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Bailey can follow no-hitter with playoff clincher

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Bailey can follow no-hitter with playoff clincher

CINCINNATI (AP) Homer Bailey played catch in the sun-splashed outfield at Great American Ball Park, his usual routine the day before a start. Nothing different at all, as far as the Texan let on.

``You guys,'' he said afterward, ``it's just another game.''

Uh-uh. Not buying it. Everyone knows the Cincinnati Reds pitcher has a chance to exorcise a lot of bad postseason history - or add to it - with his next start.

Less than two weeks after he threw the 15th no-hitter in the history of baseball's first professional franchise, the 26-year-old Bailey has a chance to add another career moment. He can complete a division-series sweep of the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night.

Up 2-0 in the series, the Reds need one more victory to advance, with as many as three chances left at home. It'll be a breakthrough if they get it.

Cincinnati hasn't won a home playoff game in 17 years, a span of futility etched into the franchise's storied history. Everyone remembers the Big Red Machine winning back-to-back World Series in 1975-76. The 1990 Nasty Boys team swept Oakland to win another.

Since then? Little more than heartbreak. Got swept by Atlanta in the 1995 NL championship series under manager Davey Johnson. Lost a one-game playoff for the NL wild card to the Mets in 1999 at Riverfront Stadium. Got swept by the Phillies in the first round two years ago.

Maybe it's finally their time.

``I had this one kid give me a sweatshirt that said, `The Year of the 12,''' said manager Dusty Baker, who wears the uniform number. ``He gave it to me in spring training. I believe in that. I'm only going to see one `12 while I'm living. It's a special year. I just feel that it's our year.''

Their first shot at it will make major league history.

The Giants and Reds both had pitchers throw no-hitters this year - Matt Cain had a perfect game for San Francisco. When Bailey starts on Tuesday, it'll mark the first time two players that threw no-hitters in the regular season pitch on opposing teams in the same playoff series, according to STATS LLC.

The Reds put themselves in position for a sweep by overcoming the loss of ace Johnny Cueto to a bad back in the first inning of the opener, then pulling out a 5-2 win. They won 9-0 on Sunday night behind Bronson Arroyo's seven crisp innings, then tried to get a few hours of sleep on the overnight flight back to Ohio.

The plane landed at 6:48 a.m., less than an hour before the sun came up.

``I slept on the plane, got here, got my stuff, got breakfast (at a restaurant) and went back to bed, slept a couple of hours and made myself get up,'' outfielder Drew Stubbs said. ``Not an ideal amount of rest, but hopefully I get to catch up on it tonight.''

Stubbs, Bailey and a few other Reds showed up at the ballpark in the afternoon for a light workout. Stubbs ran a few pass patterns as players threw a football on the field.

The Giants stayed overnight on the West Coast and flew in during the afternoon, trying to get a little needed sleep in their own beds. Probably wasn't very restful - only four teams have overcome a 2-0 deficit in the division series.

Manager Bruce Bochy couldn't tell by what he heard on the flight to Cincinnati that his team was down to its last loss.

``I think more than anything, they were relaxing back there, doing what they normally do,'' Bochy said. ``Some guys were playing cards. We did have some family on the trip and they were watching movies. There was really nothing any different than any trip we take. So I can't say I noticed anything different about it.''

Out of the conversation, but not out of the minds for the 2010 World Series champions.

``The cliche is to say it's just another game, but I feel `just another game' doesn't count when you're talking about the postseason,'' said right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, who starts on Tuesday. ``And when you're talking about being down 0-2 in a series, you can't say it's just another game, either.''

If Vogelsong and the Giants can extend the series, Bochy said Monday that left-hander Barry Zito would start Game 4. And the Reds were still unsure whether Cueto would be available.

It'll be Bailey's first appearance at Great American Ball Park since his no-hitter in Pittsburgh on Sept. 28. He followed the no-hitter with four shutout innings in a 1-0 loss in the final game of the season at St. Louis, an easy outing to save him for the playoffs.

Bailey led the NL with a 2.32 earned run average on the road this season, but is only 18-19 with a 5.13 career ERA at Great American.

It'll be the first time Reds fans get to recognize him for the no-hitter - not that he'll notice.

``I will probably be somewhat oblivious to it, just like any starter on game day,'' Bailey said. ``Unless there is a streaker running across, you don't pay attention, you're just focused on what you're doing.''

Bailey will be well-rested. He flew home with Cueto on Sunday, got home and watched the last few innings of the Reds' win on television.

