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

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    Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale helped his defenders get their game faces on by talking up last spring's top draft pick.

    BEREA, Ohio -- The superlatives keeping rolling in for Baker Mayfield.

    On Thursday, Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale helped his defenders get their game faces on by talking up the No. 1 pick.

    "I already told the defense this - I think Baker Mayfield is this generation's Brett Favre or John Elway, if you will,'' Martindale said in his weekly press conference. "This guy knows where he wants to go with the ball, and he's very accurate, has a quick release. He's really playing well. Obviously, he's playing well because they scored 42 points last week against Oakland, and they're in the top 5 of scoring offense.

    "So, I think he's done a nice job filling in, and it seems like they have more rhythm with him as a rookie, every play he's in there."

    Is he making the comparisons because of Mayfield's playmaking ability?

    "Yes, and his confidence,'' said Martindale. "Obviously, you're talking about two Hall of Famers when you say that. But the kid's confidence and swag - if you will, nowadays, right? When he comes out there, he thinks he's standing on top of a mountain, and he's making plays to show that he's standing on top of the mountain. He can throw the ball in tight windows, and he's not afraid to do it. That's the biggest thing that I see on the kid."

    Browns offensive coordinator Todd Haley, when told about Martindale's remarks, smiled.

    "He's carving a bust,'' said Haley, repeating what he said last week when Mayfield Mania first got rolling. "I'll hold my stance. I'm excited about a lot of things he's doing, but like I said, this week will be a real test. We'll know a lot more come Sunday evening."

    But Haley acknowledges he was impressed with Mayfield's demeanor in Oakland.

    "Those are the things you really like about Baker is that I have a feeling he could throw one right to them and he's going to come right back the next play and try to put a ball in a tight place,'' Haley said. "We don't want a careless or reckless guy, and I didn't see any of that.

    "I take blame for the interception at the end of the game because we added a double move to a play (by Antonio Callaway), and really that's not fair to do it a young guy (who's) aggressive-minded. He doesn't want to check it down a whole bunch, so I have to keep that in mind in certain situational football. We don't want to be each other's worst enemy.

    "I've been sick about it for a week because I wish I hadn't done what I'd done. I put him I unfair position."

    Martindale isn't the only one heaping praise on Mayfield this week. Brett Favre told Sirius XM NFL radio on Wednesday that Mayfield "can be great" because "he's a winner."


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    That didn't stop them from taking positives away from Tuesday's preseason opener against the Boston Celtics, where Cleveland's regulars dominated for one half and led by 19 points at the break.

    INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- The Cleveland Cavaliers understand the difference between an exhibition game and the regular season.

    That didn't stop them from taking positives away from Tuesday's preseason opener against the Boston Celtics, where Cleveland's regulars dominated for one half and led by 19 points at the break. It looked even better when watching the film. 

    "We played really good," Cedi Osman said following Thursday's practice. "We shared the ball, our pace was really good, we ran well and I think we played really good.

    "Even if it's a preseason game I think that we showed people that we are going to surprise a lot of teams this year."

    Osman -- along with the other players on the roster -- knows there's plenty of work ahead. Each practice, shootaround and even walkthroughs have become more important than ever, with teaching and player development at the center of the season plan.

    With a younger squad, one with a new epicenter, mistakes will happen -- perhaps as soon as Saturday night in the second of four preseason games. Learning from them is most important.

    But the Cavs entered the opener feeling good about what they were doing in practice and they should be pleased with their performance in Boston.

    Tristan Thompson said the focus is about them, not about the opponent.

    Who cares if the Celtics were playing their third preseason game and have been struggling in the early going? Who cares that Kyrie Irving was resting? Who cares that Gordon Hayward is still getting re-acclimated following a gruesome leg injury that cost him all but six minutes of his first season in Boston?

    The Cavs entered with their own goals and seeing those sweat-filled sessions carry over into a game situation was reason for optimism.

    "It's about how we can get better, how we can start building our foundation principles, especially defensively, that's where we got to be sharp and be really at our best," Thompson said. "Offensively, first unit, I like that we pushed the pace, played fast, we've got multi actions, guys got it going, sharing the ball, kind of like positionless basketball. That's what we're trying to do.

    "The first unit did a good job. Second unit came in and JC (Jordan Clarkson) was who he is, who we need him to be, that scoring punch off the bench. Collin (Sexton) came in, made some big shots, showing he's been working on his game. I think overall everyone did a good job. Saturday, kind of want the same approach, how we can continue building and getting better."

    Lue also took away positives. He first pointed to the pace. That's his point of emphasis heading into the season, something he stresses every day. He has even given the green light to each player on the roster to grab the ball off the rim and go. Well, with two minor caveats.

    "We're going to work with Tristan," Lue said through some laughter. "He tried to do it today and ran over six people. Outside of that I think everybody else can. (Kyle) Korver, break it out but then give it up at some point. We'll see how that goes."

    For a team looking for any little edge, they might have found something early.

    "T Lue wants us to play free," Thompson said. "That's the style of the NBA and he trusts us -- myself, Larry (Nance Jr.) and Kev (Kevin Love), to bring the ball up and make the right plays. You guys saw what we did in the game, so we want to keep that going and I think that just makes us play faster. That's what we want to do, play faster, high possessions, high-volume scoring. That's going to be our advantage this year."

    Lue also liked the defensive effort against the Celtics.

    A switch-heavy team, the Cavaliers need to build trust and communicate on that end of the floor. He saw that. When guards were switched onto post players, Lue saw help from the weak side while guards fought for position. Lue also noticed his team sprinting back in transition -- a problem  last season. The Cavs allowed just six fast-break points in the first half, before starters took the rest of the night off.

    It certainly wasn't perfect. But it was a start. A hopeful one.

    "This year, everyone knows it's going to be a big challenge for us but we are young and we are going to take that challenge," Osman said. "I know we are going to be good."


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    Two key receivers returned to practice on Thursday. Watch video

    BEREA, Ohio -- The Browns continue to prepare to face the Ravens on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium. The good news is that they saw two of their important offensive weapons return to practice in wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Antonio Callaway. Both missed practice on Wednesday.

    Mary Kay Cabot and I talked about their returns. Then we talked about Desmond Harrison facing the Ravens and Terrell Suggs for the first time. He has been getting advice from Joe Thomas.

    Lastly, we talked about Jabrill Peppers' remarks about Browns fans and what he had to say today about the response to those remarks.


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    The ALDS between the Indians and Astros, which open Friday at Minute Maid Park, features two of the best starting rotations in the big leagues. But there are other subplots as well. Watch video

    HOUSTON - Terry Francona manages to put pressure on the other team's defense. The running game is one way to do that and the Indians executed it well this season.

    For the first time in franchise history they led the big leagues in stolen bases with 135. But steals are just part of the pressure speed puts on a defense. What Francona really counts on is his team's ability to go first to third and second to home.

    Houston manager A.J. Hinch talked about how the Astros will counter that when the best-of-five ALDS starts Friday at 2:05 p.m. at Minute Maid Park. Hinch mentioned one name, catcher Martin Maldonado.

    The Astros acquired Maldonado from the Angels on July 26 and he's been their primary catcher since. For the season he's thrown out 45.5 percent (15-for-33) of the runners who have challenged him. In 41 games with Houston, he's thrown out 62.5 percent (5-for-8) attempted steals.

    "If you look at what the Indians do on the bases, he could factor in very, very highly depending on what strategy the Indians try to take with their baserunners and base stealing," said Hinch.

    Jose Ramirez is the Indians' top thief with 38 steals. He's followed by Francisco Lindor with 25 and Rajai Davis and Greg Allen with 21 each. Given Francona's fondness for speed, it's not surprising Davis was the 25th and final roster pick, getting the nod over utility man Erik Gonzalez.

    Davis found out he'd made the roster just before the start of Thursday's workout.

    Maldonado is no stranger to the Indians, especially Lindor. For the last couple of years, whenever the Indians and Angels played, the Puerto Rican natives spent time yapping at each other during Lindor's at-bats. If Lindor reached base, he'd frequently look back and say something to Maldonado.

    Asked if the conversation would continue on Friday, Lindor smiled and said, "Probably. ... He's a cool guy and I respect him a lot. As a competitor and friend, he says something. When I get in the box, I look at him like, 'Yeah, OK,' and once I do my thing, I respond back.

    "I love him. He's a great guy. It's nothing against him, but he'll probably be there tomorrow, too."

    Lindor said running the bases hard is part of the Indians' game that they will continue to push.

    "(Maldonado) has got a great arm," said Lindor. "But us runners usually don't steal on catchers. If the pitchers give us a good time (a slow delivery to the plate) to steal, we're going to go. That's part of my game. That's part of our game as the Tribe.

    "That's what we do. If we get two runners on, we're going to go. It doesn't matter who's behind the plate."

    Hinch said Maldonado is more than ready for the challenge. In fact, he sounded like he was baiting the Indians.

    "If they want to test us on the bases and Martin's catching, they're going up against the best throwing catcher in baseball," said Hinch. "With the work from our pitchers and the way he can shut down the running game, it's a huge dilemma for the other side. ... They want to put pressure on the best and we have a perfect counter for that."

    Baserunners, of course, could be at a premium considering the starting rotations the two teams will roll out. Corey Kluber (20-7, 2.89) will face Justin Verlander (16-9, 2.52) in Game 1. Carlos Carrasco (17-10, 3.38) and Gerrit Cole (15-5, 2.88) will pitch Game 2 on Saturday and Mike Clevinger (13-8, 3.02) vs. Dallas Keuchel (12-11, 3.74) are scheduled for Game 3 Monday at Progressive Field.

    "If you look at the numbers, making contact is a problem," said Hinch. "They have four guys (Kluber, Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger) with 200-plus strikeouts and we have three (Verlander, Cole and Charlie Morton).

    "The bullpen matchups, I know Tito well, and he's going to try and find the perfect matchup. They have a balanced bullpen, three left-handers and right-handed relievers who are going on right-handers. Contact will be at a premium. We're a good contact team and so are they."

    Which means something has to give.

    "You have two good contact teams against two good pitching staffs that are the best at getting swings and misses," said Hinch. "Someone is going to continue that trend, and someone is not. ... Contact is going to be huge in this series."


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    Browns teammate Carlos Hyde said some venom is to be expected when a Wolverine sets foot in Ohio. Watch video

    BEREA, Ohio -- Browns safety/return man Jabrill Peppers blames what he describes as a lot of 'hostile' confrontations with Browns fans in part on having played at Michigan, but former Buckeye Carlos Hyde cautions that it comes with the territory.

    "It's going to be like that here,'' Hyde told cleveland.com. "Definitely. He knows that. Coming to Ohio, he knows that. It'd be like me going to Detroit."

    Hyde said some venom is to be expected when a Wolverine sets foot in Ohio. "Yeah, it's all good, though,'' said Hyde. "I only lost to Michigan once though, so I ain't really tripping."

    Another former Buckeye, cornerback Denzel Ward, who was born and raised here, can "probably see that" Browns fans might not give a Wolverine the benefit of the doubt, "But he's on Cleveland now. This is the hometown team, so gotta love him now.''

    But Ward thinks it's the nature of the sport more than the maize and blue.

    "If you're doing good, they'll cheer for you,'' said Ward. "If you're doing bad they may not."

    Receiver Jarvis Landry was asked if Peppers' alma mater is a factor in any grief he's taking. He shook his head no. Does he think Browns fans here are wishy-washy as Peppers told Scott Petrak of The Chronicle-Telegram on Wednesday?

