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Reds keep rolling, hit 4 HRs to back Castillo, sweep Pirates
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CINCINNATI – The names might not ring out like Rose, Morgan, Bench and the Big Red Machine.

But Tyler Naquin, Nick Castellanos, Jonathan India and these Cincinnati Reds are breaking loose for runs in bunches.

Naquin hit another leadoff homer and the high-scoring Reds kept rolling, backing Luis Castillo to rout the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-4 Wednesday for their fifth straight win.

Coming off their first playoff appearance in seven years, the Reds have started a season 5-1 for the first time since 2016.

“The determination to win games is there,” Reds manager David Bell said. “And by no means do I sense any sort of letup. Guys are way too smart for that. They know what’s ahead of us.”

Their 56 runs are the most in Reds franchise history through the first six games of a season. The 1976 team with Morgan, Rose, Bench and Tony Perez scored 51 en route to a second straight World Series championship.

The Pirates absorbed the brunt of Cincinnati’s rampage this week, outscored 30-8 in the three-game series sweep.

“We’re definitely ready to get out of Cincinnati,” manager Derek Shelton said.

Naquin jumped on Chad Kuhl’s first pitch for his second career leadoff home run, and second in as many days. He became the first Reds batter with leadoff home runs in consecutive appearances since Eddie Milner on June 24-25, 1984.

A day after hitting two homers and driving in seven runs, Naquin started the Reds toward another romp by keying a five-run first inning.

“I’m really happy for Tyler,” Bell said. “He’s getting some opportunities here early and he’s absolutely made the most of it and been a big part our first week.”

Castellanos homered in the fifth. Tyler Stephenson and Aristides Aquino hit back-to-back home runs in the eighth.

Castillo (1-1) neatly bounced back after allowing a career-high 10 runs on opening day to St. Louis. He shut out the Pirates on four hits for seven innings, striking out five and walking one.

“The catcher was calling my changeup, and it was working today,” Castillo said. “It is my second-best pitch. I didn’t (need to) throw my slider.”

Erik Gonzalez hit his first career grand slam in the Pirates ninth off Amir Garrett.

Kyle Farmer’s two-run double capped the big first off Kuhl (0-1).

“It starts with the energy in the clubhouse,” Farmer said. “Guys are hot right now. When everything is rolling well, hitting is contagious. So it just keeps rolling, and it’s a lot of fun to watch.”

Reds rookie second baseman Jonathan India drove in three runs, giving him 10 RBIs in his first six games. India is batting .476. He also threw a runner out at the plate.

“I’m confident out here,” he said. “No nerves. I’m just playing the game I know how to play. This is my dream. It’s everything I expected and more.” India’s two-run double in the fifth came after he was hit in the helmet by a Kuhl pitch in the third. “I wasn’t dazed at all,” India said.

The Pirates mercifully return home to PNC Park to begin a seven-game homestand after dropping five of six on the road to begin the season.

“We just need to flush these games away,” Shelton said. “(The Reds) just banged on us, hit the ball out of the ballpark. We’re ready to go home.”

In firm conditions, Masters in November a distant memory

AUGUSTA, Ga. – No one needed to see the colorful blooms at Augusta National to realize this will be a much different Masters than the last one. It was the color of the greens.

They were yellow. On Wednesday.

The excitement of the first major of the golf season was mixed with no small measure of trepidation about the test Augusta National might present this week without intervention and a little precipitation.

Fred Couples, who played his first Masters in 1983 and is competing for the 36th time, played a practice round Wednesday with Rory McIlroy.

“Rory said it five times: ‘Have you ever seen the greens like this on Wednesday?’ And five times in a row I said, ‘No,’” Couple said. “He was laughing. So I think if it stays like this, come even Friday, Saturday, Sunday, I mean, honestly, a 70 or 71 will be a heck of a score.”

A score like that would have meant getting lapped in November, when the Masters had to take an autumn date after it was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dustin Johnson played conservatively along the back nine because he had a big lead, and he still finished with a record score of 20-under 268 to win by five shots in the lowest-scoring Masters in history.

“I’ve seen some young guys this week have a slightly deer-in-the-headlights look because they’ve walked out on a couple of those greens and they’ve seen the color of them and they’ve felt the firmness,” Paul Casey said. “You can see they’re kind of going, ‘Whoa. This is a whole different animal.’”

Still to be determined is what the weather has in store for the rest of the week. The sun has added that scary shine to the putting surfaces starting with the Augusta National Women’s Amateur on Saturday – the winning score was at 1-over par. Scattered storms are in the forecast the rest of the way.

For the the 13 players who played the Masters for the first time in November, it’s like starting over.

“November is a Masters that we’ll probably never see again,” Webb Simpson said. “You know, flying hybrids, 5-woods, 3-woods to the hole and the ball stopping. It’s good to forget about that because that’s not our normal Masters. It’s in a way relearning the nuances.”

Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau dropped balls left of the 10th green Wednesday morning to play chip shots to potential hole locations. Mickelson is a three-time Masters champion and a wizard with the wedge. After his second shot, he looked over at DeChambeau and said, “Boy, it’s tough when it’s dry.”

So much about the Masters will be so different, minus expectations of the usual suspects – a little more noise from at least some spectators.

Johnson won the Saudi International for his only victory in six starts this year, though he has been in a bit of a funk the last month. No one is suggesting the green jacket he won in November should come with a footnote given the conditions. He was that much better than everyone else.

But he won’t be hitting 5-iron to a left pin on the par-5 second hole for a tap-in eagle like he did in the third round in November, taking on pins that were accessible in such soft conditions. Johnson talked about watching one player in his room hit 3-wood to a left pin on the 15th that landed and stopped near the hole. That’s out.

