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'Pressing' Espinosa takes a seat on Nats bench

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'Pressing' Espinosa takes a seat on Nats bench

PHILADELPHIA -- Though he has suggested he won't be resting any of his regulars until the Nationals clinch the NL East title, manager Davey Johnson made the surprising decision today to sit Danny Espinosa and start Steve Lombardozzi at second base against the Phillies.

Espinosa has been dealing with a bone bruise in his left shoulder and received a cortisone shot last week to relieve the pain, but Johnson said the benching had nothing to do with that and was instead performance related.

"I think he's been pressing a little bit lately," Johnson said. "He's been swinging awfully hard. I just wanted to let him sit back and relax a little bit."

Espinosa did go 0-for-3 with a walk and three strikeouts during Tuesday night's series opener at Citizens Bank Park, but he collected three hits (including a double) on Monday against the Brewers.

In eight games since receiving the cortisone shot, he's hitting .348 (8-for-23) with three doubles, four walks and six strikeouts.

"The last couple games, it looks like he's been over-swinging," Johnson said. "I know he's an intense competitor. I'm sure he thinks I'm an idiot. And maybe I am."

Johnson also cited Espinosa's career numbers against Philadelphia starter Kyle Kendrick (3-for-16 with a double, three walks and four strikeouts). Lombardozzi is 3-for-11 against the right-hander.

Espinosa expressed surprise upon arriving in the clubhouse today and not finding him name on the lineup card. He insisted his shoulder wasn't bothering him at all.

"I feel 100 percent," he said. "That's Johnson's decision. So go ask his reasoning. I'd like to know, too."

Lombardozzi had been getting consistent playing time through much of the season's first half, filling in for injured regulars Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Michael Morse and Jayson Werth. But with all of those players now back healthy, the rookie has returned to the bench. He's received only 31 plate appearances over the Nationals' last 28 games, hitting .200 during that span.

"One of the guys I've really slighted the most is Lombo," Johnson said. "He was an everyday player, and probably playing as good as anybody. If memory serves me correct, he was hitting almost .300 and I just shut him down and started playing the other guys when they got healthy. ... His playing time was diminished, and he can play."

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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.