Sports Today: What a difference a week makes for suddenly sizzling Cincinnati Reds


What a difference a week makes — again

The Cincinnati Reds beat the Dodgers 5-3 Sunday in Southern California. 

That sentence alone would be surprising to anyone very familiar with the recent history of the Reds, but it is just the tip of the iceberg

The victory completed an improbable four-game sweep of the defending National League champions and ran Cincinnati’s winning streak overall to six games. 

(This time a week ago, they only had eight wins total.) 

The Reds hadn’t won a series against the Dodgers since 2013, which is also the last time they won even five games in a row. 

The last series win at Dodger Stadium was in 2011, and they had won four games while losing 16. 

How about this for a grand finale? The last Reds team to sweep a four-game series went by a catchy nickname you might have heard: “The Big Red Machine.” 

HAL McCOY: Hall of Famer sums up the sweep

That was in 1976 when the defending and future World Series champions romped for four days in SoCal in August to move 34 games over .500. 

Jack Billingham was the winning pitcher and the a key cog in the offense in the finale of that series, going 2 for 3 with an RBI while pitching 8.2 innings and allowing two runs in a 3-2 victory. 

Those Reds went 102-60. 

A week ago, these Reds looked like they would need a miracle to win 60, but they had a winning record the week before that. 

If you’re counting, that makes two good weeks out of three after a disastrous 3-18 start. 

RELATED: Matt Harvey strong in Reds debut

No need to clear your October schedule yet, but at least the original goal of finding out what they have to build on for next season is back on the table. 

Pretty amazing how different things look when your starter is strong for at least six innings, your bullpen is lined up (and actually has some depth) and your big guys in the lineup are hitting…

 

Elsewhere in the organization, Dayton produced some good news as well. 

The Dragons were swept at home by Peoria, but they can’t blame Hunter Greene. 

Greene left his start Saturday against the Chiefs with a 3-0 lead, but the Dayton bullpen couldn’t hold it. 

After the 2017 first-round pick struggled in his last three appearances and saw his last turn in the rotation skipped, he struck out five and walked none while giving up only two hits in four innings. 

His sixth start in a Dragons uniform was his longest and only the second in which he did not allow a run

The Reds’ No. 2 overall prospect seemed a little more pumped up with two strikes, hitting 100 on the radar gun in his first and last strikeouts of the game.

“A lot of guys couldn’t catch up to [the fastball] and I was just confident with my stuff,” he said.

Greene started mixing in off-speed pitches in the fourth inning.

He didn’t throw off-speed early because Dragon’s pitching coach Seth Etherton and Reds’ minor league pitching coordinator Tony Fossas came to an agreement that he needed to use his fastball.

That’s an interesting nugget, eh? 

From his first start of the season, Greene hasn’t been shy about changing speeds and using his breaking ball. 

In his second start, the baby Cubs seemed to be sitting on his fastball so he had to use his other weapons to pitch out of trouble. 

Then he went into a rough stretch, so perhaps the Reds determined he needs to be more stubborn with the heater. 

Whatever the case, few would argue that even if the upper 90s have become “hittin’ speed” for many professional hitters these days, the most effective way to become a successful major-league pitcher is to be able to command the fastball on both sides of the plate… 

  

The Silver Medal Series in the NBA playoffs got off to a less-than-rousing start as the Boston Celtics blasted the Cleveland Cavaliers in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals

Despite not having home-court advantage, the Cavaliers entered the series as the betting favorites. 

They didn’t look like they could be anybody Sunday, but it’s hardly time to panic for LeBron James and Co. 

They already recovered from a game one drubbing in a playoff series this year — Indiana in round one — and they still have LeBron. 

RELATED: LeBron says he has nothing left to prove

The Celtics are more talented than the Pacers, though it remains to be seen if they can stay on the grind for seven games if they have to. 

(Don’t bet on it.) 

The Pacers actually blew Cleveland out twice but went 1-4 in the other games, which were all decided by four points or fewer. 

James’ greatness and inconsistent performances from their best player (Victor Oladipo) sunk Indiana. 

LeBron wasn’t great in game one in Boston, but everyone knows he will bounce back. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics took control of the game without leading scorer Jayson Tatum being much of a factor. 

My sense is Boston needs to take care of this one early or they will sorely regret it. 

If there is a game six, go ahead and pencil Cleveland into another NBA Finals appearance/loss. 


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