He shook his head. He then repeated his swinging motion without a bat, the motion leading him into the right field in Nationals Park. He put his hands on his hips before center-back Victor Robles took off his hat and glove and Soto started throwing.
The Nationals would continue to beat the Phillies, 9-3, and get a losing streak of eight games. Soto’s three-run homer from Zach Eflin in the second inning had allowed Washington to extend its lead early, and the Nationals’ advantage was at least three from the bottom of the fourth inning.
But there was Soto in the right field, late in the game, working on his mechanics.
“It’s just how you get better,” he said. “Even in my sleep, I made that movement so I could repeat it and take it to the game.”
Back in the second, Soto swung toward a first-pitch cutter from Eflin, and it landed on the right field seats 428 feet away. He jumped to celebrate with Maikel Franco afterwards, a sigh of relief in a tough week. He went 2 for 19 in this five-game series, lowering his batting average to .218. And his manager had called him out last Friday so as not to run out of a groundball.
Juan Soto responds to the manager’s criticism of his efforts: ‘It’s just my fault’
“It’s like a flush,” Soto said of the home run. “It’s like rinsing your mind, your body, everything. You just feel great. Your work comes through and you just feel great when you see the ball just fly like that. “
After Saturday’s loss, Soto stood by his closet with designated striker Nelson Cruz, who saw him do the same thing he did in the right field on Sunday – repeating his swing in slow motion while stopping to talk to Cruz. He sat down for a few moments before getting up and walking across his swing again.
Soto has been working on keeping his hands tight to his body so he can hit the ball to the center of the court. That approach has yielded results, but his frustration is still obvious, as when he threw the bat and helmet after striking out to finish the fifth inning or his reaction to his pop fly in the seventh.
“You never really see him in a recession, and you look up there and his [on-base-plus-slugging percentage] is over .800. He goes every game, ”said manager Dave Martinez. “But it’s the two-strike approach, all that. We’ll have to keep telling him to stay on the ball, try to hit the ball the other way – especially with guys at base.”
His teammates took up the slack Sunday as the Nationals improved to 24-46. Before Soto’s home run, Washington grabbed a 1-0 lead as Luis García doubled to open the inning and Franco singled down the left field line to score him. Yadiel Hernandez followed with a double that put two runners on for Soto’s explosion. In the fourth, César Hernández had an RBI double and Cruz went with the bases filled. In the fifth, García started with a single, and Franco blew a two-run homer to 8-3. In the seventh, Yadiel Hernandez singled to score García, who went 3 for 4 against the Phillies (36-32).
“We need Juan to be Juan,” Franco said. “I know it’s coming. Everyone gets excited. After that [homer]all [got] excited and they just wanted to keep playing hard and have good shots and do well for the team. ”
Last time-out: On the day to honor the past, today’s Nats lose as number eight in a row
How did Jackson Tetreault handle it in his second start? He allowed three runs – all unearned – in seven innings, the longest outing for a Nationals pitcher since May 4, to achieve his first major league victory.
Unlike in its debut on Tuesday, Tetreault was under control and attacking the strike zone. The only times he ran into trouble was a result of poor defense behind him. Midfielder Lane Thomas dropped a flyball on the warning lane in fourth with a runner on, putting Phillies in second and third place with one out; both runners would score. An inning later, catcher Keibert Ruiz threw the ball into the right field while trying to throw a runner out on a back-pick game with first baseman Josh Bell, who had worked frequently in recent matches; it brought another race home.
Tetreault had a fright in the seventh inning when he was hit on the left shin with a 105.7 mph hit ball by Vierling. He stumbled and walked to the ground while trying to get rid of the pain. But after Martinez and head athlete coach Paul Lessard looked at him, Tetreault remained in the game and stopped the next three batteries. After the match, he had tape on his shin.
“It’s amazing,” Tetreault said of his first win. “Hopefully there will be many, many more. Getting the first one under the belt is a really cool feeling, and being able to celebrate it with all the guys here is really cool.”
What are the latest moves on the roster? Right-hander Cory Abbott, who hit the ninth inning, was selected to Class AAA Rochester after the match. MLB teams are limited to 13 pitchers on the active list as of Monday, and the Nationals had 14 before the move. Washington could activate shortstop Alcides Escobar to fill his list spot; he spent the week retraining with Rochester after straining his right hind thigh.
On Sunday, the Nationals also requested unconditional release exemptions for supplyman Dee Strange-Gordon, which would release him to join another major league team. The Nationals appointed him to the job last week.