Juan Soto, on the way to his 2020 NL batting title, grounded into one double play over 47 games and 196 plate appearances.
Back in 2019, the then-20-year-old slugger hit into just 10 double plays over 150 games and 659 PAs.
In 2018, it was nine in 116 games and 494 PAs.
Through 55 games and 229 PAs before Friday’s game against the New York Mets, Soto had already hit into 10 double plays on the season in 2021, tied for third in the majors in GIDPs.
“He’s been going through stretches where he smokes balls but they’re on the ground,” his manager, Davey Martinez, said after a 1 for 4 day for Soto at the plate in Wednesday’s game, which saw the outfielder send a grounder back to the mound to start an inning-ending 1-6-3 in his first at bat, “and they’re all over 100 MPH, and — but we try to tell him just stay through the ball a little longer, try to stay up the middle, use the left side of the field and you’ll start driving the ball. So like I said, hopefully that hit that he had there, which was huge for us, helps him understand that, hey, he can do it.
“He’s done it before, and he needs to get back to just staying through the middle and using the whole field.”
The hit the manager was referring to was a two-out single to left for Soto’s only hit of the day, which kept the inning alive for Josh Bell, who followed with a two-run home run that put Washington up 3-0 in what ended up a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Martinez said he’d like to see more of that from the now-22-year-old slugger.
“Absolutely. He’s really good at that and we need him to take advantage of it,” Martinez told reporters of the opposite field hit. “I mean, he can hit the ball hard anywhere. He needs to stay behind the baseball, we talk about that a lot with him and hopefully that hit right there will get him back to where he needs to be. He’s an important part of our offense, a big part of our offense, so we got to get him going, but I think that right there will help him a lot, knowing that he can stay behind the baseball and just shoot it the other way.”
Davey “On Brand” Martinez:
This weekend’s series with the Mets is a big one, even Nationals’ closer Brad Hand said so in his post game Zoom call with reporters after Wednesday’s game. “You don’t talk about it,” Hand said, “but everybody knows it, the Mets are coming to town.” But try as they might, no one’s going to get Davey Martinez to think about anything other than the game at hand and going 1-0 every day.
Given where the Nationals are in the season, and the standings, a reporter asked before the start of the four-game series with the Mets, how does the manager look at the series?
“We got to just focus on today, and that’s been my message,” Martinez said. “Let’s go 1-0 today, win today, we got two more games, we got a doubleheader tomorrow, but we got to win today, focus on today, I’m not going to worry about a whole series when we got to go out there and play and win today.”
But a few weeks back, with the team struggling to get any sort of a run going, in the third month of the season, Martinez said it was “go-time” for his team.
With a stretch of 11 games with their division opponents coming up, it’s really go-time now though, right?
“We got to focus on today,” Martinez responded. “We are playing teams now where we can gain some ground, absolutely, but if we start getting ahead of ourselves, we miss what we really want to accomplish, and that’s to go 1-0 today.
“And we need to go 1-0 today,” he continued.
“You can’t worry about tomorrow until you finish today’s game, so like I said, my focus is — as we always do — is to go 1-0 today, compete today, win today, and then we’ll move on to tomorrow.”
But what about a day like today, when you have a doubleheader? Is it “Go 2-0 today?”
“No, we go 1-0 and win the first one, always nice to win the first one going into the second one.
“2-0 would be nice though.”
Quick Hits - Roster Updates Galore:
Before the start of this weekend’s four-game series with the Mets, the Nationals made a few roster moves:
· Returned infielder Starlin Castro from the Restricted List
· Reinstated right-handed pitcher Austin Voth from the 10-day Injured List
· Placed outfielder Andrew Stevenson on the 10-day Injured List (retroactive to June 17) with an oblique strain
· Optioned right-handed pitcher Ryne Harper to Triple-A Rochester
· Right-handed pitcher Rogelio Armenteros cleared outright waivers and he has been assigned outright to Triple-A Rochester
Castro was on the Restricted List dealing with family issues, but he returned after just a few days.
“Starlin got back this morning,” Martinez said on Friday afternoon. “I talked to him on the phone, he got reinstated, and he feels good. I wanted to give him a day to get back in that baseball mentality, take some ground balls, take some BP, and he’ll be available off the bench for us today and he’ll play tomorrow. But he’s back and we didn’t talk much about anything else but the fact that he’s back and he’s ready to go.”
After dealing with whatever issues he had to deal with, was the veteran infielder in a good place upon returning to the team?
“I’m going to keep an eye on him today and watch him, and see how he’s doing,” Martinez said.
“Especially mentally, and I’m sure I’ll have another conversation with him today, just to see how he’s doing.”
Austin Voth was reinstated after getting hit in the face by a pitch during the Nationals’ series with the Philadelphia Phillies in Citizens Bank Park. He came back with jokes too:
Austin Voth with one of the best quotes of the year, while discussing his broken nose: “I’m still pretty good looking, I feel like.”— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) June 18, 2021
Any concerns that Voth will have a hard time back on the mound after taking such a brutal ball to the face, though he was at the plate at the time he got hit?
“We did some comebackers with him the other day just to make sure that he was okay with it and he was fine,” Martinez said. “Right now he said he feels good, there’s no limitations.
“Obviously we talked about him hitting, so I said hopefully we won’t get to that point, ‘We need you to pitch,’ so, but he says he feels good, there’s no issues, and he’s ready to go.”
Andrew Stevenson is 7 for 20 with a home run and two walks in pinch hit appearances this season, coming off the bench for the Nationals, but he tweaked his oblique this week, and ended up on the IL on Friday.
“He felt it on his pinch hit, on his swing, so he got an MRI and he has a right oblique strain,” Martinez said. “Those injuries are tough. He’s on the IL. He’s going to get 10 days, for sure, and then we’ll reevaluate after that.”
And the decision to send Ryne Harper down?
“We got a doubleheader tomorrow, “ Martinez explained. “We need some length. Jefry [Rodríguez] gives us that length. Justin [Miller] has been throwing the ball — like I said, Justin has been throwing the ball really well down in Triple-A.
“So we opted just to send Ryne back and keep Miller.”