Even with a tweaked calf muscle, Juan Soto can still strike fear into an opposing dugout.
The Washington Nationals’ superstar right fielder was missing from the starting lineup of Monday’s 3-2, 10-inning loss to Miami after an early exit from Sunday’s game.
Soto felt some tightness in his right leg after third-inning throw to home and more after a fourth-inning rundown and was lifted as a precaution.
But he told reporters before Monday’s July 4 matinee against Miami that an MRI was clean, and he was expecting to rest for a day or two.
“We monitored him really closely, and he went and hit in the cage, he said he felt good enough to hit, but he couldn’t run,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters.
But with the game tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Martinez felt Soto was healthy enough to go to the plate with one out, Keibert Ruiz on first base, and Luis García on second.
“It’s first and second, he gave us the best available opportunity,” Martinez said.
With 15 homers and an .833 OPS despite his .226 average, Soto was still fearsome enough that the Marlins wanted nothing to do with him.
With right-hander Zach Pop just into the game for Ruiz and required to stay in by the three-hitter rule, the Marlins did pitch to Soto, but all four pitches were low.
After taking first base, Soto left for pinch runner Alcides Escobar.
“I was actually hoping for a Kirk Gibson. But he stayed within himself and walked,” said Martinez.
With a chance to break the game open and the top of the order due, the tension at Nationals Park reached its peak, but Lane Thomas and Josh Bell could not come through this time.
Thomas popped out on the first pitch on a play where catcher Nick Fort apparently never saw the high pop into in foul territory until just before making the catch in front of the screen behind home plate.
Bell worked a 3-1 count before just missing on a sinker low in the zone, popping it to shallow left, where Billy Hamilton made the play to get the Marlins out of the inning with the score tied.
With the Nationals headed to Philadelphia for three games, Martinez was unsure when Soto would return to the starting lineup.
“With him, it’s going to be day-to-day,” Martinez said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”