The Washington Nationals defeated the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. The story of the evening was Washington right-hander Anibal Sanchez, who carried a no-hit bid into the eighth inning. Yet an amusing subplot revealed itself earlier in the game, when Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas and Nationals outfielder Juan Soto engaged in a bit of good humor as it pertained to the adjustment of protective equipment.
Soto, the 20-year-old phenom, has an unusual way of taking certain pitches that involve him shuffling his feet and -- at times -- repositioning his cup. He showcased that very quirk during a pivotal at-bat in Friday's game that saw him up in the fifth inning with the bases loaded:
For those wondering, Soto talked about the origins of the so-called "Soto shuffle" during the NL Divisional Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He admitted the maneuver originated in the minor leagues as a means of getting inside the pitcher's head. He also conceded that it helps to fuel his confidence at the plate, meaning it's a multi-purpose gesture.
Anyway, back to the aforementioned at-bat. Mikolas was able to retire Soto, coercing a harmless groundout on three pitches to keep the score 1-0. Afterward, Mikolas gave a little back to Soto by adjusting his own cup on his way off the field:
Because this is baseball, you can never be certain if there's a bean-ball war brewing over mostly harmless acts. The good news, based on what Soto and Mikolas said after the game, is that it appears that won't be the case here.
Mikolas said he was "just having fun out there" and that he was just "kind of giving it back to him in a good-natured, ribbing kind of way," per MLB.com. Soto, meanwhile, seemed to take the same approach to the whole thing, saying, "for me, that's good," and "if he reacts, I don't mind. He got me out. He can do whatever he wants." You can view Soto's comments here:
Mikolas wasn't the only Cardinals pitcher who shrugged off Soto's routine. Adam Wainwright seemed largely unbothered by it too, noting that "Whatever he's got to do mentally to get into the right spot to make good swings is what he's going to do," per USA Today's Gabe Lacques.
At least for now, this appears to be the rare baseball incident where everyone has a clear mind about what happened. So long as both parties are willing to engage in the give and take, then we might have the makings of a fun, competitive series where emotions can be displayed without fear of getting hit by a pitch.