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Nats have had enough of the 8th inning

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Nats have had enough of the 8th inning

All innings, in theory, are created equal. A run in the fourth inning does count as much as a run in the ninth.

But it certainly feels like some innings are more important than others. And right now, the eighth inning feels really important for the Nationals. Not for positive reasons.

It happened again Friday night at Citi Field. When the eighth inning began, the Nationals trailed the Mets 1-0. They got a leadoff single from Dan Uggla but couldn't bring him home. Then in the bottom of the inning, Matt Thornton and Blake Treinen combined to surrender three runs, with a major assist to Jayson Werth, whose misplay of Daniel Murphy's line drive to left turned what should've been a sacrifice fly into a 3-run double.

Just like that, the 1-0 deficit was a 4-0 hole the Nationals couldn't overcome, leading to their first loss in four days and a dropped game in the NL East standings.

If this was an isolated incident, it would be one thing. But if you've been following this team through the season's first month, you know this is happening all too often.

Do you know what the Nationals' cumulative score for the eighth inning this season is? How about 15-4, in favor of the opposition. That's their second most-lopsided inning, trailing only the second (which the Nats are losing 19-3 for some inexplicable reason).

What's going on here? Is there some explanation for this team's eighth-inning woes?

Certainly the Nationals' erratic bullpen has something to do with it. Treinen has given up five runs in the eighth inning himself, and that doesn't include inherited runners who scored while he was on the mound (as was the case Friday). Rafael Martin gave up four runs in the eighth before his demotion to Syracuse earlier this week. Aaron Barrett has allowed two runs in the eighth, none in any other inning he's pitched so far this year.

[MORE NATIONALS: MLB amends rule involving Nats' top prospect]

But there have been more than a couple of defensive miscues in the eighth inning as well, from Treinen and Ian Desmond's disastrous night at Fenway Park a few weeks ago to Werth's misplay Friday night.

How to explain that phenomenon? Could a lack of confidence in the relievers who take the mound late in games cause fielders to get jumpy?

And what about the lack of offense from the Nationals? They've only scored four eighth-inning runs in 24 games, their lowest output for any frame other than the second. Are other clubs' setup men just that good, or do the Nats' hitters feel some extra pressure to come through at the plate late in these tight games?

It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. And perhaps it will all even out over the long summer, evidence that there's not really any logical reason for the eighth-inning woes.

But right now, there's no scarier sight for the Nationals than that big number eight on the scoreboard.

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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.