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Gio Gonzalez gives up 5 in 1st of 11-8 loss to Pirates

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USA TODAY Sports

Gio Gonzalez gives up 5 in 1st of 11-8 loss to Pirates

WASHINGTON -- Gio Gonzalez gave up five runs in the first inning of yet another concerning outing for a Washington Nationals starting pitcher, and the NL East champions wrapped up the regular season Sunday with an 11-8 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Gonzalez (15-9) needed 39 pitches across 16 arduous minutes to record the game's first three outs, while his ERA rose from 2.75 to 2.96 just in that opening inning. The Pirates batted around as the lefty walked two batters, hit Jordan Luplow to force in a run with the bases loaded and allowed Max Moroff's three-run double along with Jacob Stallings' RBI single.

This came a day after 2016 NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer left his last pre-playoffs start for Washington in the fourth inning after feeling something wrong with his right hamstring. At least Scherzer sounded optimistic about things Sunday, saying that an MRI exam showed he had only "tweaked" his muscle, not strained it.

Gonzalez wound up going only 4 1-3 innings, allowing six runs, seven hits and three walks. It was his shortest appearance of a bounce-back season after going 11-11 with a 4.57 ERA in 2016 and part of a downward trend of late: Four of Gonzalez's last five starts lasted five innings or fewer. Only one other time all year did he depart that quickly, way back on May 3.

This time, Gonzalez left after serving up three consecutive hits in the fifth.

Just to introduce another element of uncertainty from a game that didn't matter for either team, Tanner Roark -- slated to join Stephen Strasburg, Scherzer and Gonzalez in Washington's postseason rotation -- entered in the sixth and promptly gave up two runs, three hits and a walk in his one-inning tuneup.

Hardly the preferred sort of preparation before facing the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs in an NL Division series that starts in the nation's capital in less than a week.

Washington's hitters did not exactly look ready for prime time for much of the day, either: They went 0 for 7 with the bases loaded, including a strikeout and groundout by Trea Turner, and a groundout by Bryce Harper.

Angel Sanchez (1-0) earned his first big league win with two shutout innings in relief. George Kontos got the final out for his first save in 322 appearances in the majors.

Washington's Anthony Rendon hit a three-run shot off in the first, his 25th homer of the year. Michael A. Taylor added his 19th homer in the seventh; he was hit by a pitch on his right hand in the eighth.

There was a welcome sight for Washington in the seventh: Harper racing home from first -- hair in full flow -- on Adrian Sanchez's double, showing no signs of trouble from the hyperextended left knee that landed the 2015 NL MVP on the DL for 42 games.

Nationals manager Dusty Baker pulled regulars at the start of innings, letting them join teammates on the field before being substituted while spectators responded with ovations.

Right fielder Harper left in the top of the eighth, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (.303, 36 homers, 108 RBIs a year after .218, 15, 46) in the fourth, third baseman Rendon in the fifth, second baseman Daniel Murphy in the sixth and left fielder Jayson Werth in the ninth.

GOODBYE WERTH?

In the last regular-season game of Werth's $126 million, seven-year contract, he was greeted by a standing ovation from some in the announced crowd of 36,652 before his first at-bat. A video montage played on the scoreboard above center field and fans held signs saluting him, including one that read, "Thank you, Jayson." Werth doffed his batting helmet to the crowd before his final at-bat. When he jogged off the field in the ninth, Harper met him outside the dugout for a hug.

LONG DAY'S NIGHT

The time of 4 hours, 22 minutes made this the longest nine-inning regular-season game, by time, in both Pirates and Nationals history.

ATTENDANCE

The Nationals finished with a total home attendance of 2,524,980 in 2017, an average of 31,173.

UP NEXT

Pirates: Season ends with a 75-87 record, slightly worse than last year's 78-83. Pittsburgh hasn't had this few wins since going 72-90 in 2010, manager Clint Hurdle's first season.

Nationals: Host the NL Central champion Cubs in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday. Washington went 97-65, two more wins than a year ago and one short of the Nationals-best 98 in 2012.

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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.