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Midseason report card: Pitching

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Midseason report card: Pitching

Earlier today, we graded out the Nationals' lineup and bench. Now it's time to evaluate how the pitching staff performed over the season's first half.

Obviously, the staff as a whole was the best in baseball. Individually, there were a number of fantastic pitchers, both starters and relievers, along with a couple of significantly sub-par performances. (And you can't mention a lot of these guys without complimenting their ability to deliver at the plate; the entire pitching staff boasts a .199 batting average, two homers, 10 RBI and seven doubles.)

Here are the grades for each pitcher on the Nats' roster...

SEAN BURNETT -- A
Picking up right where he left off late last season, the lefty was dominant as Davey Johnson's primary setup man. His numbers would have looked even better if not for a rare, three-run meltdown in Sunday's first-half finale.

TYLER CLIPPARD -- A
Setup man. Fireman. Closer. It didn't matter what role he served, he got the job done time and again. And he was so good in the ninth inning, he'll likely remain as closer even after Drew Storen returns from the DL.

ROSS DETWILER -- B
The Nats went out of their way to make sure he made the Opening Day rotation, and he mostly justified that decision. He still needs to learn how to sustain success into the sixth and seventh innings, but he's made impressive strides.

GIO GONZALEZ -- A
Is anyone complaining about the four prospects Mike Rizzo gave up for him anymore? Didn't think so. The lefty is tied for the NL lead with 12 wins, second in hits per nine innings and fourth in strikeouts.

MICHAEL GONZALEZ -- B
The veteran lefty was signed to a minor-league deal in May and quickly wound up in the big-league bullpen. He's been very effective against left-handed hitters, holding them to just two hits in 20 at-bats.

TOM GORZELANNY -- B-
Unable to win a rotation spot, he's done a mostly nice job transitioning into a long relief role, though sometimes he's susceptible to the long ball. Only Chien-Ming Wang and Henry Rodriguez have served up more home runs per nine innings.

EDWIN JACKSON -- B
If not for his first-inning bugaboo (17 earned runs allowed in 16 starts) he'd be among the most dominant pitchers in the NL. As it is, he's still a durable workhorse and the best No. 4 starter in the game.

RYAN MATTHEUS -- B
The right-hander has given up earned runs in only five of 29 appearances and has shown a propensity for pitching his way out of jams.

HENRY RODRIGUEZ -- D
When he's on, he's as dominant as any reliever in the game. When he's off, he's as combustible as any reliever in the game. Unfortunately, he's been off way more than he's been on.

CRAIG STAMMEN -- A-
Who knew this former starter's sinker would translate so well into the bullpen? The right-hander was brilliant through the season's first six weeks, and though he's had a few hiccups recently, he's become a valuable asset for Davey Johnson.

DREW STOREN -- Inc.
The Nats had high hopes for their young closer after he saved 43 games last season. A bone spur in his right elbow, though, required surgery. He's expected to make his season debut Friday, though he'll probably do so as a setup man to Tyler Clippard.

STEPHEN STRASBURG -- A
Any lingering questions about the state of his arm post-Tommy John surgery have been quashed. The only thing holding him back now is the Nationals' plan to shut him down at some point in early September.

CHIEN-MING WANG -- F
A freak hamstring injury in spring training derailed his latest comeback attempt, and he's battled all kinds of mechanical issues since. He's back on the DL with a hip issue, but his window of opportunity has just about closed for good.

JORDAN ZIMMERMANN -- A
He doesn't get the attention or praise that Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez do, but he's been every bit as good as his rotation mates. The only hangup: He doesn't get much run support, leading to a 5-6 record that doesn't accurately reflect his performance.

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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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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.