ATLANTA -- Juan Soto set a goal for himself when he first arrived in the Majors, hoping to hit 15 home runs by the end of the season. Turns out he undersold himself.Soto hit his 20th home run of the year in Friday's 10-5 loss to the Braves, swatting a
ATLANTA -- Juan Soto set a goal for himself when he first arrived in the Majors, hoping to hit 15 home runs by the end of the season. Turns out he undersold himself.
Soto hit his 20th home run of the year in Friday's 10-5 loss to the Braves, swatting a first-pitch fastball from Kevin Gausman over the left-center-field wall for a solo home run in the fourth inning. The 20 home runs are the third most by a teenager in MLB history, as Soto trails teammate Bryce Harper (22) and Tony Conigliaro (24) for the most homers all time by a player before his 20th birthday, which Soto will not reach until Oct. 25.
"I said, 'God, please, I want 15 homers,'" Soto said. "Now I have 20. That feels pretty good."
At 19 years, 324 days, Soto became the second-youngest player in Major League history with 20 career homers, behind only Conigliaro, who was 123 days younger.
The long ball gave Soto his chance to shine Friday night in a matchup featuring the two front-runners for the National League Rookie of the Year Award -- Soto and Atlanta's Ronald Acuna Jr. Both have a legitimate argument for the award, which could be decided by their performance during the final few weeks of the season.
"You're talking about two premier young players going at it," Nats manager Dave Martinez said prior to the game. "They're both good players. Of course, I'm biased to Soto after watching him play all year, every day and what he does and what he brings to us. He's unbelievable, he really is. And I'm sure they can say the same thing about Acuna."
Soto has found himself on a hot streak as he closes out what will be one of the best seasons by a teenager in MLB history. The home run was Soto's fourth in the past four games, including a multi-homer effort on Tuesday night and a solo homer Wednesday. He has reached base safely in 19 consecutive games, becoming just the fourth teenager with as long a streak since 1920. (Mel Ott reached in 22 straight games in '28.)
On Friday night, Soto successfully traded blows with Acuna, who put on a show of his own, collecting four hits with two RBIs and finishing a homer shy of the cycle. Although Soto said he does not know Acuna personally, outside of speaking to each other across the field, he did have high praise for his peer and said he loves comparing himself against other top players.
"He's really impressive in what he does," Soto said. "I just watch him and have fun with that. I just tell him, 'Keep it up, and never give up.' Everything he does is fun. I keep watching him. He's amazing."
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.