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Early part of schedule important for Nats in NL East race with Mets

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Early part of schedule important for Nats in NL East race with Mets

Unless you are projecting for the Golden State Warriors these days - or the Washington Capitals, for that matter - trying to add up wins and losses simply by looking at a schedule can be a fruitless exercise, no matter the sport. But, based on the records of their opponents last season, the Nationals have a much more favorable road in April than they do in May. And, one could argue, their April schedule is also easier than that of the New York Mets.

The Nationals, in fact, do not face a team that qualified for the 2015 playoffs until they at the St. Louis Cardinals on April 29, their 23rd game of the season. That's 22 games until they see a playoff team, or 13.5 percent of their 162-game schedule. The Nats' opponents pre-St. Louis had an average win percentage of .438 in 2015, or a 71-win pace over the course of a full season.

The Nats do not play a team that posted a winning record until they see the Minnesota Twins at home on April 22, their 17th game. The Twins were 83-79, just barely above the .500 mark. Though, to be fair, they appear to be a team on the rise and could very well make the playoffs this season.

Before the Nats see the Twins, they get the Braves and Marlins twice, and the Phillies once for a three-game series on the road. Division opponents should never be overlooked, but odds are that at least two of those teams will be woeful once again in 2016.

The Mets, conversely, have a relatively tough road in their opening month. Not only do they have less home games (11) than the Nats (13) do, they open with the defending World Series-champion Royals in Kansas City. Three series later they play at the Cleveland Indians, who posted a winning record in 2015. They then close the month with the San Francisco Giants, a team that may have missed the playoffs last season with an 84-78 record, but they loaded up this winter and are always one of the toughest opponents to face in baseball.

The opponents and amount of home games tilt in Washington's favor early on, but here's the most important thing to note about the Nats' early schedule: May is going to be brutal. 

In May the Nationals will finish their series at the Cardinals, then go at the Royals, then at the Cubs - the odds-on World Series favorites - for four games. After that it's three games against the Tigers.

Following the Tigers the Nats see the Mets and Marlins twice apiece before another four games against the Cardinals. In May the Nats will play nine consecutive series against teams that have the talent to make the playoffs, depending on what you think of the Marlins, who will have Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez back this season.

An argument can easily be made that May is the toughest part of the Nationals schedule, which makes a good start in April that much more important, especially considering it's a somewhat favorable stretch compared to their most formidable counterparts, the New York Mets.

[RELATED: Nats outright bench player Tyler Moore to Triple-A Syracuse]

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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.