Juan Soto went 0 for 2 with a walk against Zack Greinke last night, grounding out with a runner on second and two out the first time up against the Houston Astros’ starter, on a curveball low and away.
The second time up, the 21-year-old outfielder walked to load the bases after a six-pitch at bat, before Asdrúbal Cabrera struck out to leave them loaded.
Greinke got Soto with a 3-2 curve in their third head-to-head battle, with Soto going out of the zone and missing with a runner on first base and one out.
Will Harris threw a 90 MPH 0-2 cutter by Soto up high in his fourth plate appearance, and Astros’ closer Roberto Osuna got him looking with a 98 MPH fastball knee high and down the pipe for the final out of the game.
It was a tough night at the plate for Soto, and the Nationals as a team. Overall they were 0 for 10 with 12 left on base in the 4-1 loss.
“Tonight we were a little bit aggressive outside the strike zone,” Davey Martinez explained when asked about the Nationals’ offensive struggles.
“We took balls I thought we should hit, uncharacteristic of what we’ve been doing. Greinke got out of some jams, got opportunities early. We couldn’t capitalize.”
Asked about Anthony Rendon (1 for 5, 4 LOB) and Soto’s at bats, in particular, Martinez told reporters that their aggressive approach, which included Rendon making outs on the first pitch he saw in his second and third at bats against Greinke (after singling to end a seven-pitch at bat in the first) was not part of a concerted effort to attack the right-hander early in the count or anything.
“We want to be aggressive in the strike zone,” he reiterated. “That’s our goal. Get ready to hit, especially guys in scoring position. It just didn’t happen tonight.”
A.J. Hinch was asked if they took a different approach to Soto in Game 3 after he went 4 for 7 with two doubles, a home run, and two walks in the first two games.
“We’re pretty good, too,” Hinch noted.
“We’re going to try to adapt to him. And I think our pitchers did a good job of mixing — we didn’t stay in one area, we didn’t get him out the same way twice, really.
“He was very aggressive early, like a lot of their guys were on secondary pitches. As the game went on we had to adapt the game plan based on their aggressiveness on all of our secondary pitches. Seemed like every curveball Zack Greinke threw they were taking a swing at it. And so we started to pound them a little bit later in the game.
“So I think it was more of an endgame, cat-and-mouse approach on trying to keep [Soto] from getting the same look twice.”
Soto told reporters that the aggressiveness was just reacting to what he saw.
“We just tried to bring in the run,” he said. “I got a couple times with men on base, I just tried to drive the ball to the gaps and tried to bring them in.”
“It just happened,” Soto said of the game overall. “It’s a bad day. I think we just need to keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing. We just missed the opportunities today. Tomorrow we’re going to get a chance and we’ve got to get it done.”
With the way the Nationals bounced back when faced with adversity all season, and a 2-1 lead in the World Series, however, Soto said he was confident going into Game 4.
“We’ve been in a tough spot the whole year, so we’ve got another game tomorrow and then the next day, and that’s it.”
“I’ve forgotten about it already, ready for tomorrow,” Adam Eaton said after he went 2 for 4 with a walk in the loss.
The key to bouncing back all season, Eaton explained, was that ability to move on quickly, win or lose, and prepare for the next game.
“Short memory,” he said. “Come back and be 1-0 tomorrow, I think that’s our focus and try to figure out the best way to do that.”
Ryan Zimmerman (1 for 3, R, BB) said he wasn’t surprised at all that the Astros struck back after dropping the first two games of the series in Minute Maid Park.
“Yeah, they’re a really good team,” Zimmerman stated matter of factly.
“I’ve said that all along, and to win games against them we’re going to have to play good baseball, and they have, obviously, superstars all over the place, and have been one of the best teams all year. I’m proud of how we battled, gave ourselves some chances, got Zack out of there early, which is nice, made them use a lot of their bullpen guys, so that’s a positive, but obviously you want win every single game, but it’s tough to beat a team like that every single time.”