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Solis adjusting nicely to new role in Nats pen

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Solis adjusting nicely to new role in Nats pen

PHOENIX — When he was called up two weeks ago to make his major-league debut, Sammy Solis immediately checked out the Nationals’ upcoming schedule and couldn’t help but notice the next road trip he’d make: Phoenix and San Diego, his hometown and his college town.

“It’s the road trip of a lifetime for me,” the left-hander said before Monday evening’s series opener against the Diamondbacks. “I’m here at home. I had breakfast with my parents and grandparents this morning. And then I get to travel to San Diego and see my college buddies. It’s exciting.”

If only Solis could have waited one more day to achieve a major milestone and earn his first career win in Arizona instead of Washington.

“No, it doesn’t matter to me,” he said with a laugh. “The sooner, the better for that.”

Solis crossed that one off the checklist Sunday when he pitched a scoreless top of the eighth against the Braves at Nationals Park and then watched his teammates score three runs in the bottom of the inning en route to a 5-4 victory. The 26-year-old reliever was so excited about the comeback, he didn’t realize what the win meant for him until teammates started walking up to him offering congratulations.

“I had no idea, honestly,” he said. “It didn’t even cross my mind until the game was over. I had no idea. I was just hoping for a win for the team, and then when I found out that I got my first one, it was pretty special.”

These two weeks have been pretty special for Solis, a surprise contributor to the Nationals’ bullpen. A starter since he was taken with the first pitch of the second round of the 2010 draft out of the University of San Diego, he only began working as a reliever last month, with the organization trying to help him advance after several years of arm injuries.

The transition has proven remarkably smooth for Solis. He has yet to allow a run in three appearances totaling six innings, giving up three singles without issuing a walk.

The role may be new, but the formula for success hasn’t changed. Solis possesses a mid-90s fastball and a sharp-breaking curve, but first and foremost he relies on command. And he’s been able to carry that over to the big-league level, throwing 70 percent of his pitches (55-of-79) for strikes so far.

“When it comes down to it, it’s still baseball,” he said. “The bullpen is a little different, and I’m sure I’m still adjusting to that. It’s obviously a little more fast-paced, a little more competitive. The players are obviously a little stronger, a little faster. So adjusting to that was a little different. But I think I’m settling in well. I feel pretty comfortable right now.”

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Nats give up monster HR, drop series-opener with Giants

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USA TODAY Sports

Nats give up monster HR, drop series-opener with Giants

SAN FRANCISCO  -- Mac Williamson hit a two-run homer in the sixth to lead the Giants past the Washington Nationals 4-2 on Monday night.

Chris Stratton (2-1) struck out five over 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs and four hits.

Williamson, playing his first home game at AT&T Park this season after being called up during the recent road trip, connected with a deep drive to right-center off Shawn Kelley after he relieved starter Gio Gonzalez (2-2). Gonzalez walked Brandon Belt to end his day before Williamson crushed the first pitch he saw from Kelley.

The 464-foot shot by Williamson is the furthest homer by the Giants this year, topping his previous 434-foot homer Friday after he was promoted to face the Angels in Anaheim. Earlier Monday, Williamson drove in his team's initial run on a fielder's choice in the fourth.

Only three home runs have travelled further in 2018, according to MLB StatCast: Franchy Cordero (489), Avisail Garcia (481) and Marcell Ozuna (479)

San Francisco kicked off a 10-game homestand by winning back-to-back games for only the second time this season and first since April 4-7. The Giants were coming off their first series victory of the season against the Angels.

The Nationals' runs came on a pair of sacrifice flies, by Howie Kendrick in the third and pinch-hitter Andrew Stevenson in the seventh.

Gonzalez allowed three runs and four hits, struck out four and walked three in five innings.

In his only other start against Washington, Stratton threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts last Aug. 13.

Hunter Strickland, who brawled with Bryce Harper during Washington's last visit to AT&T Park in late May 2017, finished for his fourth save in six chances. Harper didn't bat in the ninth.

NATS TRADE COLE

Washington traded right-hander A.J. Cole to the New York Yankees for cash. The 26-year-old Cole was 1-1 with a 13.06 ERA in four games for the Nationals and was designated for assignment last week.

BAKER REUNION

Ex-Nationals manager Dusty Baker, who guided Washington to back-to-back NL East titles before his firing after last season, visited the ballpark to see his former club.

Did he plan the visit in advance?

"Maybe," Baker said, grinning.

Nats pitcher Stephen Strasburg hustled out to give Baker a big hug behind the batting cage.

"What's up Dusty, how you doing?" Strasburg said.

Baker also visited with third base coach Bob Henley, the loan holdover from his coaching staff.

Baker is now working in an advisory role to Giants CEO Larry Baer while getting to watch son, Darren, play his freshman college season at California in Berkeley.

"I am good," Baker said. "How bad can it be between Cal, San Francisco and Sacramento?"

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: OF Adam Eaton, on the disabled list retroactive to April 9 with a bone bruise in his left ankle, won't be rushed back until he is completely pain-free. "When you see him in the lineup he'll be ready," manager Dave Martinez said. "He's coming along. When we get him back this time we don't want any issues." ... OF Brian Goodwin remains in Florida with pain in his bruised left wrist.

Giants: LHP Will Smith is eagerly anticipating his return from Tommy John surgery that cost him all of last season, and he could come off the DL as soon as Tuesday. He pitched twice for Class-A San Jose and three times so far for Triple-A Sacramento. He is scheduled to throw consecutive days for Sacramento on Wednesday and Thursday then another short outing Sunday. "We're close. We're getting there," Smith said, noting it will be "awesome. I'm ready to go." ... RHP closer Mark Melancon (flexor strain in pitching elbow) is scheduled to play catch during Thursday's off day. There is no timetable for his return, manager Bruce Bochy said. ... LF Hunter Pence (sprained right thumb) did some hitting and is scheduled for early batting practice Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Giants lefty Ty Blach (1-3, 4.10 ERA) will face the Nationals for the first time in his career when he pitches the middle game of the series opposite right-hander Tanner Roark (1-1, 3.24).

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Bryce Harper, broken bats, and bobbleheads: a true trifecta

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Bryce Harper, broken bats, and bobbleheads: a true trifecta

Bryce Harper can do no wrong.

Last week in a win over the New York Mets, Bryce Harper, in super-human fashion, managed to shatter his bat while still hitting a home run.

It was as incredible as you think it is. Click the link in the line above here if you don't believe us. 

In what was already a one-of-one scenario, the cherry on top has been officially added: a Bryce Harper, broken-bat bobblehead.

The company that will be producing the legendary figurines is Sports Fan Island, who have gotten the bobbleheads licensed through both the MLB and the MLBPA.

The details on the bobblehead speak for themselves, from the intricacy of the broken bat, to the flames surrounding home plate under Harper.  

Despite the fact that the bobbleheads don't officially ship until July, fans can begin to pre-order this piece of historic memorabilia for $39.99, so you may want to grab them while they're still hot. 

RELATED: 2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS- APRIL UPDATE