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Nats partner with Fresno as Triple-A affiliate

MLB.com

The Washington Nationals signed a two-year Player Development Contract with the Fresno Grizzlies of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League on Tuesday. The contract begins in 2019 and runs through the 2020 season. Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the joint announcement, along with Fresno's Team President, Derek Franks.

"The Washington Nationals are excited to be partnering with the Fresno Grizzlies of the Pacific Coast League," said President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. "Fresno is committed to player development and we hope this partnership will continue to yield success for both clubs on the field and off."

The Fresno Grizzlies will be Washington's fourth Triple-A club after being affiliated with Syracuse (2009-18), Columbus (2007-08) and New Orleans (2005-06) since moving to Washington, D.C. in 2005.                                

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The Washington Nationals signed a two-year Player Development Contract with the Fresno Grizzlies of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League on Tuesday. The contract begins in 2019 and runs through the 2020 season. Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the joint announcement, along with Fresno's Team President, Derek Franks.

"The Washington Nationals are excited to be partnering with the Fresno Grizzlies of the Pacific Coast League," said President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. "Fresno is committed to player development and we hope this partnership will continue to yield success for both clubs on the field and off."

The Fresno Grizzlies will be Washington's fourth Triple-A club after being affiliated with Syracuse (2009-18), Columbus (2007-08) and New Orleans (2005-06) since moving to Washington, D.C. in 2005.                                

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Fresno began play in 1998, serving as a Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants until 2014 before joining Houston's player development system in 2015. The Grizzlies play at Chukchansi Park, an 11,800 seat stadium in downtown Fresno, Calif. The Grizzlies play in the Pacific Coast League's Pacific Northern Division along with the Reno Aces, Tacoma Rainers and Sacramento River Cats.

"This is another thrilling new chapter for Fresno Grizzlies baseball- we can't wait for the Nationals to get on the ground in Central California and see everything this community has to offer," said Derek Franks, Fresno team president. "Our new ownership group is continuing several upgrades to both the fan experience and baseball operations facets of Chukchansi Park that began during our previous PDC with Houston, including plans for a brand new playing surface in 2019. I believe the Washington Nationals will find this a comfortable place to cultivate all of their young talent, and will see early on how committed the fans of 'Growlifornia' are to baseball in the Central Valley," continued Franks.

Washington Nationals

Martinez working Robles into Nats' lineup

Top prospect was slated for leadoff spot before Sunday's rainout
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals promoted Victor Robles, their top prospect and MLB Pipeline's fifth-ranked prospect in baseball, to the Majors this month because they want to see him play. Finding him playing time in a crowded outfield, however, has proven difficult with Bryce Harper on a hot streak and Juan Soto's steady excellence.

With a rain-soaked field this weekend at Nationals Park, manager Dave Martinez gave veteran outfielder Adam Eaton Saturday's doubleheader off in part because he wanted to get Robles in the lineup. He planned to do the same in Sunday's series finale against the Cubs before it was postponed due to inclement weather: Robles was slated to bat leadoff and play center field.

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals promoted Victor Robles, their top prospect and MLB Pipeline's fifth-ranked prospect in baseball, to the Majors this month because they want to see him play. Finding him playing time in a crowded outfield, however, has proven difficult with Bryce Harper on a hot streak and Juan Soto's steady excellence.

With a rain-soaked field this weekend at Nationals Park, manager Dave Martinez gave veteran outfielder Adam Eaton Saturday's doubleheader off in part because he wanted to get Robles in the lineup. He planned to do the same in Sunday's series finale against the Cubs before it was postponed due to inclement weather: Robles was slated to bat leadoff and play center field.

Robles has appeared in all five games since being called up Tuesday, although his only starts of the year came in Saturday's doubleheader, going 1-for-10 with a walk and a caught-stealing. This has been Martinez's first look at Robles, and a chance to evaluate where he fits best in the batting order, and the plan for Sunday was to be the manager's first opportunity to see Robles hit leadoff.

"The sky's the limit with him," Martinez said. "He's got potentially five tools. We've seen everything he can do. We'll see where he ends up, but if he can get on base, it would be nice to have him up there."

Even though Sunday's game was washed away, Robles seems likely to receive another chance to bat atop the Nats' lineup before season's end.

Robles, 21, almost certainly would have been called up earlier this season had he not hyperextended his left elbow in April, which sidelined him for three months. He returned to form with a .740 OPS and 19 stolen bases in 52 games in the Minors, although his power numbers dipped -- he hit two homers in 192 at-bats compared with 10 in 430 at-bats in 2017.

Martinez believed the injury might have led to the dip in homers, but he did not seem concerned. He wants to see Robles hit the ball into the gap, and speculated he could one day see him leading the league in extra-base hits.

"It might take until this winter to get him really completely healed, but I think the power numbers will come," Martinez said. "I'm not too worried about it. For me, it's about hitting doubles, bunt when you think necessary, and play good defense. Run the bases the way you're capable of running, that's what I want to see from him."

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Victor Robles

Nationals add top prospect Robles to roster

Zimmerman named Washington's nominee for Roberto Clemente Award
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- A few spots down from Bryce Harper's corner locker in the Nationals clubhouse, Victor Robles found his new residence, right alongside Juan Soto. Together, Robles and Soto represent Washington's outfield of the future, a glimpse into why the organization insists it will remain competitive for years to come, regardless of what happens in free agency during the offseason.

Robles, the Nats' No. 1 prospect and No. 5 in all of baseball according to MLB Pipeline, was promoted to the Majors on Tuesday as the team added six players to the roster as September callups. This will be Robles' first stint with the Nationals this season, after he was sidelined for nearly three months with a hyperextended left elbow after diving for a ball in center field in April, an injury he called "the worst of his career."

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WASHINGTON -- A few spots down from Bryce Harper's corner locker in the Nationals clubhouse, Victor Robles found his new residence, right alongside Juan Soto. Together, Robles and Soto represent Washington's outfield of the future, a glimpse into why the organization insists it will remain competitive for years to come, regardless of what happens in free agency during the offseason.