    "No,'' said Landry. "I was talking to some of the guys that have been here, and they were like 0-15 and the stadium still was packed. That goes to tell you right there."

    His advice for a young player like Peppers who's taking heat?

    "Don't pay attention,'' said Peppers. "Do your job."

    Ravens DC says Mayfield is this generation's Elway or Favre

    On Wednesday, Peppers told Petrak, "one thing I notice about Cleveland sports, you guys are very, very wishy-washy. If it ain't going right immediately, calling for heads, calling for jobs."

    Struggling on punt returns (20th in the NFL with a 4.3-yard average and a long return of 15) and a part-time starter at strong safety, Peppers backed off some on the remarks on Thursday.

    "You know, perception is everything,'' he said. "In this environment, my profession, everyone wants a story, so of course you want to do whatever gets you the most clicks. But they know I didn't mean the die-hard guys who come to the game week in and week out. But I can only speak from my experiences.

    "Obviously, I wasn't talking about the fans as a whole -- just more so the environment of an NFL franchise. We understand the city of Cleveland loves their Browns and wants to see us get back to how it's supposed to be. But that's just the NFL. They love you when you're doing good or not so much when you're not."

    Peppers' experiences, which he says include frequent confrontations with fans when he's shopping downtown or otherwise minding his business, have not soured him on being here.

    "Oh, no. Absolutely not. I love the Browns,'' he said. "I love the city of Cleveland. I love how passionate the fans are and part of what I get is my fault. I'm not playing up to my potential and they see that as well so you can't fault the people for feeling how they feel. You just gotta take it with a grain of salt and do what you gotta do to get better."

    Like former Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards before him, Peppers said fans won't give him the benefit of the doubt because of where he played in college.

    "I kind of expected it,'' he said. "Some people already feel a way about me because of my college choice, but you know I just gotta play better and make plays on the field and get them to like me. That's how it is in the NFL."

    Peppers, who turned 23 on Thursday, said it's gotten so bad "I definitely don't go anywhere by myself anymore."

    And it's not just verbal abuse he's talking about.

    "You know, as of late, when you walk up on another man, that's a hostile situation,'' he said. "For me, I have way more to lose than the average guy. So it puts me in kind of a funky situation where I can't even go get daily toiletries or things without having to worry about something like that."

    He declined to elaborate but said it's not just isolated incidents. "It happens a lot,'' he said. "I'm not trying to ... I want to keep the focus on the game. You know what I mean?"

    As for how he'll be received in Sunday's home game against the Ravens, he said, "Hopefully I'm making enough plays where no one's even thinking about it."

    He said he's never talked to Edwards, who couldn't get out of Cleveland fast enough, feeling like fans held Michigan against him. Peppers said fans are on him primarily because he's not playing up to his potential.

    "Absolutely, but no one's harder on me than myself,'' he said. "So that's why I say take it with a grain of salt."

    Does he believe he'll still up to his 2018 No. 25 overall status?

    "Absolutely. Absolutely,'' he said. "I'm not much of a talker. I talk with my pads. I talk with my play."

    Last year, Peppers was forced to play out of position as the deep "angel'' free safety, and this year, he's struggled on returns. On one kickoff return in Oakland, he thought he was in the end zone when he was at the 3.

    "I was there to make an impact on special teams,'' he said. "That's why I was brought here. I feel like I'm playing better in that strong safety position. But I've been behind the eight-ball in the return game.''

    Coach Hue Jackson, who really likes Peppers, said he meant no harm with his remarks.

    "Jabrill said that? Me knowing Jabrill, he didn't mean that it in that way, I'm sure,'' he said. "Just me knowing him, he gets a lot of attention having played at Michigan. Being out and around, I'm sure that some people probably come up to him and speak to him.

    "I don't think that he means our fans, our die-hard Cleveland Browns fans, they've been with us through everything that we've been through. He has to take responsibility for that, and I'm sure that he will. I just know the young man. I'm not trying to defend him, but I'm sure he didn't mean it in the way that it came across."


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    Harrison has shown steady improvement since Week 1. Watch video

    BEREA, Ohio -- There aren't many left tackles in the NFL who know more about going up against Terrell Suggs than Joe Thomas. Suggs, who entered the NFL in 2004, played 18 games against the Browns during Thomas' 11 seasons. Thomas ranked Suggs among the best pass rushers he ever faced.

    So, when you're trying to get rookie left tackle Desmond Harrison ready for his first matchup with Suggs, the ageless pass rusher who has 2.5 sacks this season and 18 in 27 career games against the Browns, who else are you going to call?

    "You can see it on film, but you won't know how to attack it," Harrison said on Thursday, "so Joe's just basically telling me how to attack it."

    Harrison has shown steady improvement since head coach Hue Jackson named him the starter the week prior to the opener against the Steelers. Harrison is still a work in progress, though, and Sunday will offer an opportunity to see how far he's come.

    "One thing I like about Desmond," Jackson said, "he is not going to blink. He is going to go out and compete."

    The Ravens have collected sacks in bunches this season. They had six in their opening game against the Bills and three in a Week 3 win over the Broncos. They have just one sack in their other two games. That type of inconsistency is reflected in numbers by Football Outsiders, who rank the Ravens third in Defense DVOA, but No. 26 in Variance, which they explain as "a measure of a team's game-to-game consistency."

    Whether the Ravens are able to get to quarterback Baker Mayfield will be dependent, in part, on Mayfield's quick release, but also on the line's performance, specifically Harrison, who expects to see Suggs lined up over him a lot.

    "I feel like when there's a third-and-8 and you need a play, Suggs is somewhere around the ball either tipping it or getting a sack or making something happen," left guard Joel Bitonio said earlier this week.

    Bitonio lauded Harrison's improvement, but acknowledged this week's difficulties.

