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Papelbon offers advice on pennant race pressure

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Papelbon offers advice on pennant race pressure

Jonathan Papelbon found himself inside the home clubhouse at Nationals Park for the first time Monday afternoon, a full six days removed from his surprise trade from the Phillies, feeling comfortable with his new teammates but only now finally feeling comfortable with his surroundings.

“I got my own football today,” the veteran closer said, holding up the same type of foam football rocket many Nationals relievers like to throw around the outfield prior to batting practice. “So, yeah, I’m feeling like home.”

Papelbon has been mostly a spectator since the trade went down last Tuesday. He joined the Nationals on Wednesday in Miami, closed out Thursday afternoon’s 1-0 victory over the Marlins, then never found himself on the mound during a weekend sweep in New York.

The former Red Sox and Phillies closer, owner of a World Series ring and 18 career postseason appearances, has had ample time to take the pulse of this clubhouse. And he sees qualities that leave him encouraged by the team’s prospects over the season’s final two months (and possibly beyond).

“I think my personal stance on that is: A team that stays together and has fun together and works hard together and plays together will win together,” he said. “You don’t always have to necessarily have the most talent. You don’t have to have the best lineup. You don’t have to have the best bullpen or the best starting staff. You have to have a team that knows how to play well together. And so far, so good. I like what I see. And I think as the season goes on and we get into this playoff race, I think this team will become closer and closer together.”

Having been through the meat grinder in Boston and later in Philadelphia, Papelbon understands the ups and downs of a long season. And he understands the fine balance between maintaining an even keel on a daily basis while also recognizing when it’s time to ratchet up the intensity level.

Again, he sees a Nationals club well-equipped to deal with all that.

“I think the thing here is, each guy stays focused on what we’re good at and what we do well,” he said. “You take that into the playoffs. You don’t change anything in the playoffs. They’re bigger games, but in the playoffs, cool as a cucumber always wins. And I think that we’ve got a lot of cool guys on this team.”

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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.