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Many key Nationals will be making playoff debuts

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Many key Nationals will be making playoff debuts

WASHINGTON (AP) On the night the Washington Nationals clinched the NL East title, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman donned the one essential accessory for any jubilant baseball player these days: ski goggles.

His gray commemorative T-shirt soaked by champagne and beer, Zimmerman was asked whether he brought the eye-protecting equipment to the ballpark himself, knowing it would come in handy during all of the alcohol-spraying.

No, came the reply: Right fielder Jayson Werth provided the goggles because, as Zimmerman explained, ``He's been through a few.''

Werth is nearly alone in that regard on Zimmerman's club. When your franchise hasn't been to the playoffs in 31 years, and your city hasn't participated in Major League Baseball's postseason in 79, chances are there won't be a whole lot of guys who know how to celebrate in a clubhouse.

That's how things are for the Nationals, who were a majors-best 98-64 in 2012, but whose young core - Zimmerman, 19-year-old center fielder Bryce Harper, left fielder Michael Morse, middle infielders Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa, starters Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler, and relievers Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Craig Stammen - is new to all of this.

None of those players ever has appeared in a single playoff game, yet each will be counted on in a key role when the Nationals open their NL division series on Sunday at either the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals or the Atlanta Braves, frequent postseason participants.

``Baseball is baseball. Whatever you're going to play, wherever you're going to play, people are going to do good things, people are going to do bad things, just like they've done all season. Obviously, the coverage and the attention is magnified, but the game's the game,'' said Zimmerman, a member of 100-loss Nationals clubs in 2008 and 2009, ``and I think once we get into it, all of us will be fine.''

It's likely that no more than five of the players who will be on Washington's 25-man NLDS roster have spent any time under the bright lights of the playoffs at all, led by Werth's 44 games with the Philadelphia Phillies, the club he left as a free agent before last season to sign a $126 million contract with the Nationals.

According to STATS LLC, the only other member of the club with more than eight playoff games is utility reserve Mark DeRosa - a valuable member of the current clubhouse, to be sure, but someone who conceivably might not even get on the field for more than an inning here or there the rest of the way.

Werth (2008 Phillies) and starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (2011 Cardinals) are the only Nationals players who have won a World Series.

And of the 10 clubs that qualified for this postseason, only the AL West champion Oakland Athletics had a younger season-ending roster than the Nationals, STATS LLC said.

So how important is it to have postseason veterans?

``It definitely helps. You have a lot people, once they go back multiple times, they know how to handle different situations,'' said right-hander Jackson (10-11), expected to start Game 3 or 4 of the NLDS, behind playoff rookies Gonzalez (21-8) in Game 1 and Zimmermann (12-8) in Game 2. ``But at the end of the day, it can be your first time and you can still go out and perform. It just depends on how you treat it.''

The man in a Nationals uniform with by far the most accumulated playoff knowledge is manager Davey Johnson.

He won World Series championships as a second baseman with the Baltimore Orioles in 1966 and 1970, and another as the manager of the New York Mets in 1986.

Johnson insists his current group will be just fine this month.

``You gain your experience by playing 162 games and winning those games and winning most series. ... We treat every game as a big game,'' he said. ``The beauty of it is, you've played alongside each other all year long and you know what everybody's capable of doing. You feed on the energy of knowing the guy behind you is pretty good. So you don't need to have a whole lot of guys with postseason experience. I've got a ton of it.''

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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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.