Robles, the Nats' No. 1 prospect and No. 5 in all of baseball according to MLB Pipeline, was promoted to the Majors on Tuesday as the team added six players to the roster as September callups. This will be Robles' first stint with the Nationals this season, after he was sidelined for nearly three months with a hyperextended left elbow after diving for a ball in center field in April, an injury he called "the worst of his career."

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The Nationals plan for him to play, something manager Dave Martinez reiterated Tuesday. He was not in the starting lineup on Tuesday against the Cardinals, but he flied out to center field as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning of the Nationals' 11-8 loss. Martinez said he would be sure to find Robles playing time in Washington's crowded outfield.

"It makes me feel very proud to hear that," Robles said through an interpreter. "It gives me the idea that my hard work has paid off and they're actually taking recognition of that."

Watch: Robles exits game

Robles entered the season as the Nationals outfield prospect garnering the most attention. He seemed destined to force his way into Washington's crowded outfield this season, but the injury nearly ended his season on April 9. Robles said he planned to keep his same aggressive style of play and has no reservations diving for balls in the outfield since his return. And his numbers at the plate this season resemble his old self, as well. In 52 Minor League games, Robles posted a slash line of .276/.371/.370 with 19 stolen bases and a pair of home runs.

"Everybody fell in love with Soto because he's done so well," Martinez said. "He's been incredible. Victor Robles is an unbelievable athlete, and I think he's going to do just as good. I'm looking forward to getting him out there and getting him some playing time."

The only silver lining of Robles' injury for Washington is that it helped lead to the promotion of Soto. Robles, who turned 21 in May, has become close to Soto, as the two players work out together during the offseason in their native Dominican Republic. Robles has watched his friend's success proudly and held out hope that they would share an outfield together soon.

"It was always a thought in our heads," Robles said. "Now that we're here, it's a little bit of a dream come true for both of us. It's always been in the back of our minds, so hopefully we can achieve that."

Watch: Robles triple for 4th hit

Washington added six players to its roster, recalling Robles, infielder Adrian Sanchez and right-hander Austin Voth from Triple-A Syracuse; reinstating Tuesday's starting pitcher, Erick Fedde, and Joe Ross from the 60-day disabled list; and selecting the contract of right-hander Kyle McGowin from Syracuse. Tommy Milone returned from rehab and his contract was assigned to Triple-A to clear room on the roster.

Zimmerman named Nats' Roberto Clemente Award nominee
Ryan Zimmerman was named the Nationals' nominee for the 2018 Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes the player who best represents baseball through character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions on and off the field. It's the sixth time he has has been selected as the Nats' representative for the award, having also gotten the nod in 2007, '12-13 and '16-17.

"To be nominated for that award every year is pretty special," Zimmerman said. "I think it kind of shows the ability we have as athletes, the platform that we have to actually make a difference in real-life stuff."

In his 14 seasons with the Nationals, Zimmerman has not only become one of the faces of the community. He is most known for the ziMS Foundation, founded in 2006 by Zimmerman and his family to fight against multiple sclerosis in honor of his mother, Cheryl, who was diagnosed with the disease in 1995. The foundation has raised and donated more than $1.5 million to organizations dedicated to fighting MS.

"Even if I hadn't played here for as long as I had, I think wherever I went I'd like to get involved somehow," he said. "Especially nowadays, sports are too serious. We all want to win, but at the end of the day it's a game of baseball, and there are a lot of people dealing with a lot more serious stuff. Just using your platform, whether you help one person or one million, that's more than you might have had a chance to help if you weren't here."

Worth noting
• Ross will enter the starting rotation on Friday and replace Jefry Rodriguez, who is moving to the bullpen to limit his innings. This will be Ross' first start since July 2017 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

• McGowin, acquired from the Angels in the trade for Danny Espinosa last offseason, is making his first stint in the Majors. He led the Nats' farm system with 152 strikeouts with a 2.80 ERA and 0.90 WHIP.

"It still hasn't set in honestly," the 26-year-old McGowin said. "It's been a long journey. A lot of ups and downs. I'm just very thankful and happy to be here."

Sean Doolittle (left foot) is scheduled to throw a simulated game Wednesday.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Victor Robles, Ryan Zimmerman

Soto ties Junior for 4th-most HRs by a teen

Nats rookie belts 16th of season in finale against Phillies
MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Nationals rookie Juan Soto started his 49th consecutive game on Wednesday night, and each time manager Dave Martinez has attempted to give him a day off, Soto has responded emphatically that he does not need one. Even though August has been the worst month of the phenom's young career so far, Soto insists he is not tiring.

Soto launched one of his trademark opposite-field, two-run homers against Phillies starter Jake Arrieta in the third inning of an 8-6 loss to further back that point. It was Soto's 16th home run of the year, moving him into a tie with Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. for the fourth-most home runs by a teenager in MLB history, and it gave the Nats a lead after Trea Turner hit a two-run homer earlier in the frame.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Nationals rookie Juan Soto started his 49th consecutive game on Wednesday night, and each time manager Dave Martinez has attempted to give him a day off, Soto has responded emphatically that he does not need one. Even though August has been the worst month of the phenom's young career so far, Soto insists he is not tiring.

Soto launched one of his trademark opposite-field, two-run homers against Phillies starter Jake Arrieta in the third inning of an 8-6 loss to further back that point. It was Soto's 16th home run of the year, moving him into a tie with Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. for the fourth-most home runs by a teenager in MLB history, and it gave the Nats a lead after Trea Turner hit a two-run homer earlier in the frame.

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Video: WSH@PHI: Turner gets Nats on the board with 2-run HR

By the time Soto was born in October 1998, Griffey was already well into his career, completing his 10th season and having won the American League Most Valuable Player Award the previous year. So, it was understandable that Soto had not seen much of Griffey, other than some video of that legendary swing.

"I've seen a couple videos of him and I saw a really good swing, perfect swing," Soto said. "And he's a very good outfielder, too. I like him. He's very good."

It was Soto's first homer since Aug. 13, and he entered the game with a slash line of .233/.389/.344 this month -- solid numbers, but down from the blazing start that made him one of the frontrunners to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

Still, Soto insists he is not slowing down. He said he would be happy to take a day off if Martinez wanted, but his body feels strong still and he is happy to remain in the lineup.

