Behind Soto’s historic homer, Nats cruise to 10-2 win over Padres

All it took to get an injury-depleted Nationals lineup going was the addition of 19-year-old Juan Soto. Well, that and a matchup with a Padres left-hander making only his second start of the season.

Soto-waves-to-fans-white-sidebar.jpgBehind Soto’s historic first career homer, plus a pair of additional blasts by Mark Reynolds and Bryce Harper, the Nationals jumped all over San Diego fill-in starter Robbie Erlin and cruised to a 10-2 victory to earn their first win in eight days.

Making his first big league start on the day after he was promoted from Double-A Harrisburg, Soto launched the first pitch he saw from Erlin over the left field bullpen at Nationals Park, a 422-foot, three-run homer that earned the youngest player in the majors a curtain call from the crowd of 27,890.

Soto was all smiles as he rounded the bases for his first career hit and as he mimicked Harper’s hair flip after Michael A. Taylor pulled off his helmet following the homer. The gesture was all the more appropriate when you throw in the fact that Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in the majors since Harper’s final homer of the 2012 season, when he too was a 19-year-old rookie.

Soto, who also singled to center in the sixth to drive in another run during a 2-for-4 night, became the fourth Nationals player whose first career hit was a home run, joining the unlikely trio of Justin Maxwell (2007), Tommy Milone (2011) and Corey Brown (2012), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Though the kid drew most of the crowd’s attention, he was far from alone in producing for a lineup that had averaged only 3.2 runs over its last 13 games.

The Nationals scored five runs off Erlin in the bottom of the second, following up Soto’s three-run homer with RBI doubles by Trea Turner and Harper. Reynolds led off the third with a homer to right, then added another in the seventh off reliever Bryan Mitchell to leave the veteran 8-for-17 with four home runs since joining the Nats nine days ago.

The Nationals, who had played only three full games in the last week - all losses - due to heavy rain and scheduled off-days, kept up the barrage throughout this one. Harper went the other way for a leadoff homer in the fifth, giving the 25-year-old star his first multi-hit game since May 4. Taylor and Turner each drove in insurance runs in the sixth via extra-base hits.

All of that run support made life easy for Gio Gonzalez, who allowed only two runs over seven strong innings: A.J. Ellis’ second-inning single and Franmil Reyes’ fourth-inning homer. The left-hander did need 111 pitches to make it through his seven frames, but he gave Davey Martinez what was needed on a night when the manager didn’t need to burn up his top relievers.

Tim Collins, making his first major league appearance since the 2014 World Series for the Royals, struck out a pair in a scoreless eighth inning. Carlos Torres then pitched the ninth to finish off the victory.

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