Juan Soto started last night’s game 2 for 7 with a home run, walk, and strikeout in his head-to-head matchups with Rich Hill in their respective careers, and a .253/.376/.481 line vs left-handed pitchers overall this season (vs a .332/.485/.540 line vs RHPs), but NY’s 41-year-old, 17-year veteran kept Soto off the basepaths and off-balance throughout their three at-bats against one another.
Coming over the top at times, dropping down to sidearm, and mixing things up against the Washington Nationals’ 22-year-old slugger, the Mets’ starter won three battles with Soto. Hill threw a 2-2 sinker by Soto in the bottom of the first, with two swinging strikes on balls in the zone, then went down and away with five consecutive pitches in the fourth and got a weak groundout, before getting the chase-averse hitter to go out of the zone on a swinging strike on a 1-1 slider off the plate outside, before popping him up to right field on a 68 MPH slider, up and in, leaving Soto 0 for 3 through six.
“He threw the ball well against Juan today, and mixed all of his pitches up. He threw a really slow curveball to him, a couple fastballs, so he kept him off-balance,” Nats’ manager Davey Martinez said after a 6-2 loss in extras, but Soto didn’t go hitless on the night, homering off Mets’ closer Edwin Díaz to spark a ninth inning rally that tied it up at 2-2.
After struggling against Hill, Soto stepped up against the hard-throwing right-hander and hit his 24th home run of the season on a 97 MPH first-pitch fastball outside, taking it out the other way for a 349-foot, opposite field blast that got the Nationals on the board before a double by Riley Adams drove in the tying run.
Soto was 0 for 4 against Díaz before stepping in, and Díaz had given up just two home runs on the season before the solo shot.
“Typical Juan,” Martinez said. “He gets up there against a pretty good pitcher, and stays on it, and drives the ball to left field and over the wall.”
Soto’s 1 for 4 night left him with a .301/.444/.522 line on the season, with 16 doubles, one triple, 24 home runs, 106 walks, and 79 Ks on the year.
What will Soto do with two games to play today?