"He's been doing well," Martinez said prior to the game. "We thought about tinkering today, about giving him [a day off], but he's been doing well. I talk to him every day and from what I've seen is, he's doing OK."

If Soto can return to form in the final month of the regular season, he could challenge for the No. 1 spot for home runs as a teenager. Tony Conigliaro is the all-time leader with 24, while Nats outfielder Bryce Harper (22) is second on the list, followed by Mel Ott (19).

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Juan Soto

Nats duo offers glimpse at Futures Game

Kieboom plays shortstop for USA; Garcia draws walk for World
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Members within the Nationals' organization reject the notion that their window is closing. Even with a few key players approaching free agency and some of their stars aging, the Nats point to the talent the team continues to churn out as proof.

Talent such as Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia -- the club's second- and fifth-ranked prospects per MLB Pipeline, respectively -- who represented Washington in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on Sunday. Kieboom's Team USA outslugged Garcia's World squad, 10-6.

WASHINGTON -- Members within the Nationals' organization reject the notion that their window is closing. Even with a few key players approaching free agency and some of their stars aging, the Nats point to the talent the team continues to churn out as proof.

Talent such as Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia -- the club's second- and fifth-ranked prospects per MLB Pipeline, respectively -- who represented Washington in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on Sunday. Kieboom's Team USA outslugged Garcia's World squad, 10-6.

The crowd at Nationals Park gave Kieboom a rousing ovation when he was introduced before the game and during his first at-bat in the seventh inning, when he struck out against right-hander Adonis Medina. Kieboom struck out in both of his at-bats, while Garcia walked in his lone plate appearance.

:: 2018 Futures Game coverage ::

"It's awesome," Kieboom said about the fan reaction. "It's really cool to see the fans come up around you and applaud like you that, that's always fun."

Kieboom, the club's first-round Draft pick in 2016, enjoyed a fast start that earned him a promotion to Double-A Harrisburg. In 81 games between Class A Advanced and Double-A, Kieboom posted a slash line of .300/.380/.480 with 13 home runs. He attributed his success at the plate to keeping his approach simple.

Kieboom, whose brother Spencer is a catcher on the Nationals roster, is starting to knock on the door of the Majors, and although he said he did not set a timetable for himself, he was excited to walk into the Nats clubhouse -- one he hopes he can call home soon.

"It's special," said Kieboom, who replaced Bo Bichette at shortstop in the top of the fifth inning. "Walking in any big league park is awesome, but to walk into this one and to be in the nation's capital, I think it's a little extra special."

Garcia, who just turned 18 in May, was the youngest player on either roster Sunday. He has a slash line of .302/.339/.402 in 87 games between Class A Hagerstown and Class A Advanced Potomac. Garcia replaced Luis Urias at second base in the bottom of the fifth.

The Nats have reaped the benefits lately of their international signings. Juan Soto has hit to become the everyday left fielder in D.C. much sooner than expected, and top prospect Victor Robles is on the way back from an injury. Garcia offers another example of the strides the Nationals have made in that market and one of the next wave of prospects who could keep their window open for much longer.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Luis Garcia, Carter Kieboom

Voth scuffles in debut as Nats dip below .500

MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Austin Voth has spent a sizeable chunk of his season on tarmacs and in terminals, shuttling back and forth between the big leagues and Triple-A Syracuse. Such is the life of an optionable arm, circa 2018. But Voth's travels came with a twist: Despite three stints with the big club, he'd yet to appear in a game.

"I'd been waiting for this moment for a while," Voth said. "This last time I basically told [my family], unless I'm starting, you guys are staying home."

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NEW YORK -- Austin Voth has spent a sizeable chunk of his season on tarmacs and in terminals, shuttling back and forth between the big leagues and Triple-A Syracuse. Such is the life of an optionable arm, circa 2018. But Voth's travels came with a twist: Despite three stints with the big club, he'd yet to appear in a game.

"I'd been waiting for this moment for a while," Voth said. "This last time I basically told [my family], unless I'm starting, you guys are staying home."

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That all changed Saturday, when Voth made his long-awaited MLB debut in front of a gaggle of family and friends who ventured with him to Citi Field. They witnessed the right-hander match some dubious history. The seven earned runs Voth allowed in what ended as a 7-4 loss to the Mets marked the most surrendered by a big league pitcher this season in his debut. Only Erick Fedde, who debuted last July, had allowed that many in his first game since the franchise moved to Washington in 2005.

"It's a lesson learned for him," Nats manager Dave Martinez said. "Failure is not a bad thing all the time. Just learn from it. Next time you have an opportunity, be ready."

Video: WSH@NYM: Harper lines an RBI single into right-center

Whether Voth will get another chance in the immediate future is less clear. That's largely dependant on the health of Stephen Strasburg, who is set to test his balky right shoulder in a second rehab start on Sunday. If he completes that without issue, Strasburg could return to a Nats rotation -- which has struggled in his absence -- as early as Friday. Nats starters own a 6.34 ERA since Strasburg landed on the DL on June 10. Washington has lost 22 of those 31 games. Saturday's defeat dropped them below .500 for just the second time since early May.

"Scoring first is key," Martinez said. "It seems like we're always playing from behind."

Video: WSH@NYM: Rendon brings home Eaton with a forceout

Indeed, the Nats were down three by the time Adam Eaton scraped their first hit off winning pitcher Zack Wheeler in the third, but they didn't score until after Voth "ran out of gas" in the fifth, when he walked two ahead of Michael Conforto's three-run homer, which all but put the game away.

"It's been crazy over the last week, just the anticipation," Voth said. "I'm glad I got through it. .... There are some things I need to improve on to pitch at this level."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The trajectory of Voth's day altered over the course of two high bounces in the second, when Jose Reyes chopped a 2-1 fastball off the plate. Voth sprang from the mound to field it but was slow in firing to first. Reyes reached safely, setting up a bases-loaded, no-out situation, from which the Mets cashed in their first three runs.

