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Bryce Harper named NL MVP after historic season

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Bryce Harper named NL MVP after historic season

Bryce Harper's historic season officially was recognized Thursday evening when the young Nationals star was unanimously selected as Most Valuable Player of the National League, the sport's highest honor for single-season performance.

Harper received first-place votes on all 30 ballots submitted by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, making the dynamic right fielder only the 18th unanimous MVP since writers began voting for the award in 1931. Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt finished a distant second, with Reds first baseman Joey Votto in third place.

Thursday's announcement caught no one by surprise; Harper had been widely expected to win since votes were submitted at the end of the regular season. But his runaway victory elevated his 2015 performance to another level.

Harper led the majors in on-base percentage (.460), slugging percentage (.649) and OPS (1.109) while leading the NL in runs (118), tying Colorado's Nolan Arenado for the league lead in homers (42) and finishing second to Miami's Dee Gordon for the batting title (.330). His 9.9 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference, led all big leaguers and was baseball's highest mark since the Angels' Mike Trout in 2012.

"It was awesome," teammate Jayson Werth said on the final day of the season. "I'm really proud of him. He had a great season. MVP-caliber season."

With those numbers, Harper clearly was the NL's best player in 2015, but his performance stacks up with some of the best in baseball history. Only eight others had ever hit .330 with 42 homers and a .460 on-base percentage in a single season, and most of the names on that list (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Barry Bonds, Todd Helton and Jason Giambi) stand as the greatest hitters the game has ever known.

That Harper now joins that group is impressive enough. That he did it at age 22, with a full career still ahead of him, only adds to the significance. He's the fourth-youngest MVP ever, bested only by Vida Blue (1971), Johnny Bench (1970) and Stan Musial (1943).

Harper has dealt with raised expectations from the day the then-16-year-old was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, leaving the entire sports world keenly aware of his immense potential. When the Nationals made him the No. 1 pick of the 2010 draft, the pressure was on to live up to the hype.

Harper's path to the big leagues was swift — he debuted for the Nationals in April 2012, appearing in only 130 minor-league games prior to his promotion — and he made an immediate impact, helping his team to its first-ever division title and earning NL Rookie of the Year honors.

Harper continued to develop over the next two seasons, but injuries to both his knee (2013) and thumb (2014) left him less than 100 percent healthy and (he believed) left him unable to put his entire game together over the long haul. Finally healthy this season, he reached new heights, combining elite power with bat control and unwavering patience that allowed him to draw a club-record 124 walks and not chase pitches out of the zone the way he had in the past.

"That really shows the maturity that he's come around this year," first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said in September following 4-walk, 4-run game by his teammate. "It's hard to take those pitches, because everyone wants to get hits and everyone wants to drive in runs. Walks are good, but obviously it takes a lot of patience and discipline to do what he's doing. I'm proud of him for that."

Along the way, the rest of baseball couldn't help but take notice and recognize what Harper had become. Voted by fellow big leaguers as the sport's "Most Overrated Player" in a spring training poll by ESPN, he wound up being named "NL Outstanding Player" by those same peers in the season-ending Players Choice Awards.

Harper's performance was historic throughout his sport; his MVP selection was historic throughout the town he has played in the last four seasons. He's only the fourth Washington baseball player to win an MVP award, the first since Senators shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh in 1925. Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson twice was honored (1913, 1924).

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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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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.