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Browns' Richardson hurts side in win over Bengals

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Browns' Richardson hurts side in win over Bengals

CLEVELAND (AP) Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson is sore after taking a Bengals' helmet to the ribs.

However, his pain has been numbed by pleasure.

Richardson was limited Sunday after he was injured in the first quarter, but the Cleveland Browns overcame the loss of their top offensive player with a 34-24 win over Cincinnati to snap 11-game losing streak that stretched back to last November.

Richardson finished with just 37 yards on 14 carries and spent most of the second half on the sideline. But Richardson's backup, Montario Hardesty, picked up the slack and rushed for 56 yards and scored his first touchdown in the NFL as the Browns (1-5) also snapped a 12-game losing streak inside the AFC North.

``I took a shot, but I'll be back,'' said Richardson. ``I'll be ready for next week.''

The Browns had formulated their game plan to feature Richardson, who had rushed for 109 yards and scored two TDs against the Bengals (3-3) when the teams played last month in Cincinnati. But after Richardson got thumped in the first quarter, the Browns turned to Hardesty, who had barely gotten on the field in Cleveland's first five games this season and has been slowed by injuries for several years.

But Hardesty came through with Richardson cheering on his teammate. Hardest hit the holes when they were there and made something when it didn't appear there was any room to run.

``You've got to love it,'' Richardson said. ``Montario, he is a beast. A lot of people think Montario is one of those guys that is not going to try to run you over or not going to be in there for the thick and thin, but Montario is one of those guys who is going to give everything he can on each and every play.''

Richardson expects to be back next Sunday to face the Colts, but if he can't go the Browns now know they can trust Hardesty, who was plagued by fumbling problems during the exhibition season.

``He did a good job,'' Browns coach Pat Shurmur said of Hardesty. ``I'm happy for him.''

Big things were expected of Hardesty, who was drafted in the second round in 2010 after the Browns traded three draft picks to Philadelphia to move up and select the former Tennessee runner. But he missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury and made only four starts in 2011.

Hardesty dived over the pile from the 1-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter to give Cleveland a 20-14 lead. It was Hardesty's first career TD and it came just in time to help the Browns.

``I just knew to always be ready,'' he said. ``I was glad I was able to get in there and help our team get a `W' because we needed that.''

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

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USA TODAY Sports

Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.

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Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

WASHINGTON -- Having already won their first series at Nationals Park since April 2016, the Philadelphia Phillies will go for the sweep of Washington on Sunday night.

Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.08 ERA) faces Nationals right-hander Jefry Rodriguez (0-0, 4.66).

Pivetta was drafted by the Nationals in 2013 and went to the Phillies in 2015 as part of the Jonathan Papelbon trade.

After struggling for three straight starts -- giving up 13 runs in 14 innings -- Pivetta allowed two runs and four hits in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals last time out, striking out a career-high 13 batters.

"That's some of the best stuff I've seen him have all year," catcher Andrew Knapp told mlb.com. "The curveball was electric."

Pivetta got 11 swings and misses with the curveball.

"It was nice to have it back," Pivetta told mlb.com. "It all started with my delivery. I was staying up through it, not trying to rush too much and it worked out."

It his first start -- and second big-league appearance -- the 24-year-old Rodriguez picked up a win against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. He allowed five runs, four hits and three walks in five innings.

Rodriguez and Satuday's losing pitcher, Erick Fedde, are filling in for injured starters Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson.

The Phillies have outscored the Nationals 17-5 in the fist two games of the series. On Saturday, Maikel Franco had four hits and Carlos Santana homered to back Aaron Nola in a 5-3 victory.

"That was just a tremendous all-around baseball game," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said of Franco. "It's so interesting how we've been looking for him to be not just a hitter but a defender and a baserunner and an all-around athlete."

Franco drove in a run and scored twice, including the go-ahead run when he scored just ahead of the tag on Jesmuel Valentin's sacrifice fly.

The Phillies, who have won six of seven, pounded out double-digit hits for the second day in a row in Washington.

"They have a lot of patient hitters," Fedde said of the Phillies. "I think that's what makes it tough. Guys aren't swinging at bunch of junk, so you have to attack them."

The Phillies have now won four straight series for the first time since May 2016 and are 2-0 in what will be a stretch of 10 games against the Nationals and the New York Yankees.

Anthony Rendon homered and Daniel Murphy had a two-run single for Washington, which has lost three of four while scoring nine runs.

"Look, I've got all the confidence in the world we're going to start hitting," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We'll start scoring some runs. Right now, the bullpen is a little beat up. We've got to get them going again."

Rendon is doing his part. In his las 15 games, he is batting .382 with seven doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs.

Hellickson (right groin strain) will make a rehab start Sunday for Class A Potomac and then is expected to rejoin the Nationals' rotation.

Hernandez said first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) is about a week from beginning a rehab assignment.