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Another abbreviated start plagues Nats

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Another abbreviated start plagues Nats

Just when you though it was safe to turn on a Nationals game and have some semblance of confidence in the starting pitcher's ability to take control, Gio Gonzalez took the mound Tuesday night and reminded us this rotation remains something less than desired right now.

Gonzalez lasted only 3 1/3 innings during the Nationals' 6-1 loss to the Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla., giving up five runs before departing. Truth be told, he was lucky the damage wasn't much worse.

Gonzalez faced 22 batters during the outing and let 12 of them reach base safely (eight hits, three walks, one hit batter). He loaded the bases three times in four innings, and if not for great defensive plays by Michael Taylor (leaping to make a catch at the wall in left field) and Danny Espinosa (snagging Gonzalez's bounced throw to first) he might well have given up a whole lot more.

This was yet another head-scratcher during what has been a wildly inconsistent season for Gonzalez. He has allowed two or fewer runs six times in 13 total starts, but he has allowed five or more runs five times.

The end result: a 4.82 ERA and more head scratching.

Of course, the same could be said for the entire Nationals rotation, which like its lone left-hander has been wildly inconsistent this season, leading to plenty of head scratching. Yes, Max Scherzer has been brilliant, never more so than he was during Sunday's 1-hit, 16-strikeout masterpiece in Milwaukee. And yes, Joe Ross came up huge during Saturday's win, despite his inexperience.

But in the bigger picture, the Nationals rotation remains something of an enigma. That group now owns a collective 4.14 ERA, which ranks 10th in the NL. Opponents are hitting .273 against Nats starters, 12th out of 15 NL clubs.

And, in perhaps the most-telling sign of the rotation's inconsistent nature, Nationals starters have now failed to complete four innings nine times in 64 games this season. They did that only 10 times throughout all of 2015. Only the Rockies, with 11, have done it more times this year.

This, to put it mildly, is not what anybody expected from what everybody expected was among the best rotations in baseball. And it may not continue, not with Doug Fister and Stephen Strasburg close to returning from the disabled list.

But right now, for a Nationals club that is dealing with a banged-up lineup and an ever-changing bullpen, the one constant should be this rotation. Instead, those starters have been just as inconsistent as the rest of the roster during a wildly up-and-down first 2 1/2 months to the season.

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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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.