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Zim gets much-needed day off; Escobar returns to Nats lineup

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Zim gets much-needed day off; Escobar returns to Nats lineup

The Nationals lineup for Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Chicago Cubs featured Yunel Escobar for the first time in two days, but missing was Ryan Zimmerman. The veteran first baseman is going through an extended slump and is taking the day off to recharge.

The Nationals are also off on Monday before they head to New York to face the Yankees, giving Zimmerman a rare 48 hours off to clear his head.

"It's kind of a two-for-one. It gives me a chance to physically recoup. I'll be ready to go on Tuesday," Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman is batting .213 on the season and has just one hit in his last six games, a stretch of 21 at-bats. His season on-base percentage is an unsightly .270, well below his .348 career mark.

Zimmerman admits he is struggling, but is not ready to worry with 10 years of MLB experience under his belt.

"I've been through this before plenty of times. I think when you try to start changing things, then that kind of prolongs it. Ultimately you'll get back to what you've done your whole career. You just gotta stick with that and go for it," he said.

Zimmerman has been dealing with a minor case of plantar fasciitis in his left foot, but said it is not hampering him enough to use it as an excuse for his recent play.

"It bugs you. Just like everyone else in here, they all have something that bugs them while they play as well," he said. "It's just part of the season. Nobody ever feels good when they play. Everyone always has something that they deal with. That's not an excuse. It it was at a point to where it was hindering me, then I shouldn't play."

Zimmerman's recent struggles have coincided with a tough stretch for the Nationals' lineup overall. The Nats have scored three runs or less in 13 of their last 16 games.

Zimmerman is confident that he will break out of his current slump, and he's confident in the team as well.

"We just went like 20-6 or something like that. I guess we haven't played well this past week, but a month before that we played fine. We haven't even played consistently yet and we're in a good spot in our division. With three-and-a-half months left I don't think there's any reason to worry or make anything out of anything that's going on right now," he said.

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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.