The Washington Nationals and Juan Soto seem to know how to handle taunts.
Atlanta fans have been on Juan Soto for the past two games with the “o-ver-RA-ted” chant and trolling the Nats with a “spontaneous” version of their “chop” chorus.
So how’s that working out?
The Nats have now won back-to-back games for the first time in nine days and Soto has homered in back-to-back games after berating Atlanta 5-3 on Wednesday night.
“I mean, every time we’re on the road I know I get a lot of stuff in right field,” Soto said after Tuesday’s game.
“They talk a lot of things down there, I just try to pay attention to the game, sometimes they just make me laugh. I don’t care what they say, I just really concentrate on the game, I just try to enjoy the game and do whatever I can, every negative comment I just try to put it out of my head and just keep my focus on the game.”
Soto was hitting .267/.387/.385 coming out of a three-game sweep by Milwaukee — not what he might be accustomed too, but nothing to be ashamed of, especially coming off a shoulder injury.
So the Atlanta crowd was all over Soto from his first at-bat on Monday, and what’s he done in the past three games?
He’s gone 5-for-8 with two home runs, six RBI and six runs scored, and his fifth-inning homer against Drew Smyly with Josh Harrison aboard gave the Nats a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning. And having homered on Tuesday, Wednesday’s blast gave him successive games with homers.
“Soto is starting to really swing the bat well, getting the ball in the air as you can see, staying in the middle of the field, which is awesome,” said Martinez after the Nats’ 5-3 win on Wednesday..
“He’s really on time, and I’m just watching where his contact point is, and it’s right where it needs to be.”
So maybe the taunts were aimed at the overachieving Nationals in general, but if they were, they had the same effect as they did on Soto — inspiring big plays. Yan Gomes gave the Nationals a clutch two-out, go-ahead homer in the eighth to make it 4-3.
“The boys, they stay locked in throughout the whole game,” said Martinez.
“Battled back,” he said. “Yan Gomes picked us up big time with the home run right there, and he’s had some good at bats as of late.”
“We pick up an extra run, Robles getting on first base, stealing, big stolen base there,” said Martinez. “Trea knocking in a run.”
Robles teamed up with Turner to manufacture the insurance run in the ninth. Robles was hit by a 3-2 pitch, stole second, and raced home on Turner’s single up the middle to make it 5-3.
Brad Hand pitched effectively for the second straight game in a sharp, 1-2-3 ninth, getting a ground ball from Ronald Acuña, Jr. on a 3-1 pitch for for his ninth save.
So after two days of heckling the Nats about the way they’re playing, the best the Atlanta fans’ team can do is try to salvage a split.
“These games have been fun,” said Martinez. “It’s been intense, but they’ve been a lot of fun, it almost felt like a playoff game, so we enjoy it.