In the first of Washington’s two wins over the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday in Citizens Bank Park, Juan Soto went 2 for 4 and made what was, he’d later say, the best catch he’s made in the majors so far.
The Nationals’ 19-year-old rookie went 3 for 4 with a walk and two home runs, Nos. 17 and 18 on the season, in the nightcap of the doubleheader, with the second an opposite field blast to left-center field that put the visiting team up 7-6 in the top of the tenth after he’d doubled to drive in a run in his first at bat, homered the second time up in the fourth, a two-run blast, and after grounding out in the sixth, walked and scored one of three runs scored in the top of the ninth as the Nats rallied from a 6-3 deficit to tie things up at 6-6.
Soto’s 17th home run moved him into sole possession of fourth place on the list of players with the most home runs in the majors as a teenager, ahead of Ken Griffey, Jr. (16), behind only Mel Ott, who hit 19 for the New York Giants between 1926-28, Bryce Harper, who hit a total of 22 for the Nationals in 2012, and Tony Conigliaro, who hit 24 home runs for Boston’s Red Sox in 1964.
Juan Soto has tied Bryce Harper for the 8th-most RBIs by a teenager in a season in MLB history (59). pic.twitter.com/yrhq1C0vDI— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 12, 2018
Tonight’s game was his third multi-home run game as a teenager, which are also the most by a teenager in MLB history.
Soto has hits in 13 of his last 16 games, and his five-hit day left him with a .306/.421/.529 line, 22 doubles, 18 home runs, 70 walks, and 88 Ks in 421 plate appearances this season.
“He’s very talented,” Davey Martinez told reporters after the second win of the day. “Like I said earlier, I’ve never seen a 19-year-old swing and be that patient at the plate. I mean he really concentrates on hitting strikes, and he works the counts, he’s really good.
“He’s 19 but he plays like he’s been in this league for a long time.”
Soto talked about the fight he and his teammates have put up as they’ve picked up a couple late-inning, comeback wins over the last few weeks.
“We never give up,” Soto told MASN’s Dan Kolko. “We keep fighting every time from the first inning to the last inning. We keep fighting and never give up.”
Martinez was asked what he sees from Soto in those late opportunities that allows him to remain calm and come up big when he’s given a shot.
Soto worked his way back from 0-2 against Seranthony Dominguez in his ninth inning at bat in the nightcap, working the count full before spitting on a 98 mph 3-2 fastball inside for ball four, then powered a 98 mph 0-1 fastball out to left-center in the tenth, taking Yaksiel Rios deep to make it a 7-6 game in the Nationals’ favor.
Juan Soto's 3 multi-HR games are the most by a teenager in @MLB history. pic.twitter.com/sW2vbOeipM— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 12, 2018
“When you watch him, he’s engaged, every pitch,” Martinez said before talking about that shuffle step Soto takes as he stares out at the pitcher ... and smiles slightly creepily, after each ball he takes.
“Every pitch he’s engaged. That thing he does when he steps out, after he takes a ball, and goes forward, it’s a mental preparation for him to get to the next pitch, that’s why he does it.”
Gifted as he is with a bat in his hands, Soto’s been putting in a lot of work with the glove on, and it paid off in the series opener on Monday afternoon as he tracked Odubel Herrera’s fly ball into foul territory in left and leapt against the wall to pull the ball back into play for what was the third out of the seventh, robbing Herrera of another opportunity with a runner on in what was a 2-0 game at that point.
*adds "reach into stands to make incredible leaping catch" to list of Juan Soto things* pic.twitter.com/0tVxtkSLM5— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 11, 2018
“Yeah, I think that’s the best play I’ve made,” Soto told MASN’s Kolko.
“I keep working every day, come out and keep working with [third base and outfield coach] Bobby [Henley] and he tries to help me the most he can.”
With just one game off since July 4th and two doubleheaders in four days, how’s he holding up?
Soto was asked if he’s tired still playing this far into the season for the first time?
“Not at all, not at all,” he said. “I just have to sleep and come back again.”