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The Morse Effect

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The Morse Effect

Michael Morse could make his season debut for the Nationals tonight.

That decision hasn't officially been made yet, and it's possible the club will want the slugger to play at least one more game on his rehab assignment, get a few more at-bats and make a few more throws from the outfield before activating him off the disabled list.

But there's certainly a chance we'll see Morse in the lineup tonight against the Braves, or at worst within the next few days. And once he does rejoin the Nationals after missing nearly three months with a torn right lat muscle, his effect on the team should be profound.

Start, of course, with Morse's bat, which will be a welcome addition to a Nationals lineup that currently ranks 12th in the NL in batting average (.244) and on-base percentage (.313), ninth in slugging percentage (.394) and 13th in runs scored (192).

Now, it's probably too much to ask for Morse to step right in and immediately pick up where he left off at the end of his breakthrough 2011, when he led the club with a .303 average, 31 homers and 95 RBI. It may take a little while for him to get comfortable facing big-league pitching again.

There's also the possibility Morse won't be the same hitter he was a year ago, that his breakthrough season was an anomaly, not a precursor to more of the same. (Though there's plenty of reason to believe it was not a fluke.)

More than anything else, Morse's return should have a positive effect on the rest of the Nationals' lineup. What at times this year has been a less-than-imposing starting nine all of a sudden looks a lot more potent.

Where will Morse hit? For now, look for manager Davey Johnson to slot him in the fifth spot, behind the Bryce Harper-Ryan Zimmerman-Adam LaRoche trio that has worked well to date. Opposing pitchers might be less inclined to pitch around LaRoche now, and Morse certainly should find himself with plenty of RBI opportunities there.

Where will he play in the field? Look for him to start out in right field, a position he didn't play last season but did man some in 2010. This wasn't the Nationals' original plan, but with Jayson Werth injured and Steve Lombardozzi establishing himself as a viable leadoff hitter and left fielder, it probably makes the most sense for now.

That will leave the Nationals with a potent offensive outfield of Lombardozzi, Harper and Morse ... and though defense could be a bit shaky, Johnson will have Rick Ankiel and Roger Bernadina available off the bench should his team hold a lead late.

Will Morse's return cure everything that ails the Nationals? No. They're still dealing with plenty of other injuries and have plenty of other question marks.

But after surviving the season's first two months with nothing but negative news on the injury front, it's nice to know they're finally getting a key player back instead of losing one.

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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.