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Nats ride strong pitching to shutout win

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Nats ride strong pitching to shutout win

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: With the series hanging in the balance and every game carrying more weight as the calendar approaches August and the Mets looming in the rear view mirror, the Nationals very much needed Thursday's matinee at Marlins Park. So they turned to their ace, their longtime slugger, their former closer and their new closer to pull off a 1-0 victory.

Ryan Zimmerman provided all of the offense, launching a leadoff homer in the top of the second off old pal Dan Haren. The Nationals did nothing else of real consequence at the plate, but they didn't need it because Scherzer was in top form. The right-hander tossed seven scoreless innings, battling out of a couple of jams to maintain that 1-0 lead before handing it over to his bullpen.

And that new-look bullpen was perfect. Drew Storen retired the side in the eighth, striking out two, just as he did Wednesday night. And Jonathan Papelbon made his Nationals debut by retiring the side in the ninth, striking out Michael Morse (who had reportedly already been traded to the Dodgers) to end it in style and allow the Nats to maintain at least a 2-game lead over the Mets heading into a huge series this weekend.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: There was some concern when the Nationals activated Zimmerman off the disabled list Tuesday despite his 1-for-10 performance while on rehab with Class AA Harrisburg. Maybe the veteran slugger needed more time to get his swing down. But you have to be careful putting much stock in rehab assignment stats. It's more important what kind of at-bats a player produces, and by all accounts Zimmerman looked good while in the minors. There's no debating how good he has looked since rejoining the Nationals. Headlined by his homer in the top of the second — his first since May 19 — Zimmerman went 4-for-11 with three extra-base hits this series. 

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: He may have gone only seven innings, but these were some high-stress innings for Scherzer, with no margin for error given the 1-0 lead his teammates gave him. And as he has done so many times this year, the right-hander delivered. He induced a huge double play out of Christian Yelich to end the sixth. Then he blew away Adeiny Hechavarria on a 95-mph to end the seventh. Based on the way his jersey looked completely soaked by the end of his afternoon, it's probably safe to say Scherzer worked hard for this one.

KEY STAT: Though he is averaging more innings per start (7.14 vs. 6.68), Scherzer actually is averaging fewer pitches per outing (102 vs. 110) this season than he threw last season.

UP NEXT: Though Friday's 4 p.m. trade deadline will dominate most of the discourse around baseball, the Nationals have a pretty important ballgame to play as well. They head to New York to open a huge weekend series with the Mets, with first place in the NL East at stake. It'll be Gio Gonzalez (8-4, 3.83) against Matt Harvey (9-7, 3.16) at 7:10 p.m. EDT.

RELATED: Papelbon aiming for saves record, hopes to co-exist with Storen

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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.