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Nats still in control for division title

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Nats still in control for division title

Ryan Zimmerman probably put it best late Sunday night, after the Nationals had been swept by the Braves to see their once-commanding lead in the NL East suddenly appear in jeopardy.

"There's two weeks left of playing baseball," Zimmerman said. "Everything's right in front of us."

Indeed, despite the frustrating weekend in Atlanta, the Nationals still control their own destiny. The task, really, is simple: Keep playing respectable baseball and the division title will be theirs.

Though the lead over the Braves may look tenuous -- it's now down to 5 games after the Braves won in Miami last night -- it's still a sizable margin at this late stage of the season.

Some perspective: If the Nationals merely play .500 ball the rest of the way (8-8) they'll finish 97-65. For the Braves to surpass them and steal the NL East crown, they'd have to go 13-1.

More perspective: Even if the Nationals collapse and go 4-12 down the stretch, they'll still finish 93-69, forcing Atlanta to go 9-5 to leapfrog them.

Even more perspective: The Nationals' worst 16-game stretches of the season (April 26-May 13, June 13-30) resulted in 7-9 records.

In other words, if they can only avoid their worst 16-game stretch of the entire year right at the end, the Nationals are all but certain to win the East.

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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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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.