Going into last night’s matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals in Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park, the Nationals highlighted in their pregame notes the fact that Juan Soto had reached base safely in 32 of 33 games going back to June 17.
Soto had a .295/.464/.562 line with five doubles, a triple, seven home runs, 32 walks, and 17 strikeouts during the 33-game stretch which took the 23-year-old, fifth-year veteran from an un-Soto-like .220/.367/.440 line on the year to .243/.399/.478.
While the average isn’t where we’ve come to expect it to be early in Soto’s career, he did lead all MLB hitters, “... with 84 walks, and [he ranked near the top of] the [NL] in on-base percentage ([tied for 5th], .399).”
Soto was 4th in wOBA in the NL (.382), 8th in wRC+ (146), 9th in OPS (.876), and 8th in K% (14.4%).
Heck of a “down” year, though, as we always note, a down year by his own high standards, is pretty darn good comparably.
Soto added three walks in the Nationals’ 7-6 win over the Cardinals last night, going 1 for 1 with a hit, the three free passes, and two runs scored as the home team evened things up with the visitors after dropping the opener of the three-game set on Friday night.
His third walk and second run scored came in the seventh, when César Hernández was hit to start the inning, followed by Soto’s walk, and Josh Bell’s big, three-run, go-ahead homer which turned a 5-4 deficit into a two-run lead, 7-5.
Manager Davey Martinez didn’t want to hear any talk of Soto and Bell potentially not being with the team in a few days when he spoke to reporters after the win.
“I’m not going to think about what’s going to happen in the next few days,” Martinez said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“I just know that today was a great win for us, and he was a big part of it.”
Bell, for his part, told FOX’s Ken Rosenthal in an on-field interview after the game, he’s just trying to stay focused on the field and enjoy hitting behind Soto for as long as he can.
He was traded from Pittsburgh to D.C. in advance of the 2021 season (in spite of what’s said in the interview), so he knows what this is all about.
“I feel like coming from the Pirates, every year there was somebody in trade discussions,” Bell said, “even through the minor leagues, so I’ve been through it before.
“I’m at my best when I just focus on myself, focus on the here and now and focus on getting ready for tomorrow.”
As for his time hitting close to Soto in the Nationals’ lineup?
“He’s 23 years old, he acts like he’s got 10 years in the league. His Chase% is the best in the game for a long, long time, you know, I feel like I’m playing behind a Hall-of-Famer-to-be. I might be older than him, but I feel like I learn a lot from him every day, and hopefully a little bit of his mojo can rub off on me.”
Do we get at least one more game with Bell and Soto in the lineup? Let’s see...