Tonight, the 20-year-old Juan Soto added to his lore with a come-from-behind opposite field 420-foot two-run home run with two outs in the ninth inning to win this game for the Nationals over the rival Phillies. Almost the entire game, the Nationals were stymied by great defensive plays, typical baseball bad luck, and some of the Nats own ineptitude — until that fateful ninth inning! With one swing, Soto wiped the slate clean of any transgressions and took the “L” that was about to be stuck on his starter, Patrick Corbin, and turned it into a “W” for reliever Wander Suero.
The Nationals were behind in this game by the score of 3-0, and they chipped away with the rookie Victor Robles coming up big with contact that resulted in the first two runs to take the game to a 3-2 deficit into the ninth inning. The Nationals bullpen threw another collective “zero” and Sean Doolittle really earned his 20th save of the season in a hard fought ninth inning where a tailor-made doubleplay was not turned. The bullpen ERA improved to 5.95 on the season over 2-runs improved from where they were in May.
Most of the highlights in this game belonged to the Phillies for some nifty defense and most of their offense coming from Maikel Franco. The Phillies got things going on a defensive play not made by Ryan Zimmerman on a popup behind first base that was ruled a double for Rhys Hoskins and two runs scored after that in the second inning. Because this was the FOX game, Hoskins was mic’d up and was heard chuckling that he thought it was an error. Starting pitcher Patrick Corbin was not laughing as he ended up eating three earnies in his 6.0 innings of work with 6 hits, 2 walks, and 10 strikeouts. Corbin pitched better than his line would indicate. Fortunately, Corbin was not collared with the loss. The Nats pitchers kept the Phillies top three players in their lineup hitless tonight. One player who was not pleased was Bryce Harper who was 0-4 with 2 strikeouts.
Bryce Harper said a 4 letter word pic.twitter.com/Xs651buMN5
— Talk Nats ⚾ (@TalkNats2) July 14, 2019
As well as Franco played for the Phillies, in the eighth inning he allowed the Nats second run to score on an error, but give an assist to the speed of Robles who ran through first base safely beating Franco’s throw which allowed the unearned run to score. In the end, it was the little things that went in the Nats favor.
On the FOX broadcast, former manager Joe Girardi was critical of Nationals manager Dave Martinez‘s lineup as he thought Howie Kendrick should have started at first base tonight. It kind of felt like Girardi was auditioning for a manager’s spot. Everyone has an opinion, and Zimmerman had a single in the eighth inning to move Soto up to third base and he scored that second run on the Franco error.
“I can’t say enough about [Soto],” said Nationals manager Dave Martinez. “Being 20 and doing the things that he does and constantly wanting to learn more and more every day. I’m just glad that he’s on our team, I really am. The ball he hit, we told him, ‘Hey, you’ve got to get the ball up on Neris, he’s got a nasty split,’ and he got the ball up and juiced it.”
The youngest Nats player could teach some of his veteran teammates a few tricks of the trade like adjusting in the batter’s box. Soto shimmied up in the box from his normal back of the box spot to take the angle away from the Phillies closer Hector Neris‘ splitter.
“I was looking for a splitter since I got in the box,” Soto said of his approach and strategy. “I wanted to hit against him because he got me a couple times with the split. Just step two steps different. I hit all the way in the back of the box. I just put myself right in front of the box because I’m looking for the split.”
“That feels amazing when you try to help your team the most you can, and you know you’ve got a good pitcher on the mound and you’re fighting with that team — it’s all the emotions coming out.”
After the game, Neris spoke to the media after this gut-punch loss to his Phillies team.
“I threw the pitch and he got great contact with the pitch,” Neris said. “In that moment — my favorite pitch. I have to throw that pitch.”
With Soto in the front of the batter’s box, he took away most of the vertical drop and connected as if it was a hanger.
“[Neris] hung it,” Soto said. “He threw right down the middle.”
This is the third late inning home run this season by the Nationals that have crushed the Phillies, and Juan Soto has now authored two of those crushing blows and Victor Robles has the other. The Nationals are now on a 30-11 run since May 24th to move 7 games over .500. With this win coupled with last night’s shutout by the Nats, they have clinched another series win with the finale of this three game series tomorrow. After tomorrow’s afternoon game, these teams will not see each other again until September.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 14, 2019