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Nats backing Storen after his tough weekend

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Nats backing Storen after his tough weekend

Life as a late-inning reliever is such that whenever a miscue occurs -- however rare it might be -- it'll tend to be remembered far more often than a long stretch of dominance.

That's very much the case these days for Drew Storen, whose back-to-back tough outings against the Colorado Rockies has already begun to induce panic for parts of the Nationals fanbase. For sure, the 27-year-old right hander had an off weekend, surrendering a lead Friday night on an eighth inning go-ahead grand slam by Carlos Gonzalez and yielding a two-run single from DJ LeMahieu Sunday afternoon that broke a 4-4 tie.

But when gauging the clubhouse reaction to his struggles, it's clear that Storen has had the kind of season that has given him the benefit of the doubt among his teammates.

"He's still great. He's an amazing pitcher," Anthony Rendon said after Sunday's loss. "He's had like, two [bad] games? He has what, 30 saves? You're going to quit on him already?"

Indeed, prior to the Rockies series, Storen had retired 15 of the first 16 hitters he faced since becoming the team's setup man. Going back to before the trade for closer Jonathan Papelbon, he hadn't allowed a run in 14 straight appearances before his blown save/loss Friday night vs. Colorado.

"Drew’s fine," said Ryan Zimmerman. "To go a whole year without having any sort of rough patch or a couple bad games is unheard of for relievers most of the time. He’ll be fine. He’s the least of our worries."

It's a valid point that over the course of a 162-game season, it's pretty difficult to avoid a rough patch of some kind -- no matter who you are. But unfortunately for the Nats, Storen's dry spell comes at the worst possible time, with the club scuffling as a whole in the midst of a pennant race with the NL East-leading New York Mets.

"We have bad games," Rendon said. "It's not like we go out there saying 'oh, we're going to give it up today' or 'I'm going to strike out three times today'. It's baseball. Sometimes you get a hit, sometimes you strike out."

While this past weekend could wind up being no more than a blip on the radar, the Nats know they need Storen to quickly return to being the lockdown eighth-inning option he must be in order to maintain what the team believes can be a dynamic back-end of the bullpen.

"I think that's it important for us to realize where Drew has been and how important he's been for us," said manager Matt Williams, "and to continue to show the confidence we have in him. It's important for us to do that as a team."

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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.