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Washington Nationals’ lineup for 1st of 4 with the Cincinnati Reds

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Washington and Cincinnati start a four-game set in Great American Ball Park coming off the Nationals’ series win in Miami’s loanDepot park.

Syndication: Cincinnati Kareem Elgazzar

Juan Soto went 3 for 3 with a double, home run, walk, single, and intentional base on balls in his five plate appearances in the series finale with the Miami Marlins in loanDepot park.

Soto finished the night ranked first in the NL in AVG (.321), OBP (.466), and walks (130), and second in OPS (1.010), fWAR (6.1), wOBA (.424), wRC+ (165), and runs scored (104), so yeah, a player like that probably deserves some consideration in the NL MVP race.

“I’ve said it before, he should be considered, absolutely,” Davey Martinez told reporters when the Nationals’ manager spoke to reporters following the club’s 7-5 win in Miami.

Even on a team that’s been out of the postseason race for a few months now?

“He’s a player that’s having an unbelievable year, it’s not if you see — it’s the most valuable player, it’s one player.

“For me, Juan should have consideration of being that MVP. He’s had a phenomenal year.

“He’s chasing a batting title, but what he’s done and what he’s meant to this team, as you know, he carries this team day in and day out, so he means a lot to this club.”

Reaching base in all five of his plate appearances last night is just the latest example of how locked in Soto is at this point.

“Like I said, he’s got great at-bats, he’s taking his walks,” Martinez said, “... they intentionally walked him, but he’s putting up great at-bats, getting the ball in the strike zone, and hitting it hard.”

What stands out for Martinez about what the 22-year-old is doing at the plate right now?

“You know, it’s funny because that’s who he is,” the fourth-year skipper said, “and I’ve seen him now for three years, continue to do the same thing over and over, and he’s actually getting better, which is scary. He just — he knows the balls he wants to swing at, he’s ready to hit them, and when he gets them, he smokes them.”

Soto, in his own post game Zoom call last night, was asked what about his numbers this year stands out for him?

“I told our first base coach [Randy Knorr] the other day, he was like, “What is the best thing you want to get done?’

“And I said, ‘When I get my OPS over 1.000. I think that’s going to be great for me,’ and I think that’s what I’m more proud of and I’m finally there, so I just got to keep it there.”

Why OPS?

“You want to be good in all kind of places that you are, even defense, running, hitting, if you have a couple things in hitting, it’s better, so that’s one of the things I’m liking,” Soto said.

His manager said he’s getting better. What does Soto think he’s improved on since 2020’s 60-game campaign, which ended with an NL Batting title for the then-21-year-old slugger?

“Just to keep myself tight and don’t lose it because of all the walks and everything,” he said.

“Just try to keep myself locked in and never think they’re going to walk you every time. So just stay there, stay positive, and stay ready to swing any time in every at-bat, that’s one of the things I learned most. Because last year, I learned how to don’t try chase the pitches outside of the zone. This year it’s just trying to stay in my zone, try to stay locked in, and ready to swing every time, and not give up easy strikes.”

And what does he make of the MVP talk?

“It feels really good, like I said, after that slow start and then just come from the bottom and come all the way up, it feels great,” Soto said.

“We’re going to see at the end of the day how it goes.”

HERE’S THE NATIONALS’ LINEUP FOR THE 1ST OF 4 WITH THE REDS: