CINCINNATI - It's Wednesday, July 25, 2012:
HIT OR MISS: It's been hard for Reds fans not to rip Drew Stubbs over the past couple of seasons. He just swung and missed too much. He has great speed but as the saying goes "you can't steal first base." So he's been brutal as a leadoff hitter. More like a leadoff misser. But he came up with the big hit on Tuesday night.
REDS 4 ASTROS 2: Stubbs hit a two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning, leading the Reds to their second straight win over Houston. The Reds trailed 2-1 after eight innings. Houston brought former Red Coco Cordero into the game in the ninth inning. Zack Cozart laced a single to left, and then Stubbs lined a home run down the left field line. Stubbs had three hits in the game, as did Xavier Paul, who got his first start. Paul drove in an insurance run in the ninth.
STREAKING: It's the sixth straight win for the Reds
LEAKE-ING: Mike Leake notched his first victory since June 29th. He pitched eight innings, and scattered seven hits. He wins for the fourth time.
FREAKING: Aroldis Chapman stormed through the ninth inning, giving Houston a steady diet of 100 mph pitches.
PEAKING: The Reds take a 2 1/2 game lead over the second place Pirates, who lost to the Cubs. Their lead is six games over the Cardinals, who roughed up the Dodgers.
HANGING AROUND: The Indians scored the go-ahead run on a suicide squeeze bunt in the seventh inning in a 3-2 victory over the Tigers. Detroit and Chicago are tied for first place in the AL Central. The Indians remain three back.
BENGAL BITES: Mike Brown hosted the annual Bengals pre-season luncheon on Tuesday at the stadium. It's a fun event because it's a chance to hear from a few different coaches and it signals that football is near. The meal starts with some awesome mock turtle soup and it ends with a scoop of orange sherbet.
BENGAL BITS: Here's some of the highlights from this year's gathering:
COACH OF THE YEAR: Holy Cross head coach and former Bengal Bruce Kozerski received the Paul Brown Award of Excellence. His team won the Class 2A title in Kentucky. Mike Brown noted that Koz is just "smarter than the rest of us." No doubt. He teaches physics, calculus and advanced algebra at Holy Cross.
FILL-IT-UP OR BLACK-IT-OUT: Mike Brown says the Bengals will stick with the old rule regarding blackouts. In other words, the Bengals will need a full sellout of of 65,000 seat Paul Brown Stadium to avoid the local television blackout. The NFL has said that teams can reduce their capacity to 85-percent, and thereby require a smaller crowd to avoid the blackout. Brown says voters "passed the stadium tax so people could come to the stadium and watch games, not sit at home watching the games on television."
PROGRESS? Two Bengals games are already sellouts for the coming season, indicating that lowered ticket prices might have helped. "We're making progress" said Brown, "but there's more to make." He thinks winning is the key to bringing back the fans.
MAJOR WOW FACTOR: Defensive Coordinator Reggie Nelson often can make plays that "makes you say 'wow''. But on the next play, you might say "what in the heck was he doing?". He thinks Nelson needs more consistency.
MORE THAN A FEW GOOD MEN: Zimmer says his defense has "great character, real good athletes and good talent.". He feels positive about the nucleus. He says it isn't the most talented group in the league, but you can tell he likes the desire, the dedication and the leadership.
SAY REY: Zimmer noted how Dhani Jones used to know the roles of every player on defense. Rey Maualuga tried to do the same thing and it got him into trouble. "I told him 'it's not your job, it's my job'" said the straight-talking Zimmer. He says Maualuga tends to be a "worrier" and has to show more patience.
GROW UP! That's Zimmer's advance for talented defensive lineman Carlos Dunlap. "He needs to grow up" said Zimmer, pointing out that Dunlap "is a little immature. He said the third year defender will have to learn "to fight through nagging injuries.". He thinks that the success enjoyed by Geno Atkins last season might influence Dunlap. Atkins, who went to the Pro Bowl tends to be quiet and do his work, and he thinks Dunlap can learn from that.
PERSONAL OBSERVATION: Have I ever said that I love listening to Mike Zimmer." As Howard Cosell used to say "He tells it like it is." You could tell that his dad was a no-nonsense football coach.
AIRING IT OUT: Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden says Andy Dalton needs to show improvement throwing the deep ball. Gruden says Dalton has the necessary arm strength, but needs improvement on his accuracy.
STAYING IN PLACE: Gruden's name was floated for some head coaching jobs as soon as he had a good first season with the Bengals. But he said he wasn't interested. "I want to see this team do great things" Gruden told reporters. He seems to be in a good spot. He has a chance to control the offense and loves his players and the city.