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The Sports Report: Reds fix what ails Dodgers

Cody Bellinger hits a sacrifice fly during the second inning of the Dodgers' win over the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday.
(Aaron Doster / Associated Press)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

From Jack Harris: The Cincinnati Reds have one of baseball’s lowest payrolls, one of its least productive lineups and, when measured by team ERA, the sport’s worst pitching staff.

They’re so far out of the playoff picture, even their executives seem to have raised the white flag, announcing this week they’ve booked a weeklong TopGolf event at their home stadium — in the middle of October.

Sweeping the Reds, therefore, will likely not be one of the Dodgers’ greatest accomplishments this season.

But for a team that had been struggling at the plate, battling injuries across the roster and playing a lot of uninspired baseball in recent weeks, the dominance they displayed in three straight wins this week — punctuated by a 10-5 rout Thursday that featured a season-high five home runs from the lineup — could have hardly come at a better time.

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“A few weeks ago, we had a rough patch,” center fielder Cody Bellinger said. “Now we’re hitting like we should.”

Bellinger opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the top of the second, before Freddie Freeman added to the cushion with a two-run homer in the third — the first baseman’s third blast in the last four games and eighth of the season.

Bellinger then came through again in the fourth. Mired in an 0-for-14 slump and batting eighth in the order for the first time since April, the slugger responded by getting the green light in a 3-and-0 count against Reds starter Hunter Greene, belting a two-run homer to right.

“Always nice to join the hit parade,” he said with a smile, after adding two singles later to finish three for four.

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Caleb Ferguson frustrated by ‘miscommunication’ with Dodgers after going back on IL

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LAKERS

From Dan Woike: The Lakers took the first steps toward rebuilding their roster Thursday, trading into the NBA draft and selecting Michigan State’s Max Christie with the No. 35 pick.

The team sent cash and a 2028 second-round pick to Orlando earlier in the day to acquire the pick. The pick will be the better of the Lakers’ or the Washington Wizards’ pick, which the team acquired last year in the Russell Westbrook trade.

Christie started in all 35 games he played for Michigan State last year, averaging 9.3 points. He was an All-American in high school in suburban Chicago.

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“Another 35th pick from Michigan State,” Draymond Green tweeted. “History says he’s going to be an All-Star.”

Green was picked 35th in the 2012 draft.

The selection comes amidst healthy speculation about the Lakers and a possible partnership with All-Star Kyrie Irving.

Irving, who can opt out of his current deal with the Nets, and the Lakers have mutual interest, sources said, in creating a pathway to reuniting with LeBron James. A deal to return to Brooklyn, provided the Nets’ extension offers improve, is still a possibility as is a trade to another team.

CLIPPERS

From Andrew Greif: The Clippers selected Michigan’s Moussa Diabate with the 43rd pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, a selection representing a bet on the 6-foot-10, 20-year-old’s long-term potential.

Diabate entered the draft after one college season in which he averaged 9.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, nearly one block and 1.5 turnovers per game, and made 56% of his shots inside the arc with the Wolverines. He averaged 24 minutes in 32 appearances.

With the Clippers in win-now mode and expecting to compete for an NBA championship next season with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George back healthy, the most logical pathway for developing the French-born Diabate appears to be spending plenty of time with the team’s Ontario-based G League affiliate next season, possibly on a two-way contract.

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2022 NBA draft live coverage: Pick-by-pick analysis

SPARKS

From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: Nneka Ogwumike could have been focusing on her own pre-game routine. Instead, the 11-year veteran was tutoring rookie Olivia Nelson-Ododa before the Sparks’ game against the Chicago Sky at Crypto.com Arena on Thursday.

Candace Parker waited in the locker room. Ogwumike mentored a Connecticut rookie on low post moves and polishing her footwork.

“That’s why she’s an All-Star,” interim head coach Fred Williams with a smile.

The Sparks forward was named an All-Star starter for the first time in her 11-year career on Wednesday, earning her seventh overall All-Star honor. But Parker dominated the battle of seven-time All-Stars, recording a 10-point, 10-assist, 14-rebound triple double in three quarters of the 82-59 blowout in her first game in L.A. since leaving as a free agent in 2021. She became the first player in WNBA history with three triple-doubles and the first with two in the same season after reaching the milestone on May 22.

Ogwumike had 15 points, four rebounds and three assists as the Sparks (6-10) suffered their fourth loss in five games.

TITLE IX

From Helene Elliott: Nowhere in the lone sentence that comprises Title IX, the 1972 law that forbids discrimination, denial of benefits or exclusion on the basis of sex in any education program or activity that receives federal financial assistance, does the word “sports” appear.

The law that opened playing fields to millions of women never specifically mentions its best-known application. It was a nuance in the phrasing, a choice of words that nearly didn’t happen, that made Title IX become synonymous with cataclysmic change for female athletes.

“In those 37 words is the word ‘activity.’ And because of that word, it’s the only reason, really, that we have women’s sports today,” said tennis immortal and women’s rights activist Billie Jean King.

“And the reason everybody thinks it’s about women’s sports is because we’re so visible. You don’t look at people sitting in a classroom.”

