Davey Martinez talked before the doubleheader with the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday about the fact that Juan Soto hadn’t hit a home run in September to that point.
Soto was having a solid month (.306/.521/.429, six doubles, 22 walks, 11 intentional), but had not hit anything over the fence since August 31st, when he’d connected for his 10th and 11th home runs in a total of 104 plate appearances to that point.
“I always talk about when things are not going well for him, he pulls of the ball, and he’s trying too hard,” Martinez told reporters.
“I think that’s what he’s going through right now. When he hits home runs he doesn’t really try, he just goes up there and hits the ball hard.
“I want him to just go up there relaxed and stay in the middle of the field. When he’s going really good, he can hit the ball out anywhere. He needs to start staying on the ball, hit the ball to left-center field, and those will come.”
His first home run of the month came in the nightcap of the twin bill with the Phillies, when he hit a three-run blast off lefty JoJo Romero, his fifth off a lefty this season, and hit it to left-center field.
Martinez jokingly took some of the credit for inspiring his outfielder, who made the switch to right field for the first time in the majors in that game.
“It’s part of really keeping him engaged,” Martinez explained when asked about his thinking in making the change.
“We talked about it. He was all excited about it. He went out there yesterday in the second game and played and he was having a lot of fun.
“So I told him before the game, I said, ‘Right fielders hit for power, you know.’ And he goes, ‘Okay, I got you,’ and he ended up hitting a three-run homer, which was kind of nice.”
He followed up on that with a two-run home run to left field of Philly right-hander Zach Eflin in the series finale with the Phillies on Wednesday.
“He told me about right field power and he just told me now,” Soto joked after hitting his 13th HR of the year.
“I didn’t know that, but now it just feels good playing right field and I’ve been feeling good at the plate too, so you just combine that.”
While those two home runs went out to left/left-center, Soto’s spread his home runs around since making his major league debut.
Asked about his power to all fields following the 12-3 loss the Phillies on Wednesday, Soto said that (as his manager has advised), he just tries to hit the ball back up the middle, and they go where they go.
“For me it’s just try to stay through the middle, try to see the ball well, try to hit the ball deep,” Soto said.
“I don’t try to think, ‘Hit a homer to right field, hit a homer to left field,’ I just try to hit the ball hard and see where the ball goes.
“If the ball lands anywhere, I don’t mind, if it’s gone, it’s gone.”
The long-ish drought without a home run to start the month?
“In this last month they’ve been all over, they’ve been around me, they’ve been walking me and all that kind of stuff,” Soto said of how pitchers have attacked (or avoided) him.
“I feel a little lost at the beginning though, and just tried to find my place, find my spot again, and now I just feel really much better.”
Asked about his goals over the four games that were left after Wednesday’s matchup, Soto said, “I just want to finish at my highest, try to help my team, I know we don’t go anywhere, but just try to keep my at bats, and everything good.
“Try to see the new guys the Mets have right now in this new series, to check it out, check them out, because I know we’re going to face them next year, and just try to keep feeling good and finish strong.”
Soto started the night on Thursday leading all National League hitters with his .352 AVG, and had the NL’s highest SLG (.703), OBP (.486), wRC+ (201), and wOBA (.478)
His manager said that mature approach to the final games of the season is nothing new for the 22-year-old slugger.
“He’s well beyond his age, we talk about it all the time how mature he is. He doesn’t take anything for granted. He’s out there, he plays for fun, but he competes,” Martinez said.
“He wants to go out there today and go 1-0 today and beat the Mets, I know that’s his attitude.
“Let’s not forget, he’s got four days, but these four days are important for him, because I really believe that he should get many, many votes for MVP this year.”