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Instant Analysis: Nats 5, Marlins 1

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Instant Analysis: Nats 5, Marlins 1

Game in a nutshell: The Nationals opened the second half of their season with a bang, pouncing on Marlins ace Josh Johnson for five runs and handing the ball to Jordan Zimmermann to mow his way through the Miami lineup. Big hits came from Ryan Zimmerman (who went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer), Adam LaRoche (3-for-4, two runs scored) and Ian Desmond (2-for-4, RBI). Zimmermann had a shutout going through six innings but was surprisingly pulled by manager Davey Johnson in favor of Henry Rodriguez, who struggled again to find the strike zone and was yanked after four batters. No worries, though, because the rest of the Nationals bullpen hung on to close this one out and start the pennant race off in style.
Hitting highlight: How nice was the four-day All-Star break for the ailing members of the Nationals' lineup? Apparently very nice, because they came out raking in the second-half opener, no one more so than Zimmerman. Zim launched a third-inning shot to deep left-center and clanked the home run sculpture for a two-run blast. He added a single in the fifth and another in the seventh. In 15 games now since receiving a cortisone shot in his ailing shoulder, he's hitting .359 (23-for-64) with six doubles, six homers and 20 RBI.
Pitching highlight: In what has to be considered one of his best outings of the season, Zimmermann sliced and diced the Marlins lineup, getting better and stronger as the night wore on. With a devastating slider, he struck out four batters in a row in the third and fourth innings, and when the sixth inning ended he had retired 14 of 16 batters and had yet to allow a run while throwing only 87 pitches. And then he never emerged from the dugout for the bottom of the seventh. It was a curious move, to say the least, one Johnson is going to have to explain. Regardless, it was another fine start for Zimmermann, who lowered his ERA to 2.48 and got his record back to .500 at 6-6.
Key stat: Only two major leaguers have made 18 starts this season and completed at least six innings in each of them: Zimmermann and Justin Verlander.
Up next: The Nats wanted to sign Mark Buehrle last winter, but after he signed with Miami, they instead traded for Gio Gonzalez. No complaints about that now, but we will get to see the two lefties go head-to-head Saturday night in Game 2 of this series. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m.

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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.