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

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    What a show Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood produced at the Ryder Cup on Saturday.

    SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France -- Europe's latest Ryder Cup sensation is called "Moliwood," and what a show Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood produced at the Ryder Cup on Saturday.

    And now for the final act.

    Molinari and Fleetwood became the first European tandem to win all four matches, leading their team to the brink of regaining the Ryder Cup from an American team that had to rally just to keep the score close.

    Tiger Woods hasn't won any of his three matches.

    Phil Mickelson didn't even play.

    Europe filled the board with blue in the morning, eventually winning three of the four matches in fourballs for its largest three-session lead in 14 years. It held on in foursomes, with Henrik Stenson delivering clutch putts in the only match that was close.

    At the end of two days, Europe had a 10-6 lead.

    The score should sound familiar.

    That's the same deficit Europe faced in 2012 at Medinah when it produced the largest comeback on foreign soil. The Americans have never made up that much ground away from home, though they were the first to win after trailing 10-6, at Brookline in 1999 when they front-loaded the Sunday lineup with their biggest stars.

    And that was on the mind of European captain Thomas Bjorn, even as he was drowned out by thousands of fans using what was left of their voices to sing, "Ole, ole, ole, ole," the European anthem for these matches that Americans have heard far too often.

    "I've seen too many times what the singles game does," Bjorn said. "We used a lot of energy these days. We go ahead tomorrow and focus on what's ahead and not what's done."

    Even so, he couldn't contain a smile.

    Europe brought five rookies to Le Golf National who sure didn't seem like them -- Alex Noren and Fleetwood were the last two French Open champions on the Albatross Course -- and certainly didn't play like them.

    "We're really, really, really happy with how it's gone these past two days," Bjorn said.

    If not for Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, the Americans might really be in trouble. They pulled ahead in a tight fourballs match to beat Ian Poulter and Jon Rahm for the lone American point in the morning that prevented Europe from a second straight sweep of a team session. They rallied from an early deficit against Poulter and Rory McIlroy in foursomes, with both delivering key shots and big putts. With four birdies over their last five holes, they won 4 and 3.

    "They had a six-point lead, and now it's four," Spieth said. "So we are carrying that as a little bit of momentum, I guess. Early wins tomorrow go a long way."

    Mickelson will have to shake off some rust. He hasn't played since Friday in a foursomes loss that lasted only 14 holes. U.S. captain Jim Furyk said he would shake up the order for Saturday afternoon foursomes, and that meant keeping Lefty on the bench.

    It was the second time in as many Ryder Cups in Europe that Mickelson, who holds the Ryder Cup record with 12 appearances, did not play on Saturday.

    Woods played twice, and at times it looked as though he were playing by himself.

    Patrick Reed went from "Captain America" to looking more like "Private Patrick," taking himself out of holes in the fourballs session with too many shots into the gnarly rough, in the water and one out-of-bounds.

    That wasn't enough to contend against "Moliwood." The fourballs match was all square until Molinari ran off three straight birdies. The foursomes match was never close, as Fleetwood delivered big putts to win holes, each time turning to the crowd in a crouch, dropping both arms and pumping them wildly.

    They were 5 up at the turn over Woods and DeChambeau, and a brief rally only delayed the inevitable.

    Most peculiar about the matches in this Ryder Cup is that only two of the 16 matches have reached the 18th hole, and each match has been won outright.

    Woods has failed to win seven consecutive matches, dating to his singles victory against Molinari in Wales in 2010. Woods, coming off an inspiring victory at the Tour Championship for his first title since his litany of back surgeries, has looked flat in the Paris suburbs.

    He hasn't had much help, but he also missed key putts around the turn that allowed Europe to build a big lead.

    "Everything feels pretty good," Woods said. "Just pretty (ticked) off, the fact that I lost three matches and didn't feel like I played poorly. That's the frustrating thing about match play. We ran against two guys that were both playing well."

    The rest of the Europe wasn't too shabby.

    By Doug Ferguson, AP Golf Writer


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    Jose Ramirez has had a great overall season, but at the moment he's in the throes of a six-week slump that threatens to hurt the Indians' ALDS chances with the Houston Astros.

    With playoff baseball right around the corner, cleveland.com is taking a look at the biggest issues facing Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians. As the 2018 regular season winds down, the answers to these questions will reveal whether or not the Tribe is Ready for October.

    KANSAS CITY - An aerial view of Jose Ramirez's season is breathtaking.

    He's done the Triple 100 - 100 runs (108), 100 RBI (105) and 100 walks (106). He's hit 38 home runs and stolen 34 bases to become just the third player in team history to do 30-30 in one season.

    "There are guys who go their whole careers and not have a season where they score 100 runs or drive in 100 runs or walk 100 times," said Ty Van Burkleo, Indians hitting coach. "He's done all three in one season. That's pretty impressive."

    But at this moment, with the Indians set for a date with the Houston Astros in the best-of-five ALDS on Friday at Minute Maid Park, Jose Ramirez watchers inside and outside the organization are concerned. As great a season as he's had, Ramirez is reeling in the midst of a six-week slump that shows no sign of stopping.

    The two-time starting third baseman for AL All-Star team is hitting .161 (22-for-137) since Aug. 14. His power has vanished - seven doubles, one triple and two homers during the slide - and his average has dropped from .305 to .270.

    "Guys will go into slumps," said Van Burkleo. "He's a good hitter. Sometimes you get pitched to so carefully that you lose that conviction, that aggressiveness. You get a little passive."

    Have opposing pitchers found a way to stop Ramirez simply by not pitching to him? Ramirez has walked 49 times, tying him with New York's Aaron Hicks, for the most in the AL since the All-Star break. Overall, his 106 walks rank second in the league next to Mike Trout's 122.

    Ramirez went into the break hitting .302 (107-for-371) with 26 doubles, 29 homers, 70 RBI and a 1.029 OPS. With just two games left in the regular season, he's hitting .217 (46-for-212) with 12 doubles, nine homers, 35 RBI and a .789 OPS since then.

    "No one is pitching him in at all," said Van Burkleo. "Everything is soft away, soft away. But he's such a good hitter. On Thursday night he's 3-0 and gets a fastball up, a little bit off the plate. He's able to drive it far enough for a sacrifice fly and get the job done."

    The sacrifice fly came in the first inning and was the Indians' only run in a 2-1 loss to the Royals in 10 innings. In Saturday night's 14-6 win, Ramirez went 0-for-4 with a run and a walk.

    "When (reporters) say Josie is struggling, he's struggling to get hits," said shortstop Francisco Lindor. "But he keeps getting walks. He walks almost every game and he has good at-bats. It's just when he hits the ball, they're not (falling). So, he's getting on base. He's still scoring runs.

    "It's a slump, but it's a slump of hits - not a slump of helping the team win. He's helping the team win on a daily basis. He gets two walks or he gets one walk and then he steals a base and scores."

    But there is more at work in Ramirez's slump than walks. He's led the Indians in walks every month since April and it never hurt his production before. Here are his monthly batting averages and walks: April .289 with 14 walks; May .336 with 17 walks; June .267 with 20 walks; July .322 with 19 walks; August .245 with 18 walks and September .167 with 18 walks.

    Jose RamirezTeammate Francisco Lindor on how Jose Ramirez is handling his slump: "He's still crazy Josie, loud Josie. He's fine.''

    Ramirez finished third in the AL in MVP voting last year. He hit .318 (186-for-585) with 107 runs, 56 doubles, six triples, 29 homers, 83 RBI, 17 steals and a .957 OPS. This year he's hitting .270 (154-for-570) with 108 runs, 38 doubles, four triples, 38 homers, 105 RBI, 34 steals and a .939 OPS.

    Fangraphs.com shows that 50.5 percent of the balls that the switch-hitter Ramirez has put in play this year have been pulled to either left or right field. That's a career high and suggests Ramirez has gotten a little pull happy.

