Soto stars with 2 HRs, sparks Nats' impressive comeback

June 5th, 2022

CINCINNATI -- The kid can do it all.

The Washington Nationals faithful have been patiently waiting over the first two months of the season for young star outfielder Juan Soto to heat up, following his 29-home run campaign just a year ago.

Saturday’s performance -- in a 10-8 win over the Reds at Great American Ball Park -- which included not just two home runs at the plate, but a leaping grab on a potential home run in right field, may be the one fans look back on down the line.

“I felt pretty good,” Soto said of his multi-home run day at the plate. “I was just trying to make contact with the ball, put the ball in play, and help my team as much as I can.”

As the Reds' fourth batter of the game, first baseman Joey Votto stung an Erick Fedde cutter deep into right field. Soto tracked the ball the whole way, ran out of room at the warning track, leapt, and made the catch. It’s tough to say if the ball would have snuck over the right-field wall, but the play should be enough for fans in D.C.

It certainly was for Fedde, who battled through a frustrating first inning to last 4 2/3 innings before getting pulled.

“I’m really glad Soto made that catch,” Fedde said. “It could have made my day much worse.”

Soto’s first homer of the game came off Reds starting pitcher Tyler Mahle in the fourth inning, a majestic 423-foot blast with a 110 mph exit velocity, per Statcast, off the batter's eye in dead center field. His second, a 419-foot three-run home run off reliever Alexis Díaz in the seventh inning, was hit multiple rows up into the right-field bleachers.

More importantly, that second blast put Washington back within a run in the late innings, set up the eventual tying run in the top of the eighth inning, and set the stage for a three-run ninth inning to steal the third game of the series.

That second home run -- which started a string of seven runs for the Nationals -- shifted the energy in the visiting dugout. 

“I always tell the guys, ‘Keep the energy,’” Soto said. “I just try to bring good energy, good vibes, and whenever we do something like that, all the guys get motivated and we keep pushing together.”

It’s been a difficult season for the fifth-year pro coming off his first career All-Star Game appearance, but he has begun to heat up at the plate in the last two weeks. Soto came into Saturday’s contest slashing just .223/.370/.435, and his future with the organization had been a hot topic of discussion early in the season. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo put the rumors to rest on a radio show earlier in the week.

“For me, just the work I’ve been doing the last couple weeks has been working and [the results have] been getting better and better,” said Soto.

The home runs were Soto’s 11th and 12th long balls of the season, and they marked the 12th-career multi-home run game of his young career. Soto is rediscovering his footing at the plate, and his recent power numbers that fans have become accustomed to are proof of it.

All seven of Soto’s most recent hits have been for extra bases. He’s also homered in back-to-back contests. 

This all comes after Soto became the youngest player in Nationals history to tally 100 career long balls earlier in the season. 

“He stayed on the ball. That’s it,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said after the game. “Today he got two balls up in the zone and he drove them both. One to center field and one to right-center. That’s just who he is.”

Even Soto’s slumps at the plate don’t change the undeniable trust he has earned from his manager. 

“I don’t really worry about him,” Martinez added. “He has a good game plan every day. … He does his routine every day.”