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Nats finally get to Matt Harvey in win over Mets

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Nats finally get to Matt Harvey in win over Mets

Matt Harvey has dominated his fair share of lineups throughout his brief MLB career and the Nationals are no stranger to what he's capable of. Entering Monday night Harvey had a 0.68 ERA in six starts against Washington with three earned runs allowed and 47 strikeouts across 40 innings.

Harvey had already seen the Nats twice this season and threw 13 scoreless innings combined in those outings. Many have had trouble with the Dark Knight of Gotham, but for the Nats it had been a quixotic effort.

That history would have no bearing in Monday's 7-2 win over the New York Mets, however, as the Nats struck early against Harvey to notch five runs (four earned) on the right-hander through the first three innings. Harvey would go on to pitch seven innings, but enough damage was done to set the stage for the Nats' 50th win of the 2015 season.

The Nats scored two runs in the first inning, one on a single and one on a fielder's choice. Danny Espinosa got it started with a one-out bunt single. Bryce Harper then walked on four pitches and Yunel Escobar followed with an RBI single to left field.

The second run came when Harper and Escobar took off on a pitch in the dirt from Harvey. They ran from first and second and Escobar hesitated before reaching second base to bait the Mets into a rundown. The ploy worked and it allowed Harper to score easily from third and put the Nationals up 2-0.

"Yuni staying in the rundown, that's not something that everyone would do normally," Ian Desmond said. "The majority of guys would just stop and let the guy tag him. He worked it and gave Harper enough time to score. Then we just worked Harvey's pitch count and kept on grinding on him."

"Yuni got in the rundown. He would’ve been out if he kept going," Matt Williams said. "But, heads up play from [Bob Henley] and from Harp over there at third base to recognize that once the ball was returned to the first baseman then he’s got opportunity to score."

The three runs in the third inning came thanks to a Clint Robinson double and an error by Mets third baseman Daniel Murphy. That rally began with another Espinosa single and Harper walk. Robinson then roped a double to center field one out later to score both runners.

The error came on a soft grounder by Desmond, one that forced Murphy to make a tough throw to first. The ball sailed past Mets first baseman Eric Campbell and up the right field line after it caromed off the wall. Robinson was then waved home by the umpires to make it 5-0.

Murphy made two errors on the night and Robinson pointed to those mistakes as a big reason why the Nats were able to finally crack Harvey.

"I think the defensive miscues probably hurt him a little bit because he felt like 'I gotta make a perfect pitch now because my defense is not really helping me out.' It looked like he was trying to do a little too much with some of his pitches," Robinson said.

Robinson also believes the Nationals were well-prepared to face Harvey after seeing former Cy Young-winners Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in their previous two games.

"The past couple of days with Greinke and Kershaw, I think that helped us out a little bit with Harvey. It kind of gave us a preview of what to expect from a stuff standpoint. We just went out there and executed our gameplan and you saw the results," he said.

Williams thinks the Nats benefitted from being more selective.

"I think we laid off the high fastball a little bit better. We understand that’s part of his repertoire and when he gets two strikes, he like to elevate that fastball. Harp laid off a couple. We got a couple of walks early which allowed us to get more base runners," he said.

The Nationals continue their run through some of the best pitchers in baseball with Jacob deGrom on Tuesday night. They couldn't hit Kershaw or Greinke, but they got to Harvey. Now they'll take their chances against the reigning NL Rookie of the Year.

 

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Mike Rizzo makes bold move to call up Juan Soto

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Mike Rizzo makes bold move to call up Juan Soto

This is not a tweet I expected to read in May of 2018.

On the heels of their latest injury, the team is adding uber-prospect Juan Soto to the roster. It's unclear how much playing time he'll receive early on, but it's hard to imagine the team would be willing to start his service time clock and mess with his development track simply to sit him on the bench. He'll likely play, and make an impact on the team for as long as he's in D.C.

Let's not bury the lede, though. As you probably noticed in the tweet, Juan Soto is 19-years old. He was born in October of 1998, making him the youngest player in the majors, and bringing us one step closer to the first big-leaguer born in the 2000s. 

As incredible as it is for Soto to make the majors as a teenager (Bryce Harper and Time Raines are the only other teenagers to play in the majors in franchise history, which is pretty good company), what might be even more stunning is how quickly this came together for him. 

