Juan Soto, Nelson Cruz, and Josh Bell went a combined 4 for 8 with four runs scored, eight RBIs, a double, and three home runs, with the three of them going back-to-back-to-back in the fifth as the Washington Nationals jumped out to an 8-1 lead, in what ended up being an 8-6 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday.
After the game, the second straight W in D.C., manager Davey Martinez talked about getting all three of his middle-of-the-order bats humming at once with Soto, Cruz, and Bell all going well right now, and watching them hit the three straight homers, he said, is just how the club planned it when they put the roster together this winter, adding Cruz to the mix.
“The ball is traveling a little bit now,” Martinez said, “and our big guys are starting to swing the bats, so it was good to see those guys hit those home runs and drive in those runs. It was big. It was a big day for us when it comes to that. During the winter when we put these guys together and we signed Nellie this is kind of what we envisioned, and now that the vision is coming true, I love it. I mean, these guys are starting to swing the bats really well.”
“In 20 games dating to May 20,” the Nationals highlighted in their pregame notes for the series finale with Milwaukee on Sunday, “Nelson Cruz is hitting .423 (30-for-71) with seven doubles, three homers, 15 RBI, eight walks, one hit by pitch, one stolen base and 12 runs scored [and] he has a .488 on-base percentage and .648 slugging percentage during this stretch.
Bell, they noted, “is hitting .333 (24-for-72) with three doubles, one triple, three homers, 14 RBI, five walks and nine runs scored in his last 19 games,” and going into Sunday’s matchup, he’d, “hit safely in 10 of his last 12 games, going 17-for-47 (.362) with six multi-hit games over this stretch.”
Soto, the Nationals wrote, “... has recorded seven RBI(s) across his last three games,” going into Sunday’s game, and, “... 9 of his last 12 hits have been extra-base hits (4 2B, 5 HR),” the club added, and he had a four-game hit streak after going 1 for 2 with two walks in the win on Saturday.
“I’ve been seeing the ball very well the last couple days,” Soto told reporters after the game.
“I’ve just been a little rushed with my swing, but I tried to be more patient today, tried to stay in my strike zone, don’t swing at the pitches that they want.
“Even those close pitches, they were fighting for it, and I know they were balls, and I just tried to stick with my strike zone.”
All three swinging hot bats up at once, as Martinez said, makes a big difference.
“It [means] everything,” Martinez explained. “Now the big thing is to get those other guys on base, right? I mean that’s part of the equation. So, and they’re doing that. Luis [García] is doing a great job. Those guys at the bottom are swinging the bats and getting on base, Lane [Thomas] and César [Hernández] are getting on base for the big guys, so everything is clicking right now, the last two days, everything was good, so let’s sustain that and keep going and try to go 1-0 tomorrow.”
Though they finished Saturday’s game with 49 home runs as a team this season (25th of 30 MLB teams), Martinez has said all season once his sluggers start hitting them they’ll come in bunches. Back-to-back-to-back blasts is probably not exactly what he meant, but it was nice to see.
“I’ve always said that those guys that hit home runs, when they do start hitting them they typically come in bunches,” Martinez reiterated, “so it’s nice to see, my biggest thing is that — like I said, they take their walks, they don’t try to do too much, and when they get pitches to hit, they hit them hard, and when they do that consistently you’ll see the ball start going out of the ballpark.”
Soto’s game started with a nine-pitch walk from lefty Eric Lauer, which his manager said was yet another good sign for the 22-year-old outfielder (who finished the day with a not-what-we’ve-come-to-expect-from-him .228/.374/.461 line on the season.
“He’s definitely seeing the ball a lot better,” Martinez said.
“That was a good at-bat. Like I said, that lefty today, he’s got good stuff. And when he worked those nine pitches like that I thought, ‘Yeah, he’s seeing the ball really well.”
“I think when you start seeing the line drives low and hard the other way, with runners in scoring position,” Bell said of Soto’s recent plate appearances, “that’s who I’ve seen the last four years that he’s been in the Show. So it’s definitely fun to watch, and I know there’s a lot more coming.”
“Yeah, definitely,” Soto said when asked if he felt more like himself in recent games. “I don’t know, it was just a different vibe today. And I feel way — much better.”
Cruz told reporters he’s enjoying hitting in-between Soto and Bell.
“Definitely two great hitters, you know, Soto and JB,” the 41-year-old, 18-year veteran said, “... and it was nice to see what we’re capable [of doing] in a single night.”
“It’s awesome,” Bell said of the offensive output on Saturday.
“It’s what we had envisioned in Spring Training. We’ve shown it at times over the last couple of months, but to put it all together there in the same inning was pretty special.”