Sports Today: Price’s Reds plan pays off again, NBA playoffs approach, Ohio State WRs, etc. 

Bryan Price’s bullpen made him look smart again Monday night as the Reds clobbered the Pirates 7-1 in Pittsburgh. 

Cincinnati gave Brandon Finnegan a 5-0 lead, but he pitched himself into trouble in three straight innings. 

With the bases loaded and a run already walked in, Price had seen enough – but he didn’t go to his long man and hope for the best. 

Though it was just the third inning, the Reds manager called on Michael Lorenzen, one of his two most reliable relievers since the middle of last season, to get out of a high-leverage situation. 

READ MORE at Marcus Hartman’s “Cus Words Blog

Lorenzen answered the bell, retiring three straight batters who represented the tying run and leaving the bases loaded. 

He pitched two more scoreless innings before turning the ball over to lefties Cody Reed and Wandy Peralta, who never faced anything like the pressure Lorenzen did but were magnificent themselves as the Reds rolled to victory. 

This probably goes without saying, but the whole deal could not have worked out better for Price, who got the win, got one of his long men good work and still has Raisel Iglesias, Tony Cingrani and Blake Wood on full rest for game two in Pittsburgh tonight. 

Kudos to him for thinking outside the box… 

Yesterday we previewed the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, which begin tomorrow night. 

Today we’re looking at the surprising NBA playoffs picture, where the Boston Celtics hold a one-game lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers with one game left in the race for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. 

LeBron James and the Cavs have endured a rocky finish to the regular season, though there remains the distinct possibility they’ll be better in the long run as he and other key Cleveland players have rested at times (and probably coasted at others) down the stretch. 

They blew out the Celtics last week, leading to a sigh of relief from nervous Cavs fans eager to see order restored by King James, but the question about whether or not they can flip the switch remains legitimate. 

Maintaining that focus for a game and a series are not the same thing, but Cleveland is still a veteran-laden team with championship experience and the best player in the world on its side. 

RELATED: Here are all the NBA players born in the Dayton area

Almost everything is set in the Western Conference, where Golden State is the No. 1 seed and won’t have to worry about seeing the San Antonio Spurs, James Hardin’s Houston Rockets or Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder until the conference finals… 

This morning ESPN reports the Cincinnati Bengals will host LSU running back Leonard Fournette today. 

As mentioned yesterday, Fournette is an intriguing prospect for a Bengals team that has a greater need for a talent upgrade on defense but has enough questions on offense to make adding a playmaker a good idea. 

With 11 picks, it won’t be hard for the Bengals to find someone to compete with Jeremy Hill at running back, but do they think enough of Fournette to take him that high and marginalize Hill? 

That is the question… unless he’s not there when they pick anyway. 

RELATED: Bengals acquire defensive end for draft pick

Whatever they do, I believe the Bengals should commit to playing one style more consistently, whether that means basing their attack off a powerful, down-hill running game (which probably requires Hill and another back who can run between the tackles) or going to more of a pro-style spread offense in which guys who can operate in space (the injured Gio Bernard and the departed Rex Burkhead…) are more ideal. 

They struggled with consistency dabbling in both last year… 

Monday was receiver interview day at Ohio State. 

Surprise: They say they’re going to be better this year

Of course by now we’ve reached the, “I’ll believe it when I see it portion” of this movie. 

However, some of the blame for their role in the inconsistency of the offense the past two years is misplaced. They were put in some bad situations by the lack of creativity in the game plans of Ed Warinner and Tim Beck (and Urban Meyer). 

They were often not able to get open deep because that’s what teams were taking away, and they didn’t get a lot of chances to operate on the move in space, either. 

A more cohesive plan (and more consistent execution by J.T. Barrett) plus some new faces in the lineup could really lead to a different look and more production this fall… 

The Dayton Dragons have won three in a row, including a 2-0 victory last night over West Michigan. 

That was the second straight shutout for the Dragons, who got a gem from Andrew Jordan. 

Michael Beltre and T.J. Friedl are both hitting over .400 early for Dayton. 

Third baseman Brantley Bell has only been on base three times in four games, but he already has five stolen bases… 

On the recruiting front, Miami University picked up a verbal commitment from A.J. Mayer of Covington (Ky.) Catholic yesterday. 

The 2018 prospect is a three-star Rivals recruit who also had offers from Ohio, Akron, Ball State and Eastern Kentucky. 

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