Juan Soto, the only player in the majors with more walks than strikeouts this season, took a two-out free pass from Philadelphia Phillies’ starter Aaron Nola in his first plate appearance of the day on Thursday afternoon, adding to his league-leading total of 106 walks, and Soto connected for hits (one of them a home run) in each of his next three trips to the plate (3 for 3, HR, BB, 4 RBIs to that point) on a rare day when the Washington Nationals’ outfielder got some pitches to hit.
Since he doesn’t get a lot of pitches in the zone, and refuses (for the most part) to chase, Soto, 22, takes a lot of walks. How does he stay locked in and prepared to hit the rare pitch he gets in the zone that he can barrel up?
“Just be ready,” Soto said after the Nationals’ 7-6 loss in the finale with the Phillies.
“Just keep being ready, every time they throw me, every pitch, it doesn’t matter what it is,” he said. “Just stay ready and stay locked in. At the beginning of the second half, sometimes I’d get [to] the plate and I was thinking they were going to walk me and they don’t, they were throwing it right at me, and I wasn’t ready for it. Now, I just try to stay ready, stay locked in, it don’t matter if they walk me, just be ready to swing every time.”
“Juan Soto is a special individual,” bench coach Tim Bogar said, after filling in for manager Davey Martinez on Thursday. “Honestly, I’m not going to say anything that you guys don’t know, but when we watch it day in and day out, for him to be as patient as he is and then when he gets a pitch to hit, he doesn’t miss it, especially in big situations, he had the two-run RBI single which was really impressive to me. The home run, obviously, that’s Juan, but there’s not many guys in the game that can do what he does consistently. He comes to the ballpark every night knowing he’s getting 2-3 pitches in four or five at bats, that’s it.
“So for him to continue to do it night in and night out and not go away from his plan, it’s impressive in that fact.”
Soto’s three-hit game left him with a .302/.446/.517 line, 16 doubles, a triple, 23 home runs, 106 walks, and 78 Ks on the season. Is there a frustrating aspect to continuing to have that success at the plate on a team that fell to 22 games under .500 with their fifth straight loss?
”It’s pretty tough, I’m the kind of guy that likes to win, but it is what it is,” Soto said.
“We’ve been trying so hard, I know those guys, they’re trying, those pitchers are trying, it just doesn’t go our way.”
Will it go the Nationals’ way in the first of ... five (?) with the New York Mets over the holiday weekend?