    Ramirez has also set career highs for soft contact (18.3 percent) and infield flies (13.2 percent) on balls he's put in play. That suggests some frustration may have crept into Ramirez's swing because he's being pitched to so carefully.

    "He's going through a period when it seems like he's 1-2 or 0-2 every time he goes to the plate," said manager Terry Francona. "That will change."

    The one thing Ramirez has not done is abandon the strike zone. He's struck out 79 times compared to 106 walks. The 79 strikeouts are a career high, but in an era when most power hitters have 100 strikeouts by the break, Ramirez still controls the strike zone.

    Among the AL's top 12 home run hitters, Ramirez ranks fifth. He is the only one with fewer than 100 strikeouts. Joey Gallo has 40 homers and 207 strikeouts. Giancarlo Stanton has 38 homers and 210 strikeouts.

    Ramirez was nursing a quadriceps injury early in the season, but he's for all accounts healthy.

    "I think he's tired," said one scout. "He plays awfully hard. I don't see anything physically wrong with him, but he had such a hot start that there was bound to be a downturn. I think there's been a little bit of a downturn since he moved to second base. There's a little more to think about defensively at second base.

    "He's had a great season. He's going to finish in the top 10 in the MVP voting. I just think he's tired."

    Ramirez officially made the move from third to second on Sept. 11, but it had been in the works since the Indians acquired Josh Donaldson from Toronto on Aug. 31. Sources outside the organization felt one of the positives of the deal was Ramirez moving to his natural position at second base. Last season he made 86 starts at third and 65 at second for injured Jason Kipnis. He played so well at second that when Kipnis returned, the Indians moved him to center field.

    This time around Ramirez has not looked comfortable. He still turns the double play well, but he's had trouble on routine grounders and going back on pop ups.

    As for Ramirez's attitude, Van Burkleo said, "He's handling this like a pro ... like a pro."

    Added Lindor, "He's still crazy Josie, loud Josie. He's fine. He's got a few more goals to reach and he'll get those."

    Last year Ramirez went through an 8-for-60 slump from Aug. 5-23. He finished the season on a hot streak, hitting .400 (46-for-115). In the ALDS, however, he was worked over by the Yankees, hitting .100 (2-for-20) with two runs, no RBI and no extra-base hits.

    Right now, all the Indians can do is wait. The worst-case scenario is that Ramirez's slump carries into the ALDS against the Astros. The best-case scenario?

    "It's just a matter of time," said Van Burkleo. "When he comes out of his slump, he comes out. He'll hit .400 for six weeks."

    More Ready for October posts:

    What can Josh Donaldson bring to the Indians in October?

    Is Jason Kipnis the Tribe's best option in center?

    Who should be the Tribe's 4 starting pitchers in the ALDS?

    Does Terry Francona plan to rest starters down the stretch?

    Will the Tribe get vintage Andrew Miller for its playoff push?

    How will Cody Allen's September sabbatical help in the postseason?

    Which Houston Astros pitchers have had the most success against Indians pitchers?

    How will Houston Astros pitchers attack Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez in the ALDS?

    Which Indians hitters have had the most success against Houston's pitchers?


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    Smith angrily added a middle finger emoji at the end of his message. But he wasn't done just yet.

    INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Cleveland Cavaliers swingman JR Smith vented on social media Saturday afternoon after hearing from the league office about one of his new tattoos.

    "So I was informed today that I would be fined every game if I don't cover up my Supreme Tattoo on my leg during these games," Smith wrote with three laughing emojis on Instagram. "These people in the league office are something else."

    Smith angrily added a middle finger emoji at the end of his message. But he wasn't done just yet.

    "I swear I'm the only person they do s--- like this to," he said. "So you mean to tell me I have to cover up my tattoo for what? You don't make people cover up Jordan logos, NIKE checks or anything else but because it's me it's a problem all of a sudden!!! S--- whack."

    A league spokesman told cleveland.com that "NBA rules prohibit players from displaying any commercial logos or corporate insignia on their body or in their hair."

    Smith got the clothing brand's tattoo, which he has been modeling for as part of the brand's recent collaboration with Nike, on the back of his right calf this summer.

    He told Complex that the company is not actually paying him and he just wanted some fresh ink. 

    "There was a lot behind it," Smith said. "People were like, 'Are they paying you for it?' and I was like, 'No,' so they were like, 'What are you doing it for?' And I was like, 'That's who I am. That's why I am who I am.' It worked out."

    View this post on Instagram

    #Work #SupremeTeam

    A post shared by JR Smith (@teamswish) on

    The Cavs play their first preseason game on Tuesday night. It's a national television broadcast against the Boston Celtics. They will play their first regular season matchup of the season in Toronto against the improved Raptors on Oct. 17.

    According to The Athletic, Smith plans to speak with the league about the situation. 


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    George Hill, JR Smith and Larry Nance Jr. were wearing wine-colored jerseys during Saturday's practice. But figuring out the first team for the Cavs is far from simple. Watch video

    INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- When the doors popped open to the practice facility Saturday afternoon, George Hill, JR Smith and Larry Nance Jr. were wearing wine-colored jerseys.

    In past years, that was the color worn by starters, with the reserves wearing white -- the same hue worn by Sam Dekker, Collin Sexton, Ante Zizic and a handful of others this afternoon.

    Was this the first morsel of information about Lue's starting plans this season? Perhaps it's a touch too early in training camp to start making declarations. After all, the Cavs won't play their first regular-season game until Oct. 17. Sunday will be the annual Wine and Gold Scrimmage, which will be held at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, and may provide a few more clues.

    If these little nuggets aren't telling enough, maybe Lue's comments following Saturday's practice will be.

    "We've got guys fighting for positions and younger guys trying to show they belong," Lue said. "It's a different camp."

    So where are those battles?

    "All over the floor. All the positions are battling except Kevin (Love)," Lue said. "Kevin is locked into a position."

    That's a given. Love is the leader of this team. He's going to be the offensive focal point, and it appears the Cavs are set to start him at power forward. This is a different time in the NBA, with switching on defense and small-ball lineups becoming the norm. That means the Cavs will still use Love at center in late-game situations, especially when they need his scoring and spacing.

    But Lue hinted that it won't happen as frequently as year's past when the Cavs were trying to spread the floor for LeBron James and Kyrie Irving to create in isolation or drive-and-kick scenarios.

    Love's minutes at the 5 might also drop out of need -- at least, if you listen to new arrival Dekker.

    "They've been using me in a lot of ways, a lot at the 4," Dekker said. "Me and Kevin are really the only true 4 that we have, so that opens up some minutes there and opportunity there."

    Then there's this from Lue:

    "Well, with Tristan (Thompson) and Larry (Nance Jr.) this season, when we play the bigger guys like the (Joel) Embids and Dwight Howards and (Andre) Drummonds, Tristan will start," Lue said. "When we play the smaller 5s, Larry will start. Last year it kind of wore Larry down trying to guard those big guys the whole game.

    "That's a lot to ask for him to guard Dwight and Drummond and all those big guys, it's not fair to him, DeAndre Jordan and stuff like that. I talked to those guys before camp even started and kind of told them what the situation was."

    With those two comments it seems fair to draw this early conclusion: Love will start at the 4 with Dekker as his primary backup in a speedy, versatile second unit.

    That means either Nance or Thompson, who missed Saturday's practice with knee soreness, will be the starting center, depending on the matchup. The other non-starter that night will be the backup big.

    According to Lue, the Cavs are entering this season asking the center to drop or ICE the pick and roll. That will be beneficial for burly, slow-footed Ante Zizic if he receives playing time. The four other players will be expected to switch, just as the Cavs did during their successful playoff runs.

    Yes, that means Love possibly on a defensive island in certain situations.

    "He's been doing a good job of it, too," Lue said of Love's switching in training camp. "It never hurts to have somebody do something different.

    "The thing about it, I guess I can give you all the game plan. When Tristan's starting, that means there's a dominant 5, a physical 5, so Kevin wouldn't guard those guys, Tristan would. When we start Larry at the 5, we can put Kevin on those centers and Larry can guard the 4s and we can switch it. We've got a couple different things we want to look at."

