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Cincinnati PG Wright limited by knee sprain

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Cincinnati PG Wright limited by knee sprain

CINCINNATI (AP) Point guard Cashmere Wright will be limited by a sprained knee - if he plays at all - when Cincinnati hosts No. 25 Marquette on Saturday, trying to end a three-game losing streak at home.

The senior sprained his right knee early in the second half of a 75-70 win at DePaul on Tuesday night and had to be helped off the court. Coach Mick Cronin said on Thursday that Wright's status for the game is uncertain.

``Obviously there's minor adjustments we'll make that are some pluses, some minuses,'' Cronin said. ``We probably become a bigger, more physical team when he's out of the lineup. We played a lot of quality minutes without him (at DePaul). We did a lot of good things without him on the floor.''

Cincinnati (15-3, 3-2 Big East) is going to have to do that again against Marquette (13-3, 4-0), which is one of three teams left with perfect Big East records. The Bearcats have leaned on Wright heavily the last few weeks. He has scored at least 20 points in three of the last four games, and had 20 points and seven assists when he got hurt with more than 15 minutes left in the game on Tuesday night.

Wright averages 15.1 points per game, second to Sean Kilpatrick's 17.3 points per game. Kilpatrick has been in a shooting slump lately, scoring 7, 15, 10 and 18 points the last four games. He's only 12 of 40 from behind the 3-point arc in the last six games, three of which the Bearcats have lost.

If Wright misses the game, the Bearcats will have guard JaQuon Parker and sophomore point guard Ge'Lawn Guyn handle the ball more often.

``With Ge'Lawn and Parker that can run the point - and sometimes me - we should be OK,'' Kilpatrick said. ``But with him being on the floor, it makes it a lot easier for everybody else. He's used to that position. We do need him.''

The game has a little extra significance for Cincinnati, which opened the season by winning its first 12 games and was No. 8 in late December, its highest ranking in nine years. A 55-54 loss to New Mexico started a stretch of three straight home losses - the Bearcats also dropped games against St. John's and Notre Dame - that knocked them out of the Top 25.

Cincinnati received the 26th-most points in this week's AP poll. Marquette moved into the Top 25 for the first time this season and beat Seton Hall 69-62 on Wednesday night.

The Bearcats haven't lost on the road or at a neutral site. They're only 8-3 at home, a surprising statistic.

``The biggest mistake teams make is thinking we're at home, we're going to win,'' Cronin said. ``We've made the adjustment in the last few games in taking each game separately.

``So that's all we're trying to focus on. If you don't have that focus at home, it's probably because you're relaxing mentally.''

The Bearcats will play two of the three teams with perfect league records in the next few days. After hosting Marquette on Saturday night, they play at No. 6 Syracuse (16-1, 4-0) on Monday afternoon.

Cincinnati doesn't play No. 1 Louisville (16-1, 4-0) until March 4. The games against Marquette and Syracuse will give them an idea of how they match up against some of the conference's best at the moment. The Bearcats are alone in fourth place in the league.

``We know that these are (two of) the top teams in the league right now, playing at an extremely high level,'' Kilpatrick said. ``That's something we've got to keep fighting for. If we continue to play the way we have been doing, we should be all right.''

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Follow Joe Kay on Twitter:http://twitter.com/apjoekay

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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.