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Williams on Ripken helping Desmond; Taylor on his catch

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Williams on Ripken helping Desmond; Taylor on his catch

Ian Desmond told a story after Monday night's game that caught the attention of many baseball fans in the Mid-Atlantic area, how MLB Hall of Famer and Orioles legend Cal Ripken, Jr. gave him some advice recently that may have helped him snap out of an extended hitless streak.

Ripken saw Desmond before one of the Nats' games against the Dodgers over the weekend and told him he had similar struggles to what Desmond is going through right now back in 1993. You can read the full quote here.

Desmond had two hits on Monday night, including a home run, and credited Ripken with helping out. On Tuesday, Desmond's manager Matt Williams was asked for his thoughts on Ripken giving advice to one of his players.

"We welcome it. Cal knows all of our guys very well. He’s been around the ballpark. Anytime you can pick a brain like Cal Ripken’s then you gotta do it. So, yeah, words of encouragement are great," Williams said. "[That] gives Desi nothing but encouragement to say ‘okay, what’s in the past is in the past and will always be in the past and you can’t do anything about it now except go forward.’ So we welcome it. Any help that anybody can offer, we welcome."

Williams then shared how he would feel if a former big leaguer gave him similar advice back when he was playing.

"For me, if he was to say that to me in a time like that, it would just let me know that he’s watching me and he cares. And ultimately, that’s probably the best thing. It wasn’t necessarily words of mechanical advice or anything of that nature. It was ‘hey, I’ve been there. I know what your’re going through. Here’s how I came out of it. Here’s how I ended up having a good season after it was a struggle for me for a while.’ That’s nothing but positive mojo, positive feedback," Williams said.

Tuesday also gave outfielder Michael Taylor a chance to reflect on his spectacular catch from the night before. The rookie ended the top of the fifth with a leaping grab in right-center field that likely saved two runs.

Taylor said he could tell it was a big play based on Bryce Harper's reaction, as the right fielder ran right up to Taylor to celebrate. He also said he was able to watch the StatCast replay, which gives advanced statistics like speed, reaction time and route efficiency.

Taylor, in fact, took off before Mets' first baseman Eric Campbell even made contact. He registered a 98.1 percent route efficiency and reached a top speed of 19.1 miles per hour.

Here is what Taylor said about anticipation and taking off before a ball is hit:

"That's something that I work on during BP. In center field, you have the advantage to watch the ball go into the zone so I try to kind of anticipate where he's going to hit the ball. Just get a little momentum going in that direction."

And here is what Taylor had to say about reaching 19.1 miles per hour:

"I did [watch the replay]... I was just curious to see what the speed would be, so I checked it... I was hoping for better," he joked.

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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.

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Can slumping Nationals, Gio Gonzalez end losing streak Monday vs. Padres?

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USA Today Sports Images

Can slumping Nationals, Gio Gonzalez end losing streak Monday vs. Padres?

When the Washington Nationals visited San Diego on May 7-9, they won the first two games of a three-game series to move within 1 1/2 games of the National League West lead.

At the time, the Nationals were on a bit of a run and the Padres were reeling with a 13-24 record.

Two weeks after that series, the Padres and Nationals meet again in Washington, D.C (7:05 p.m. ET, Monday). And the fortunes of the two teams have changed a bit.

Since winning that series finale at Petco Park to avoid being swept by the Nationals, the Padres have gone 7-4 and are riding a three-game winning streak.

The Nationals have gone 4-4 and just lost a third straight game to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday in Washington to slip four games off the lead in their division.

The Nationals are the home team this time for a three-game series that opens Monday night with a matchup of left-handers -- Gio Gonzalez (4-2, 2.36 ERA) going for Washington with Robbie Erlin (1-2, 3.46) making a spot start for San Diego.

On paper, the pairing clearly favors the hosts.

Erlin, 27, has met the Nationals twice in his career. Both games were at Nationals Park. Erlin is 0-2 in the matchups with a 16.39 ERA.

In Erlin's two previous outings in the nation's capital, Erlin has given up 17 runs, 19 hits and six walks with six strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings. The Nationals have hit .413 against Erlin, who has a 2.68 WHIP against Washington.

This will be only the second start of the season for Erlin, who returned this year after having Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery midway through 2016.

Thirteen of Erlin's 14 appearances this season have been out of the bullpen. His one previous start was April 16 against the Dodgers. He gave up six runs (five earned), seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts in three innings.

Erlin is filling the vacancy created when rookie left-hander Joey Lucchesi went on the disabled list with a slightly strained glute. The Padres are hoping Lucchesi will miss only one start, although it looks like it could now be two or three.

Gonzalez is no stranger to the Padres. He started the May 9 game that the Nationals lost 2-1. Gonzalez allowed one run, five hits and three walks in six innings. Afterward, he said he struggled with his command.

Gonzalez was not involved in that decision. During his career, he has made seven starts against the Padres and has a 3-2 record with a 3.21 ERA, a 1.357 WHIP and a .253 opponents' batting average. Against the Padres, Gonzalez has given up 19 runs (15 earned), 41 hits and 16 walks with 41 strikeouts in 42 innings.

When the Nationals were in San Diego, first baseman-left fielder Matt Adams went 3-for-8 with a double, two homers, six RBIs and three runs scored -- although he got the third game off.

Since leaving San Diego, Adams has hit only .143. Washington's Bryce Harper is hitting .125 in the last eight games with a homer and three RBIs.

Another key player in the first Padres-Nationals series was Howie Kendrick, who was 5-for-12 with a double and two runs scored. But Kendrick has been lost with a ruptured Achilles tendon and on Saturday the Nationals promoted a 19-year-old prospect from Double-A.

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