    There was one more read-between-the-lines comment from Lue. Last season, the Cavaliers played Korver and Smith together. It allowed them to run double floppy, trying to get movement away from the ball. But when Lue was asked about playing the duo at the same time, he initially seemed against the idea.

    "I don't like it as much," Lue said. "I just don't like it as much."

    The logical conclusion is Korver and Smith will be staggered, trying to separate their minutes. Would Lue really put Smith on the second unit with Korver and have two of his veteran leaders fighting for the same minutes? That seems unlikely, which would point to Smith possibly opening the season in the starting group -- unless he gets bumped from the rotation entirely.

    Smith entered camp in a tenuous spot. Members of the organization were taking a wait-and-see approach. Coming off back-to-back poor seasons, he came into camp in better shape, having lost around 20 pounds, and seemed to have renewed energy. On Saturday, with Rodney Hood missing practice because he was sick, Smith was wearing the starter's color. 

    So the real question is this: Was Saturday a session filled with coach speak and misinformation or was Lue slowly revealing his lineup plan, allowing everyone to start connecting dots?

    If it truly was the latter, there aren't many spots left to figure out.   


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    Corey Kluber will make his final start of the regular season on Saturday night against the Royals with a chance to win a career-high 21 games.

    KANSAS CITY -- Here are the starting lineups for Saturday night's game between the Indians and Royals at Kauffman Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

    INDIANS

    SS Francisco Lindor.

    LF Michael Brantley.

    2B Jose Ramirez.

    DH Edwin Encarnacion.

    3B Josh Donaldson.

    1B Yonder Alonso.

    RF Melky Cabrera.

    C Yan Gomes.

    CF Jason Kipnis.

    RHP Corey Kluber, 20-7, 2.83.

    ROYALS

    2B Whit Merrifield.

    SS Adalberto Mondes.

    LF Alex Gordon.

    1B Hunter Dozier.

    DH Ryan O'Hearn.

    RF Jorge Bonifacio.

    CF Brian Goodwin.

    3B Alcides Escobar.

    C Meibrys Viloria.

    RHP Jakob Junis, 8-12, 4.42.

    UMPIRES

    H Mike Estabrook.

    1B Bruce Dreckman.

    2B Chad Fairchild.

    3B Kevin Danley.


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    No. 23-ranked Notre Dame moves to 5-0 and freshman running back Jaleel McLaughlin reaches the 1,000 yard mark. Watch video

    SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio - Jaleel McLaughlin set a tone so high in his first collegiate game that his high school coach quickly called him with words of wisdom.

    "I told him to save some because it's a long season," said Forest Hills High School (Marshville, N.C.) coach Corey Smith. "I'm glad he didn't listen to me. What he did [Saturday] is just unreal."

    If setting the school record with 302 rushing yards earlier this month in his freshmen debut was not enough, McLaughlin managed to reach even higher in No. 23-ranked Notre Dame College's 55-21 victory over West Liberty at Mueller Field.

    Not only did McLaughlin beat his early mark with 340 yards and three touchdowns (on runs of 36, 69 and 89 yards) in only three quarters, but it was the second-most yards in Mount East Conference history.

    In only five games, McLaughlin is the Division II rushing leader with 1,091 yards. He has nine touchdowns and averages 9.3 yards per carry.

    Unfortunately, McLaughlin was exactly what West Liberty coach Roger Waialae saw on film.

    ""He's a special back," Waialae said. "Hopefully a D-1 school will see him so I won't have to for three more years."

    West Liberty (2-3) liked what it saw in the first half with a 14-13 lead. But things soon changed when McLaughlin quickly scored behind a 69-yard run. West Liberty regained the lead but three quick Notre Dame (5-0) scores, capped by McLaughlin's 89-yard score, gave the Falcons a 41-21 lead with with 4:23 left in third quarter.

    "It's funny because I saw the front [West Liberty] was in, and being confident in my offensive line I told [quarterback Chris Brimm] that this was going to be a touchdown," McLaughlin said. "I got the ball and tried to get skinny between the holes and ran as fast as I could."

    Early years

    But the spark that ignited McLaughlin began way before high school and before he set foot on Notre Dame's campus. It began when his mother, Tonya, a single parent of four, saw sports as a tool to help raise her boys.

    "I didn't know what to do with boys," said Tonya, about Jaleel and his two brothers. "My daughter was the oldest, so I relied on a lot of coaches to help me with my boys."

    So sports became a vehicle for Jaleel and his brothers. They participated in various youth sports including basketball and track and field.

    McLaughlin wasn't an early fan of the latter.

    "Every time I'd get on the track line I'd cry because I didn't want to run," McLaughlin said. "My mom made me do it because she said if you can run, you'll be able to do anything in sports."

    Tonya attributed nervousness to her son's early reaction to competing on the track, especially since Jaleel was more comfortable in team sports. The spotlight in track was different.  

    "Losing wasn't an option for him, and he was scared of losing," Tonya said. "I couldn't understand it at the time. I told him his worst enemy was himself. He's still hard on himself. He feels he always has to be great."

    The tears eventually dried up as McLaughlin started to burn the competition. At 12, he rose to sixth in the state in the 200 meters in his age group. Regional awards would soon follow.

    "I wasn't always the fastest," McLaughlin said. "I wasn't just born with speed. I just worked my way up. Those hard days fought on the track just made me faster."

    But McLaughlin and his family could not outrun circumstances that led to homelessness when he was in the seventh grade. The family lived with his grandmother. But when his grandmother died from a heart attack, the family lost the house. They would spend two months living in a car parked outside of a local McDonald's, where Jaleel would sleep cramped in the back seat.

    "One day he got so mad." Tonya said. "He got out of the car and slammed the door. I started to cry. This wasn't the life that I wanted for us. Ten minutes later he came back and said he was sorry and for me not to worry."

    Fueled by his family's situation, McLaughlin increased his time in the gym and played motivated on the field. His mother moved to Arkansas and the boys moved in with relatives. After a brief stint, Tonya returned and the family reunited.

    "That time being homeless made me the person I am today," McLaughlin said. "I'm actually happy that it went down like that in my life because if not, I probably wouldn't be here right now."

    McLaughlin arrived behind an 8.4 yards per carry average (including a 97-yard TD run) and 16 touchdowns his senior year. As a point guard, he helped lead Forest Hills to the 2-A state basketball title and the school's first state track title with a second place finish in the 400 (48.11) and third in the 200 (22.09). McLaughlin was a member of the state winning 4x100 (42.20) and 4x200 (1 minute, 28.29) relay teams.

    Before he arrived in South Euclid, the University of Charleston, West Virginia State and Winston-Salem State were among several schools that recruited the 5-9, 173-pound McCaughlin. Despite visiting Notre Dame's campus during a bout of snow, McLaughlin made his choice.

    "It was cold and snowing when I visited here, but I was impressed that things were still going on," McLaughlin said. "If it snows in North Carolina, everything shuts down. But I felt right at home here. I also wanted to get away to experience something different."

    Notre Dame coach Mike Jacobs saw enough talent on film and eventually in person, but the winning pedigree made a definitive impression.

    "When you see a champion, and a guy that knows how to win - they add value to your team in different ways," Jacobs said. "He came in and we thought he was going to be a good player. We didn't know quite how explosive he was going to be, but he just kept showing it over and over and over again throughout training camp."

    McLaughlin has shown enough - at least through five games - that his play contributes to a formidable Notre Dame roster.

    "I don't know what it was like before I got here, but I can tell you that there's a real brotherhood on this team," McLaughlin said. "When you have leadership and team bonding, you win games and get ranked. So that's pretty good."

     
     



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    Cleveland catcher Yan Gomes was removed from the Tribe's game against Kansas City on Saturday after injuring his throwing hand.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes injured his throwing hand Saturday and exited the Tribe's game against Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium.

