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Max Scherzer confident heading into Game 3

Max Scherzer confident heading into Game 3

CHICAGO -- During the Washington Nationals' first two postseason games against the Chicago Cubs, star pitcher Max Scherzer has been relegated to the role of observer, unable to take an active role.

But after two days of "champing at the bit" to take the mound Monday as the deadlocked best-of-five National League Division series shifts to Wrigley Field, Scherzer is confident he can give the Nationals everything they've come to expect from their ace.

Scherzer hasn't pitched since Sept. 30 when he left his final regular-season start with what he referred to at the time as a "small tweak" in his right hamstring. The reigning National League Cy Young winner was scheduled to pitch Game 1 against the Cubs, but was pushed back to Game 3 to provide him extra time to build more strength and endurance in his hamstring.

In recent days, Scherzer has worked with team trainers to get his hamstring as close to 100 percent in order to give him every chance to work as long as Washington needs in Monday's pivotal Game 3.

"I'm very confident as soon as I toe the rubber, I'm going to be good on pitch one," Scherzer said Sunday. "It's (about) how long can I go without re-injuring this and that's where we've done everything we can to make sure I can throw 100 pitches and not have this happen.

"When I'm on the mound (Monday), I'm fully anticipating being able to throw 100 pitches."

Scherzer won his only start against the Cubs this season and is 3-1 in six career starts against Chicago.

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said he's not concerned about Scherzer, but said he will keep a keen eye on any signals that might be telling in how the right-hander is feeling.

Meanwhile, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he will likely add another left-handed bat to his lineup against Scherzer. Maddon referred to Scherzer as "oppressively difficult" against right-handed hitters.

The Cubs overcame being no-hit for 5 2/3 innings in Game 1 against Stephen Strasburg to pull out a 3-0 victory to take an early series lead. But after the Nationals scored five times in the eighth inning in Saturday's 6-3 victory to even the series, Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber said it's just a matter of keeping the right approach against Scherzer.

"It's Scherzer -- we all know he's got good stuff," Schwarber said. "But we're not afraid of the name on the back (of the jersey). We're going to go out and execute what we want at the plate."

While the Cubs prepare to face Washington's ace, Chicago will counter with Jose Quintana, who will make his postseason debut. Quintana, who was acquired from the crosstown White Sox in a midseason trade, will face the Nationals for the first time in his career.

Despite Quintana's lack of playoff experience, Maddon points to performances Quintana made late in the regular season when the Cubs were still in a fight for a Central Division title. Like Scherzer, Quintana will take the mound looking to give his team an edge in the series.

Quintana said he feels no pressure.

"I (will) just go try and get focused, pitch by pitch (and) control my emotions every time," Quintana said. "I think that's the huge part for me -- especially when it's my first time here."

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

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@MLB

Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

Juan Soto, the highly-regarded 19-year-old Nationals' prospect, got his first major league start of his career tonight. 

How did it go, you ask? Surely it would take Soto - who was in Single-A less than two weeks ago - some time to adjust? 

What were you doing at 19??

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.