Atlanta Braves’ reliever Richard Rodríguez throws 87.1% four-seam fastballs, and the two-pitch pitcher mixes in 12.9% sliders, so there’s not much mystery when you’re facing the right-hander, but if you can eliminate the slider it makes it a little easier.
Washington Nationals’ slugger Juan Soto stepped in against Rodríguez with the score tied at 2-2 in the seventh inning last night, and took a 94 MPH fastball down low in the zone for what was called a strike, but when the next pitch was in the zone as well, up and in, he flat out crushed it, hitting a 432-foot, go-ahead home run to right field for his 25th HR this year and a 3-2 lead in what ended up a 4-2 win.
As Soto explained after the game, in spite of the fact that he doesn’t get too many pitches in the zone these days, he wasn’t surprised by what he got from Rodríguez.
“I was ready for it,” Soto said. “I know that guy likes to throw the fastball a lot, and he threw a slider against Alcides [Escobar], and it was really bad, so I knew he wasn’t going to try to throw me any offspeed, so I just was ready for the fastball the whole at bat.”
A night after he was hit by a pitch late in the game by old rival Will Smith, and a few innings after the Nationals responded with a hit-by-pitch on Freddie Freeman, Soto let his bat do all the talking for him.
“It feels really good, you know, it was impressive how far it [went], but it feels really [good],” Soto said after going 2 for 5 with the homer and a single in the win. “Just get the lead and try to come back in a game like that where we don’t get two hits until the sixth inning, seventh inning, it just feels good, and to be back and fight and win the game, it was just amazing.”
“He just goes up there, like I’ve said, he’s a really good hitter,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters after the game. “He got a ball out over the plate today and smoked it, but he just wants to play the game. Didn’t really say much last night about anything, he was just ready to play today.”
And he’ll be ready to play tonight, in the finale with the Braves in Truist Park.