In his second season in the majors in 2019, Juan Soto went just 3 for 20 (.188/.364/.188) with five walks and five Ks with the bases loaded, probably the only split that was not impressive for the 21-year-old Washington Nationals’ outfielder, who had a .274/.416/.488 line with men in scoring position, and a .280/.413/.538 with runners on base overall on the year.
Soto may have failed to get an extra-base hit in his 22 total plate appearances with the bases loaded last season (though he picked up 12 RBIs in those ABs), but he came through with one this afternoon, doubling off Baltimore left-hander Ty Blach to put the Nationals up 3-1 on the Orioles in the bottom of the third inning of the regional rivals’ Grapefruit League matchup in West Palm Beach, FL’s FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Howie Kendrick singled in the next at bat to drive in the Nationals’ fourth run of the game, and Soto scored on a sac fly by Asdrúbal Cabrera off new pitcher Cesar Valdez to put the home team up 5-1 after three.
Moar Soto: Soto also threw out a runner (José Iglesias) trying to stretch a fly to left into a double in the top of the fourth, taking one off the wall and firing a throw to second where Starlin Castro applied the tag.
Soto walked (for the second time today, 1 for 1, R, 2 BB) in the bottom of the fifth, but was stranded, though he did manage to steal his second base of the Spring before the inning ended.
Scherzday: In his third start of the Spring this afternoon, Max Scherzer faced the O’s after he went up against the Houston Astros in each of his first two outings.
Scherzer, 35, and coming off what he admitted was a frustrating season in which he dealt with injuries and missed time on the IL (two stints), worked around a walk, striking out two in the first inning this afternoon, then worked around a leadoff single in the second, picking up two more Ks for four total from the first eight Orioles he faced.
A one-out single, double, and sac fly in the second got the visiting team on the board, 1-0, but Scherzer held the O’s there, and was up 5-1 before he took the mound for the fourth.
Another leadoff single (on which Soto made the play described above to erase the runner) and a double in the next at bat ended Scherzer’s outing, and the runner he left on scored with Dakota Bacus on the mound when former Nats’ catcher Pedro Severino tripled to right field, 5-2, and Severino scored on an RBI single by Mason Williams in the next AB, 5-3.
Bullpen Action: Hunter Strickland gave up back-to-back, two-out singles in the top of the fifth, but stranded both runners in a scoreless frame of work.
Reasons for Concern?: Adam Eaton grounded out to second base in the bottom of the first inning, then left the field in the top of the second, replaced in right by Andrew Stevenson.
He did jog in from RF. It took place mid-AB for the leadoff hitter, José Iglesias. https://t.co/T3tOWnXwys— Christina De Nicola (@CDeNicola13) March 3, 2020
According to reports from West Palm Beach, Eaton took the field, but came out mid-AB, so he might have felt something, and thought better of continuing. Be interesting to see what if anything Davey Martinez tells reporters after the game.
Adam Eaton left today's game with a tight left hamstring. Eric Thames has been dealing with a tight left calf, but Nats skipper Davey Martinez expectz Thames to return to game action this weekend.— Pete Kerzel (@masnPete) March 3, 2020
MAT TOO?: Michael A. Taylor made a leaping catch at the wall in the sixth, robbing Hanser Alberto of extra bases with two runners on in what was a 5-3 game at the time. Taylor didn’t get up right away, but he was able to run off the field in the end, so hopefully he’s okay.
Taylor stayed in to hit, striking out in the bottom of the sixth, and he exited the game at that point, with Emilio Bonifacio taking over in center field.
More Bullpen Action: Kyle Finnegan worked a scoreless seventh, retiring the O’s in order, and James Bourque struck out two of the three batters he faced in a 1-2-3 eighth to keep things 5-3 in the Nationals’ favor.
Carter Kieboom connected for his second hit of the day after coming on as a replacement in the sixth. Asdrúbal Cabrera got the start at third this afternoon, FWIW.
After the Nationals failed to add to their lead in the bottom of the eighth, lefty Sam Freeman took over on the mound and retired the Orioles in order to end it. Final Score: 5-3 Nationals.