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Nats offense continues to stall; Storen stumbles again

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Nats offense continues to stall; Storen stumbles again

For the second time in a month, the Nationals were dominated in consecutive days by the Los Angeles Dodgers' duo of aces, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. But this time the Nationals fielded a mostly healthy lineup, as their offense continues to lose its footing in the month of August.

Greinke and Kershaw could be the two best pitchers in today's game, but the Nationals were not able to score a single run off either of them. They looked like an offensive powerhouse in Monday night's 8-3 win in the series opener, only to wilt once the big boys took the mound.

In Wednesday night's 3-0 loss, only Anthony Rendon and Michael Taylor got hits off Kershaw. Taylor somehow registered two, including a double. The rest of the lineup went 0-for-21 against the three-time Cy Young-winner. He tossed eight scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and zero walks.

Kershaw also shut the Nats down for eight innings with three hits allowed and now walks on July 18. Except that day he struck out 14. The Nats vs. Kershaw this season are scoreless through 16 innings with 22 strikeouts and no walks drawn.

Kershaw is, of course, the best pitcher of his generation. He dominates everybody at some point. But this was a Nats lineup on Wednesday that for the most part does not have the excuse of injury. They had a banged up Bryce Harper and were missing Denard Span, but the rest of their lineup was as Mike Rizzo intended it to be before this season. Seven of their eight best offensive players were on the field, yet Kershaw took a perfect game into the sixth inning.

It has become a troubling trend that the Nats' offense hasn't followed with the expected production since it got mostly healthy. Ryan Zimmerman has done his part, and Harper has continued to get on base, but the lineup collectively has not found it's groove. It is a big reason the Nats are now 3 1/2 games back from the Mets for the first time since May 10.

Anthony Rendon returned from the disabled list on July 25 and both Zimmerman and Jayson Werth came back July 28. That was over two weeks ago, yet the Nats are 18th in runs scored in the month of August. Rendon has shown flashes at times, but holds a .238 average and .662 OPS in the 17 games since he was activated. Werth has been the weakest link in the Nats' lineup with a .151 average and .440 OPS in the 15 games since leaving the DL. Those were two of the Nats' most dependable and productive players when they won 96 games in 2014.

The continued problems the Nats are finding at the plate, coupled with the uncertainty of Denard Span's injury, makes you wonder if the Nats should do something creative through the waiver wire. We've seen them acquire significant pieces in August before and the need for an offensive boost is being highlighted on a nightly basis. The Nationals face the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night, the defending world champions. The Giants seem intent on bringing in a veteran bat, perhaps Chase Utley whom they have been tied to in trade rumors. Maybe the Nats should take note and do something similar for their own sake.

Drew Storen stumbles again

For how good Drew Storen looked in the first four outings he pitched after the trade for Jonathan Papelbon, he has been an unmitigated disaster in his last three games. Storen's struggles continued on Wednesday night as he allowed two earned runs in 2/3 of an inning against the Dodgers.

Storen now sports the unfortunate line of eight earned runs in 6 2/3 innings since he became the setup man. Contrast that with the seven earned runs he gave up in 37 1/3 innings as closer this year and, well, you have a pretty interesting statistic.

Storen, in fact, has given up more earned runs in his last three outings than he did all of last season in 65 appearances. He has also allowed as many earned runs in his last three games than he did in his previous 67 combined.

Here, take a look:

Storen's last three games: 2.2 IP, 8 ER, 6 H, BB, 3 SO
Storen's previous 67 games: 62.1 IP, 8 ER, 44 H, 13 BB, 67 SO

Whether this has anything to do with Papelbon's acquisition is difficult to tell, Storen certainly wouldn't admit it. But if it doesn't, that sure is a major coincidence.

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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.