    Gomes was injured in the bottom of the third inning while trying to throw out Royals base stealer Adalberto Mondesi. Replays showed Gomes make contact with Alex Gordon's bat while following through with his throw to second base.

    Gomes immediately removed his catcher's mask and called for trainers as his hand began to bleed.

    Gordon was called out for interference and Mondesi returned to first base. Roberto Perez took over behind the plate for Gomes.

     

    Gomes entered Saturday's game hitting .317 since Aug. 1, the third-highest average among MLB catchers during that span. In his last 34 games, Gomes has four doubles, five home runs, 14 RBI and an OPS of .854.


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    Corey Kluber missed a chance for his 21st win when Melky Cabrera turned a line drive into a two-run, game-tying single in the fourth inning. As it turned out a lot of other stuff went wrong after that. Watch video

    KANSAS CITY - The Indians played their second-to-last game in limbo on Saturday night and it was one to forget.

    In losing to the Royals, 8-4, at Kauffman Stadium, Corey Kluber missed a chance for his 21st win when Melky Cabrera turned a line drive to right field into a two-run, game-tying single in the fourth inning. As it turned out a lot of other stuff went wrong after that, but the play set a definite tone to the evening.

    Catcher Yan Gomes left the game with a bloody right thumb in the third inning after hitting Alex Gordon's bat while attempting to throw a runner out at second. Roberto Perez replaced him.

    X-rays on Gomes' thumb were negative. He needed two stitches to close a cut on the thumb after hitting the top of Gordon's bat.

    "I was very worried," said Gomes. "I looked at my hand. I grabbed my stuff and said, 'I think this is broken. Good thing it wasn't.'"

    Left-hander Andrew Miller, solid since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 3, started the sixth in relief of Kluber and allowed four runs on five hits in just two outs. The five hits, including a three-run homer by Adalberto Mondesi, were the most Miller (2-4) has allowed in an appearance since 2011 in a start for Boston.

    Cody Allen started the seventh after lasting just one-third of an inning in Friday's 14-6 win. On Friday, Allen struck out the first man he faced in the ninth before allowing two singles and two walks to end his night. All four of those runs scored when Adam Plutko relieved and gave up a grand slam.

    Manager Terry Francona said he wanted to pitch Allen in consecutive games before the season ended on Sunday. On Saturday, the first three men Allen faced all reached base on hits as Brian Goodwin scored on a single by Alcides Escobar.

    In his last two appearances, Allen has allowed six runs on seven hits in two-thirds of an inning. That is not exactly the ideal way for a late-inning reliever to prepare for the postseason, but this has been far from an ideal year for Allen.

    On the plus side, Jose Ramirez finally opened his eyes from six weeks of slumber. Ramirez had three hits, including his 39th homer. It was just his second three-hit game in September and his third homer since Aug. 14.

    Regarding Gomes, Francona said, "I think we dodged a bullet. When it first happened, it was bleeding like crazy. He got a couple of stitches, but it's just a contusion. The doctors feel, after they get the swelling out of there, he could play with the stitches, but they think they could have them out by Tuesday or Wednesday.

    "I'm sure he's going to be sore for a few days, but he's going to be OK."

    Kluber (20-7, 2.79) allowed three runs on seven hits in five innings. He finished the season with 215 innings and 222 strikeouts.

    Edwin Encarnacion gave the Indians a 1-0 lead in the first with a sacrifice fly off Jakob Junis (9-12, 4.42) for his 107th RBI of the season. The Royals tied the score at in the second on a single by Meibrys Viloria, but singles by Yonder Alonso and Cabrera put the Tribe back in front, 3-1, in the third.

    Merrifield, with two out and two on in the fourth, sent his liner to right field. Cabrera broke in, slammed on the brakes and tried to retreat, but the ball got over his head as both runs scored to make it 3-3. Kluber, scheduled to throw 80 pitches, worked the fifth before Miller took over.

    The Indians have been playing baseball in their own version of limbo since they clinched the AL Central on Sept. 15. Getting players rested and prepared for the postseason has taken precedence over wins and losses and it has not been the best brand of baseball to watch.

    That ends after Sunday as a date with the Houston in the ALDS draws a day closer.

    "I think everybody is at the point where they're kind of champing at the bit," said Francona. "We're trying to be patient, but everybody wants to get going.

    "I understand that. I think everyone is a little edgy to get going."

    What it means

    Kluber has pitched more than 200 innings and struck out more than 222 batters in each of the last five years. In doing so, he's never had an ERA over 3.49.

    The pitches

    Kluber threw 80 pitches, 59 (74 percent) for strikes. Junis threw 104 pitches, 68 (65 percent) for strikes.

    Thanks for coming

    The Indians and Royals drew 23,324 to Kauffman Stadium. First pitch was at 7:15 p.m. with a temperature of 72 degrees.

    Next

    The Indians and Royals finish the regular season on Sunday at 3:15 p.m. SportsTime Ohio, WTAM and WMMS will carry the game.

    Carlos Carrasco (16-10, 3.42) will face the Royals and lefty Erik Skoglund (1-5, 5.40). Carrasco is expected to throw about 80 pitches before being relieved by Trevor Bauer as both starters get in their final innings before the start of ALDS on Friday against the Astros.


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    Tennessee State linebacker Christion Abercrombie collapsed on the sideline late in the first half against Vanderbilt on Saturday and was in critical condition after emergency surgery for a head injury. Watch video

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee State linebacker Christion Abercrombie collapsed on the sideline late in the first half against Vanderbilt on Saturday and was in critical condition after emergency surgery for a head injury.

    University officials issued a statement Saturday night saying Abercrombie was being observed. Tigers coach Rod Reed headed to Vanderbilt University Medical Center to check on the linebacker after the game.

    Reed told The Tennessean he was not sure exactly how or when the Atlanta native was hurt before coming to the sideline late in the second quarter of a 31-27 loss to Vanderbilt.

    "He came to the sideline and just kind of collapsed there," Reed said.

    Abercrombie was given oxygen on the sideline, then taken away on a stretcher.

    The linebacker redshirted at Illinois in 2016 and played 11 games in 2017 before transferring to Tennessee State. He came into Saturday's game as the Tigers' second-leading tackler and was credited with five tackles and a quarterback hurry before being injured.

    After the game ended, players from both teams joined Reed and Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason for a prayer for Abercrombie, his family and the Tigers.

    "Football's what we do, not who we are," Mason said. "I know what it is to be a coach. I know what it is to have a player who's injured. At the end of the day, when serious injuries happen, football becomes secondary."


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    The Buckeyes came back in the fourth quarter to beat Penn State 27-26.

    STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- It was never going to be easy for Ohio State, not in front of the largest crowd in Penn State history, 110,886 unified in their white, the Nittany Lions sporting an undefeated top-10 team, a slippery quarterback and a defense suddenly in the mood to get after a quarterback.

    But the Buckeyes were there in Beaver Stadium without their crutch, and that made it even more difficult than they remembered, and Penn State at night isn't a place you forget.

    The OSU offense was hobbling and it was time for that thing Urban Meyer always does when the other play calls don't work.

    But the Buckeyes don't do that anymore.

    Four years of jokes about leaning on quarterback draws on third-and-short were funny because they were true and non-stop because they were effective. Quarterback legs bailed out other failures, the game of football reduced to its simplest element because everything else was so darn difficult.

    That's why J.T. Barrett carried it 17 times in Beaver Stadium in 2016 and 20 times in 2014 and Braxton Miller ran it 25 times in 2012. It didn't always work, but it was always worth trying, and Saturday night, the Nittany Lions were a handful again, and Ohio State needed to find something new to fall back on.

    They found it.

    With Dwayne Haskins hitting short screen passes to running backs and receivers after a rough first three quarters, the No. 4 Buckeyes fought back from a 12-point deficit with eight minutes to play and roared past No. 9 Penn State 27-26.