    "It is a big test for him," Bitonio said, "so have to .. get a lot of film for him, get a lot of practice for him, but he is ready for the challenge."

    Offensive coordinator Todd Haley also called it a big, big exam for the rookie.

    "We've got to do everything we can to help him when we can without disrupting everything we're trying to get done," Haley said. "I have confidence in the kid."

    Harrison talked to Thomas on Wednesday night on the phone. He said the future Hall-of-Famer gave him tips but also reminded him to stay calm.

    "He just told me keep doing what I was doing and just relax," Harrison said.

    Across the board, early reviews on Harrison point to a steadily improving player. ProFootballFocus.com ranks him 12th among left tackles in pass blocking.

    "He's gotten better every game," Haley said. "What he's done from a communication standpoint, showing discipline, eliminating some of the penalties, knock on wood, demeanor on the sideline."

    Now, he gets a big test.

    "It is the way this league is," Jackson said. "You play, and you have to play against the best. He has to be up to the challenge."


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    The ban on home-plate collisions is meant to protect players. Watch video

    MLB made home-plate collisions illegal in 2014 to protect catchers who were getting hurt defending the plate. There was an uproar from many baseball purists condemning the change for taking away the contact aspect of the sport and making the game soft. Others like the rule because it keeps players healthy and makes the game safer. Nobody wants to watch playoff games with All-Star players on the DL. What do you think? 

    PERSPECTIVES

    After San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey broke his leg in a home plate collision, MLB decided they had enough of those big hits and that they had no place in the game. Do you think it should be brought it back?

    Baseball is supposed to be a contact sport. There's nothing more exhilarating than seeing a runner barrel toward a catcher, having the man in pads stand his ground and receive a huge blow, sacrificing his body to protect the plate. The league is wrong for taking that away.

    If football has taught us anything it's that people love violent contact. If MLB wants to gain back some of its popularity, it will allow home plate collisions again.

    FOX Sports RadioBring back home-plate collisions!

    There's nothing fun about seeing someone getting hurt. Banning the home-plate collision is meant to protect players so they don't hurt themselves. Entire seasons can be lost with one injury and preventing that beneficial for everyone.

    In 2011, the Giants lost Posey in May, destroying any chance of winning back-to-back World Series. If Posey was out there, who knows what would happen. The league did the right thing.

    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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    When the ALDS moves to Progressive Field on Monday, Game 3 will start at 1:30 p.m. If Game 4 is necessary on Tuesday it could start at 4:30 p.m. or 7 p.m.

    HOUSTON -- When the ALDS between the Indians and Astros moves to Cleveland on Monday for Game 3, the first pitch will be thrown at 1:30 p.m. at Progressive Field.

    The best-of-five series opens Friday at 2:05 p.m. at Minute Maid Park. Game 2 will be played Saturday at 4:35 p.m.

    If a Game 4 on Tuesday is necessary between the Indians and Astros, it will be played at Progressive Field at 4:35 p.m. or 7 p.m. If the ALDS between the Yankees and Red Sox reaches a fourth game, they will play at 8 p.m., while the Indians and Astros will play at 4:35 p.m.

    If ALDS between the Yankees and Red Sox has been decided, the Indians and Astros would start at 7 p.m.

    If the Indians and Astros return to Minute Maid Park for Game 5 on Oct. 11, they will play at 4 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. They would start at 4 p.m. if Boston and the Yankees went to five games with their game starting at 7:30 p.m.

    If there is only one ALDS game on Oct. 11, it would start on 7:30 p.m. regardless of the teams involved. All games will be televised on TBS.


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    Corey Kluber has put memories of last year's ALDS behind him, while Justin Verlander has been looking forward to getting re-acquainted with the Indians Watch video

    HOUSTON - Corey Kluber says the easiest way to get past a bad start is to flush it and move on. He said he did that a long time ago regarding his starts in Game 2 and Game 5 of the 2017 ALDS against the Yankees.

    This season he definitely pitched like man who was looking forward instead of backward. Kluber won 20 games for the first time in his career, topping 200 innings and 200 strikeouts for the fifth straight season.

    On Friday he will plunge into the ALDS again, this time against the defending World Series champion Houston Astros and Justin Verlander. Last year Kluber was not 100 percent, a point that quickly became evident as he allowed first-inning homers to Gary Sanchez in Game 2 and Didi Gregorius in Game 5.

    In 33 starts during the regular season this year, Kluber allowed six of his career-high 25 homers in the first inning. So just how important is it for Kluber to get through the first inning on Friday with limited or no damage?

    "You want to get through every inning without damage," said Kluber on Thursday at Minute Maid Park. "Whether a team scores a run in the first inning, ninth inning or seventh inning it's how many you add up at the end.

    "I think a lot of times guys can maybe give up runs early on and they start trying to make up for it and it adds up to a few runs quicker than it should. But I think each inning is separate from the others. It's only an inning and you're trying to get three outs as fast as you can, hopefully without anyone scoring, and then you try to do it again."

    We meet again: Verlander will be facing the Indians for the first time since the Tigers traded him to Houston in August of 2017. Before that Verlander and the Indians couldn't get away from each other.

    He made his big-league debut against them on July 4, 2005. In his career, he's made more starts (52) against the Tribe than any other team. He's 20-24 with a 4.71 ERA.

    "It's been over a year (since I've faced them)," said Verlander. "I've changed a lot. Their lineup has changed. I will be interesting to see what happens."

    Verlander said he's thrown a lot more four-seam fastballs since he joined the Astros.

    "I think just overall, the adaptation of myself and how I use my stuff has changed," said Verlander. "Some of that is analytics. Some of that's just personal feel and knowing what works and kind of sticking to my guns a little bit."

    Houston manager A.J. Hinch says Verlander just keeps evolving.

    "He's had this start circled for a while now," said Hinch. "He's got a long history with the Indians. He's going to come up with ways to combat the successes or failures that he's had and he does that on a start by start basis.

