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    • 533 posts
    October 18, 2018 12:40 AM PDT

    Erick Fedde will step on the mound Friday night for the eighth time in his major league career still in search of his first win. He might get it if he can replicate his recent success against the Philadelphia Phillies.

    Fedde will try to help the Washington Nationals stop a three-game losing streak on Friday night in the second of a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies will send Nick Pivetta to the mound for his second straight start against Washington.

    Facing the Phillies last Saturday Roquan Smith Color Rush Jersey , Fedde (0-3, 5.32 ERA) had the best outing of his brief major league career. He went six-plus innings, giving up three runs on eight hits while inducing 13 ground balls. However, the Phillies scored two runs in the eighth inning in a 5-3 win.

    “I thought Fedde did a tremendous job,” Nationals catcher Spencer Kieboom told MLB.com after the game. “I couldn’t be more proud of him. He did, he mixed all five pitches — sliders, curveballs, changeups, cutters in, fastballs. He did a good job. I thought he attacked hitters and at the beginning, we were kind of (nibbling), but after that he really attacked.”

    Fedde, 25, has pitched at least five innings in all four of his 2018 starts with the Nationals.

    Saturday’s game was his first career appearance against the Phillies.

    Pivetta (4-6, 4.06) also had a solid outing without a win last weekend. On Sunday night, Pivetta stayed in the game after a rain delay to complete five innings in Washington. He gave up eight hits but just two runs and notched seven strikeouts before the Nationals rallied against the Philadelphia bullpen.

    The right-hander has a 5.81 ERA and opponents are hitting .301 against Pivetta in five June starts, but he has allowed just four runs and recorded 20 strikeouts in his last two appearances (12 1/3 innings).

    Pivetta was acquired by the Phillies from Washington in exchange for reliever Jonathan Papelbon during the 2015 season. He is 0-2 with a 9.19 ERA in four career starts against the Nationals. His May 4 start against the Nationals has a lot to do with the high ERA, because he gave up six runs in one inning.

    The Phillies opened the series with a 4-3 win on Thursday night. At 43-36, the Phillies are two games ahead of the Nationals (41-38) and just two games behind the Braves for first place in the National League East.

    Philadelphia has won its last two games and Rhys Hoskins homered in both. In Thursday night’s series opener, the left fielder went 3-for-4 with a double and a two-run homer, his 13th of the season.

    “Rhys had another huge (homer) for us,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler told reporters after his team improved to 4-3 against the Nationals this season.

    Hoskins, 25, is hitting .329 with seven homers and 20 RBIs in 18 games during June, raising his season average to .260 and his OPS to .871. Hoskins has just a .224 average in 14 career games against the Nationals, but eight of his 11 hits have gone for extra bases.

    Washington, which managed to score three runs — two in the ninth inning — after being shut out in consecutive games, has lost 10 of 13.

    Of all the people glued to their TVs rooting for the Buffalo Bills to finally – and mercifully – end their 17-season playoff drought last weekend, one curiously stood out: former Tennessee Titans tight end Frank Wycheck.

    Wycheck is forever remembered in Buffalo for throwing a lateral on a kickoff return to give Tennessee a 22-16 playoff win over the Bills in a play dubbed the “Music City Miracle,” one of the wildest finishes ever to an NFL postseason game. The much-debated play in the January 2000 wild-card playoff propelled the Titans to the Super Bowl.

    It’s a memory that still stings in Buffalo 18 years later, enveloped in the lingering pain from what grew into the longest playoff drought in North America’s four major professional sports.

    ”People were kind of bringing it up that that’s the reason why they haven’t made the playoffs because of that play,” Wycheck told The Associated Press by phone from Nashville, Tennessee.

    ”I don’t want to put the responsibility on me,” said Wycheck, who now serves as a radio host and Titans broadcast analyst. ”But it was so long ago, too. I’m just glad they made it and I was happy for them.”

