Juan Soto took his 20th walk of the 2022 campaign in the bottom of the eighth of the finale with the Miami Marlins in D.C. last Thursday, with the score 3-2 in the visitor’s favor, and a runner in scoring position at second with two out. Soto took his free pass, but Josh Bell struck out to end the threat in the at-bat that followed.
Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez talked after what ended up being the club’s 8th-straight loss about it being one situation where he might like to see Soto be a bit more aggressive at the plate.
“Yeah, and this is something that we talked to him about,” Martinez said.
“He might only get one pitch at at-bat, or two. [It was] 2-0, and I know [Marlins’ left Richard] Bleier is tough on lefties, but we want [Soto] to be the guy to drive in those runs, or at least take a swing, but ... he stayed in the at-bat, and he worked a walk, but we want him to be a little bit more aggressive when there’s guys on base, especially guys in scoring position.”
So, constructive criticism, acknowledging that there are times when he would like to see Soto, his preternaturally gifted 23-year-old slugger, be a little more aggressive.
A teachable moment, or learning opportunity. But trying to bunt against the shift with two on and no one out? Yep. Soto did just that last night in Coors Field.
In the top of the third, nine-hole hitter Alcides Escobar singled to start the top of the inning, and he moved up on a hit-by-pitch on leadoff man Cèsar Hernàndez, bringing Soto up in an RBI spot, and he… squared to bunt on the first pitch from Rockies’ starter Gèrman Màrquez, fouling it off and falling behind 0-1 before he’d eventually strike out.
Martinez joked after what ended up a 10-2 win for his club that he considered walking back to the clubhouse and calling it quits after Soto squared to bunt.
“You know what, I don’t even know what he was thinking,” Martinez said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“When we get guys on base like that, he’s the guy we want up. I saw him square around, and honestly I thought: ‘He just wants to see a pitch.’ And then he bunted the ball, and I was like … uh, OK. …”
Luckily, Josh Bell stepped in after Soto and hit a three-run home run to pick his teammate up this time, and spark the club’s offense.
“That’s what this game’s all about,” Bell said, as quoted on MASN. “That’s why I love hitting behind [Soto].”
He gets to enjoy that privilege again in the second of three with the Rockies in Coors Field.
HERE’S THE NATS’ LINEUP FOR TONIGHT’S GAME WITH THE ROCKIES:
NOTE: Nelson Cruz is getting a night off after Davey Martinez said following the series opener in Coors Field that he’d left the game with, “a little stiffness in his back, lower back.”