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Escobar hitting .342 after another 5-hit night

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Escobar hitting .342 after another 5-hit night

PHOENIX — Plenty of members of the Nationals' roster and coaching staff had seen Yunel Escobar over the years and thought they had a decent sense of him as a player. Most did not, however, think he would be what he has proven to be through his first six weeks in a Washington uniform.

"You know, I played against him at Triple-A when he was with the Braves, and he just dominated that league," Denard Span said. "Then I got to the big leagues, and it seemed like he got away from what he was doing at Triple-A when he was with the Braves and then Toronto. I've just been impressed with his work ethic, the way he goes about his business in the cage. He's just a professional hitter. He has a plan when he's going up to the plate. That's what I'm most impressed with. I didn't realize he had that type of gameplan as a hitter playing against him."

Escobar's preparation before games and his ability to put that preparation into practice once he steps into the batter's box has been on full display over the last week. He notched the first 5-for-5 game of his career last Monday against the Marlins, then he duplicated the feat Monday night against the Diamondbacks.

Yes, that's a pair of 5-for-5 games within a week. He's the first Nationals player ever with multiple 5-hit games in a season, and he's the first major leaguer with multiple 5-hit games in a week since Ichiro Suzuki in 2004.

"I'm very happy I had the opportunity to do that," Escobar said through interpreter Nilson Robledo. "I'm very happy I was able to do that for the team."

Escobar has done a whole lot for his team in the last week. Beginning with the 5-hit game against Miami, he's now batting a cool .577 (15-for-26) over his last seven games, raising his batting average to .342 (fifth-best in the NL).

Escobar isn't exactly producing much power — his last 24 hits have all been singles — but the sheer volume of hits he's providing are making a difference, helping both to advance leadoff man Span while also ensuring runners on base for Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper behind him.

"He's calm and he's just taking what's given to him," manager Matt Williams said. "He's hitting the ball middle of the diamond, which creates opportunity. You stand at the middle of the plate and it looks like it's the most-crowded spot on the diamond, but it's actually the biggest. He understands himself, he takes the ball the other way when he has to. We've seen him, over the course of this season anyway, get a bunch of big hits for us."

So, what was the key to Escobar's latest 5-hit night?

"It's the bat," he said with a smile. "It's not me. I'm going to protect that bat."

In fact, Escobar suggested he will retire the bat he used Monday night, having already left it in a protective box inside the clubhouse at Chase Field.

He would have brought the bat back out one more time Monday had his spot in the lineup come up one more time in the top of the ninth. Alas, his teammates couldn't quite move the line enough to give him a crack at becoming the first D.C. major leaguer to record six hits in a game since 1944.

Escobar wasn't too disappointed, though.

"I didn't want to hit anymore," he said. "Enough is enough. My timing is so perfect right now. Sometimes I don't want to do too much."

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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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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.