Video: WSH@NYM: Rosario lines an opposite-field RBI single

SOUND SMART
Saturday marked the Nationals' 95th game of the year. It is the latest point in the season they've sported a sub-.500 record since 2015, when the team went 60-61 through its first 121 contests. Washington entered that campaign with World Series aspirations but finished 83-79, seven games behind the Mets in the National League East.

HE SAID IT
"When we get [Ryan] Zimmerman back and we get Strasburg back, that's definitely going to help us. … Missing that leadership has been big for us. When those guys go in and get it done, you don't want to be the guy who doesn't." -- Eaton, who went 3-for-4 with two runs scored

GOING, GOING, GONE?
A crew-chief review was necessary to confirm Matt Adams' two-run homer cleared the orange line atop the right-field wall in the eighth. Following a 48-second review, umpires concluded that it did -- and that the blast was not interfered with by fans reaching over the railing. Adams' 15th homer of the year pushed the Nats back within striking distance late, and finally rid them of Wheeler, who was pulled after 7 2/3 frames.

Video: WSH@NYM: Adams belts a 2-run homer, call confirmed

UP NEXT
The Nats' up-and-down first half concludes Sunday in the finale of this four-game series. Two of their most important players will be busy during the break that follows, with Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer set to play a big role in next week's All-Star festivities from Nationals Park. But first Washington will line up behind Jeremy Hellickson (3-1, 3.47 ERA) in a 1:10 pm ET matinee from Citi Field, with Gio Gonzalez available in relief if need be. Rookie Corey Oswalt (0-2, 6.75) opposes for the Mets.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

Washington Nationals, Austin Voth

Nationals sign first-round pick Denaburg

Right-hander to work out at West Palm Beach facility before beginning pro career
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- After discussing his lifelong dream of playing in the Major Leagues for the first time on Tuesday afternoon in the Nationals Park press box, Washington 2018 first-round pick Mason Denaburg smiled and took a deep breath as his family looked on.

About a minute later, as reporters bustled off to interview Denaburg's agent, Scott Boras, Denaburg's family could hardly contain their excitement before Denaburg led them out of the room.

WASHINGTON -- After discussing his lifelong dream of playing in the Major Leagues for the first time on Tuesday afternoon in the Nationals Park press box, Washington 2018 first-round pick Mason Denaburg smiled and took a deep breath as his family looked on.

About a minute later, as reporters bustled off to interview Denaburg's agent, Scott Boras, Denaburg's family could hardly contain their excitement before Denaburg led them out of the room.

Draft Tracker: Every Nationals pick

Denaburg, a right-handed pitcher, felt relieved and thrilled Tuesday after agreeing to terms on a contract with Washingotn three days before the deadline to do so. Denaburg, the 27th overall pick in this year's Draft, said he'll begin training at the Nationals' facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., next week, before starting a Minor League stint. The Nationals have agreed to contracts with all of their top 10 selections, seven of whom are pitchers.

"It's a dream come true really," said Denaburg, who'll forego a commitment to play baseball at the University of Florida. "As a kid I've always grown up wanting to play professional baseball, and today I finally met that goal."

Video: Draft 2018: Nationals draft RHP Mason Denaburg No. 27

Denaburg signed for $3 million, according to Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline. The 27th overall pick featured a slot value of $2,472,700.

Due to biceps tendinitis, Denaburg missed more than a month of his final season at Merritt Island High School (Florida). Were it not for the injury, the hard-throwing righty was a potential top-10 Draft pick. The 18-year-old's arsenal features a fastball topping at 97 mph with a power breaking ball and an above-average changeup. Denaburg said he's now healthy.

During the Draft, three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer watched video of multiple pitchers the Nationals were considering, and Scherzer recommended Denaburg.

Denaburg joins Erick Fedde and Seth Romero as the Nationals' top-rated Minor League pitchers.

"It's awesome just thinking about the guys that they've brought through their organization," Denaburg said. "For them to think highly enough of me to pick me means the world to me."

Video: Draft Report: Mason Denaburg, High School pitcher

Denaburg went 5-1 with a 1.27 ERA in eight starts during his senior year. MLB Pipeline ranked Denaburg its 24th overall Draft prospect. He was also a two-way player in high school. Denaburg struck out 73 batters and walked 10 while hitting .410 with five home runs, 21 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 28 games in the field.

Boras compared Denaburg to Fedde because they're gifted athletes outside of baseball. Denaburg played baseball, soccer and football growing up, and his favorite athlete was Travis Pastrana, a professional motorsports competitor and stunt performer.

"He has the velocity, but the real thing is he has a feel to pitch," Boras said. "He has a very repeatable delivery, very durable and has been kind of hidden in the baseball market; didn't do a lot of showcases and things, but the scouting industry kind of caught onto him late in his junior year. He's got all the physical tools and a great work ethic to go with his talent attributes."

Boras represents an array of former Nationals first-round selections, including Romero, Fedde, Anthony Rendon, Brian Goodwin, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg.

Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.

Washington Nationals

Defensive miscues mar Fedde's best outing

Two slides at home difference in well-pitched ballgame
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals endured a similar stretch earlier in the season, when they were playing far below their talent level and found themselves under .500 after the season's first month. They turned things around shortly after, but this recent skid has left them searching for answers once again.

The Nats have now dropped the first two games of the series against the Phillies after Saturday's 5-3 loss in front of a sold-out crowd at Nationals Park. This was Washington's ninth loss in the past 12 games as the team has slid into third place in the National League East.

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WASHINGTON -- The Nationals endured a similar stretch earlier in the season, when they were playing far below their talent level and found themselves under .500 after the season's first month. They turned things around shortly after, but this recent skid has left them searching for answers once again.

The Nats have now dropped the first two games of the series against the Phillies after Saturday's 5-3 loss in front of a sold-out crowd at Nationals Park. This was Washington's ninth loss in the past 12 games as the team has slid into third place in the National League East.

View Full Game Coverage

"I always say, I repeat myself every day, but it's about the little things," manager Dave Martinez said. "Today was about the little things. Not knocking balls down. The plays at home. Things like that."