    A 47-yard crossing route to Ben Victor for a touchdown kept the Buckeyes alive and a 24-yard swing pass to K.J. Hill put them on top, as Haskins completed 15 of 29 passes for 132 yards in the first three quarters and 7 of 10 passes for 138 yards in the fourth quarter, rescuing a night that seemed like it wouldn't belong to him.

    Meyer dragged himself into the passing age with the recruitment of Haskins, the Maryland high schooler with the throwing motion that made Meyer swoon. Recruit a kid like that, you commit to a kid like that, and in 2018, the Buckeyes in the first month of the season owned the air, Haskins throwing for 300 yards in three of four starts, his effortless throws every bit of it as smooth and easy as a little Barrett run.

    It took a while for the Buckeyes to figure out how to bring that version of their passing game to State College.

    Undone by three first-half drops, including one that turned into a Penn State interception, Haskins was hectored all night by the Penn State pass rush and through much of the game didn't find a way to make the Nittany Lions pay for the pressure, not until he stepped up in the pocket in the fourth quarter and gave Victor a chance on a ball over the middle. And not until the Buckeyes started attacking the edges with simple throws to Hill and Parris Campbell.

    Victor ripped off the best moment of his career with a leaping grab of a pass thrown behind him, and his darting and dodging finish to a 47-yard touchdown catch-and-run kept the Buckeyes in the game late. Then Hill finished off the go-ahead drive. 

    But this offense was laborious through three quarters, the effort clear on every down. The offensive line didn't hold up early, but stood tall late. The run game helped a bit, but didn't get loose. Haskins, who had time and room to work in his first four starts, had little of that, and he looked like a different quarterback.

    Then the Buckeyes found a way to get him back to what he had been, starting with a 35-yard screen pass to J.K. Dobbins that bailed out the Buckeyes on their game-winning drive, which started at the 4-yard line. That drive worked, again and again, an eight-play, 96-yard march that will linger in the valleys here.

    Penn State won't forget this loss. Not when the Nittany Lions had the new-look Buckeyes on the ropes.

    The Buckeyes converted just four of 17 third downs. With 10:19 left in the third quarter, the Buckeyes went for it on fourth-and-1 and finally leaned on a Haskins run.

    He was stopped short.

    That happened as Penn State senior quarterback Trace McSorley was hop-scotching across the turf for the greatest rushing game of his career, compiling the most rushing yards by a Nittany Lions quarterback in 80 years. Every McSorley draw was like a taunt, his 51-yard scramble mocking the Buckeyes. He finished with 461 total yards, 286 through the air and 175 on the ground.

    That's not Ohio State this year. That's not what Ohio State can lean on.

    Haskins carried four times for eight yards. Without the quarterback run, the Buckeyes in the fourth quarter showed off their new way to move.

    And another way to win.


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    The Buckeyes rallied from two scores down late, and beat Penn State 27-26.

    STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Ohio State's dynamic passing offense, ranked No. 6 in the country coming into Saturday's game at Penn State, bubble and tunnel screened for its life with its back against the wall in front of the biggest crowd in the history of Beaver Stadium.

    Those 110,889 people watched Buckeyes receiver K.J. Hill high-step his way into the end zone for a game-winning 24-yard touchdown on a bubble screen with 2:03 left, erasing what was a two-score Penn State lead and sending Ohio State to a 27-26 win.

    That marked the second straight year that the Buckeyes beat Penn State by a point.

    Ohio State defensive end Chase Young stopped running back Miles Sanders for a two-yard loss on fourth-and-5 with 1:16 left to end the Nittany Lions' attempt at a game-winning drive.

    The win puts No. 4 Ohio State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) in the driver's seat for the Big Ten East Division race with two months of season left, and leaves Penn State (4-1) needing wins the rest of the way -- and then probably still some help -- if it wants to stay in the College Football Playoff hunt.

    The Buckeyes trailed 26-14 when quarterback Dwayne Haskins stepped up in the pocket and floated a ball down the middle of the field for receiver Ben Victor. Victor wrestled the ball away from a defender, then ran for a 47-yard score to make it 26-21 with 6:42 left. Hill's score then capped an eight play, 96-yard drive that gave the Buckeyes the lead for good. 

    Ohio State's defense, put in a position to defend a one-point lead late against Penn State for the second straight year, came through again. Young sacked Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley on second down, and made the game-sealing play in fourth down.

    Young had six tackles, three for loss, two sacks and two pass breakups in the best game of his career.

    The OSU defense was again bit by big plays, allowing Penn State to rack up a program record 492 offensive yards. McSorley rushed for 174, the most for a Penn State quarterback since 1938, but the Buckeyes made plays that kept OSU in the game early, and stood up late.

    That was big on a night when Ohio State had trouble breaking through offensively. Haskins and the offensive line had trouble handling pressure early, and things didn't open up until the screen game became more of a feature in the second half.

    Haskins finished 22-of-39 for 270 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

    Ohio State took its first lead when running back J.K. Dobbins capped a 13-play, 75-yard drive with a four-yard run early in the third quarter.

    The Buckeyes, undone by Penn State's pressure in the first half, started to negate it with a quick passing game that led to that score and put them into position for another late in the third quarter. But Sean Nuernberger's made field goal was called back on a facemask penalty on tight end Luke Farrell. Nuernberger then missed from 48 yards to keep OSU's lead at 14-13 with 6:12 left.

    Penn State missed its own chance for points when, within range for a 41-yard field goal, it opted to go for it on fourth-and-1. Young batted McSorley's pass out of the air and ended the drive. That was a part of a big night for Young, who stepped up with Ohio State missing Nick Bosa.

    Ohio State's defensive line had a strong night in general, but the big play remains a struggle. That was true on Penn State's first touchdown, a 93-yard pass play in the first quarter, and on the second, when a 36-yard completion to K.J. Hamler coupled with a targeting penalty on OSU safety Isaiah Pryor put Penn State in position for a two-yard pass from McSorley to tight end Pat Freiermuth for a 20-14 lead with 12:22 left.

    Penn State took a 26-14 lead when back-to-back McSorley runs set up a one-yard touchdown run by Sanders.

    Ohio State's worst offensive start

    Perhaps the Buckeyes felt good about being down just 13-7 when the game entered halftime. Based off the numbers, you might have assumed much worse.

    Penn state out-gained Ohio State 293-93 in the first two quarters, and held the ball for just over 18 minutes.

    That made the evaluation of OSU's defense a bit difficult. What can you say about a defense that holds the country's No. 1 scoring offense to 13 points despite giving up nearly 300 yards, limited it to one TD in 10 possessions, but also gave up a 93-yard touchdown on a total breakdown when Hamler ran untouched through the middle of the field after catching a slant?

    Again the defense was bit by a big play, but thanks to some otherwise solid play (and questionable play calling by Penn State that got a little too cute), Ohio State was within a score at the half.

    The defense set up Ohio State's only real scoring opportunity in the first half. Linebacker Tuf Borland forced a fumble that was recovered by Dre'Mont Jones at the Penn State 25. Two plays later, running back J.K. Dobbins scored on a screen pass from Haskins.

    The Buckeye offense was inefficient in the first half, struggling with pass protection while Haskins completed seven of 16 passes, and averaging 3.1 yards per play while struggling to sustain drives and punting seven times. But when gifted good field position by the defense, Ohio State finally did something to get within a touchdown before the break.

    What's next?

    Ohio State is back home next Saturday against Indiana. The 4 p.m. kickoff from Ohio Stadium will be televised by Fox.


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    Remember all the wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst Indians' fans about the decline of Jason Kipnis? Well as the regular season ends, and the postseason begins, Kipnis has done OK at the plate, while still learning the ins and outs of center field. Watch video

    KANSAS CITY - Jason Kipnis kept waiting for the pain. He wasn't quite sure where it would start, but the ankle, knee, hip or leg were high on his list.

    But it didn't happen. He had torn a big divot out of center field with his knee while making an aborted sliding catch of Salvador Perez's line drive to center field in the fourth inning Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.

    "As soon as I rolled over, you're waiting for this big throb that comes after if it's a serious injury," said Kipnis after the Indians beat the Royals, 14-6, "and it never came. As soon as I rolled over I was able to stand on it. It was pretty calming, and I just kept moving around while I was still in the game."

    Kipnis survived the fourth inning and came back for the fifth. As soon as he did, Kansas City's Hunter Dozier sent a carbon copy of Perez's ball to center. This time Kipnis greased the landing - in other words he didn't threaten dislocation to any major body parts - and made a nice sliding catch.

    He did chew up center field again, but with only two games left in the regular season, there will be plenty of time for it to heal.

    "I made a little bit of an adjustment on the second divot," said Kipnis, tongue in cheek. "I like to have the same kind of reaction each time and to be able to come in on it right away. I was proud of that."

    It's surprising that there haven't been more plays like this for Kipnis as he once again makes the late-season move from second base to center field with Houston and the ALDS at the Indians' doorstep.

    "Other than he has to replace his divot, he looks more and more comfortable out there," said manager Terry Francona. "He got behind one ball, came in on two balls. He looks pretty good."

    The same could be said for the way Kipnis is swinging the bat. He gave the Indians a 1-0 lead with a leadoff homer in the third. He has 18 homers and 75 RBI for the season. Remember when fans were screaming to bench or trade Kipnis?

    The 18 homers are the second most he's hit in a season and his 75 RBI match his career average for a 162-game season, according to baseball-reference.com. He's still hitting only .231 (121-for-545), but over his last 81 games Kipnis is hitting .262 with 14 homers and 50 RBI.

    "I'm very happy about that," said Kipnis, when asked about his 18th homer. "It's one of those years where I just don't have a bunch of those extra singles to go along with the rest of the hits. ... That's what it comes down to.

    "I do make them count, it seems, like when I do hit the ball. If that's the route we're taking this year than so be it. For myself and for my team, I'd like to add a little bit more than that, but we all know October is where it really counts. A bunch of hits there and people will forget my (average) for the rest of the year. That would be nice."

    The Indians open the best-of-five ALDS against the Astros on Friday at Minute Maid Park.

    Speaking of singles, Kipnis contributed just that in the Indians' 10-run seventh inning that turned a 1-0 game into a 14-6 landslide. It was the shortest hit of the game, but Francona called it the most important.

    Josh Donaldson opened the inning with a double. Yonder Alonso singled to right to make it 2-0. Melky Cabrera added the third straight hit of the inning to put runners on first and second. Lefty Tim Hill relieved starter Ian Kennedy to face Kipnis. Instead of swinging away, Kipnis bunted down the first baseline and beat the throw for a hit to load the bases.

    Roberto Perez followed with an RBI single. Two more runs scored on Francisco Lindor's bouncer to first that Ryan O'Hearn threw past catcher Cam Gallagher for an error. An RBI single by Edwin Encarnacion and Donaldson's grand slam competed the 10-run inning.

    "I thought it all kind of started with Kip laying the bunt down," said Francona. "Little things turn into big things. When you play the game right, you get rewarded for it."

    Mike Clevinger sent 6 2/3 innings to win his 13th game and reach 200 innings for the season. Clevinger and Kluber are just the fourth duo of Tribe pitchers to record 200 innings and 200 strikeouts in the same season.

    "He's taken the step forward," said Kipnis, when asked about Clevinger. "Any time you see a starting pitcher tally 200 innings and 200 strikes (Clevinger has 200 innings and 207 strikeouts), that's a dependable arm. That's a guy who takes the ball every fifth day and gives you a quality start. ...He's been one of the steadier forces throughout the entire season and he's done a fantastic job."


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    Indians catcher Yan Gomes needed two stitches in his right thumb to close a cut after he hit Alex Gordon's bat while trying to throw out a runner Saturday night against the Royals. Watch video

    KANSAS CITY - Catcher Yan Gomes has been this way before. Not exactly step for step, but pretty close.

    In 2016 he was about to come off the disabled list on Sept. 14 when he was hit by a pitch in a minor league rehab game and suffered a broken right wrist. The Indians were headed to the postseason and Gomes made it back in time to make all three postseason rosters as the Indians reached Game 7 of the World Series.

    Gomes had to be thinking some of those same thoughts Saturday night as he sat in the X-ray room at Kauffman Stadium waiting to hear the verdict on his mangled right thumb.

    "To be honest with you, I'm sitting in there thinking there's no doubt my thumb is broken," said Gomes. "Just by the way it looked."

    The Indians, who clinched the AL Central on Sept. 15, played their second last game of the regular season Saturday night against the Royals. In the third inning, Gomes tried to throw out Adalberto Mondesi on an attempted steal of second base after Alex Gordon swung and missed a Corey Kluber pitch.

    But the ball didn't make it to the mound because Gomes hit Gordon's bat with his right hand.

    "I was very worried," said Gomes. "I looked at my hand. Grabbed my stuff and (headed for the locker room). I said to myself, "This is broken. Good thing it wasn't."

    Said manager Terry Francona, "It was bleeding all over the place, but I think we dodged a bullet."

    X-rays were negative. Gomes needed two stitches in the thumb. He left the locker room following the 9-4 loss to the Royals with his thumb bruised and bandaged.

    "All I can do is wait for the swelling to go down," said Gomes.

    Like most catchers Gomes has been hit by bats on all sorts of back swings. But this was something new.

    "It's never happened to me before," said Gomes. "I've never done that on a backswing before. I've been hit with plenty of bats. But I've never hit a bat."

    Gomes hit the top or cup of Gordon's bat. Some hitters use bats with a scooped out top. It can leave a sharp edge at the top of the bat.

    "He got a couple of stitches, but it's just a contusion and the doctors feel like in a couple of days, he'll get the swelling out of there," said Francona. "He could play with the stitches, but I think they think he can have them out of there by Tuesday or Wednesday."

    This has been Gomes most consistent season at the plate. He's hitting .266 (107-for-403) with 26 doubles, 16 homers and 46 RBI. He has a .762 OPS, which ranks second among AL catchers with at least 300 plate appearances.

    More importantly, he's been a consistent producer at the bottom of the lineup.

    The Indians open the ALDS against Houston on Friday at Minute Maid Park. Kluber will be on the mound for Game 1 and if Gomes can't catch, the job will go to Roberto Perez.


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    Bill Landis and Doug Lesmerises evaluate the Buckeyes after their 27-26 comeback against Penn State. Watch video

    STATE COLLEge, Pa. -- No. 4 Ohio State rallied for a 27-26 win over No. 9 Penn State on Saturday night, giving the Buckeyes arguably the best win of the college football season, right there with LSU's win at No. 10 Auburn.

    No. 1 Alabama thumped Louisiana-Lafayette 56-14 on Saturday and has not outscored opponents 271-65 in its five wins.

    No. 2 Georgia beat Tennessee 38-12, while No. 3 Clemson came back to slip by Syracuse 27-23.

    Then came this victory by the No. 4 Buckeyes.

    With comeback wins away from Ohio Stadium over the Nittany Lions and over 3-2 TCU, the Buckeyes have found ways to pull out comebacks.

    So what should we think of them?

    Bill Landis and I talked about on the field at Beaver Stadium after the game. Watch the video, then vote on whether you think Ohio State is playing like a team that is headed toward a top-four finish and a spot in the College Football Playoff.


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    Haskins threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-26 win over Penn State. Watch video

    STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Dwayne Haskins was apparently scrolling Twitter before Ohio State's game on Saturday night against Penn State.

    That afternoon, a couple of hours before kickoff, Haskins sent out a post in response to something he saw on College GameDay. It was Penn State defensive end Shareef Miller saying the Nittany Lions felt that Haskins would fold if they could get to him, and hit him.

    Haskins's response: Miller was rattling the wrong cage.

    It felt like coming into the game that Haskins had one last box to check. Do it, and everyone would officially be going nuts about him. That was showing how he'd handle the raucous environment of Beaver Stadium, and a team that was really going to come after him.

