WASHINGTON -- As his team prepared for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on Sunday, Nats manager Dave Martinez was asked about the importance of staking an early lead against the Dodgers.
“We want to come out and score first every game,” Martinez said. “When we do that, we put a lot of pressure on the other team. So our focus is always to try to get ahead early in the game and stay ahead.”
Hours later, the Nationals achieved that goal behind 20-year-old Juan Soto’s first postseason home run, a two-run shot off left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu that gave Washington a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
The Nats, however, fell 10-4 to the Dodgers and are on the brink of elimination.
After a walk by Adam Eaton, Soto crushed a high fastball from Ryu 408 feet to straightaway center field.
At 20 years, 346 days old, Soto is the sixth-youngest player to homer in a postseason game, joining Andruw Jones, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Miguel Cabrera and Ronald Acuña Jr.
"For me, I was being patient and concentrating on seeing the ball really well," Soto said. "I tried to get a base hit to the middle. It was another lefty. I’ve been facing a lot of lefties in this series. I just tried to stay tight and hit it to the middle."
Soto entered Sunday only 2-for-12 over his first three postseason games, but went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored on Sunday night. He also delivered the decisive hit in Tuesday’s NL Wild Card Game against the Brewers. His bases-loaded single off Josh Hader scored two runs in the eighth inning and helped the Nationals rally for a thrilling 4-3 win.