It'll be Baker's first game back in Cincinnati since Sept. 12. He was hospitalized while the team was in Chicago for an irregular heartbeat and a mini-stroke. He rejoined the team for the final series in St. Louis, then flew to the West Coast and got an ovation when introduced before the first playoff game.

Baker was still in a Chicago hospital bed when the Reds clinched at home on Sept. 22 - players toasted him in the clubhouse before spraying each other. He was in Cincinnati resting when Bailey threw his no-hitter in Pittsburgh.

He'll get another ovation when he's introduced on Tuesday night, though it's nothing he's anticipating.

``I didn't think about getting a reception in San Francisco,'' the 63-year-old manager said. ``I'm just doing my job.''

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Follow Joe Kay on Twitter:http://twitter.com/apjoekay

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Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

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Associated Press

Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

Bradley Beal may have had a slow start in the three-point contest on Saturday night, but in Sunday's All-Star Game he worked quickly to make the most of his relatively small window of playing time.

Beal checked in for the first time with 5:45 left in the first quarter and less than 25 seconds later had his first points on a two-handed dunk assisted by LeBron James.

In his All-Star debut, Beal helped lead Team LeBron to a 148-145 victory over Team Stephen as the league utilizied a new format for the annual showcase.

RELATED: BEAL BOUNCED EARLY IN THREE-POINT CONTEST

Beal finished with 14 points and a steal in a productive night. He shot 5-for-10 from the field and an impressive 4-for-8 from long range. 

Beal also tried to get a travelling call from the refs on Karl-Anthony Towns. Yeah, that's not likely to happen in an All-Star Game:

Beal more than held his own and only played 16 minutes, which was good considering he has logged the fifth-most minutes of any player so far this season. A realistic best-case scenario was a strong showing and a short night and that's exactly what he got.

Not only does Beal play a lot of minutes, the Wizards need him now more than ever with John Wall's injury. He needs whatever rest he can get during this All-Star break.

Speaking of Wall, he was in the house despite being in the middle of his rehab from left knee surgery. Per usual, Wall was shining bright:

RELATED: BEST WIZARDS/BULLETS MOMENTS ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

The All-Star Game wasn't all about Beal, of course. Here are some other things that stood out...

*The new format and increased financial incentive were intended to make the game more competitive and that's what happened late in the fourth quarter. Usually, that's how these things go where the players will start trying at the end. But this time it seemed to be up a few levels and it was fun to watch. 

Both teams scored in the 140s, so it wasn't exactly a defensive battle. No matter what the league does, the players will only try so hard for so long. The main goal of everyone's is to not get injured in a game that ultimately doesn't count for anything. Still, this was different and appears to have been a success.

*While everyone was focusing on the reunion of LeBron and Kyrie Irving the best beef was Joel Embiid vs. Russell Westbrook. Those two have traded waves to taunt each other at the end of wins in head-to-head matchups and it was clear on Sunday they still don't like each other. Westbrook tried to dunk all over Embiid in the first half, only to get blocked at the rim.

Westbrook's determination to dunk on Embiid was out of the ordinary for an All-Star Game. It was obvious what was on his mind:

*Irving's handles are simply ridiculous. Check out this fake behind-the-back move he pulled with Giannis Antetkounmpo guarding him. Yes, it didn't fool the defender but it was impressive nonetheless:

*LeBron is 33 years old, yet he was still running up and down the court faster than anyone and leaping above the rim to thrown down alley-oop after alley-oop. It is truly amazing and everyone should enjoy watching him while they can, regardless of whether they like the guy or not.

This was one of his dunks:

LeBron took home MVP with a game-high 29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and a steal.

*The pregame show was quite bad. It was anchored by comedians Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle and, though they had some funny jokes, it lasted nearly 30 minutes. The whole thing was pretty much universally panned on social media. Fergie's national anthem was also roasted by the masses.

*The halftime show was much better. It began with N.E.R.D taking it back to their older days with 'Lapdance,' went to Migos performing 'Stir Fry' and swung back to N.E.R.D. who did their latest hit 'Lemon.' 

RELATED: LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT

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The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

Whoever put together the NBA All-Star Game player introductions has some 'splainin to do. 

The NBA introduced a kinda-full Staples Center to their 2018 All-Stars about an hour ago, and boy was it weird. There were a lot of dancers in different themed costumes. Kevin Hart was screaming. Rob Riggle was screaming. Ludacris showed up? Hey! Did you know that the Barenaked Ladies are still a band? The NBA would like you to know they're still around.  The whole thing was like when you're at an art museum and you're told that abstract piece in the corner is actually really meaningful but you gotta be honest, you don't get it. 

Anyways, the internet hated it. Here are some highlights from the internet hating it:

The lesson here is that you never need Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle. One will do.