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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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Wizards' preseason showed how Jeff Green can help bench score from inside and out

Wizards' preseason showed how Jeff Green can help bench score from inside and out

When Mike Scott left to join the L.A. Clippers, the Wizards replaced him as the backup power forward with Jeff Green and in doing so found a guy who is similar in many ways, albeit for a cheaper price. He is experienced, versatile offensively and even a local guy who roots for the Redskins.

Where they differ on the offensive end is the ways they like to score. Scott is more of a three-point threat, while Green is more comfortable operating in the post. 

Last season with the Wizards, Scott attempted only a third of his shots from less than 10 feet, while Green took 54.2 of his attempts from that range. Nearly a third of Green's shots (30.3) came within five feet of the rim.

Green's ability to score inside and with his back to the basket may end up complementing others in the Wizards' second unit quite well. Three-point shooting is more important than ever in today's NBA and his ability to draw the defense inside can open up the floor for others like Tomas Satoransky, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers.

The Wizards did not have anyone on their bench last season with Green's level of skill in the post and Green showed in the preseason a willingness to pass from the paint.

Against the Knicks in the Wizards' fourth preseason game, Green had the ball in the post when he noticed Satoransky's defender was moving closer inside, perhaps anticipating a rebound. He fired the ball to Satoransky, who pump-faked a three and dribbled to his right before knocking down a jumper at the top of the key.

"It's just smart basketball. There are a lot of unselfish guys," Green said of the Wizards' bench. "I think we just work well together. We feed off each other. I think we know how to play the right way."

Satoransky led the Wizards with a 46.5 three-point percentage last season. He knocked down 51.2 percent off catch-and-shoot plays. Rivers shot 37.8 percent from three last year for the Clippers and 37.1 percent on catch-and-shoot looks.

Oubre shot only 34.1 percent overall from three, but that number dropped significantly towards the end of the year. He can get hot from three and is dangerous when cutting to the basket off the ball. Ian Mahinmi, though not highly skilled in the post, can make defenders pay for leaving him on double teams.

It's not only about threes for Rivers and Satoransky, as Satoransky showed on that one play in New York. Both are solid at catch-and-gos. Rivers is decisive and quick and Satoranksy has made noticeable strides since he entered the league and taking off once he gets a pass. 

Green, 32, is still learning their strengths.

"I try to use their attributes to our advantage and creating what I can create," Green said. "If they can shoot and I'm being doubled, I'm going to make the right play and get it to the shooter."

The Wizards made upgrading their bench a big priority this offseason and the net result may be the most versatile group they have had in years. They can shoot threes, run the floor and, with Green in the mix, work inside and out.

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NHL Power Rankings: Not every night is a big-time game for the Capitals

NHL Power Rankings: Not every night is a big-time game for the Capitals

There was a lot of excitement to start the season for the Caps. First, there was the home-opener and the banner raising against the Boston Bruins. Then there was a trip to Pittsburgh to take on the rival Penguins. After that, it was a Stanley Cup Final rematch against the Vegas Golden Knights.

And all of that was followed up with a trip to Newark.

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

With all due respect to New Jersey, given the slate the Caps faced to start the season, it was no real surprise to see the team struggle to get up for Thursday’s game against the Devils, a game in which the Caps were blown out 6-0. Of all the games Washington faced to start the season, the trip to New Jersey was definitely the least exciting.

But not every game is going to be a big rivalry matchup or a playoff rematch. With every team gunning for the Caps, they better make sure they can get themselves ready for the grind of an 82-game season that won’t always feature a big-time matchup.

A trip to Newark may not be flashy or exciting, but it still counts as two points.

The Caps dropped the game in New Jersey and lost a tight contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Where do they stand now after two straight losses?

FIND OUT HERE IN THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS

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