Video: PHI@WSH: Murphy tags out Franco trying to take second

The Phillies scored a pair of runs at the plate after Maikel Franco tested Adam Eaton's arm in right field on two separate occasions, including in the seventh inning on a sacrifice fly to score the go-ahead run. Eaton's throw to the plate appeared to beat Franco, but catcher Spencer Kieboom was too far up the first-base line to recover in time to make the tag.

"That's on me," Kieboom said. "The throw came in and I thought maybe it was going to be a little bit of a short hop -- Adam made a great throw -- and I came up a little bit and retreated. At the same time, I just had too much space."

It spoiled a strong effort from right-hander Erick Fedde, in perhaps the best outing of his young career. Fedde made his third start this season since being promoted to replace the injured Stephen Strasburg. Fedde -- the Nats' top pitching prospect and No.4 overall as rated by MLB Pipeline -- had command of all five of his pitches and pitched into the seventh inning for the first time in the Majors. Even though he gave up eight hits and walked a pair, he was charged for just three runs.

Fedde was given an early advantage after a two-run single from Daniel Murphy in the first inning, in what was one of Murphy's best games since returning from the disabled list, but then Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola settled in. He did not surrender a run the rest of the game, giving up two runs in six innings with five strikeouts.

Video: PHI@WSH: Murphy singles up the middle, plates a pair

Nola and Fedde, both first-round picks in the 2014 MLB Draft, matched each other in a tie game until the seventh inning, when Martinez decided to send Fedde back out despite the fact he had already thrown 97 pitches with Ryan Madson ready to come into the game. Fedde promptly gave up a leadoff double to Franco to start the seventh and his night was complete.

"I thought the matchups were great," Martinez said of trying to extend Fedde for one more inning. "All of a sudden, if he gets through that inning, now you got Madson, [Kelvin Herrera] and [Sean Doolittle]. It was tied. If we were ahead, different story."

SOUND SMART
Fedde is still searching for his first Major League victory, but he pitched well enough to win Saturday. The three earned runs allowed by Fedde matched his career low, something he has accomplished in three of his four starts this season, and his six innings matched a career best.

"I felt like my stuff was pretty good today," Fedde said. "I had a lot of ground balls today. That's usually when I know my stuff's good."

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Franco's go-ahead slide in the seventh wasn't without controversy. Kieboom's tag hit Franco on the hip as the play was initially ruled safe. The Nationals challenged the play, and after a review, the call on the field stood, giving the Phillies the lead.

Video: PHI@WSH: Franco scores on sac fly despite challenge

HE SAID IT
"I thought Fedde did a tremendous job. I couldn't be more proud of him. He did, he mixed all five pitches -- sliders, curveballs, changeups, cutters in, fastballs. He did a good job. I thought he attacked hitters and at the beginning, we were kind of [nibbling], but after that he really attacked." -- Kieboom

"I got all the confidence in the world that we're going to start hitting. [Bryce Harper's] swinging the bat a lot better. Murph's starting to swing the bat better. [Juan Soto's] been Soto. So, these guys are all, they're all going to start swinging. Rendon, what an at-bat he put on to hit a home run. We'll start scoring some runs." -- Martinez, on the Nats' offense

"It shows that he has a lot of trust in me that I can go out there and get the job done. And I hope to prove him right in the future." -- Fedde, on the confidence boost from starting the seventh inning

UP NEXT
The Nationals turn to rookie right-hander Jefry Rodriguez to make his second career start for Sunday night's series finale against the Phillies. But also keep an eye on Harper, who is 2-for-4 with a pair of home runs in his career against Philadelphia right-hander Nick Pivetta and has shown some improvements at the plate lately. First pitch is at 8:05 ET.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals

Nats ride Soto's historic 2-HR game to split in NY

MLB.com

NEW YORK -- The first game Juan Soto played in this season came at State Mutual Stadium, the home of the Braves' Class A Rome affiliate, which seats a little more than 5,000 people. Soto offered a glimpse of his enormous potential in that game, when he homered for Hagerstown, but even then it would have been difficult to imagine how different his stage would be just two months later. And how well he would handle it.

On Wednesday night, Soto played for the first time in his career at Yankee Stadium in front of 45,030 fans. And he responded by becoming the fifth-youngest player in Major League history to record a multihomer game, swatting a three-run homer in the fourth that squeaked over the left-field wall and a towering 436-foot solo homer to center field in the seventh to power the Nats to a 5-4 victory.

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NEW YORK -- The first game Juan Soto played in this season came at State Mutual Stadium, the home of the Braves' Class A Rome affiliate, which seats a little more than 5,000 people. Soto offered a glimpse of his enormous potential in that game, when he homered for Hagerstown, but even then it would have been difficult to imagine how different his stage would be just two months later. And how well he would handle it.

On Wednesday night, Soto played for the first time in his career at Yankee Stadium in front of 45,030 fans. And he responded by becoming the fifth-youngest player in Major League history to record a multihomer game, swatting a three-run homer in the fourth that squeaked over the left-field wall and a towering 436-foot solo homer to center field in the seventh to power the Nats to a 5-4 victory.

View Full Game Coverage

"For him to go out there and do what he did today, in front of this crowd, it tells you a little bit about the character that he brings," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said.

At 19 years old and 231 days, Soto became the youngest player with a multihomer game in the regular season since Andruw Jones (19 years, 121 days) went deep twice for the Braves on Aug. 22, 1996. Soto also became the youngest player to homer in the regular season in the Bronx since Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. went deep twice at the old Yankee Stadium on May 30, 1989.

Video: Soto is 3rd teen since '62 to have 2-HR game in Bronx

Soto was not yet born when those two icons accomplished those feats, and he felt honored to have his name mentioned among them on Wednesday night.

"One of the best," Soto said with a smile when asked to rank this game in his career. "I feel great."

Video: WSH@NYY: Soto discusses 2-HR night in the Bronx

Soto -- the team's No. 2 prospect and the game's 13th overall prospect -- has impressed the Nationals by handling everything they have thrown at him at such a young age. When Soto began the season at Class A, the team did not envision he would arrive in the Majors so quickly. When they promoted him to D.C., it was in part because they had run out of outfielders following a plethora of injuries. But now, even with the Nats outfield at full strength, Soto has forced his way into increased playing time.