This will already be Soto's fourth different level of professional baseball this season alone, having spent time with the low-A, high-A, and AA clubs so far. In his entire life, Soto has just 35 plate appearances above class-A, which is almost unheard of for a player getting promoted to the big league roster.

He's hit everywhere he's been, with his career OPS in the minors a whopping 1.043 (his lowest wRC+ at any level is 132), though it remains to be seen if his prodigious bat is ready for Major League pitching. Still, simply being in the majors at such a young age is a great sign for his future, especially considering he's almost a year younger than anyone else playing in the big leagues right now.

Not that anybody should put Hall of Fame expectations on a kid who hasn't even faced a pitch in the majors yet, but Soto's meteoric rise gives him a better chance than most at greatness. Just last month, when discussing the dynamic Braves duo of Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna, Hall of Fame-expert Jay Jaffe did some research on young stars making the big leagues, and the numbers are promising.

According to Baseball Reference (and we're just going to take their word for it), there have been 19,261 players in the history of Major League Baseball, and 226 of them have been elected to the Hall of Fame. That's a minuscule 1.1%.

But, of every player to ever record 100 plate appearances as a 19-year old (a number Soto should easily hit if he stays up all season), the number of players who eventually made the Hall of Fame jumps to 24%. If Soto is only up for a cup of coffee this year, and next year is when he's here to stay, you can move up the list to players who recorded 100 PA in their age-20 seasons, and the number is still 19%.

Plus, that percentage is likely to increase in the coming decades, as there are 18 active players to reach the benchmark, including future locks Adrian Beltre, Miguel Cabrera, and Mike Trout, and guys who are young but on the right track (Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Carlos Correa, and Giancarlo Stanton). Acuna, Albies, and Rafael Devers could find their way on the list one day as well. Considering only three of those names need to be enshrined in Cooperstown one day, it's safe to say that percentage is only growing.

That's a lot of stats that look nice for Soto and the Nationals, but obviously, we're at least a decade away from having a legitimate conversation about his Hall of Fame chances. Still, it highlights what we've known about him for quite some time. Juan Soto is a special, generational talent, and his rise to the big leagues as a teenager is worth writing home about.

What he's done so far is historic, and even if the move seems premature, it's plenty cause for excitement about the future of baseball in D.C.

MORE 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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Kendrick carted off with injury in Nats 4-1 loss to Dodgers

Kendrick carted off with injury in Nats 4-1 loss to Dodgers

WASHINGTON -- Ross Stripling struck out a career-high nine in six innings, Max Muncy drove in two runs and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 4-1 in the opener of a day-night doubleheader on Saturday.

The Nationals suffered a potentially significant injury when Howie Kendrick went to the ground after catching Muncy's sacrifice fly to deep left in the eighth. Kendrick, who's hitting a team-leading .303, put no weight on his right leg and was taken off the field on a cart:

Stripling (1-1) struck out the side in the first inning and then fanned the final five batters he faced, getting Bryce Harper during each of those stretches, in the longest and best of his four starts this season. He allowed one run on four hits, walking none.

Stripling made 11 relief appearances, allowing one run in 15 1/3 innings, before moving into the Dodgers' rotation.

Joc Pederson and Logan Forsythe had two hits apiece for Los Angeles, which won its second straight after losing nine of its previous 10.

The Nationals lost for the first time since May 9. Washington had not played a full game since Sunday night in Arizona because of rain that has lingered over the Mid-Atlantic. One game against the Yankees was suspended in the sixth inning and another was postponed, and Friday's game against Los Angeles also was washed out.

Pederson led off the game with a triple off Tanner Roark (2-4) and scored on a sacrifice fly by Yasmani Grandal. Forsythe doubled in the second, breaking an 0-for-12 skid that stretched to April 14 and included a 26-game stint on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. He singled in the fifth and scored on a grounder by Cody Bellinger.

Harper wore eyeglasses with clear plastic frames during his first at-bat, when he struck out swinging. He ditched the specs his second time up and drove in the Nationals' only run with a single to center.

Roark allowed three runs on six hits in seven innings. He walked one and struck out eight.

J.T. Chargois worked the seventh, Josh Fields pitched the eighth and Kenley Jansen threw a perfect ninth for his seventh save in nine opportunities.

Muncy, who struck out looking his first two at-bats, drove in the Dodgers' third run with a double in the sixth. His deep flyball to left in the eighth scored Justin Turner.

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.