    "He has the mindset and the ability to evolve as the game around him gets younger and he gets older. When people think his stuff is going to decline, he throws harder. When guys start to hit his breaking ball, he comes up with a cutter. He's always doing something to evolve."

    Need for speed: Outfielder Rajai Davis, the last man to make the Tribe's ALDS roster, was asked how important speed can been in the postseason.

    "It's going to be huge," said Davis, who stole 21 bases during the regular season. "It plays a factor in how guys pitch to the next guy at the plate. When you know a guy is quick or can steal a bag ... no one wants to give up 90 feet. If that affects the pitcher, the way he thinks, the way he delivers his pitches, and helps our hitter get better pitches to hit, it only benefits the team."

    Asked what his role will be in the ALDS, Davis said, "I don't know what that is. I can't name it, but I'm going to claim it."

    Good for Yandy: Last year Yandy Diaz didn't make the Tribe's postseason roster. This year he did.

    "Yandy gives us protection from them bringing in a lefty," said Francona. "It's another guy who can play the infield, but it's a guy that really swings the bat well against lefties. That's basically why he's here."

    The Astros have just one lefty in the bullpen, Tony Sipp. Dallas Keuchel, scheduled to start Game 3 on Monday, is a lefty as well. Diaz hit .289 (13-for-45) against lefties and .328 (21-for-64) against righties.

    Finally: Catcher Yan Gomes, recovering from a lacerated and bruised right thumb, went through Thursday's workout without a problem. He's scheduled to catch Kluber on Friday.

    "Once I found out that it wasn't broken, I was already very optimistic," said Gomes. "Today we took all the bandages off and tried to throw. It felt normal. It's just like a swollen thumb, like I got jammed or something like that."


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    Check here for the live Day 2 leaderboard for UL International Crown 2018.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Michelle Wie, Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda and Cristie Kerr comprise Team USA at the UL International Crown 2018 this week in South Korea. Republic of Korea is the favorite to win the event, which began Wednesday.

    LPGA TOUR
    UL INTERNATIONAL CROWN
    Site: Incheon, South Korea.
    Course: Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea. Yardage: 6,508. Par: 72.
    Purse: $1.6 million. Winner's share: $100,000 per player.
    Television: Wednesday, 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. (Golf Channel); Thursday-Saturday, 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. (Golf Channel).
    Defending champion: United States.
    Previous tournament: Angela Stanford won the Evian Championship.
    Notes: Eight countries of four players are divided into two pools, with South Korea and Team USA leading each pool. ... The first three days feature fouballs, with two points available for a win and one for a halve. Five teams advance to the final round Sunday of singles matches. ... All points from pool play of fourballs carry over to the final day. Cumulative points determine the winner. ... The other countries to qualify through the world ranking are Japan, England, Australia, Thailand, Sweden and Taiwan. ... The South Korean team is the most difficult to make. Its players this year are Sung Hyun Park, So Yeon Ryu, I.K. Kim and In Gee Kim. ... Team USA features Michelle Wie, Cristie Kerr, Jessica Korda and Lexi Thompson. ... The International Crown starts the fall Asian swing of the LPGA Tour; there are five more stops before the tour ends the season at the CME Group Tour Championship in Florida. ... The tournament does not provide Race to CME Globe points.
    Next week: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship.
    Online: www.lpga.com

    (Fact box from Associated Press.)


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    The last roster spot on the Indians' 25-man ALDS roster came down to outfielder Rajai Davis or utility man Erik Gonzalez. The Indians went with Davis.

    HOUSTON -- The Indians went with Rajai Davis' speed over the security blanket of Erik Gonzalez for the last spot on their ALDS roster. Manager Terry Francona announced the move on Thursday during the Tribe's workout at Minute Maid Park.

    "No one has a crystal ball, but we went with who had a better chance to impact a series and we felt like Raj had a better chance," said Francona. "It's nothing against Gonzy. But if Gonzy gets in that meant something went wrong.

    "If something goes wrong, we might be kicking ourselves, but I think we felt like the risk is worth the reward."

    Davis hit .224 (44-for-196) with one homer and six RBI in 101 games during the regular season. Not great numbers, but where he stood out was on the base paths, stealing 21 bases in 28 attempts.

    He is one of the reasons the Indians led the big leagues in stolen bases for the first time in franchise history. Jose Ramirez led the way with 38 steals followed by Francisco Lindor with 25 and Greg Allen and Davis with 21 each.

    Davis, who hit one of the biggest home runs in franchise history in the 2016 World Series, was told he made the roster just before the Indians started stretching exercises Thursday at Minute Maid Field.

    Gonzalez hit .265 (36-for-136) with 10 doubles, one homer and 16 RBI in 81 games. He played all four infield positions.

    Ramirez, in the absence of Gonzalez, becomes the Tribe's backup shortstop. If he has to move to short, Jason Kipnis could move from center field to second base and Allen or Davis could take over in center.

    The Indians and Astros will play Game 1 of the ALDS at 2:05 p.m. on Friday. They do not have to submit their rosters to the commissioner's office until 10 a.m. Friday, but with the addition of Davis, here's what the Tribe's unofficial 25-man roster looks like.

    Starting pitchers (three): Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger.

    Bullpen (eight): Trevor Bauer, Shane Bieber, Cody Allen, Dan Otero, Adam Cimber, Andrew Miller, Oliver Perez and Brad Hand.

    Infield (six): Lindor, Ramirez, Yonder Alonso, Josh Donaldson, Yandy Diaz and Edwin Encarnacion.

    Outfield (six): Allen, Brandon Guyer, Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Melky Cabrera and Davis.

    Catchers (two): Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez.


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    The Cleveland Indians will face a lot of pressure with players in their free agency years, a history of near-misses, opposing defensive alignments and that whole 1948 thing.

