HR Derby tuneup? Soto homers twice in DH

July 14th, 2022

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto extended his hitting streak to a current league-best 15 games in true Soto fashion: with a pair of home runs in Wednesday's doubleheader against the Mariners.

Soto went yard in each game of the doubleheader at Nationals Park against the Mariners, collecting his 18th and 19th home runs of the season.

“I’ve been working a lot on my swing,” Soto said. “It’s getting better. It’s feeling better. Whenever I start hitting the ball that way, it seems kind of good and I think that’s all I need.”

Soto attempted to spark a late-game comeback with a two-out three-run home run in the ninth inning of Game 1. The Statcast-projected 395-foot dinger to left-center field off right-hander Penn Murfee brought the Nats within two in an eventual 6-4 loss.

Hours later, Soto rocked Nationals Park with a 444-foot smash that soared out to right-center field with an exit velocity of 112.3 mph in the ninth inning. The solo shot against righty Paul Sewald provided the Nats their lone run of the nightcap in a 2-1 defeat.

Both of Soto’s hits in the two-game Interleague series were homers. He concluded the doubleheader 2-for-6 with two runs scored, four RBIs, three walks and zero strikeouts.

“He’s getting back early,” said manager Dave Martinez. “He’s not jumping at the ball. He’s staying through the baseball. Everything that we know that he’s done in the past, he’s doing that right now. Now, you’re starting to see the results of what he can do when he stays behind the ball.”

Soto is batting .400 (20-for-50) with 16 runs, four doubles, five home runs and 10 RBIs during his career-best hitting streak. Still channeling his plate discipline, the 23-year-old has also drawn 16 walks in that stretch. In doing so, Soto has reached base in a career-high 22 straight games.

“He doesn’t seem like he’s swinging hard when he hits the ball,” said Martinez. “It’s very fluid. I love it when he’s in that spot, so hopefully we can continue to keep him there. When he gets pitched to, right now, he’s hitting the ball really hard.”

Last year, Soto heated up following his participation in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby at Coors Field in Denver. This season, the two-time All-Star is heading into the competition at 8 p.m. ET on Monday at Dodger Stadium already on a tear. His 19 home runs far exceed his 11 first-half dingers from 2021, a season in which he hit 18 in the second half.

Before traveling to Los Angeles for the festivities, Soto and the Nationals will face the Braves in a four-game home series. Last weekend, Soto went yard in two out of three games at Truist Park, including against Thursday’s starter, Kyle Wright. Soto is slashing .391/.563/.783 with a 1.345 OPS and three homers in seven contests vs. Atlanta this season.

“Whenever my swing is better, everything is better,” Soto said. “Everything falls in the spot where it needs to be, and everything just goes together.”