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Broncos survive scare with Peyton Manning's thumb

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Broncos survive scare with Peyton Manning's thumb

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Peyton Manning counts himself fortunate. Consider his team furious.

Manning acknowledged he was ``probably a little bit lucky'' that he banged the right thumbnail and not the knuckle of his throwing hand on New Orleans defensive end Martez Wilson's helmet Sunday night.

It's what happened a split-second later that has the Broncos miffed.

The crown of Wilson's helmet smacked into Manning's chin, a play the Broncos are expected to have the league look at this week.

Although no flag was thrown, it was similar to the illegal hit last month that cost Broncos linebacker Joe Mays a $50,000 fine and a one-game suspension for blasting Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub.

``It'll be something we look at and get the TV copy,'' Broncos coach John Fox said Monday. ``We haven't done all that yet. And I'm not really able to comment on what we turn into the league and what we don't, but that's one we'll look at closely.''

In all likelihood, so will the NFL and the result could be a hefty fine for Wilson, a backup on a team that's been dogged by turmoil all season after the NFL penalized the franchise for running a money-for-hits bounty pool.

Unlike Schaub, who lost a chunk of his left ear when his helmet went flying after Mays' hit, Manning's helmet stayed on after he was sandwiched by Wilson and strong safety Roman Harper on a blitz just as he released a 23-yard pass that Eric Decker caught along the left sideline in the first half of Denver's 34-14 win.

``I got nervous,'' said slot receiver Brandon Stokley, Manning's old pal from their days together in Indianapolis.

Manning picked himself up off the grass, shaking his thumb. He handed off on the next four snaps before throwing twice, then giving way to Matt Prater, who kicked a short field goal as the first half expired.

Manning, who had his third sackless outing in his last four games, answered any questions by going 4 for 4 to start the third quarter, moving the Broncos 93 yards and capping it with a 1-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas.

Fox gave this update on Manning's thumb Monday: ``Oh, it's fine.''

So, too, are the Broncos (4-3), who lead the AFC West as Manning grows more and more comfortable with his new teammates.

Navy and orange just no longer clash with Manning.

Add a defense that doesn't look so lost anymore under new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, and the Broncos are on a roll, and against the Saints they finally found that 60-minute game they've been talking about.

The Broncos are serving notice that not only is the four-time MVP back, Peyton Manning Version 2.0 just might be every bit as good as the original.

Despite the throbbing thumb and the scars of four neck operations and a bitter divorce from the Colts serving as testament to all he's gone through to get here, Manning, 36, is in the midst of one of the best stretches any quarterback has ever had.

Manning leads the NFL with a 109.0 passer rating. He's surpassed the 300-yard mark five straight times to match his personal best and set a franchise record. Ever since throwing a trio of interceptions at Atlanta in Week 2, Manning has been nothing less than sensational even though he dismisses the notion that he's as good right now as he ever was in Indy.

There's just no comparison to some of his best days with the Colts, he insists. But consider this: since matching the worst quarter of his career - interception-wise - Manning has thrown for 1,827 yards with 15 touchdowns and just one interception in 225 throws, and that one pickoff was his receiver's fault for not adjusting his route.

``I think it's a reflection of our whole offense starting to jell,'' tight end Jacob Tamme said. ``And this is a good time. The last few weeks have been an improvement and if we can keep that improvement going, we'll be pretty tough to reckon with.''

Decker, who caught two TD passes Sunday night, said, ``We've shown flashes, we've had some bumps along the way but we're starting to be more consistent. It's good when you got the right guys in the right places.''

While Manning was picking apart the Saints secondary, Willis McGahee and rookie Ronnie Hillman were piling up 208 yards on the ground and tight end Virgil Green was showing some speed and promise with three catches for 44 yards.

Wesley Woodyard led a swarming defense that held Drew Brees in check and limited the Saints to a single third-down conversion.

``We'll never use excuses, but it's a new scheme what Jack Del Rio brought in here,'' linebacker Keith Brooking said. ``So, it's guys just becoming more familiar with the scheme and their responsibilities and playing fast. ... We're getting better every week.''

