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2016 MLB roster outlook: Houston Astros

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2016 MLB roster outlook: Houston Astros

2015 record: 86-76, 2nd place AL West, Wild Card winner

Manager: A.J. Hinch, 2nd season

Estimated 2016 payroll: $80 million

Key additions: SP Doug Fister, RP Ken Giles, SP Wandy Rodriguez 

Key losses: SP Scott Kazmir, 1B Chris Carter 

Projected lineup 

1. 2B Jose Altuve 

2. OF George Springer 

3. SS Carlos Correa  

4. OF Carlos Gomez 

5. DH Evan Gattis 

6. 3B Luis Valbuena 

7. OF Colby Rasmus 

8. 1B Jonathan Singleton 

9. C Jason Castro

Projected rotation 

LHP Dallas Keuchel 

RHP Colin McHugh 

RHP Lance McCullers 

RHP Mike Fiers 

RHP Doug Fister

Top relievers

RHP Ken Giles 

RHP Luke Gregerson 

RHP Pat Neshek 

Big questions entering 2016 

1. Can Houston build on last season's surprise success? The Astros shocked the baseball world by making it into the playoffs for the first time since 2005. They did it with a roster that may have lacked household names, but one that found a formula that works. Led by Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel and a balanced lineup that included emerging star Carlos Correa, Houston held down first place in the AL West for much of the season before tailing off and settling for the second wild card spot. This time around, they'll no longer have the luxury of sneaking up on teams; their task is to show that they can string together back-to-back winning seasons. 

2. Will Doug Fister return to 2014 form? The top of Houston's rotation is already solid with Keuchel and 19-game winner Collin McCugh. Imagine if Fister, who was recently signed to a one-year deal after a rough 2015 with the Nationals, was able to reclaim his old self. As disappointing as last season was for him, it wouldn't be that much of a stretch to think he can bounce back in his new home. Assuming his forearm issues are behind him, perhaps there's a chance he'll perform to his pre-2015 career norms. 

3. How will new closer Ken Giles perform? The biggest splash the Astros made this winter was their trade for hard-throwing Phillies closer Ken Giles, whom they parted with four players to acquire. In Giles, who's posted a 1.56 ERA in two seasons, Houston now has the missing piece to its bullpen. As was made painfully clear in their heartbreaking ALDS loss to the Royals, the Astros weren't able to finish off games in which they had late leads. Enter Giles, who's known for his electric fastball that is clocked up in the upper 90s. The only real question mark surrounding this deal is that the 25-year-old righty, while talented, is still inexperienced as a full time closer. He took over for Jonathan Papelbon after the latter was traded to Washington late last year, converting on 15-of-17 save opportunities down the stretch. Can he be the lockdown closer that the Astros need for them to take the next step? 

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Former Nats manager Jim Riggleman named interim manager of Reds

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Former Nats manager Jim Riggleman named interim manager of Reds

Remember Jim Riggleman, the infamous Nats manager that resigned from the position back in 2011 after a win against the Seattle Mariners? Well he's back in a managerial position.

Bryan Price was fired as manager of the Cinncinati Reds Thursday, after the team started the 2018 season 3-15. Riggleman, who spent four seasons as their bench coach, was named the interim manager to replace Price.

Riggleman was promoted to interim manager of the Nats in July of 2009, after Manny Acta was let go midseason. He stayed on as manager for 2010 and 2011, and he then resigned from the team on June 23, 2011 after a win agaisnt the Seattle Mariners. He had lead the team to a win in 11 of their last 12 games prior to stepping away.

The reason behind the dramatic exit was due to the organization not yet picking up his 2012 contract option. He had reportedly requested a conversation with the front office about his future with the organization, and was upset after they declined. At 58 years-old, he felt he deserved more respect.

He's been with the Reds organization since 2012, and has spent time managing the Padres, Cubs and Mariners, in addition to the Nationals. His career winning pct. with each team has been below-.500.

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Nationals fall after Mets score 9 runs in 8th inning

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USA Today Sports Images

Nationals fall after Mets score 9 runs in 8th inning

NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes launched a grand slam during a nine-run outburst in the eighth inning that rallied the New York Mets past the Washington Nationals 11-5 on Wednesday night, preventing a three-game sweep.

Todd Frazier tied it at 4 with a two-run single and pinch-hitter Juan Lagares put New York ahead for the first time with a two-run double off ineffective setup man Ryan Madson (0-2).

Shut down by Tanner Roark for seven innings, the first-place Mets broke loose in the eighth and improved to 13-4 with a stirring victory against their NL East rivals.

Ryan Zimmerman homered twice, tripled and drove in four runs for the Nationals, who pulled off their own big comeback in the eighth inning of the series opener.

Two nights later, New York returned the favor.

Roark limited the Mets to two hits and left leading 4-2. Michael Conforto, Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera singled off Madson to load the bases with nobody out in the eighth. Jay Bruce fouled out before Frazier smacked a two-run single up the middle and advanced to second on the throw home.

After an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez loaded the bases again, pinch-hitter Wilmer Flores struck out. Lagares then lined a two-run double the other way, just inside the right-field line at the outer edge of the infield grass, to put the Mets up 6-4.

Sammy Solis walked Amed Rosario and Conforto to force in a run. Cespedes connected for his sixth career slam -- the third by the Mets already this season -- off A.J. Cole, sending fans into a frenzy.

Both of Cespedes' hits in the inning came on 0-2 pitches.

AJ Ramos (1-1) worked a perfect inning for his first win with the Mets since being acquired from Miami last July.

Howie Kendrick reached on an infield single for Washington in the first and Bryce Harper drew his 24th walk, most in the majors. Zimmerman, batting .121 at that point and struggling to make opponents pay for bypassing Harper, came through with a drive to left-center off Steven Matz for his second home run of the season.

Matz steadied himself after a 33-pitch first inning and retired his final 10 batters. He was pulled for a pinch hitter in the fourth after throwing 74 pitches.

Cabrera doubled to open the fourth and scored on Gonzalez's single. Zimmerman had a chance to start an inning-ending double play, but his throwing error from first base allowed another run to score on Jose Lobaton's RBI grounder as the Mets cut it to 3-2.

After Mets pitchers retired 16 in a row, Zimmerman's leadoff triple in the seventh got past a diving Bruce in right field, and Moises Sierra followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.

Zimmerman also hit a solo homer in the ninth.