WASHINGTON -- At this point in the season -- and in his young career -- it’s easy to take for granted just how good Juan Soto is on a daily basis. Then Soto does something to make sure nobody will forget.
In Sunday’s series finale 3-0 win over the Rockies, Soto sent a ball soaring 454 feet to center field, the third-longest home run of his career and his longest this season.
“When was the last time I hit a homer?” asked Soto. “I don't even remember the last time I hit a homer, it's been so long. You always want to hit a home run and see how far the ball lands and everything. It is pretty exciting.”
Soto’s last home run was only 10 days ago, on Sept. 8 in Atlanta. However, the young slugger may have needed his memory jogged since he has walked 10 times in between home runs. He remains the only player in the Majors with more walks (124) than strikeouts (83) this season. How does he do that?
“I’m just lucky,” Soto said with a laugh. “I just try to be patient, wait for my pitch and just try to keep taking my walks. Like I’ve said before, if they don't want to play, I just walk to first. If they want to play, then we go and play.”
Soto's 26th home run of the year gave the Nationals a little breathing room to avoid the sweep and secure their first shutout since June 18.
Soto continued the pursuit of his second consecutive batting title, sitting behind former teammate Trea Turner (.317) among NL hitters entering Sunday’s contest. The former teammates have talked about competing for the title, trying to see who is the best. For Soto, that is the fun part.
“He gives himself a chance to hit every pitch, and that's all you can ask for,” manager Dave Martinez said. “I hope that he continues to swing. I want to see him win another batting title, back-to-back. It's hard to do, but he's got a chance to do it.”
Martinez joked that he has seen the power Soto has, so a 454-foot home run doesn’t surprise him; but that is what happens when you see him play every day. For Rockies manager Bud Black, watching the young outfielder at the plate is a treat.
“It's truly remarkable,” said Black. “To possess the power, the average, solid defense, the energy, the personality. … He's special. I think the Nats realize it. He’s fun to watch, he really is. From the opposing dugout, he's one of those guys that you truly appreciate the talent and the person. He makes baseball better.”
Soto’s solo homer also marked his 100th career run, a nice round number to finish off the penultimate homestand of the season.
In the final stretch of the season, Soto has gone on an MVP-worthy run. The first-time All-Star is 20-for-40 over his last 12 games. During that stretch, he has added 10 runs.
“Everybody was going crazy, saying I'm going down [or in a slump],” said Soto, reflecting on the change he’s felt since the beginning of the season. “I just say, 'It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.' So, that's how I keep my mindset and just calm down, just keep playing baseball and just have fun. Because the number is going to be there so, just try to enjoy it day by day.”