Special teams are, too. Trindon Holliday hit his stride with 43 yards on four punt returns against New Orleans.

``I'm sure the coaches will find some mistakes on the film,'' Manning said, ``but it's what we're looking for offensively, defensively, and special teams: kind of feeding off one another.''

Notes: Fox said he wasn't sure if CB Tracy Porter has been medically cleared to return to practice. Porter has missed the last two games after experiencing symptoms similar to what he had before suffering a seizure in August.

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We can’t stop staring at these Bowie Baysox commemorative moon landing jerseys

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Twitter/@BowieBaysox

We can’t stop staring at these Bowie Baysox commemorative moon landing jerseys

One of the coolest things about Minor League Baseball is the creativity that comes with it.

The stadiums. The ice cream deals. The interesting mascots. And most importantly, the uniforms.

The Bowie Baysox, the Double-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, released special uniforms they will be wearing on Saturday for the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing.

And, oh wow, are they something. Take a look.

On the front of the uniform, you can see the image of where lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin planted the American flag on the lunar surface of the moon. On the back, a satellite view of the moon is pictured, with the player's number on top of it. Both the number and the cursive "Baysox" on the front are filled in with the American flag.

If you're looking for some to do on Saturday, go support the Baysox and their Moon Landing uniforms. If only there was a jersey giveaway.

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Bullpen struggles plague Nationals in loss to Orioles

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Bullpen struggles plague Nationals in loss to Orioles

BALTIMORE -- Juan Soto sat on the ground against the left-field wall, his head in his hands in the bottom of the eighth. Washington's outfielder had just reached for a long shot from Baltimore's Trey Mancini, but the ball was just out of Soto's reach and Mancini notched his 19th homer of the year, a two-run knock that gave the Orioles a 6-2 lead. 

Soto's body language symbolized more than just his frustration from the one play. By the end of the game -- the start of which was delayed 92 minutes after an onslaught of rain made Camden Yards look like a blizzard had blown into town -- the Orioles outscored the Nationals 9-2, almost the opposite of Washington's 8-1 win Tuesday.

Both teams were sluggish out of the box; a one-run ball game until the seventh, when Baltimore tore the game wide open. Washington put across its two sole runs in the third and fifth, both RBIs from Adam Eaton (he knocked in Soto on a sacrifice fly on the third, and Trea Turner on a double in the fifth). 

The Orioles briefly tied the game in the fourth, but it wasn't until the seventh when Baltimore broke down Washington's bullpen and put up two consecutive multi-run innings. 

Though Washington starter Erick Fedde, who was recalled from Double-A Harrisburg earlier Wednesday, put in six solid innings on the mound and only allowed on run on five hits in his 66 pitches, the Nationals' bullpen struggled to thwart the Orioles' comeback seventh and eighth innings.   

Since the outing was Fedde's first since he was recalled, Washington manager Davey Martinez didn't want to stretch him since he'd had two weeks off. 

"He got us through the sixth inning," Martinez said. "We had [Wander Suero] ready to go, but [Fedde] did well."

Suero, Tony Sipp and Javy Guerra combined for the seventh inning, contributing an out apiece. Suero got off to a rough start, however, and the first two batters he faced reached base. In his outing he gave up three earned runs on three hits and one walk.

After the game Suero explained that he received some bad personal news prior to the game, so he wasn't necessarily in the right mindset.

Sipp faced only two batters before he was done on the mound (he walked one and gave up a sacrifice fly to Rio Ruiz). So, when Guerra entered with two outs and two runners on, the Nationals were in desperate need of that elusive third out. 

Guerra induced a groundout to end the seventh, but couldn't carry that momentum into the eighth. To start the penultimate inning, Guerra gave up that two-run shot to left field that left Soto with his head hanging between his knees. 

Washington stuck with Guerra after those two runs crossed the plate, but as the right-hander struggled to record even one out, Martinez made the call and brought in Matt Grace to complete the inning. Three more runs crossed in the half, putting Baltimore ahead 9-2.

Now, the Nationals head to Atlanta to face the NL East-leading Braves for a four-game set. Washington is 6 1/2 games back of Atlanta, though the Nationals are the top wild-card standings in the National League.

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