Through the first 20 games of his Major League career, Soto is batting .344/.447/.641 with five home runs, four of which have come against left-handers.

"He's the truth," right-hander Justin Miller said.

"It's unbelievable, honestly," added right-hander Erick Fedde, who gave up four runs in five innings after being promoted from the Minors earlier in the day to make the start.

Video: WSH@NYY: Doolittle retires Torres to earn the save

With some of his uncles in the crowd, Soto powered a Nationals offense that had not scored since Saturday, a span of 19 innings, before a sacrifice fly from Anthony Rendon in the first inning.

And Washington started off playing a sloppy game, with a pair of runners getting picked off on the bases and another thrown out trying to advance. Martinez called it an ugly game, before Soto turned it around. He smiled as the first home run sneaked over the fence, and he stoically watched as his moonshot in the seventh gave the Nats a 5-4 lead.

Soto's phone was bombarded with congratulatory text messages after the game, so many that he laughed and said there had been too many to count. Washington believed it had a future star on its hands with Soto, someone who could roam the outfield in D.C. for years to come. No one could have guessed how quickly he would arrive and how forcefully he would announce his arrival.

Video: Soto, Harper only Nats to have 2-homer games as teens

"From where he started this year to be here, there's good reason," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "We got a peek at it tonight."

Soto, Torres combine for feat not seen since 1887

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Soto's fourth-inning home run, per Statcast™, had an exit velocity of 103.1 mph, but it was hit at a 45-degree launch angle, giving the fly a 14 percent hit probability. But left fielder Brett Gardner ran out of room as the 338-foot fly ball cleared the wall and bounced off a fan in the front row and back onto the field.

"I was surprised," Soto said. "Because I hit it pretty good, but too high. So, I was running the bases saying keep going, keep going, keep going. When it was gone, I felt very good."

Video: WSH@NYY: Soto hits 2 homers, including a 436-ft shot

SOTO JOINS ELITE CLUB
Soto became the fifth-youngest player in MLB history to homer twice in a game. 

Danny Murphy, Cubs (19 years, 35 days), 9/27/1961
Mel Ott, Giants (Twice -- 19 years, 77 days; and 19 years, 187 days), 5/18/1928 and 9/5/1928
Andruw Jones, Braves (19 years, 121 days), 8/22/1996
Ken Griffey Jr. (Twice -- 19 years, 190 days; and 19 years, 226 days ), 5/30/1989 and 7/5/1989
Soto (19 years, 231 days), 6/13/2018

Video: Soto youngest with 2-HR game since Andruw Jones

TURNER REACHES CENTURY MARK
Trea Turner swiped his 100th career base in the first inning, becoming the fourth-fastest active player (by games) to reach that mark.

Billy Hamilton -- 219 games
Dee Gordon -- 233 games
Jacoby Ellsbury -- 263 games
Turner -- 264 games

Video: WSH@NYY: Turner notches 100th career steal

UP NEXT
Following an off-day on Thursday, the Nationals travel to Toronto for the first time since 2012 for the start of a three-game series on Friday night at Rogers Centre. Left-hander Gio Gonzalez will take the mound for the Nats, trying to bounce back from his shortest outing of the season. Aaron Sanchez will be the opposing pitcher for Toronto; first pitch is at 7:07 p.m. ET.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Juan Soto

Nationals select HS pitcher Denaburg at pick 27

Team adds LHP Cate at No. 65, underscoring early focus on replenishing pitching talent
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have already shown that they're not afraid to select a pitcher with a history of injury concerns in the MLB Draft. So when high school right-hander Mason Denaburg fell further down the first round Monday night than many expected, they pounced on the opportunity to select him.

• Draft Tracker: Follow every Nationals Draft pick

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have already shown that they're not afraid to select a pitcher with a history of injury concerns in the MLB Draft. So when high school right-hander Mason Denaburg fell further down the first round Monday night than many expected, they pounced on the opportunity to select him.

• Draft Tracker: Follow every Nationals Draft pick

Washington made Denaburg the 27th selection in the Draft, again taking a gamble on a pitcher in the opening round. The Nats continued with the pitching theme in the second round, when they selected University of Connecticut lefty Tim Cate with the 65th overall selection.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

Pitching has long been the foundation for these Nationals, carrying them to four National League East titles in the past six seasons, but the team could use some prospect pitching depth at the top of its farm system. The Nats have had to make trades midseason and in the offseason through their contending years and have often dealt from their position of depth. With Monday's selections, they are hoping to replenish a portion of that depth.

"It was two guys we really wanted the first day," Nationals scouting director Kris Kline said during a conference call Tuesday morning. "It was a great first day for us."

The Nationals believe Denaburg could be a front-line starting pitcher. He played at Merritt Island High School near Viera, Fla., the former Spring Training home for the Nats, where he went 5-1 with a 1.27 ERA in eight starts during his senior year. MLB Pipeline ranked Denaburg as its 24th overall Draft prospect. He was also a two-way player in high school. Denaburg struck out 73 batters and walked just 10 on the mound, and he hit .410 (34-for-83) with five home runs, 21 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 28 games in the field.

Denaburg did have his season interrupted by bicep tendinitis, but Kline reiterated that it was not something that was going to scare the Nationals off. He threw a simulated three-inning game in front of their scouts upon return from his injury and checked out nicely.

"I feel like we got a healthy guy and a potential front-line starter," Kline said.

Besides, the Nationals have shown they will not shy away from a talented player. A year ago, they selected left-hander Seth Romero in the first round, a consensus top-10 talent who fell because of behavioral concerns. A few years ago, they selected right-hander Lucas Giolito in the first round, even though he was set to have Tommy John surgery. Drafting Denaburg reiterates the Nats' commitment to pitching and replenishing the top of their system with talented arms on which to build.

Video: Draft Report: Mason Denaburg, High School pitcher

In the second round, the Nationals selected Cate, a junior, who went 5-4 with a 2.91 ERA in 11 games (seven starts) for UConn. He struck out 67 batters and walked 19 while holding opposing batters to a .258 average. MLB.com ranked Cate as the 62nd overall prospect in this Draft, and Kline said he has the best left-handed curveball in the Draft.

