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For Nats, second half begins with high expectations

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For Nats, second half begins with high expectations

By Rich Dubroff
CSNwashington.com

It’s the mathematical halfway point of the season, and while the conventional midway break doesn’t occur for another week, the Nationals’ first half seems to be a success.

With 45 wins and a host of visits to the disabled list by key players, the Nationals should be in good shape for the last three months of the season.

They’ve used 40 players in 81 games. Last year, it took them a full season to employ 40, and some of those unexpected players have performed much better than expected.

Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman are on the disabled list, and Stephen Strasburg, who left Saturday’s game with tightness in his left side, could rejoin them.

Tyler Moore, Clint Robinson and Michael A. Taylor all played important parts offensively in the two wins against San Francisco this weekend.

“It’s not ideal. It’s not the way we planned it to have so many guys out, but it gives opportunities to Tyler and Clint, Michael to get in there and get consistent at-bats, the more they do the better timing they have, and the better they can be,” manager Matt Williams said

A year ago, 13 games were started by pitchers who weren’t in the Nationals’ primary starting five. This year, it’s already been 11, and if Strasburg’s injury sends him back to the DL, it could be more.

Still, the Nationals wake up Sunday with a 4 ½ game lead in the National League East, their largest of the season.

“I think it just shows how deep we are in the minor leagues and how good our scouting has been, how good our pitching has been. Max [Scherzer] has so big for us this year, going out there and throwing 0’s every day,” Harper said.

Harper also mentioned Strasburg, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann and Joe Ross, who struck out 21 and walked just two in his three starts.

Ross could again fill in for Strasburg. So could Tanner Roark, who pitched creditably when Strasburg left Saturday’s game after four innings.

“Guys are stepping up. It's fun to watch and it gives life to everyone else to see guys thriving and doing well, just doing our thing and having fun,” Roark said.

Drew Storen is enjoying a renaissance as the closer, and Matt Thornton has been excellent as the eighth inning man.

“Give a lot of credit to our bullpen, the young guys going out there and doing what they’ve been doing. It shows you how deep we are and kind of makes you excited for October and beyond that, so we’re excited, and we’ve still got a couple of more games this half and we want to come back stronger,” Harper said.

With his home run on Saturday, Harper is on pace for 50 homers and 120 RBIs, Scherzer for 18 wins.

Six losses in their first eight games, well, the Nationals are way past that. They hope Rendon, Werth and Zimmerman are all back for most of the second half.

“We started the year off…just kind of bad. We had a lot of expectations. Just want to flush all that stuff out and it really doesn’t matter,” Moore said.

“Obviously we want those guys back with injuries, but we can’t really use that as an excuse. I think the bench has done a decent job of coming in and stepping in for those guys. We want those guys back as soon as possible, but if not, we’re going to keep rolling.” 

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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.