'The vision's coming true': Soto, Cruz, Bell go back-to-back-to-back

June 12th, 2022

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto’s return to the Nationals’ dugout after hitting his 13th home run of the season took a little longer than usual -- for good reason. Make that two good reasons for the Nats.

“I was just taking off my gear and everything, and I just see the ball flying all over the place,” Soto recounted. “The crowd goes crazy. I just stood up on the stairs to wait for Nellie [Nelson Cruz]. Then I came back down … and Josh [Bell] just hit another one. It was just amazing. It was a great moment.”

Soto, Cruz and Bell connected on back-to-back-to-back home runs off Brewers left-hander Eric Lauer in the Nationals’ 8-6 win Saturday afternoon.

“Just feeling the atmosphere, especially doing it here on a Saturday game, it was nuts,” said Bell, who fittingly went yard on “The Unstoppable Josh Bell MARVEL Super Hero” bobblehead giveaway day. “Hearing it three times, the stadium go crazy, the ‘N-A-T-S! Nats! Nats! Nats!’ cheer and all that, it’s why we play -- for moments like that.”

The Nationals signed Cruz as a free agent and constructed their roster this winter to have power in the middle of the lineup. Saturday’s fifth-inning surge exemplified that potential. The hard-hitting trio combined for 1,198 feet of long balls. Cruz’s traveled the farthest, at a Statcast-projected 416 feet, and he also had the hardest-hit dinger at 106.7 mph.

“It’s awesome,” Bell said. “It’s what we had envisioned in Spring Training. We’ve shown it at times over the last couple of months, but to put it all together there in the same inning was pretty special.”

Manager Dave Martinez has said that with sluggers like Soto, Cruz and Bell, once they start hitting homers, they could come “in bunches.” Bell and Cruz also went yard on Friday, when Bell and Keibert Ruiz belted back-to-back homers in a series-opening victory. Cruz has homered in three of his past seven games.

“It’s nice to see,” Martinez said. “My biggest thing is that they take their walks, they don’t try to do too much and when they get pitches to hit, they hit them hard. And when they do that consistently, you’ll see the ball start going out of the ballpark.”

Lauer described his 94.2-mph fastball to Soto as “right where I wanted it,” but noted Soto knows the strike zone and was ready for it. He also noted the 88.6-mph cutter to Cruz was “just the wrong pitch,” and the 79.2-mph curveball to Bell on a 3-1 count was “a good piece of hitting.”

“Definitely two great hitters, Soto and JB,” Cruz said. “It was nice to see what we combined to do on a single night. One night it’s individual, and tonight was the whole group of three guys.”

Saturday was the fifth time in team history (2005-present) in which Washington hit at least three consecutive homers. They previously did it on on July 11, 2009, at Houston (Nick Johnson, Josh Willingham, Adam Dunn), Sept. 11, 2011, vs. the Astros (Ian Desmond, Rick Ankiel, Ryan Zimmerman), July 27, 2017, against the Brewers (Brian Goodwin, Wilmer Difo, Bryce Harper, Zimmerman) and June 9, 2019, at the Padres (Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, Anthony Rendon, Howie Kendrick).

The Nats joined the Dodgers and Twins as the third team to go back-to-back-to-back this season.

“The vision’s coming true,” Martinez said of the offseason roster building. “I love it. These guys are starting to swing the bat really well.”