    The results were mixed, though Haskins finished strong by completing 7 of his 10 pass attempts in the fourth quarter and finishing with 270 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in OSU's 27-26 win.

    "The environment wasn't really stressful," Haskins said. "I would probably just say we weren't really moving the ball like we wanted to. That slows things down on offense. I thought we did a good job recovering when we needed to."

    Miller wasn't totally wrong in that Haskins clearly seemed bothered by Penn State's pressure early, throwing erratically in a few instances and reacting to pressure that wasn't actually there in others. But he didn't fold. He was his best at the end, and his receivers came through for him with a couple of big plays in the fourth quarter.

    "We started protecting him and keeping him upright," Urban Meyer said. "When he's upright he's very good, and our guys made plays, man."

    Prior to the game, Haskins threw in front of a couple of NFL scouts gathered on the sideline. People were eager to see how he'd perform on this stage.

    Perhaps the Haskins hype train slowed a bit, though the final stat line looks plenty good and Ohio State got the win.

    He leaves State College with 19 touchdowns and two interceptions on the season. The pick he threw on Saturday wasn't really his fault, it was a ball that bounced off the hands of tight end Rashod Berry and into the waiting hands of a Penn State defender.

    Haskins was far from perfect. He admitted that after the game.

    "They weren't gonna let us throw the ball down the field," he said. "That was pretty evident the whole game. They sent a lot of pressure. I missed a couple throws."

    But as far as proving grounds go, there aren't many more difficult than what Haskins encountered on Saturday, and he came out on top.

    Doug Lesmerises and Bill Landis discuss Haskins' night more in the video above. Let us know what you thought of Haskins in the comments section.


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    Thanks to Baker Mayfield Cleveland fans now expect to win their game vs. Oakland Raiders and Jon Gruden

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- When the Cleveland Browns (1-1-1) enter Oakland Coliseum today to play the Raiders (0-3) there will be a large number of Browns' fans who will expect Cleveland to win the game.

    They'll expect the Browns to win even though the game is in Oakland and even though the Raiders are two-point favorites. They'll expect a victory even though the Browns hadn't, until last week, won a game in 635 days.

    Why do Browns fans all of a sudden have expectations? It has a little bit to do with the overhaul of the team through the draft and free agency by general manager John Dorsey. Mostly though, it has to do with the exciting play of rookie QB Baker Mayfield when he came in just before halftime last week against the New York Jets and led the Browns to their first win in almost two years.

    After playing just over half a game so far, the expectation is that Mayfield can make the Browns contenders in the AFC North this year. Today's game should go a long way towards verifying if that expectation is remotely realistic.

    Crowquill, by Plain Dealer artist Ted Crow, appears three times a week in The Plain Dealer and on cleveland.com.


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    Check here for the live leaderboard, results for Ryder Cup 2018 singles matches on Sunday, Sept. 30, in France.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Team Europe led Team USA, 10-6, entering Day 3 of Ryder Cup 2018 on Sunday, Sept. 30, in France. Twelve singles matches will unfold at Le Golf National outside Paris.

    Europe needs 14 1/2 points to win the 42nd Cup; USA needs 14 to retain. USA has not won in Europe since 1993.

    Team USA

    Earned spots on points: Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson.

    Captain's picks: Tiger, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau.

    Team Europe

    Earned spots on points: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Alex Noren, Thorbjorn Olesen, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose.

    Captain's picks: Sergio, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson.

    TV schedule

    Friday, Sept. 28

    • Golf Channel, 2 a.m. to 1 p.m.

    Saturday, Sept. 29

    • Golf Channel, 2-3 a.m.
    • NBC Sports, 3 a.m. to 1 p.m.

    Sunday, Sept. 30

    • NBC Sports, 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.

    On Friday and Saturday, four four-ball matches will unfold in the morning and four foursome matches will be contested in the afternoon. Sunday features 12 singles matches.

    Woods, 42, is on the short list of greatest golfers ever. His remarkable comeback this season from multiple back surgeries includes a victory at the Tour Championship and two Top 10's in majors (T-6 at The Open, 2nd at PGA Championship). He ranks No. 2 all time with 80 PGA Tour titles. He is 13-17-3 in seven Ryder Cups.

    Mickelson, 48, is the second-best player of his generation. He ranks No. 9 all time with 43 PGA Tour titles, including one this season. He is 18-20-7 in 11 Ryder Cups.

    RYDER CUP
    Site: Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France.
    Course: Le Golf National. Yardage: 7,183. Par: 71.
    Purse: None.
    Defending champion: United States.
    Last time: Every American contributed at least one point for the first time since 1975 in a 17-11 victory at Hazeltine.
    Notes: The Americans have not won in Europe since The Belfry in 1993, the same year three of their players on this team were born. ... The U.S. team features nine major champions, the most on any team since continental Europe was included in 1979. ... Tiger Woods is playing in the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2012 at Medinah. ... Phil Mickelson is playing in his 12th Ryder Cup, the most of any player on either side since it began in 1927. ... Europe has five rookies, two among the top 15 in the world in Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood. ... Justin Rose is the ninth player to be No. 1 at the Ryder Cup since 1987. The other four Europeans were Ian Woosnam, Nick Faldo and Rory McIlroy twice. Woods was No. 1 four times. ... Le Golf National is the host course of the French Open. Alex Noren won it this year, Fleetwood the year before. ... The captains are Thomas Bjorn (Europe) and Jim Furyk (U.S.).
    Next time: Whistling Straits in 2020.

    (Fact box from Associated Press.)


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    Bill and Doug break down where the OSU-PSU series stands in Urban Meyer's seventh year and James Franklin's fifth year. Watch video

    STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- In James Franklin's five seasons as the head coach at Penn State, his record against Ohio State is 1-4.

    But one loss came Saturday night, when Ohio State rallied from 12 down with eight minutes to play to pull out a 27-26 win.

    One loss came last year in Ohio Stadium, when the Buckeyes came back from 18 down to win 39-38.

    One loss came in 2014, when the Buckeyes prevailed in double overtime in State College, 31-24.

    He's been close.

    Saturday was a top-10 matchup and both teams looked like top-10 teams, despite their mistakes.

    Is this the new normal in the Ohio State-Penn State series?

    Two top-10 teams and games like this?

    Bill Landis and I talked about that shortly after the finish of this latest Ohio State-Penn State sizzler.


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    The Cavaliers acquired Sam Dekker this summer in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. Watch video

    INDEPENDENCE, Ohio--Sam Dekker was born to run.

    Well, at least born to run on the hardwood.

    "That's really been me my whole life," Dekker said. "I've loved getting up and down the court."

    Fortunately, the former Wisconsin Badgers standout is in the perfect place to do just what he loves.

    Since his first day on the job in 2016, head coach Tyronn Lue has been very open about his desire for the Cavaliers to be a fast-paced, high-tempo basketball team.

    At times that speed showed, but most of the time, the team's offensive tempo was dictated by LeBron James-- which was far more of a plus than a minus.

    Without LeBron, however, Lue is really looking to push the pace, which the athletic forward can certainly help him to do.

    "He's been really good," Lue said. "Runs the floor, is an excellent cutter... He's surprised me."

    Though Dekker has officially practiced with the Cavaliers only a handful of times, he's already feeling the benefits of being in Cleveland.

    First of all, a Sheboygan, WI native who maintains his home there in the offseason, the "Midwest guy" is happy to be back in the heartland.

    Then, of course, he's thrilled with the freedom that the team has given him to get out, run the floor and make plays.

    "When they brought me in, they said, 'We just want to let you loose,' and that's been so awesome," Dekker said. "I'm really playing at a high level, playing like me, which has been good. I got away from that a little bit last year, so to just have the floor open for me, let me use my dribbling ability and outside shot, and just opening the game up for myself to create for others has been fun."

    After a somewhat successful sophomore season with the Rockets, Dekker was dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers as part of the trade that sent Chris Paul to Houston.

    As he mentioned, the Clippers didn't get the Sam Dekker that they expected.