    CLEVELAND. Ohio -- After New York Giants third baseman Hank Thompson gloved the foul pop-up of Cleveland's Dale Mitchell, completing a stunning sweep of the favored Indians in the 1954 World Series, Willie Mays said Thompson didn't simply catch the ball. 

    "He squoze it," said Mays.

    The squeeze play is on again as the Tribe opens the playoffs Friday in Houston against the defending World Series champion Astros. It is not the squeeze bunt with its two incarnations, safety and suicide, it is the pressures of the whole, complicated megillah of 70 years since their last World Series championship in 1948.

    Los of squeezes

    There are more main squeezes going on here than on "The Bachelor."

    They include:

    • The Tribe's long, Browns-like decades as a slapstick Max Patkin franchise, a clown show for most of 41 years, or one more than Moses and the Israelites, who after all were without GPS devices, wandered in the desert;
    • Two defeats in extra innings in the seventh game of the World Series in this generation;
    • A tetralogy of terrible triads, with four season-ending sets of three straight losses when just one more victory would have meant advancing to the League Championship Series twice (1999, 2017), to the World Series (2007) once, and most galling of all, to winning it all (2016).

    The sense of the end times for the Indians might not be as pronounced as it was in LeBron James' second leave-taking this spring. But no athlete in Cleveland history since Jesse Owens at Adolf Hitler's Berlin Olympics in 1936 had as many drama-filled passages through our sports consciousness on a global stage as James. 

    Time's stranglehold

    You often hear that baseball is a game without a clock. 

    This is not strictly true. Commissioner Rob Manfred, keeping a jaundiced eye on those three- and four-hour nine-inning games, had taken modest steps to put more snap in the action. 

    But the clock is also running on the boys of summers past.

    Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Rajai DavIs, Melky Cabrera and, more critically, bullpen members Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, plus starter Josh Tomlin, could all leave as free agents.

    The Indians still have most of their stellar starting rotation intact, but in the playoffs manager Terry Francona uses a bullpen-centric approach. Unfortunately, the pen for various reasons has under-performed. which is why Trevor Bauer will be part of it.

    There is a 70-year clock and there is a this-year clock, and both are ticking.

    Defensive choke hold

    You also hear that in the pitcher-hitter matchup, baseball provides the best forum for individual duels since Burr vs. Hamilton on the heights of Weehawken, New Jersey.  

    This is not strictly true either. The defense has nine players, the offense has the batter, although he can be more threatening with runners on base to create bigger defensive gaps.  

    Unlike football's spread offense and basketball's 3-pointer, which increase offensive space and maneuverability, baseball's shifts compress it and strangle offense.

    Defensive shifts were used roughly one fourth of the time this season. If a power-hitting left-hander is at the plate, the second baseman often is positioned in shallow right field, and the shortstop to the right of second base. There are sentries, redoubts and support troops blocking every step of the way to a base hit.

    Hitters elevate their "launch angles," to clear the stacked defenses. This means more homers, but fewer balls put in play.

    The Indians have a lot riding in October.

    The Indians also have a lot of things pinching, nipping, crowding, pressing and squeezing them, in addition to their 70-Year Itch.

    Bill Livingston is a retired Plain Dealer sports columnist. He writes occasional columns for The Plain Dealer and cleveland.com.


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    Not much in the regular season indicated the Indians could defeat the World Champion Houston Astros. But yes, the Tribe has a chance. Watch video

    HOUSTON, Texas -- Scribbles in my Cleveland Indians notebook as they open the playoffs against Houston:

    1. I'm writing these notes about 24 hours before the Tribe faces the Astros in the best-of-5 American League Division Series. I'm sitting in the press box at Minute Maid Stadium, watching the Astros take batting practice. The ballpark is nearly empty. I'm excited and anxious about this series, because the stakes are so high for both teams.

    2. Tribe fans know the Indians story. Losing in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series after having a 3-1 lead over the Cubs. In 2017, they won 102 games, but blew a 2-0 lead to the Yankees in these same ALDS playoffs. In 2016, the Indians were not supposed to get out of the first round because of all their injured starting pitchers. In 2017, the Tribe was supposed to roll into the World Series.

    3. So no one knows anything, at least about the Tribe and the playoffs.The Indians desperately want to make a strong postseason run, partly to erase what happened in 2017.

    4. And the Astros? They are the World Series champions. They won 103 games this season, the second most in the majors (Boston was 108-54). The Indians  were 91-71, easily winning the dismal Central Division. For the Astros, being upset by the Tribe would be a shock and a downer.

    5. Houston Manager A.J. Hinch said: "We've been there (winning the World Series), so I think that helps...But that team across the way has been there, too. They didn't get to experience the parade like we did, but they got to experience the seventh game of the World Series."

    6. Hinch talked about the Indians having "four guys (starting pitchers) with 200 strikeouts, we have three." He talked about the need to "make contact" and avoid strikeouts.

    7. "We're a good contact team, so are they," explained Hinch. "So you have two good contact teams against two good pitching staffs that are the best at getting swings and misses. Someone is going to continue that trend, and someone is not."

    8.  It may be hard to believe because most fans (including myself) just pay attention to your favorite team. But Tribe hitters had the fewest strikeouts in the American League (1,189). Houston was next (1,197). This is a game where everyone strikes out seemingly all the time.

    9. Who gets hot? That can swing a 5-game series in either team's favor. A year ago, Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor were 4-for-38 vs. the Yankees. They struck out 13 times. They had one extra-base hit, a Lindor homer. If that happens again, the Indians lose.

    10. Ramirez batted only .203 after Aug. 1 and .218 since the All-Star break. The Indians try to say they're not concerned, but they have to be concerned. Nonetheless, Ramirez is an All-Star. He batted.270 (.939 OPS) with 39 HR, 105 RBI and 34 stolen bases for the season.

