Soto homers vs. Cole; 4th dinger of postseason

Rookie slugger provides Nationals' lone run in Game 5 loss

October 28th, 2019

WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Dave Martinez joked Friday that he hopes hits as well at age 21 as he hit at 20.

Martinez shouldn’t worry. Soto will do just that.

But Martinez must hope that Soto’s teammates swing the bats better in Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday night in Houston. Soto, who turned 21 on Friday, hit a solo home run to left field in the seventh inning Sunday night in a 7-1 loss to Houston in Game 5, which handed the Astros a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

It was Soto’s fourth homer of the postseason, and his first since turning 21. He entered Game 5 hitless in his last eight at-bats, which qualifies as a lengthy drought for the rising star. Soto singled to right field in the second inning and lined out to center field in the fourth before hitting a 2-2 fastball off Gerrit Cole in the seventh.

Cole’s fastball was clocked at 98.7 mph, according to Statcast. It was Soto’s third homer this season on a pitch thrown 98 mph or harder, more than any other big leaguer. It was Soto’s third extra-base hit in six plate appearances against Cole in the series. Only one other player had three extra-base hits against Cole all season (Texas’ Joey Gallo had three in 12 plate appearances).

"I think I see the ball really well against him,” Soto said. “I know he's a really good pitcher. He’s got really nasty stuff. I just feel like I see the ball really well against him."

Nobody else saw the ball well against Cole. He struck out nine and allowed three hits and one run in seven innings. The Nats scored just one run in each of the three games at Nationals Park. It is the first World Series under the current 2-3-2 format in which the team hosting the middle three games scored one or fewer runs in each of those three contests.

"I don't know,” Soto said when asked for an explanation about the offense’s struggles. “They've been doing the same thing. They've been throwing a little bit more offspeed. Some guys hit it really hard and right in front of somebody. We got a lot of hard hits. We just can't find the hole. But we're going to keep swinging."