'It's unbelievable': Soto embraces fans' love after 2-HR game

May 23rd, 2024

NEW YORK -- The chants spilled from the grandstands late Wednesday night, after had sliced his second home run of the game into the left-field seats at Yankee Stadium. Hearing the syllables of his name interspersed with proclamations of “M-V-P!,” the Yankees superstar turned toward the wall and raised both hands high.

These first months in pinstripes have been a dream for Soto, and the key ingredient has been blocking out noise. No matter who is talking about what his contract and future could look like -- a daily conversation in the city at this point -- Soto has been able to focus on delivering results.

“It’s unbelievable,” Soto said after his second multihomer game as a Yankee, helping to power a 7-3 victory over the Mariners. “All I’ve got to do is turn around and they go crazy. I know it’s a lot of Dominicans; they all want me to say hi. I try to say hi to everybody, but I’ve got to be focused on the game, too.”

Aaron Judge also launched his team-leading 14th homer before Alex Verdugo added an eighth-inning shot, helping the Yanks to their American League-best 34th win. The cheers were loud for them, too, but each night has become an all-out lovefest for Soto, the adulation representing an invitation to stay long-term.

“I’m enjoying every part of it,” Soto said. “I’m having fun with it. You never know how long it’s going to be like that, so you try to enjoy every second, soak it all in and keep going.”

Wednesday’s contest marked the third time that Judge and Soto have homered in the same game as teammates, also having done so on April 24 (vs. the Athletics) and May 8 (vs. the Astros).

As they might have hoped when making the December trade to pair the sluggers, the Bombers have won all three games. Judge said that the nightly outpouring of support for Soto “gives me chills.”

“It’s incredible. I love it,” Judge said. “Just for the short time I’ve been around him, seeing him put in the work in Spring Training and getting to know him and his routine, and then to see that routine take off in the game -- it’s fun to watch. The fans are definitely loving the show that he’s putting on.”

Judge tagged Bryce Miller for a two-run homer in the first inning. Soto added a two-run shot in the third, depositing his drive into the visitors' bullpen in left-center field, then lifted a solo blast to the left-field seats in the sixth. After each homer, Soto huddled with assistant hitting coach Pat Roessler, scrutinizing the mechanics of his swing.

“It’s always good to go that way,” Soto said. “I always say, whenever I’m hitting balls that way, it means a lot for me. It tells you if my swing is going the right way.”

Soto, 25, has never had a three-homer game in the Majors, and he had a chance in the seventh with the bases loaded. Appearing to swing for the downs, Soto struck out against Cody Bolton.

“It’s in your mind,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I think he took a couple of shots at it, too. You always feel like that’s in play. There’s been a couple [of games] where you’re like, ‘It could be a special one here.’ Just a special player and a special swing.”

Confessed Soto: “I think I went too far. I got too happy with it.”

Hardly, if you ask his cheering section in the seats, or anyone in the clubhouse.

“We know who he is,” said left-hander Nestor Cortes. “He’s a guy who is going to grind out at-bats, and if you make a mistake over the plate, you’re going to pay for it. That’s exactly who he’s been this year.

“ … Watching him from across the field, you know how good he is. But once he’s on your side, the work he puts in, how young he is, and how much he cares, it’s just a different factor.”

Cortes struck out six through five scoreless innings, pitching around three hits and three walks. Cortes improved to 3-1 with a 1.12 ERA in six home starts this season.

Cal Raleigh hit a three-run homer off Luke Weaver in the eighth, but Verdugo responded with a two-run shot in the home half. Verdugo pumped his biceps as he began his trot around the bases, eyeing Soto, around whom he’d later wrap an arm as they celebrated in the dugout.

“Everyone knows how good my teammates are,” Soto said. “They’ve really made me feel comfortable in this lineup, in this clubhouse. I think they’ve been doing a great job for me.”