Nats win on the power and batting eye of Juan Soto; Bryan Harper saves!

Photo by John Caulfield for TalkNats

This game was all about a glimpse into the future for the Nationals. Their top-2 prospects were front and center with Victor Robles and Juan Soto. The Nats silenced the crowd at Joker Marchant Stadium today in Lakeland, Florida with a come-from-behind 5-to-4 win. It was the 19-year-old Juan Soto who had the booming oppo double onto the warning track with 2-men on-base to push the score to a 3-to-2 deficit. The Nats tied the score on a wild pitch then Juan Soto scored on a Chris Dominguez single and tallied the final run of the day on a bases loaded walk that featured a big bat flip!

What did the boss think of the walk? Dave Martinez was more impressed with the walk than the double.

“I really was [impressed],” Martinez said. “That’s a big moment. He was laying off tough pitches. That’s pretty impressive.”

How many 19-year-olds, scratch that, how many veteran players on a big stage would have been swinging for a grand slam in that spot? Soto was patient and worked the walk. That RBI turned out to be the eventual game winner.

A bat flip on a walk shows some youthful exuberance for sure. Maybe if it was bases loaded for a walk-off you can get away with it.

We asked Juan Soto if he had ever done a bat flip before and he said that was his first one. The moment kind of got the best of him. He seemed to be having fun and he said in Spanish which we translated, “clearly I was”.

These young prospects sure seem to embrace, “Make Baseball Fun Again”, and the young man who coined that phrase hopefully saw his brother, Bryan Harper, get the save in this game. It was not easy as he had a 2-run lead and a guy named Gerber hit a solo home run off of him then Pete Kozma singled with 2-outs, but Harper got the last out and preserved the win.

Kozma who was formerly known by many expletives in Nats lore as well as Pete Cosmos by ex-Nats manager Davey Johnson back in 2012, and this time there was a different ending for the Nats as Bryan Harper bent but did not break as he stranded Kozma on 1st base to get the Nats back on the bus with a Curly W.

This was a hard game to judge as both teams went with mostly Triple-A and bench players. Spencer Kieboom continues to hit and had one more single with a walk to raise his batting average to .375. Kieboom was another off-season recipient of some one-on-one batting instruction from Nats hitting coach Kevin Long.  Whatever advice Kieboom received, it seems to be working. In addition, Kieboom is showing he can play 1st base along with catcher which has increased his value to this team.

Of the pitchers, Trevor Gott looked strong today. His herky jerky delivery plus some increased velo (97 mph) has helped him keep batters off-balance and disrupt timing. He threw two more scoreless innings with 2 K’s and has maintained his 0.00 as Austin Adams has done as well. Enny Romero continues to struggle and got knocked around in his inning of work giving up 2 runs.

The Nats accumulated 10 hits today to go with 7 walks. The running game for the Nats was not good and three more victims succumbed to gaffes as they had a caught stealing for Moises Sierra and an embarrassing pick-off at 1st base where Brian Goodwin was nabbed by the catcher as he was about 20 feet off the base and Andrew Stevenson was picked-off 1st base by a lefty pitcher.

Another player who has looked good this spring is Andrew Stevenson as he got another hit today but continues to flail at lefty pitching and is looking like a platoon bat — and there is nothing wrong with that. While Victor Robles was a tough-luck 0-for-3 today, he sure did flash the leather on a great shoestring catch and he got to show-off his arm on that play as he almost doubled-off the runner at 1st base.

“[Juan Soto and I have] always talked about [playing together],” Victor Robles said through interpreter Octavio Martinez. “We’ve always said, ‘In three or four years, if we keep doing our thing, we’ll be up there together, side by side.’ We do talk about that a lot.”

The Nats also cutdown a runner at the plate to save Edwin Jackson‘s outing on a relay from Brian Goodwin to Reid Brignac to Pedro Severino.

All in all it was good to see the prospects step up, and Matt Adams was the most veteran roster player who was in the line-up and he went 1-for-3 which lowered his batting average to a cool .350 and a 1.031 OPS.

Tomorrow’s game against the New York Mets will be a televised evening game at 7:05pm. Zack Wheeler is the projected starter for the Mets, and the Nats have not announced their starter yet.

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