Cate became the first member of the University of Connecticut to appear on Team USA on two occasions, when he did so in 2016 and '17. He was named First Team All-Conference in the American Athletic Conference during his sophomore season in '17, when he struck out 102 batters in 75 2/3 innings. Combined with his 101 strikeouts during his freshman season, Cate became the first player in program history to eclipse triple-digit strikeouts in consecutive seasons. He did undergo Tommy John surgery at the age of 16, but the Nats had no injury concerns for him.

Video: Draft Report: Tim Cate, College pitcher

"Sometimes dynamite comes in smaller packages," Kline said. "This kid has always been a starter. Been a starter through his collegiate career, he was a starter for Team USA. He's had a very solid college career, high strikeout guy. For me, he owns the best left-handed curveball in this Draft. I think we are lucky to get this kid where we did."

The Nationals are especially looking to boost their pitching depth given the absence of Romero, who was suspended during Spring Training for a violation of team rules and remains home in Houston.

Denaburg and Cate represent building blocks as the team looks to maintain its strong pitching presence.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals

Nats look to replenish pitching depth in Draft

MLB.com

Although the Nationals have made a few shrewd trades and free-agent signings to help them build one of the most successful teams in the Majors during the past six seasons, that foundation was built through the Draft. It's one of the areas that general manager Mike Rizzo, a former scout and still a scout at heart, takes the most pride in.

From Stephen Strasburg to Bryce Harper to Anthony Rendon, Rizzo has formed a special connection with those players they have "scouted, drafted and developed." So even though the Nationals will not make a selection until the 27th overall pick in this year's Draft, they are still hoping to add another impact player to their core.

Although the Nationals have made a few shrewd trades and free-agent signings to help them build one of the most successful teams in the Majors during the past six seasons, that foundation was built through the Draft. It's one of the areas that general manager Mike Rizzo, a former scout and still a scout at heart, takes the most pride in.

From Stephen Strasburg to Bryce Harper to Anthony Rendon, Rizzo has formed a special connection with those players they have "scouted, drafted and developed." So even though the Nationals will not make a selection until the 27th overall pick in this year's Draft, they are still hoping to add another impact player to their core.

The 2018 Draft will take place today through Wednesday, beginning with today's Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com at 6 p.m. ET. MLB Network will broadcast the first 43 picks (Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A), while MLB.com will stream all 78 picks on Day 1. MLB.com will also provide live pick-by-pick coverage of Rounds 3-10 on Day 2, with a preview show beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET. Then, Rounds 11-40 can be heard live on MLB.com on Day 3, beginning at noon ET.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

Go to MLB.com/draft to see the Top 200 Prospects list, projected top picks from MLB Pipeline analysts Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft on Twitter to see what Draft hopefuls, clubs and experts are saying.

Here's how the Draft is shaping up for the Nationals.

In about 50 words
Even with their success at the Major League level, the Nationals still boast a strong farm system as evidenced by top prospects such as Juan Soto and Victor Robles. However, they are a bit light on pitching at the top of their system and this Draft could be a chance to replenish that.

The scoop
The Nats selected a pitcher at the top of the Draft a year ago in left-hander Seth Romero, but he was sent home to Houston during Spring Training for a violation of team rules and remains there at this point in the season. So while Washington will focus on finding the best player on the board, perhaps it would prefer to draft a college pitcher once again to provide a boost to the top of its system.

First-round buzz
Mayo linked the Nationals to right-hander Mason Denaburg from Merritt Island High School in Florida. Denaburg dealt with a biceps issue in the spring that has clouded his status some, but he has fell from a top half of the first round talent to potentially being available late for the Nats.

Video: Draft Report: Mason Denaburg, High School pitcher

Money matters
In an effort to promote competitive balance, MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement gives each team a bonus pool to spend based upon the number and position of its Draft picks. The more selections a team has and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. Any club that overspends its budget is subject to taxes and, in extreme cases, a loss of picks in future Drafts.

Any team going up to 5 percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.

This year, the Nationals have a pool of $5,603,800 to spend in the first 10 rounds. That includes $2,472,700 to spend on their first selection.

Shopping list
Pitching is the biggest hole in the organization, with right-hander Erick Fedde as perhaps the Nationals' only legitimate pitching prospect near the Majors. For all the talent the Nats have around the diamond, pitching has always been their foundation. They are set for the foreseeable future with Max Scherzer and Strasburg anchoring the top of their rotation, as well as Joe Ross under contract, but they could use another arm to get excited about for the future.

Trend watch
The Nats have taken a pitcher with four of their past five first-round Draft picks dating back to 2012 (no first round pick in '13 and '15), and all of them have come from college with the exception of Lucas Giolito in '12.

Recent Draft history

Rising fast
Drafted in the fifth round in 2016, Daniel Johnson turned in a 20-20 season last year en route to getting named the organization's Minor League Player of the Year. The 22-year-old outfielder continues to show he can hit with a step up in competition at Double-A Harrisburg, where he is batting .287 with a home run and 15 stolen bases.

Cinderella story
After getting drafted in the fifth round by the Nats in 2012, catcher Spencer Kieboom has finally enjoyed an extended stay in the Majors at the age of 27, getting a chance to be the team's backup catcher after a rash of injuries. Kieboom even played a key role in a victory on Saturday against the Braves, with a run-scoring single in extra innings playing in front of his family and friends in Atlanta.

Video: WSH@ATL: Kieboom extends the lead with an RBI single

In the show
Some of the Nats' most prominent stars and contributors were all first-round Draft selections in Strasburg (2009), Harper (2010), and Rendon and Brian Goodwin (2011). None of their first-round picks since then are with the team, fortunes they will be looking to change this year.

