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Soto's 2 HRs go for naught after 'pen falters

Nationals take lead into the bottom of the eighth, but Rodney blows the save
@ladsonbill24
August 10, 2019

NEW YORK -- Before Saturday’s game, manager Dave Martinez said the mood in the Nationals’ clubhouse was upbeat and that his players were ready to play against the Mets. The devastating loss the night before was forgotten. “We don’t dwell on games,” Martinez said. “We come back ready to play

NEW YORK -- Before Saturday’s game, manager Dave Martinez said the mood in the Nationals’ clubhouse was upbeat and that his players were ready to play against the Mets. The devastating loss the night before was forgotten.

“We don’t dwell on games,” Martinez said. “We come back ready to play and here we are today ready to play another good opponent, Noah Syndergaard. The boys are ready.”

Box score

But that wasn’t the case for the bullpen in a 4-3 loss at Citi Field on Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd of 43,875.

The Nationals had a one-run lead going into the bottom of the eighth inning thanks to Juan Soto, who drove in all three runs with two home runs, including a go-ahead shot in the top of the frame. It was his fourth career multihomer game and his first of the season. He has hit three home runs against the Mets in this series.

“Right now I’m feeling better. When I come to the series, I come to win,” Soto said. “I try to do my best.”

But Martinez made a curious move, removing reliever Hunter Strickland from the game in favor of Fernando Rodney. Strickland had retired New York on nine pitches in the seventh, but Martinez didn’t want to give him another inning because he was still recovering from a Grade 2 lat strain.

Unfortunately, Rodney couldn’t get anybody out in the eighth. Luis Guillorme hit a pinch-hit home run to tie the score at 3.

“We fell behind, and we missed the location a little bit,” catcher Yan Gomes said. “Guillorme got a good piece of it. It’s one of those things. If you miss location, the heat of the moment comes around, those kind of things happen.”

Joe Panik then reached base on an error by Trea Turner.

“[Rodney] is our eighth-inning guy,” Martinez said. “I had all the confidence in the world in him. … He just fell behind. He was our guy in the eighth inning.”

After Jeff McNeil singled, Daniel Hudson replaced Rodney, and Hudson was able to get Amed Rosario to ground out to put runners on second and third. After Pete Alonso drew an intentional walk, J.D. Davis hit a sacrifice fly to score Panik and give the Mets a 4-3 lead.

"We've just been doing our homework,” Davis said. "[Hitting coach Chili Davis] has been giving us tips, hints and stuff where we go up to the plate and make sure we keyhole, or we look in a specific zone of how to beat the guy on the mound. I give credit to the guys. We've been having great at-bats."

The Nationals went down in order in the ninth and lost their second consecutive game to the Mets.

Martinez was quick to say that there are almost two months left in the season, and he believes in the team's current roster.

“We are playing [well]," Martinez said. “Unfortunately, the Mets came back. The boys are playing hard. Now we have to come back and face another tough opponent [on Sunday] in [Jacob] deGrom.

“But in this game, there was a lot of energy, it was electric. As you can see, one of the youngest stars in baseball is shining. That’s unbelievable the way [Soto] is going out there and playing, and he is doing well. But we have to come back tomorrow and win it.”

Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. He covered the Nationals/Expos from 2002-2016. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.