    11. Manager Terry Francona on Ramirez: "Unless your name is Ted Williams, everyone has a spot in the season where they have some troubles. He got a little out of whack mechanically. I don't think it's ever just one thing. We believe in Jose a lot."

    12. The slump is surprising. Once Ramirez gained confidence and became a starter in in 2016, he was one of the Tribe's most consistent hitters for 2-1/2 seasons. From opening day on 2016 until the 2018 All-Star Game, he was a .319 hitter with lots of other good stats. The Indians simply have to hope he tightens up his swing and goes back to that form.

    13. Ramirez is a career .407 hitter (11-for-27, 2 HR, 5 RBI) vs. Houston starter Justin Verlander. Maybe that will help him. Lindor has batted .345 (1-for-29) vs. Verlander. Josh Donaldson (.333) has been successful against the future Hall of Famer. But Edwin Encanacion has had a miserable time with Verlander, batting .114 (4-for-35, 2 HR).

    14. So glad Francona kept Yandy Diaz on the roster. It was a mistake to take him off the 2017 playoff roster. Diaz is a potent bat who can be effective as a pinch hitter. He could have taken over at DH in 2017 after Edwin Encarnacion sprained his ankle in Game 2 of the Yankee series.

    15. Francona spent a lot of time talking a bit in circles about Trevor Bauer in the bullpen.The manager realized it, then said: "My guess is Trevor is going to be used a ton."

    16. Houston's bullpen is so talented, former Tribe reliever Joe Smith didn't make the playoff roster. Smith had a solid year (5-1, 3.71 ERA). He signed a 2-year, $15 million deal with Houston before the season. The Astros did keep another former Indians, lefty Tony Sipp, who was 3-1 with a 1.86 ERA.

    17. MLB.com had a chart with playoff teams vs. teams with above .500 records in the regular season. The Indians were the worst in the postseason at 23-31. What about 2017? The Tribe was the best  (27-22) vs. regular season teams above .500. And the Tribe lost in the first round.

    18. It comes down to who is playing well right now, in October. Depth also isn't as much of a factor as the teams never play more than two days in a row. It's also why the Tribe traded for Josh Donaldson, a career .292 hitter in the postseason. Dealing with calf injuries for most of the season, Donaldson admitted: "There was a period of time when I didn't know if I'd come back at all." He said he had a "grade 3 sprain, which is a tear of the tendon."

    19. Donaldson has looked healthy since joining the Tribe in September. He batted .280 (.920 OPS) with three HR and seven RBI in 16 games. He also looked good at third base.

    20. PREDICTION: Indians in four games! Why not? I'm in a great mood when the Tribe is in the playoffs. And the Indians do have the pitching to shut down Houston. If it does happen, the Indians need to do it three or four games. The longer the series, the more it favors the more talented team.


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    Allbright, a radio host from Denver with a view of the entire league, checks in on a Browns team he thinks has one of the best defenses in the league, and a lot of hope for the future.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Benjamin Allbright is an NFL analyst and radio host in Denver who has connections around the NFL and a full view of the league.

    His NFL power rankings, based off his own mathematical formula, have the Cleveland Browns as the No. 10 team in the league through four games.

    So we had him on Takes By The Lake.

    Allbright is an interesting Twitter follow at @AllbrightNFL, offering news and opinions from around the NFL. He tweeted this a few days ago.

     

    We talked about those rankings in the interview, and of course it's early and a small sample size can easily skew rankings like this. Allbright said his rankings give a lot of credit to staying close in games, and in the three games they didn't win, the Browns have been really close.

    But beyond a ranking, Allbright has been very impressed with the Browns defense, and he's been a strong believer in Baker Mayfield since the middle of last season.

    He's a great guest and it was an interesting conversation. So enjoy this episode from cleveland.com. 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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    The Buckeyes are 26-point favorites when they host Indiana on Saturday night. Watch video

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When we shot the video making our game picks for Saturday's game between Ohio State and Indiana, the Buckeyes were favored by 25 points. As of Thursday night, that line had moved to 26 points most places.

    Here's the thing, in the six meetings since Urban Meyer came to Ohio State in 2012, Ohio State would have only covered a 26-point spread against Indiana twice. The Hoosiers often keep it closer than expected against the Buckeyes.

    Couple that with a potential lingering Penn State hangover for OSU, and it might be smart to take the Hoosiers with the points this week.

    One of us is doing that in our game picks. Watch the video above to hear Doug Lesmerises and Bill Landis break down their picks. Our score projections and records for the season are below.

    Let us know your pick in the comments section.

    * Bill Landis: Ohio State 42, Indiana 20

    Take Indiana +25

    * Doug Lesmerises: Ohio State 42, Indiana 14

    Take Ohio State -25

    Ohio State game picks record

    Bill: 5-0, 2-3 against the spread

    Doug: 5-0, 2-3 against the spread


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    The Indians play the defending World Series champion Astros in an AL Division Series that begins this week.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- An easy way to feel confident about the Cleveland Indians in MLB Playoffs 2018 is to peruse the following list:

    SS Francisco Lindor
    2B Jose Ramirez
    LF Michael Brantley
    DH Edwin Encarnacion
    3B Josh Donaldson
    RHP Corey Kluber
    RHP Carlos Carrasco
    RHP Trevor Bauer
    RHP Mike Clevinger
    LHP Andrew Miller
    RHP Cody Allen
    LHP Brad Hand

    The list represents plenty of "star'' power, All-Star or otherwise. (Yes, I included Allen. His ERA ballooned to 4.70 this season, but I'll take my chances with someone who owns a 0.47 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings of 15 appearances in his postseason career.)

    Among those not initially mentioned are 2018 All-Star catcher Yan Gomes, who supplemented his quality receiving with a potent bat in the second half; two-time All-Star Jason Kipnis, who moves from second base to center field; and RF Melky Cabrera, a .286 hitter over 1,754 MLB regular-season games and, for what it's worth, 2012 All-Star Game MVP.