NASCAR

From Kevin Baxter: For Daniel Suárez, driving was never the problem. From the first time he sat behind the wheel of a go-kart as a 10-year-old in Mexico, it was clear he could get a car around a racetrack better than just about anyone.

Yet to cash in on that talent in stock-car racing he would have to go to the U.S. He would have to go to NASCAR. And that’s where the cartoons came in.

“I was scared I would not be able to compete because I didn’t speak English. And I didn’t have money to do classes to speak English,” he said. “So I had to learn by myself by watching cartoons.”

As a result, Bugs Bunny might have had more to do with Suárez’s historic victory at Sonoma Speedway earlier this month than either Joe Gibbs or Kyle Busch, the first two team owners who hired him. Without the cartoons, Suárez said, he would have returned home to Monterrey long before becoming the first Mexican to drive on to victory lane at the end of a NASCAR Cup Series race.

“Every NASCAR driver has had a tough journey,” he said. “But my journey is definitely the most different; leaving my family and my country and coming to a different culture, a different language.”

If that journey against long odds is one he made largely on his own, Suárez is now trying to ease the way for others — both inside and outside of racing. His efforts have the support of those at the top levels of a sport that sees diversity as a key to its future.

HORSE RACING

From John Cherwa: In somewhat of a small victory, trainer Bob Baffert had his proposed two-year ban from racing in New York reduced to one year by a three-person panel appointed by the New York Racing Assn. Baffert can resume racing horses in the state on Jan. 26, meaning he is eligible to participate in next year’s Belmont Stakes.

Baffert also can run in the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore but is still barred from running at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. He was banned by Churchill Downs for two years after former Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a legal anti-inflammatory, but not legal on race day. Baffert can run at other Kentucky tracks, including Keeneland, home of this year’s Breeders’ Cup.

Baffert is currently serving a 90-day suspension by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for Medina Spirit’s positive test result and will return to training on July 3. The suspension is honored by all tracks, including those in Southern California.

OUR OTHER SPORTS NEWSLETTERS

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NHL PLAYOFFS

STANLEY CUP FINALS
All times Pacific
All games on ABC

Colorado vs. Tampa Bay
Colorado 4, Tampa Bay 3 (OT)
Colorado 7, Tampa Bay 0
Tampa Bay 6, Colorado 2
Colorado 3, Tampa Bay 2 (OT)
Today at Colorado, 5 p.m.
*Sunday at Tampa Bay, 5 p.m.
*Tuesday, June 28 at Colorado, 5 p.m.

*-if necessary

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1910 — James Braid wins his fifth British Open with a four-stroke victory over Sandy Herd.

1911 — John McDermott becomes the first American-born winner of the U.S. Open when he beats Michael Brady and George Simpson in a playoff. McDermott finishes two strokes better than Brady and five strokes better than Simpson.

1913 — John Henry Taylor wins his fifth and final British Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake, England.

1928 — John Farrell beats Bobby Jones by one stroke in a 36-hole playoff to win the U.S. Open.

1947 — Jim Ferrier wins the PGA championship by defeating Chick Harbert 2 and 1 in the final round.

1958 — Brazil, led by 17-year-old Pele, beats France 5-2 in a semifinal of the World Cup. With Brazil up 2-1 in the second half, Pele scores three consecutive goals.

1968 — Canada’s Sandra Post beats Kathy Whitworth by seven strokes in a playoff to become the first non-U.S. player and rookie to win the LPGA championship.

1980 — The Atlanta Flames relocate to Calgary, Alberta. The NHL team keeps the name “Flames.”

1990 — Criminal Type becomes the first horse to win consecutive $1 million races after capturing the Hollywood Gold Cup. He had previously won the $1 million Pimlico Special on May 12.

1991 — The NHL’s Board of Governors adopts instant replay.

2000 — Rick DiPietro is the first goalie drafted No. 1 when the New York Islanders select the 18-year-old star from Boston University at the NHL Draft.

2001 — Karrie Webb, 26, captures the LPGA Championship by two strokes to become the youngest woman to complete the Grand Slam.

2010 — John Isner outlasts Nicolas Mahut in the longest match in tennis history. Isner hits a backhand winner to win the last of the match’s 980 points, and takes the fifth set against Mahut 70-68. The first-round match took 11 hours, 5 minutes over three days, lasting so long it was suspended because of darkness — two nights in a row. Play resumed at 59-all and continued for more than an hour before Isner won 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68.

2010 — John Wall is selected as the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft by the Washington Wizards, and a record number of Kentucky teammates follow him. Four more Wildcats are among the top 30 selections, making them the first school ever to put five players in the first round.

2013 — Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland score 17 seconds apart in the final 1:16 of the third period and the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup with a stunning 3-2 comeback victory in Game 6 over the Boston Bruins.

2018 — Harry Kane scores a hat trick to propel England to its most emphatic World Cup victory and into the knockout stage. With John Stones heading in twice and Jesse Lingard curling in a shot, England beats Panama 6-1 and scores its most goals ever in a World Cup game.

2021 — The Chicago Cubs throw the first combined no-hitter in franchise history beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-0. It was the seventh no-hitter of the season.

Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally

The Cubs no-hit the Dodgers. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.

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