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Strasburg 'probably' has 2-3 starts left

Strasburg 'probably' has 2-3 starts left

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Stephen Strasburg has "probably" two or three starts remaining before he's done for the season, and he can no longer claim he wasn't told the shutdown was coming.

Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson said he spoke to Strasburg about the right-hander's innings limit Wednesday night on the flight home from a series against the Miami Marlins.

"I said something to him on the plane, you know: You've got a few more to go,'" Johnson said before Thursday night's game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Nationals began the day with a five-game lead over Atlanta in the NL East.

Johnson said Strasburg is down to "probably ... two or three" starts to go in the ace's first full season since undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery. General manager Mike Rizzo has said he'll have an intuitive feel for when to pull the plug, but Johnson said there's a "pretty firm plan" in place that's dependent on how long Strasburg stays in each game.

"He might pitch 10 innings one game, or he might just go five," Johnson said. "I asked Rizz, Do you want me to hook him after three? Save some innings?'"

Johnson quickly added, in case there was any doubt, that such an early hook is not an option. He also ruled out sending Strasburg to the bullpen.

"And, no, I'm not going to drag it out and give him seven days between starts, either," Johnson said.

The Nationals have not revealed the exact innings target for Strasburg, but the team shut down Jordan Zimmermann at 161 1-3 innings under similar circumstances last year. Strasburg has thrown 150 1-3, and leads the NL with 186 strikeouts.

Strasburg (15-6, 3.05 ERA) has helped lead the Nationals to a remarkable turnaround season, with the team in its first pennant race since the franchise moved to Washington. The decision to shut him down, which was determined at the start of the season, has generated considerable national debate as to whether it could cost the city a chance to win its first World Series title since 1924.

Strasburg has feigned ignorance of the situation, repeatedly claiming that no one in the Nationals organization has talked to him about innings constraints. There's no doubt now that he's been told.

Johnson was asked if Strasburg gave any pushback. The manager said that wasn't relevant.

"I'm the one that puts his name on the lineup card," Johnson said. "And it ain't happening after the innings limit."

Strasburg's next start is scheduled for Sunday. Barring a rainout or some change in the rotation, his final start would likely be on Sept. 7 at home against Miami or Sept. 12 at the New York Mets.

Johnson went on to say that he'll be shutting down a "perfect" 24-year-old pitcher.

"He's perfect as far as I'm concerned, his work habits ... It's just (he still has a) learning curve, with hitters, how he locates the ball, not getting frustrated," Johnson said. "Just stuff that comes from experience."

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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.