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Harper returns to Nats lineup earlier than expected from injury

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Harper returns to Nats lineup earlier than expected from injury

After watching his team beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-1 on Friday night with his best player out of the lineup, Matt Williams was pleased to receive a text message from Bryce Harper the following morning.

It simply said: “I’m good to go.”

Despite writhing in pain after falling to the ground and leaving Thursday night’s game with a hamstring strain, Harper has returned to the Nationals lineup. He may have to deal with some discomfort for the time being, but Harper is ready to get back on the field.

“I’ve played through pain the last two years sometimes. It feels okay. Just gonna get in there and play for the team,” he said.

Harper tested out his hamstring before Saturday’s game by taking flyballs in right field at Nationals Park. He then met with manager Matt Williams and a member of the team’s training staff before heading into the clubhouse, possibly to take batting practice in the indoor cage. He did not participate in batting practice with teammates on the field.

Before the game, Harper repeated the phrase “I’m in the game” several times, in a conversation with reporters reminiscent of Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch or Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

“Nothing has changed. I’m in the game today, that’s what we’re doing,” he said.

Harper has been one of the best players in baseball this season with a .344 average, 22 home runs and 53 RBI in 66 games. He hurt his hamstring on a throw attempt in the sixth inning of Thursday night’s loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. The field was slippery because of rain and his knee gave out when he was planting to throw.

Harper is back playing right field and hitting cleanup for the Nationals.

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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.