Nationals

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Where the Nats stand at the quarter pole

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Where the Nats stand at the quarter pole

We are now 41 games into the 2015 season, which means the Nationals have played more than one-quarter of their regular-season schedule. Some people say you can’t start to truly evaluate a ballclub until it has played at least 40 games. Others say you can’t do it til Memorial Day. Well, we’re right in between those two mileposts, so this seems like as good a time as any to take a big-picture look at the Nats and where they stand.

The first quarter of this season really can be broken into parts: the disappointing and sometimes concerning 7-13 start, and the utterly dominant 17-4 stretch that has followed it. But for these purposes, we’ll look at the whole package.

Let’s break down the Nationals via a number of various statistical departments, including how they rank among all 30 MLB clubs in each category…

OFFENSE
R: 205 (2nd)
AVG: .261 (8th)
OBP: .329 (6th)
SLG: .421 (6th)
OPS: .751 (4th)
HR: 47 (t-5th)
BB: 142 (t-4th)
SO: 333 (27th)
SB: 11 (28th)
Comment: It’s pretty remarkable what the Nationals have done offensively, considering two key points: 1) They’ve seen Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Denard Span all spend time on the DL, and 2) They ranked 23rd in the majors in runs scored through their first 20 games. But they’ve proven to have quite a balanced offensive attack, hitting both for average and power, reaching base at a good clip and having the ability to drive the ball out of the park. They do still strike out a lot, and their running game has been pretty bad. But overall, this team is doing more offensively than most would have guessed.

PITCHING
ERA: 3.75 (12th)
Opp AVG: .266 (27th)
Opp OPS: .697 (13th)
SO: 321 (13th)
BB: 104 (5th)
WHIP: 1.32 (20th)
Starters’ ERA: 4.05 (t-14th)
Relievers’ ERA: 3.16 (11th)
Comment: They haven’t been bad by any stretch of the imagination, but Nationals pitchers collectively haven’t been as great as most thought entering the season. They’re just barely better than average in team ERA and strikeouts. The most-vaunted rotation in the game sports an ERA over 4.00. But there have been some fantastic individual performances, from Max Scherzer (1.75 ERA, 66-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio) to Drew Storen (1.04 ERA, 12-of-13 in save situations). Doug Fister’s forearm strain is a potential concern over the long haul, as are the wildly inconsistent performances from Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. But the bullpen has stabilized after a shaky start to the season, and younger guys have begun getting comfortable as their roles have evolved.

DEFENSE
Errors: 30 (t-25th)
Fielding Percentage: .980 (24th)
Caught Stealing Percentage: 29.2 percent (19th)
Comment: This is another tale of two mini-seasons to date. Over their first 20 games, the Nationals committed 22 errors (most in MLB) and several of those directly altered the outcome of games. In the 21 games since, they’ve committed only eight errors (second-fewest in the majors). Ryan Zimmerman has played Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base. Bryce Harper has adjusted nicely to right field and has prevented several runners from trying to take an extra base on him. And Ian Desmond has bounced back from his terrible start to the season, in which he was charged with eight errors in his first 12 games but since has been charged with only three in his last 29 games.

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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.