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Missed opportunities again seal Nats' fate in loss to O's

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Missed opportunities again seal Nats' fate in loss to O's

Of all the reasons why the Nationals have fallen short of expectations in 2015, of all the persistent problems that have stood in their way, the continued squandering of opportunities has loomed as large as any.

Time and time again the schedule has favored the Nats, or their opponent has gifted them breaks on a given night. When this long and trying season finally comes to an end, one thing no one will be able to say is that the Nats were not given chances to capitalize on the misfortune and mistakes of others.

On Tuesday night it was a loss by the New York Mets that opened the door for a chance to gain precious ground in the NL East. It was three errors committed by the Baltimore Orioles and five walks issued by their starting pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez. All those factors came into play, yet the Nationals still couldn't take advantage and make something of their circumstances. 

Those fortuitous breaks are the kinds of things that make losses hurt even more when you add them all up. It's not just a defeat, one game out of 162. It's what could have been if they didn't blow such a favorable chance.

"Tonight [the Mets loss] didn't matter because we didn't win," Bryce Harper said.

"Those are the opportunities you want to take and we couldn't do it today," Jose Lobaton added. "We tried, but we just couldn't do it."

Jimenez was effectively wild on Tuesday night, somehow overcoming five walks to allow only one run (0 ER) on three hits. He and the Orioles gave the Nats their best opportunity in the fourth with a pair of errors and an infield single.

The first error allowed Clint Robinson to reach second with no outs. The infield single was hit by Ian Desmond and it was aided by the usually pristine glove of Manny Machado, as he couldn't get the ball out in time to throw to first. The second error was on a groundball hit by Jose Lobaton directly to Jonathan Schoop at second and it scored the Nats' only run.

That sequence left runners at first and second with one out and pitcher Gio Gonzalez at the plate. Gio laid down a bunt that was hit softly enough for catcher Caleb Joseph to fire to third and start a rally-killing double play.

"It’s a good play by their catcher," manager Matt Williams said. "If that bunts a little further out, the pitcher’s got to field it and the play is at first. Or if it’s a little to the right side, the first baseman is gonna go to first. But it was out in front enough where Joseph could get to it and Machado made a nice turn to get it back over."

Bryce Harper drew three walks on Tuesday night and set a single season record for the Nationals along the way. But afterwards he could only look back on one pitch he got from Jimenez in third inning as a missed opportunity.

"I missed my pitch. I missed the 1-2 sinker. I probably should have hit it out of the yard, but I popped up to second. That's on me. If I want a hit, then that's the pitch I gotta hit. Instead of being 1-for-1, I was 0-for-1 with three walks. I can't miss my pitches," he said.

The Nationals have 12 games remaining on their schedule, but the New York Mets have a magic number of only six. The likelihood of their season ending prematurely is becoming more and more real by the day. It's a near inevitability they will be watching the playoffs from home this October, all wondering what could have been if nights like Tuesday had just gone the way they should have.

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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.