    In Houston, Dekker averaged 6.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, shooting 32% from beyond the three-point line in over 18 minutes per game.

    When he arrived in Los Angeles, Dekker scored just 4.2 points and grabbed 2.4 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per game.

    He also shot an abysmal 16.7% from beyond the three-point line.

    When they acquired Dekker in an August trade, the Cavaliers were banking on finding the athletic, savvy playmaker they saw in Houston as opposed to the guy who struggled in LA.

    Thus far in Cleveland, at least to Lue, Dekker has been that and more.

    "He's shooting the ball better than I thought he could; I didn't know he could shoot the ball as well as he has," Lue said. "He can pass the basketball. His play-making ability being able to pass the ball and see different plays and situations... It's good having him here."

    Perhaps part of the reason that Dekker has been more himself is the confidence the coaching staff has provided him.

    Not only are they allowing him to be free on the court, running and cutting to his delight, but they too have been telling him just how happy they've been with his play thus far.

    "The coaching staff has been so good about opening up to me," Dekker said. "That's given me a lot of confidence here... When I have that confidence level up, I can do a lot of good things. I'm just excited to keep doing that."

    Now that the coaches have handed Dekker the keys to the car, he's ready to put the petal to the medal.

    He played in a similar system with the Rockets, where he had some success, but Dekker hopes to take it to the next level with the Cavaliers.

    He's been given that opportunity and, as he always has, he wants to run with it.

    "It's just time for me to take that next step," Dekker said. "I think that's the big thing I'm going for: not really to break out, but just take that next step and show, 'Oh, this is a guy who can be here for a long time, a guy that can last in this league.'"


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    When the Cleveland Browns talked about their approach to 2018, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams asked for just a little bit more time. Watch video

    AN EXTRA HALF-SECOND

    1. The Browns' defense has recovered six fumbles and picked off five passes in the first three games. That's 11 forced turnovers -- compared to 13 all of last season.

    2. The Browns have thrown only two interceptions and lost zero fumbles. A year ago, the Browns led the NFL with 41 turnovers: 28 interceptions, 13 fumbles lost.

    3. So the front office imported Tyrod Taylor and drafted Baker Mayfield, bringing interception-averse quarterbacks to Cleveland. So the offense has stopped making damaging turnovers, even in periods where it was not moving the ball.

    4. An even more dramatic change is the defense. During their post-2017 season meetings, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams told the front office something like: "Give me an extra-half second, and I'll get you more sacks and turnovers."

    5. Not sure if that's the exact quote, but it's close. And it reflected the belief Williams had in Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah, Larry Ogunjobi and his linebackers in being able to generate an effective pass rush. But he needed better defensive backs to force the opposing quarterbacks to hang on to the ball even a half-second longer. Coverage was more important than adding another pass rusher.

    6. The average time in the pocket is about 2.5 seconds, according to Profootballfocus. So a half-second (.5) means a lot. Even a quarter-second (.25) can help a pass rush reach the quarterback. That's why Williams pushed for the drafting of Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward and adding veterans Terrance Mitchell, T.J. Carrie and E.J. Gaines to help in pass coverage.

    7. It's also why General Manager Dorsey traded for Damarious Randall, who is playing the type of angel free safety that Williams needs for his defense. Randall has an interception and fumble recovery. He also has made several big plays. Randall played a lot of cornerback in Green Bay. But in college, he was a safety. Dorsey's plan was to return Randall to his natural position with the Browns.

    8. Garrett is tied for the NFL lead with 4.0 sacks. Ogunjobi has 3.0. A stat that coaches like is "quarterback hurries." Does a defender force a quarterback to hurry a pass? Ogunjobi leads the Browns with eight.

    9. The Browns face Oakland this week, where quarterback Derek Carr is throwing the ball in 2.25 seconds. That's the fastest in the NFL, according to Profootballfocus. Can the Browns make Carr hang on to the ball for that extra half-second? Or even a quarter-second? Carr has been sacked five times in three games. He has thrown five interceptions, shocking for a quarterback who is completing nearly 77 percent of his passes. Can the Browns force him into making mistakes?

    10. Garrett will supply a lot of pressure from the defensive end position. But scouts believe Carr is very vulnerable to pressure coming from the middle of the line. That would be the defensive tackles, led by Ogunjobi. It also can be from blitzing linebackers. Oakland guard Gabe Jackson has allowed two sacks and six hurries in three games.

    11. Oakland receivers are gifted, especially Jordy Nelson, Amari Cooper and Jared Cook. So it will be up the Browns defensive backs to stop those receivers from getting open immediately, giving the rushers time to reach Carr. The scouting report on Carr is he can be rattled. It's also that he can get very hot if given just the average amount of time to throw.

    12. I'm dwelling on the defense because it has been the key to the Browns 1-1-1 record. It began with the "extra half-second" strategy of revamping the defensive secondary, making it the priority over a pass rush. So far, that's working.

    13. Then the offense has to play solid, smart football. Run the ball with purpose. Don't make dumb turnovers. Chew up the clock. Look for moments in the game to connect on a big passing play.

    14. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley called Baker Mayfield "a gunslinger...He's going to rip it around a bunch." Mayfield also stays in the pocket longer than Tyrod Taylor, meaning the offensive line will have to do a better job of holding its blocks.

    15. Mayfield has a quicker release than Taylor, meaning he seems to be a more decisive decision maker in terms of immediately finding his first few options. At least, that was how he played in the two quarters of the Browns 21-17 victory over the Jets. That will help the offensive line.

    ABOUT HALEY, TAYLOR & BAKER

    It seemed odd that Todd Haley was restrained when talking about the quarterback switch from Tyrod Taylor to Baker Mayfield.

    The offensive coordinator said: "I'm going to choose to not talk about any of the internal stuff. I like all our guys. I believe in all our guys."

    What's the deal?

    1. Haley can be a bit of a grump and a contrarian. He is an old-school coach. He loves veterans, especially those like Tyrod Taylor who were low draft picks and beat the odds to be a success.

    2. Mayfield is more than a rookie, he is the No. 1 pick in the draft. The Oklahoma product has done a good job of not being snagged in the trap of entitlement. My guess is Haley wants to keep it that way, letting Mayfield know he's starter now -- but that can change.

    3. Haley loves Taylor's professionalism: "He came in and has been a leader from day one...there was not this same excitement and prettiness (as with Mayfield)...but he (Taylor) was a big part of getting this thing going in the right direction."

    4. Haley knows it hurts Taylor to be benched. Taylor left the Jets game late in the second quarter with a concussion. Haley wants Taylor to stay ready, because the Browns may need the veteran at some point this season. Taylor practiced little this week as he's still recovering from the concussion, so veteran Drew Stanton likely will be the backup quarterback in Oakland.

    5. That's also the reason the new front office is in no hurry to trade Taylor. John Dorsey & Co. traded for Taylor, drafted Mayfield and signed veteran Drew Stanton so there would be a lot of depth at quarterback. The front office also wanted to surround their rookie quarterback with dedicated pros so the pressure would be on the rookie to work hard and stay focused.

    6. Since 2010, the Browns have started an average of three different quarterbacks per season. The Browns hope that has changed. But here we are in Game 4 and on quarterback No. 2. These guys get hurt.

    7. Haley sounded overly protective of Taylor when blaming most of the quarterback's problems in the Jets game (4-of-14 passing, 19 yards, three sacks) on poor pass protection. But I also think Haley knows the Baker Starmobile is in a high gear, and he doesn't want the rookie to be overwhelmed by all the hype.

    8. In some ways, I'm like Haley. I worry about all the praise tossed in Mayfield's direction. Not that it would impact his focus. But the expectations now seem outrageously high for the rookie.

    9. According to Profootballfocus, the Raiders have "the lowest pressure rate" in the NFL. That should help Mayfield, assuming the offensive line holds up. No matter what Oakland coach Jon Gruden insists, former Raiders star pass-rusher Khalil Mack is missed - a lot.

    10. My pick: Browns 27, Oakland 20.


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