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Instant Analysis: Strasburg shuts down Braves

Instant Analysis: Strasburg shuts down Braves

Game in a nutshell: Who says the Nationals can't handle the pressure of a pennant-race series against their lone remaining competitors in the NL East. After pulling off last night's dramatic, 13-inning win over the Braves, they did it in more convincing fashion this time. There was, of course, a 51-minute rain delay in the top of the third, but that didn't faze anyone, least of all Stephen Strasburg. Allowed to retake the mound, the right-hander wound up tossing six innings and striking out 10. His batterymate, Jesus Flores, supplied a three-run homer, with Ian Desmond launching a solo shot of his own. Drew Storen, Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard then finished it off out of the bullpen, leaving a crowd of 33,888 rocking and celebrating the home team's seven-game lead over Atlanta heading into tomorrow's series finale.

Hitting highlight: It's been a tough season for Flores, who was put into a tough spot after Wilson Ramos tore his ACL and has struggled both at and behind the plate. This, though, might have been his finest all-around performance of the year, and it came at a most opportune time. Flores clubbed a three-run homer into the flower bed beyond the left-field fence in the fifth (his fourth home run of the season, three of them coming against the Braves). Then he closed out the top of the sixth with a laser to nail Jason Heyward trying to take second on a ball in the dirt. In a season that has been frustrating on many levels for Flores, this had to feel especially gratifying.

Pitching highlight: Strasburg negatively affected by a rain delay? Pfft. So what if he had to keep himself warm during the 51-minute gap in action during the top of the third? He actually came back better and stronger. In fact, Strasburg might have displayed his best command of all three of his pitches the entire season. He painted corners with a 97 mph fastball. He dropped 83 mph curveballs off the table. And his 91 mph changeup was unhittable. Put it all together and you get six innings of one-run, 10-strikeout ball on 94 pitches (plus whatever he threw down in the batting tunnel during the delay). Remember Strasburg's inconsistent July, when he went 2-2 with a 4.15 ERA? Well, he's now 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA in August. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Key stat: Over the last three days, the Nationals have sat through 253 minutes of rain delays.

Up next: The Nationals will go for the sweep (and possibly a knockout punch of the Braves) Wednesday night. Ross Detwiler gets the ball against right-hander Kris Medlen.

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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.