    He doesn’t feel directly responsible for the Bills’ woes in the bungling years that followed. Still, Wycheck said if there was some kind of curse on the Bills sparked by the ”Music City Miracle Anthony Miller Color Rush Jersey ,” it’s time it was lifted.

    Add another member to the Bills bandwagon as Buffalo travels to play AFC South champion Jacksonville in a wild-card playoff on Sunday.

    The sentiments surprised key players from Buffalo’s storied past, and even some fans didn’t quite know how to react when Wycheck tweeted his congrats to the Bills for making the playoffs.

    ”Are you kidding?” said Rob Johnson, the Bills quarterback at the time who started the game over Doug Flutie. ”Does he feel bad?”

    ”Wow. Really?” said Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas. ”Oh, that’s freaking awesome, man. That you could still in a way, even though it hurt us, that you could root for us, that’s great.”

    Wycheck’s name has been dragged through the mud – and worse – across western New York long enough for a play most refer to as ”The Home Run Throwback .” Everywhere that is, except Buffalo – where it’s always been called ”The Home Run Throw Forward,” and ”The Immaculate Deception.”

    Johnson, minus a shoe no less, completed a 9-yard pass to Peerless Price to set up Steve Christie hitting a 41-yard field goal to put Buffalo ahead 16-15 with 16 seconds remaining.

    What followed was pure and utter disappointment for the Bills.

    Tennessee’s Lorenzo Neal caught the ensuing kickoff and handed the ball to Wycheck, who ran to his right. He then spun around at his own 25 and threw the ball across the field to Kevin Dyson, who sprinted up the left sideline to score with 3 seconds left.

    The 75-yard touchdown stood up after a lengthy video review, and the stunning loss spawned what became a playoff drought that tied for fifth-longest in NFL history.

    Just like its start, the Bills’ drought ended in dramatic fashion last weekend.

    Buffalo did its part with a 22-16 win at Miami . The Bills then clinched the AFC’s sixth and final playoff berth when Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton converted a fourth-and-12 in the final minute to hit Tyler Boyd for a touchdown, beating Baltimore 31-27.

    Thomas noted that Buffalo’s win over the Dolphins matched the same score as the 2000 loss to Tennessee – the running back’s last game in a Bills uniform.

    ”It’s been a long, long time,” said Thomas, who wept in joy after the Bills clinched their playoff berth.

    After spending many of these last 17 years answering questions about the drought, and wondering if the Bills might in fact be cursed, Thomas is relieved everyone can finally put it behind them.

    ”The fans are living it now. Enjoy,” said Thomas, who was on the Bills teams that reached and lost four consecutive Super Bowl appearances in the early 1990s. ”It’s time to create some other memories.”

    Even former Bills players who never earned a chance to enjoy a playoff appearance in Buffalo celebrated.

    ”I’m trying to live vicariously through them because I didn’t get to live it,” said punter Brian Moorman, who played for the Bills from 2001-13. ”I always said that place would go nuts if we got in the playoffs. I would’ve loved to have experienced that.”

    Johnson, who eventually won a Super Bowl as a backup in Tampa Bay in 2003, was excited for the Bills and yet still carries some lingering resentment for what happened against Tennessee.

    ”They do all that scientific stuff now, I wonder if they ever proved that was a lateral,” he wondered. (Don’t try to convince some Bills fans, but it was studied thoroughly, including with rendered animations that showed the pass was almost perfectly horizontal but going ever so slightly backward.)

    When reminded that it was ultimately the officials who made the call on Wycheck’s throw being legal, Johnson snorted.

    ”It wasn’t his fault, heh, it wasn’t his fault,” he said.

    Wycheck insists his toss didn’t go forward and said the most disappointing development was learning of the Bills decision to fire special teams coach Bruce DeHaven following the season. He called it unfair to lay the blame on one person.

    That didn’t stop Wycheck from

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    January 29, 2019 2:02 AM PST

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