row since 2014. That's an impressive streak and it just sums up the futility of this team since the last time they were in first place in the AFC North.

    Beating the Jets was a big hurdle to clear. The Browns won a game they were supposed to win, even if it took a dramatic change at the game's most important position and a second-half comeback. I wrote earlier this week that the next big hurdle is stacking wins.

    The Raiders have played two close games in a row, blowing double digit leads in each game. That said, there isn't a ton on this football team that jumps off the page, especially with the inconsistencies of Amari Cooper. This is not a particularly dynamic offense from a scoring standpoint.

    The Browns, meanwhile, played energized when Baker Mayfield came into the game last week. That isn't necessarily a sustainable thing -- eventually, he's just your starting quarterback and it's about him being really good, not him bringing a burst of energy.

    It's impossible, though, to not notice the differences in the offense with Mayfield. Receivers play different when they know that the ball could come their way at any moment -- if you're open, Mayfield will find you, whether you're Jarvis Landry or Orson Charles. The running game opens up when the defense can't stack the box, as the Jets did in the first half.

    This is a stretch of games where the Browns realistically have a shot. Check the Jets off. The Raiders are still trying to find themselves. Baltimore is as week-to-week a team as there is early in the season. The schedule toughens up after that, so this game is important if the Browns hope to really make this season interesting.

    The Browns will do what they're supposed to do on Sunday.

    My pick: Browns 24, Raiders 20.

    My record: 1-1-1.


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