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Strasburg's performance another missed chance for Nats

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Strasburg's performance another missed chance for Nats

What makes the Nationals getting swept by the Mets this week so devastating was not only the fact it all but pulled the plug on their postseason hopes. What added to their misery was that all three games featured unique breaks - at least for this team in this particular year - that would normally lead to victories.

In Monday's loss it was a grand slam by Wilson Ramos. In Tuesday's loss it was a Little League grand slam by Michael Taylor aided by a Yoenis Cespedes error. And on Wednesday they got something they had not seen since Aug. 10: their starting pitcher recorded an out in the eighth inning.

Yes, it had been 28 games and 30 days since Gio Gonzalez secured an eighth-inning out against the Dodgers. The last time before that was Max Scherzer on July 12 at Baltimore.

Stephen Strasburg put in one of his best starts all season, and in terms of strikeouts one of the best of his career, and it still wasn't enough. It still couldn't overcome the Nats bullpen, which has become a series of horror films with more sequels than Saw.

Strasburg was brilliant, striking out 13 batters which is just one short of the career-high he set in his 2010 MLB debut. It was his first outing in 10 days after missing a start with an injury, and he returned with conviction. His fastball sat in the upper 90s with precision and his curveball hooked and snapped through the strikezone.

"Stras came in and threw great today. One of the best games I’ve seen him throw all year," Bryce Harper said. "That curveball was absolutely devastating today."

"Stephen threw the ball extremely well tonight," Ian Desmond added. "He threw the heck out of his curveball and he was locating his fastball. Coming off the year that he's had, that was a big-time performance."

Strasburg's curveball secured the third strike on nine of his 13 punchouts. The other four were on his fastball. That combination helped Strasburg finish with only two runs allowed in 7 1/3 innings of work, tying his longest start of the season.

Strasburg said afterwards he felt great throughout the outing, but was superstitious when asked if it was his best stuff of the season.

"I don't know. It's been such an up-and-down year. It seems like when everything starts to click, then something happens. I'm just trying to stay positive, just trying to keep fighting and keep grinding. That's all I can do," he said.

Strasburg made it to the eighth inning, which appeared to be a significant break for the Nats' bullpen, but he exited soon after allowing the game-tying run.

The Mets called on Kelly Johnson to pinch-hit for Wilmer Flores to lead off the eighth inning. Johnson pulled a 2-0 pitch to the second deck in right field to lock the game up at 2-2 and eventually bounce Strasburg from the game.

"I just made a bad pitch to Johnson," Strasburg explained. "What are the chances? Fresh off the bench and he takes me upper deck. Just gotta tip your cap there."

Strasburg faced two more batters before manager Matt Williams emerged from the dugout to a spattering of boos from the 27,530 in attendance at Nationals Park. His choice to replace Strasburg was Drew Storen, and the fans had a bad feeling about what would happen next.

Cespedes made those fears come true, just as he did the night before. This time the Nationals got much closer to avoiding disaster. They just couldn't fully get out of harm's way.

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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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@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.