    Role players can and do contribute in the postseason, but team success ultimately depends on the front-line talent. So the Indians are in solid shape there.

    Problem is, the postseason does not unfold in a vacuum. That pesky obstacle known as the opponent must be dealt with, and for the Indians, that means the defending World Series champion Houston Astros in an AL Division Series that begins Friday in Houston. All the Astros did this season was go 103-59 and win the AL West; they were 12 games better than the AL Central champion Indians while playing in a tougher division.

    The Astros did not achieve a second straight 100-victory season by accident. They ooze big-name position players (e.g. 3B Alex Bregman, 2B Jose Altuve, OF George Springer, SS Carlos Correa) and pitchers (e.g. RHP Justin Verlander, RHP Gerrit Cole, LHP Dallas Keuchel). They look at the Indians' roster and no doubt respect it, but they don't fear it. Why should they? They are the champs, with better pitching than in 2017.

    One of the many reasons I love the MLB playoffs is that anything really can happen. Ground is fertile for upsets because the road to the championship round is much less punitive than, as two notable examples, that of the NBA and NHL. The Indians absolutely can upset the Astros and defeat the next opponent and, once in the World Series, win it....but I don't see it happening because the Astros are too good, and they have homefield advantage.

    DMan's prediction: Astros in five.


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    Here's how to watch and follow Friday's ALDS Game 1 between the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland Indians play Game 1 of the 2018 American League Division Series this afternoon against the defending champion Houston Astros.

    Here's how to watch, listen and stream the action online.

    What: Cleveland Indians (91-71) vs. Houston Astros (103-59).
    Where: Minute Maid Park.
    When: 2:05 p.m.
    TV: TBS.
    Radio: WTAM, 1100 AM; WMMS, 100.7 FM.
    Online: MLB.TV (premium subscription); Watch TBS

    Cleveland notable: Since Terry Francona became Tribe manager in 2013, the Indians have gone 27-14 (.659) vs. the Astros.

    Houston notable: The Astros allowed 534 runs this season, the fewest allowed by an AL team in a non strike-shortened season since the DH started being used in 1973.

    Catch the coverage from before the game; join in the live chat from the first pitch; and stick around for full postgame coverage. For all Indians information, be sure to check out cleveland.com/tribe.


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    Mary Kay Cabot and Dan Labbe look ahead to the Ravens this week. Watch video

    BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns take on the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at 1 p.m. at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns are looking for their first AFC North win in nearly three years.

    Mary Kay Cabot and I previewed the game in the video above. We talked about the problems the Ravens can cause on the defensive side of the ball. Then we talked about their rejuvenated offense led by Joe Flacco, having one of the best seasons of his career.

    Then, of course, we made our predictions for the game.


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    Check here for the live second-round leaderboard for the PGA Tour's Safeway Open 2018 on Friday, Oct. 5, in California.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Phil Mickelson, Joaquin Niemann, Brandt Snedeker, Patrick Cantlay, Ryan Moore, Hunter Mahan, Fred Couples, Jason Dufner, Denny McCarthy, two-time defending champion Brendan Steele and former MLB pitcher Mark Mulder are among those in the field for the PGA Tour's Safeway Open 2018 this week in California. The Safeway opens the 2018-19 season.

    Mulder, who won three straight American Century Celebrity Golf Championships (2015-17), is a sponsor's invite.

    TV schedule

    • Thursday-Sunday, 5:30-8:30 p.m., Golf Channel.

    PGA TOUR
    SAFEWAY OPEN
    Site: Napa, Calif.
    Course: Silverado Resort. Yardage: 7,166. Par: 72.
    Purse: $6.2 million. Winner's share: $1,116,000.
    Defending champion: Brendan Steele.
    FedExCup champion: Justin Rose.
    Previous tournament: Tiger Woods won the Tour Championship.
    Notes: This is the first tournament of the new PGA Tour season. ... Phil Mickelson is the only Ryder Cup player at the Safeway Open. His management company runs the tournament. ... The tournament finished last year shortly before wildfires closed in on Silverado. ... Mickelson and Patrick Cantlay are the only players in the field who were at the Tour Championship two weeks ago. ... Fred Couples is making a rare PGA Tour start. ... Mark Mulder is playing on a sponsor's exemption. The retired Oakland A's pitcher won three consecutive American Century Classic titles, a tournament for athletes and celebrities. ... Steele is going for this third straight victory at Silverado. ... The winner receives an exemption to the Masters and to the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Kapalua at the start of next year. ... The PGA Tour leaves for three straight weeks in Asia after this week, returning Nov. 1 in Las Vegas.
    Next week: CIMB Classic in Malaysia.
    Online: www.pgatour.com

    (Fact box from Associated Press.)


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    Corey Kluber and the Cleveland Indians face Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the ALDS at Minute Maid Park.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Here are the starting lineups for Friday's ALDS Game 1 between the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros.

    What: Indians (91-71) vs. Astros (103-59).
    When: 2:05 p.m.
    Where: Minute Maid Park.
    Broadcast: TBS, WTAM 1100 AM, WMMS 100.7 FM.

    CLEVELAND INDIANS

    Francisco Lindor SS
    Michael Brantley LF
    Jose Ramirez 2B
    Edwin Encarnacion DH
    Josh Donaldson 3B
    Yonder Alonso 1B
    Melky Cabrera RF
    Yan Gomes C
    Jason Kipnis CF

    Corey Kluber RHP

    HOUSTON ASTROS

    George Springer CF
    Jose Altuve 2B
    Alex Bregman 3B
    Yuli Gurriel 1B
    Marwin Gonzalez LF
    Carlos Correa SS
    Tyler White DH
    Josh Reddick RF
    Martin Maldonado C

    Justin Verlander RHP


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