Reds go for an impressive sweep in Game 3

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Reds go for an impressive sweep in Game 3

From Comcast SportsNetCINCINNATI (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."

Thomas shines again in fourth quarter, Celtics beat Hornets, 108-98

Thomas shines again in fourth quarter, Celtics beat Hornets, 108-98

BOSTON –  Late in the fourth quarter, the TD Garden was rockin' when the fans charted chanting, 'M-V-P, M-V-P' which is become a nightly serenade of sorts for Isaiah Thomas. 

It's extremely wishful thinking on Celtics Nation's part, but there is no denying his status as one of the game's best players this season. 

He delivered yet another work of art on Monday, scoring 17 of his game-high 35 points in the fourth quarter in leading Boston to a 108-98 win against Charlotte. 

And he did the way he always seems to do it, mixing in 3-pointers with drives to the baskets and an occasional assist to keep the collapsing defenses that surround him relatively honest. 

But the numbers he's consistently posting only tell part of the narrative to what has been a fairy tale of a season for the 5-foot-9 guard who continues to defy odds on a nightly basis. 

Not only is he producing at a high level, but he's elevating the play of those around him which is reflected in the team's overall success.

Boston (26-15) hits the halfway point with its best record under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens and best by the franchise since a 32-9 start to the 2010-2011 season.

The Celtics have now won eight of their last 10 games, and 13 of 16 as they steadily pull away and establish themselves at worst being the third-best team in the East.

And against the Hornets, they got the victory with a nice blending of what they do best – shoot three-pointers and play solid, physical defense.

The game could not have gotten off to a better start for the Boston Celtics, opening with a 10-2 run that put the Hornets on their heels quickly.

Not surprisingly, the Hornets rallied to take the lead in the first quarter before Boston’s second unit stepped up.

Leading the way in the final minute of the first quarter was Jaylen Brown, just minutes removed from a moving pre-game speech honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on MLK Day.

With Boston trailing 30-29, Brown scored the final five points of the quarter to give Boston a 34-30 lead.

The second quarter saw both teams pull ahead by slim margins, neither showing an ability to pull away and take full control of the game.

But again it was the Celtics making all the necessary plays at both ends of the floor in the closing moments.

Trailing 50-48, Boston would close out the half with an 11-3 run to lead 59-53 at the half.

In the third quarter, Boston began to give itself a little more breathing room fueled in large part by their defense which not only limited the Hornets scoring but took advantage of great spacing to get open jumpers or baskets in the paint with little resistance or help-side defense.

A back-to-the-basket hook shot by Al Horford gave Boston a 77-67 lead, the game’s first double-digit margin.

The Celtics increased their lead to 12 points following a pull-up jumper along the baseline by Avery Bradley who was back in the lineup after missing the previous four games with an Achilles injury.

Going into the fourth, the Celtics were ahead 80-71.

Off day for Tuukka Rask plays into rough loss for the Bruins

Off day for Tuukka Rask plays into rough loss for the Bruins

BOSTON – Many times this season Tuukka Rask has bailed out the Bruins when the team was at less than their best.

Monday afternoon was not one of those times as the Bruins goaltender was knocked out of the game after two periods on the way to a listless 4-0 shutout loss to the New York Islanders. Rask allowed three goals on 15 shots in the game’s opening 40 minutes, and was responsible for a very soft goal during the Isles’ three-score barrage in the second period.

After the game Rask wasn’t ducking responsibility for the subpar performance, and admitted he was simply beaten to the short side post on a bad angle shot from Islanders forward Josh Bailey for the soft-serve special.

“I was just late. I picked the wrong seal. It’s one of those [goals] that I should have stopped,” said Rask. “Claude [Julien] mentioned [not taking the Isles lightly] before the game, and the last game we played here they got us. It was a bit of a flat game again last time, and we just woke up too late today. We didn’t want to underestimate them. Any team in this league is good even though the standings might show otherwise. We just never got it going.”

Rask was being kind because the Bruins never actually woke up at all in the first B's shutout loss to the Islanders on home ice in franchise history, and that includes when the Finnish netminder was yanked after the second intermission.

Julien’s act of pulling Rask from a 3-0 game was clearly designed to spark the struggling hockey club, but it did nothing to breathe life into a dead hockey club that simply allowed another goal playing out the string in the third period.

“There are two things that can happen. No. 1, you hope you can spark your team because of the performance in front of him,” said Julien. “If it doesn’t spark your team, [at least] you’re not wasting your number one goaltender’s energy.”

One would expect that Rask will be back between the pipes on Wednesday night against the Red Wings in Detroit, and in hindsight perhaps this Monday matinee might have been a good time to see what Zane McIntyre has to offer as the backup. Instead it will go down as an “off” game for Rask and another inexcusable no-show on home ice for the Black and Gold.