WASHINGTON (AP) — Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, wasn’t sure his towering drive would clear the fence in left-center field. He was the only one.
Soto hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.
“I didn’t think it was going to go out of the park,” said Soto, who also singled in four at-bats. “I just run hard, the same what I do in the minor leagues. Then I heard the noise and I know it’s gone.”
Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Washington teammate Bryce Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.
“He’s a special player,” Harper said.
The home fans roared and rose to their feet following the home run. That is when Nationals manager Dave Martinez really had to coach Soto.
“He didn’t know what to do about the standing ovation. We told him, ‘Hey, go out there,'” Martinez said. “You can tell he has passion for the game.”
Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. 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. It traveled an estimated 442 feet.
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. His parents arrived Sunday from the Dominican Republic but missed the game.
“Maybe it’s a blessing,” Soto joked. “I strike out. Then they come here and I do my thing.”
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. One of those hits was the first career home run for San Diego’s Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game.
“Fourteen home runs in the minor leagues in a short time frame,” Padres manager Andy Green said of Reyes, “and to my eye, probably 10 or 11 of them to the opposite field with swings just like that.”
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.
“(Erlin) missed some spots in the middle of the plate,” Green said. “The pitch to Soto was an up-and-away fastball. He got squared up. After that, it kind of went south.”
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.
San Diego recalled LHP Tyler Webb from Triple-A El Paso and optioned INF Carlos Asuaje to El Paso. Webb was 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA in two games earlier this season for the Padres. Asuaje hit .193 with two homers and 13 RBIs in 109 at-bats for San Diego.
Padres: OF Hunter Renfroe (right elbow) and C Austin Hedges (right elbow) were both scheduled to play nine innings Monday during rehabilitation assignments for Triple-A El Paso. Renfroe is hitting .118 (3 for 17) in four games with El Paso, while it is Hedges’ first rehab game since going on the 10-day disabled list May 1.
Nationals: INF Howie Kendrick was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. Left-hander Tim Collins was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse. The 34-year-old Kendrick tore his left Achilles tendon during the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Dodgers. Collins replaced Gonzalez and went one inning in his first big league game since 2014.
Padres: Rookie LHP Eric Lauer (1-2, 8.14 ERA) owns a 9.24 ERA in three road starts.
Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (1-0, 2.20) allowed one earned run over his previous three starts.
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