The Nationals' recent top picks
2017: Seth Romero (suspended)
2016: LHP Dane Dunning (CWS) and SS Carter Kieboom (Class A Advanced Potomac)
2015: OF Andrew Stevenson (second round, Triple-A Syracuse)
2014: RHP Erick Fedde (Triple-A Syracuse)
2013: RHP Jake Johansen (second round, CWS)

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals

Nats' No. 4 prospect Fedde up to start vs. SD

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals promoted right-hander Erick Fedde to the Majors to start Wednesday's 3-1 loss to the Padres at Nationals Park and designated right-hander Carlos Torres for assignment to clear room on the roster.

When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.

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WASHINGTON -- The Nationals promoted right-hander Erick Fedde to the Majors to start Wednesday's 3-1 loss to the Padres at Nationals Park and designated right-hander Carlos Torres for assignment to clear room on the roster.

When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.

View Full Game Coverage

Fedde, the club's top pitching prospect -- and the No. 4 overall prospect in the organization as rated by MLB Pipeline -- joins the team to make his first Major League start of the season. He owns a 4.35 ERA in eight starts at Triple-A Syracuse with 42 strikeouts and 13 walks in 41 1/3 innings.

This will be his fourth career Major League start after he scuffled through a brief stint in the Majors a year ago. Fedde made three starts in 2017, posting a 9.39 ERA, but his velocity dipped and his command was off before the team eventually shut him down in September.

He returned to Spring Training this year healthy and has pitched much more effectively.

"His stuff is electric," manager Dave Martinez said. "He's got a two-seamer, a four-seam, good changeup and good curveball."

Martinez said the Nats are hopeful Torres will clear waivers and accept an assignment to Triple-A to remain in the organization. He appeared in 10 games for the Nats and gave up seven runs in 9 2/3 innings.

"It was tough," Martinez said of the decision with Torres. "These are the days when being a manager stinks."

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Erick Fedde

Phenom Soto hits HR on 1st pitch in 1st start

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- After he informed the team of Monday night's lineup via text message earlier in the day, the first player that manager Dave Martinez saw when he arrived at Nationals Park was Juan Soto. The Nationals' 19-year-old phenom was set to make his first Major League start in Washington's 10-2 victory over the Padres, but first, he shook his manager's hand and gave him a hug.

"'I'm ready,'" Martinez recalled Soto saying. "I said, 'I know you are.'"

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WASHINGTON -- After he informed the team of Monday night's lineup via text message earlier in the day, the first player that manager Dave Martinez saw when he arrived at Nationals Park was Juan Soto. The Nationals' 19-year-old phenom was set to make his first Major League start in Washington's 10-2 victory over the Padres, but first, he shook his manager's hand and gave him a hug.

"'I'm ready,'" Martinez recalled Soto saying. "I said, 'I know you are.'"

View Full Game Coverage

Indeed, he was. On the first pitch of Soto's first at-bat in the second inning against Padres starter Robbie Erlin, he swatted a three-run home run to left-center field, putting Washington up 3-0. Off the bat, Soto did not think the ball was gone. So he sprinted around the bases -- until the roar of the crowd let him know it had cleared the wall.

Video: SD@WSH: Soto's first homer goes 422 feet to left

As Michael A. Taylor removed his helmet after the home run, Soto did a mock hair flip -- a nod to Bryce Harper -- and wore a huge smile on his face in the dugout. The crowd of 27,890 at Nationals Park was working itself into a frenzy over Soto's first career hit, and Taylor encouraged Soto to go to the top step of the dugout where he was serenaded with a curtain call. He pointed his right arm to the sky, clapped his hands over his head and pumped his fists -- a memorable moment for his first career homer.

"The guys, they tell me, 'Hey, go out! They're calling you,'" Soto said. "I think it was Taylor who said, 'Hey, go ahead, go ahead.'"

• Soto does Harper hair flip after first homer

Video: SD@WSH: Soto gets doused after big first career game

Soto's home run sparked the Nationals, as they hammered a season-high four homers en route to victory. This was the first career start for Soto, the Nats' No. 2 prospect and the No. 15 overall prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline, coming a day after he was promoted to make him MLB's youngest player at 19 years old. He struck out during his pinch-hit at-bat in the eighth inning of Sunday's 7-2 loss, which he actually said helped him for this game.

"I was really nervous," Soto said. "I was just saying, 'Oh my God.' I was just trying to breathe and do my job."

• Nats' academy kids react to Soto's first homer

Video: Must C Classic: Juan Soto's first career hit is a HR

Soto's parents were in the stands from the Dominican Republic on Monday night after they arrived late Sunday night, which Soto joked was a good thing since they did not see him strike out. They were present to watch his home run, as Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in the Majors since Harper did so in 2012. He finished the night 2-for-4 with three RBIs.

Since 1965, only six players have homered in a Major League game at a younger age than Soto:
2012: Jurickson Profar, Rangers
1998: Adrian Beltre, Dodgers
1996: Andruw Jones, Braves
1989: Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners
1974: Robin Yount, Brewers
1970: Cesar Cedeno, Astros

"He's a special player," Harper said. "We've seen that throughout the Minor Leagues and we saw that in Spring Training, as well. So we're all just excited for him to be here and excited for him to help us out and super proud of him."

Video: Then and Now: Harper, Soto get 1st HRs as teenagers

A month ago Soto was playing at Class A. After his third promotion of the season, he will serve as the Nationals' primary left fielder in the Major Leagues. Hours before the game, Martinez and third-base coach Bobby Henley were working with Soto on his footwork in the outfield. Although Martinez said the team plans to try and pick its spots for the left-handed-hitting Soto against southpaws, the Padres had lefty starters scheduled for the first two games of this series. Martinez said he wanted to still make sure Soto got into the lineup.

And now it might be difficult to make the case that Soto should not continue to start regardless of who is pitching. He did not show any limitations against left-handers in the Minors, where he posted an OPS over 1.000 against southpaws.

On Monday night, Soto looked like he belonged, adding another chapter to his impressive ascent.

"It's exciting. It's uplifting," Martinez said. "Here's a young man getting a chance to play in the big leagues at an early age. It pumps everyone up. To watch him do what he did today -- not only the home run, but the base hit up the middle, the two-strike hard ground ball, the line drive with two strikes, all those things … that's pretty impressive."

Video: SD@WSH: Martinez on Soto's debut, win over Padres

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Juan Soto