Jimmy Walker said no one could hold a shot on the 15th. He said he and McIlroy each had irons into the 15th that had no chance of staying there.

Masters Chairman Fred Ridley is a past president of the USGA, an organization suspected of being very good at payback. Most notable was Johnny Miller shooting 63 in the final round to win the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont. The next year, Hale Irwin won at Winged Foot at 7-over par.

That’s the U.S. Open, with a history of par being a winning score, or not far from it. The Masters can be brutal when it’s brittle and windy and cold. Zach Johnson won in 2007 in those conditions at 1-over 289, though it was the first time in more than 50 years that no one broke par at the Masters.

“The fact that Dustin was 20 under was a combination of his extraordinary play that at the same time, admittedly, the golf course was soft,” Ridley said. “So it was ready to be played very well with a lot of red numbers. But that really had nothing to do with how the golf course is playing right now.

“I think we have the golf course where we want it.”

It all starts Thursday morning with Lee Elder, the first Black golfer to compete in the Masters in 1975, joining Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player for the honorary tee shot. And then the curtain rises on the 85th Masters, which should feel like the Masters of old – even if that’s only two years ago.

Hit parade

Wes Parker tips his cap to acknowledge his teammates’ cheers as he returns from the first of his two home runs in the game Wednesday night against Connellsville at Peterswood Park. Connellsville won the Class 5A Section 4 game, 12-8.

Mark Marietta/For the Observer-Reporter

Tiger Woods was driving more than 80 mph when he crashed SUV

LOS ANGELES – Tiger Woods was driving more than 80 mph – nearly twice the posted speed limit – on a downhill stretch of road when he lost control of an SUV and crashed in a wreck that seriously injured the golf superstar, authorities said Wednesday.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva blamed the Feb. 23 crash outside Los Angeles solely on excessive speed and Woods’ loss of control behind the wheel. The athlete will not face any citations for his third high-profile collision in 11 years.

“The primary causal factor for this traffic collision was driving at a speed unsafe for the road conditions and the inability to negotiate the curve of the roadway,” the sheriff told a news conference.

Woods was driving 84 to 87 mph (135 to 140 kph) in an area with a speed limit of 45 mph (72 kph), Villanueva said. No one else was hurt, and no other vehicles were involved.

The stretch of road is known for wrecks and drivers who frequently hit high speeds. Due to the steepness of the terrain, a runaway truck escape lane is available just beyond where Woods crashed.

There was no evidence that the golfer tried to brake, and investigators believe Woods may have inadvertently stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake pedal in a panic, said sheriff’s Capt. James Powers, who oversees the sheriff’s station closest to the crash site.

Woods was wearing a seat belt at the time, and the vehicle’s airbags deployed. He told deputies that he had not taken medication or consumed alcohol before the crash, sheriff’s officials said.

Detectives did not seek search warrants for Woods’ blood samples, which could have been screened for drugs or alcohol, or his cellphone. Authorities said there was no evidence of impairment or of distracted driving, so they did not have probable cause to get warrants. Investigators did search the SUV’s data recorder, known as a black box, which revealed the vehicle’s speed.

Arizona parts ways with Sean Miller amid NCAA investigation

Arizona had stuck by men’s basketball coach Sean Miller through an NCAA infractions investigation that stretched nearly four years.

When the school didn’t extend his contract beyond next season, it became clear a decision would need to be made.

The wait came to an end Wednesday when the school announced Miller was leaving after 12 seasons and associate head coach Jack Murphy will serve as interim head coach.

“We appreciate Sean’s commitment to our basketball program and to the university,” Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke said in a statement. “After taking the many factors involved into account, we simply believe that we need a fresh start and now is the time. I want to thank Sean, Amy and their sons for their service to the university and wish them the very best in the future.”

Miller and the Wildcats have been in the NCAA’s crosshairs since being ensnared in a 2017 FBI investigation into shady recruiting practices.

The NCAA issued a Notice of Allegations last year and the case is currently going through the Independent Accountability Resolution Process. Arizona issued a self-imposed postseason ban this year and finished 17-9, 11-9 in the Pac-12.

Miller became the third Wildcats coach to reach 300 wins with the program and went 302-109 in 12 seasons. Arizona reached the Elite Eight three times, won five Pac-12 regular-season titles and three Pac-12 Tournament titles under Miller.

But Arizona failed to reach the Final Four under Miller and had not won an NCAA Tournament game since reaching the Sweet 16 in 2017. The school said it will honor the final year of Miller’s contract.

“After conferring with Dave Heeke since the season’s end, it has become clear that our men’s basketball program – and our University – needs to write a new chapter in our history, and that begins with a change of leadership,” university President Robert C. Robbins said. “Arizona Basketball means so much to so many and, as stewards of the program, we must always act in the best interests of the university. I believe our future is bright, and I look forward to welcoming a new head coach to the Wildcat family.”

Miller routinely pulled in some of the nation’s top recruiting classes after being lured from Xavier in 2009, but his recruiting methods came under scrutiny when assistant coach Emanuel Richardson was among 10 people arrested as part of a federal corruption investigation into college basketball.

Richardson was fired by the university and later pleaded guilty to accepting $20,000 in bribes from aspiring business manager Christian Dawkins. He was sentenced to three months in prison in 2019.

Miller sat out a game in 2018 after ESPN reported that he was heard on an FBI wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to future No. 1 overall NBA pick Deandre Ayton. Miller vehemently denied the report and Robbins announced a few days later that Miller would remain the Wildcats’ coach.

The NCAA Notice of Allegations sent in October had nine counts of misconduct, including a lack of institutional control and failure to monitor by the university, and lack of head coach control by Miller.