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Nats Stock Watch: Scherzer showing why he's the ace

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Nats Stock Watch: Scherzer showing why he's the ace

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 4-2

Team slash: .220/.275/.403

Team ERA: 3.53 

Runs per game:  2.3

STOCK UP 

Max Scherzer, SP:  2-0/ 19 K/ 0.60 ERA 

Who knows if there's any way a player can truly justify being worth a $210 million contract, but Scherzer is clearly doing everything he can to try. The 30-year-old righty has been everything the Nats could have hoped for and then some. He notched a pair of wins this past week to raise his record to 6-3 and has lowered his ERA to 1.51, good for fourth in the NL. More than anything, Scherzer's ability to command all his pitches and know what to throw in every count is what makes him stand out. Sure, he can reach back and hit above 95 mph with his fastball at times, but he's a pitcher's pitcher in terms of setting up hitters to chase in two-strike counts. It's one of the reasons why he leads the majors in strikeouts with 85. 

Bryce Harper, RF: .316 AVG/ 3 HR/ 1.300 OPS

Okay, this is getting a little ridiculous. Harper's insane hot streak rolls on, and he's done nothing to show that it might stop any time soon. It's near the point where we're running out of ways to describe his historic month of May. He's in such a zone that you wonder why opposing pitchers would even want to pitch to him at all anymore. His plate coverage -- particularly on pitches on the outer half -- has been superb; of his 18 home runs this season, seven have been to the opposite field. That goes to show not only his ability to wait on outside pitches, but also the strength he has to consistently drive the ball the other way. What else can you say? The guy's simply the talk of sport right now. 

Drew Storen, RP:  4 GP/ 4 Sv/ 0.00 ERA

Closers, as Mark Zuckerman recently wrote, are more often remembered for when they mess up rather than when they get the job done. That seems to be the story of Storen's career, with his few big blown saves sticking in Nats fans' memory more often than his consistent stretches. Storen leads the NL in saves with 16, and has an ERA of 0.84 -- fourth best in the NL for relievers who have pitches at least 20 innings. He also hasn't allowed a run since April 21, and has allowed just two all year. That'll work.

Denard Span, CF:  .292 AVG/ 2 HR/ .917 OPS

Span is back to his 2014 self, being everything you'd expect a prototypical leadoff hitter to be with one exception: He already has five homers on the season, which matches his total from all of last year. He's pacing for 17 home runs on the season, which would obliterate his career-best eight in 2009. For as good as Span is, if he's able to bring additional power to his game, that'd make an already dangerous Nats lineup even more lethal. 

[RELATED: Stars shine in Nats' 9th straight series win]

STOCK DOWN 

Stephen Strasburg, SP: 0-1/ 3.2 IP/ 12.27 ERA

For all that's gone well with the club over the last month, Nats fans are still trying to find the answer to the million dollar question: What's wrong with Stephen Strasburg? Unfortunately, no one really knows. It's clearly not his health, nor is it a lack of quality stuff. For all that's been said about his struggles, at some point you have to wonder if this is all in his head. You can talk about issues with mechanics or whether or not his fastball has have enough movement, but none of that fully explains why someone whose career numbers were among the better pitchers in the game over the last few years is suddenly unable to get out of the fourth and fifth innings of many of his starts. 

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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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.