Nationals vs. Astros: Juan Soto joins elite group while powering Nationals to World Series Game 1 victory
Only three players have ever homered at a younger age in the Fall Classic
HOUSTON - Nationals left fielder Juan Soto is becoming a household name this postseason. Make no mistake, he was already a star, but any baseball fans who tuned in for the postseason are witnessing just how special a talent he is. There was the big hit to push the Nats to a Wild Card Game win. There was the game-tying home run in Dodger Stadium off Clayton Kershaw in Game 5 of the NLDS. And now there's World Series Game 1.
In the Nationals' 5-4 win against the Astros on Tuesday night, Soto went 3 for 4 with a double, home run and three RBI. He certainly had help, but Soto was the biggest reason for the Nationals' win. He's still only 20 years old, too.
Here's his 417-foot homer in the fourth inning:
Good lord. On the train tracks to opposite field? That is just absolutely hulking power, especially.
"Last couple of days we've been working on it, tried to keep -- staying that way, hit the ball to the other way, middle of the way, try to hit the ball as deep as I can, and just hit it," Soto said afterward.
I'd say he succeeded there, no? It was also a historic blow. His manager backed him up.
"That's Juan being Juan," Dave Martinez said. "He has to hit the ball all over the field. He's really good at staying behind balls and hitting the ball left center field, left field. And he was really good tonight. He worked on it. We talked about this earlier, one night he sat in the cage and hit for a while and just wanted to work on just staying on the ball and going the other way."
There have only been four home runs (by three different players) in the World Series by someone younger player than Soto, who was 20 years and 362 days old during Game 1. The list (via Christopher Kamka on Twitter):
- Andruw Jones, 19 years and 180 days, 1996 Game 1
- Miguel Cabrera, 20 years and 187 days, 2003 Game 4
- Mickey Mantle, 20 years and 362 days, 1952 Game 6
- Mickey Mantle, 20 years and 363 days, 1952 Game 7
So Soto joins a Hall of Famer, a future Hall of Famer (Cabrera) and someone who has a Hall of Fame argument (Jones) with World Series homers before their 21st birthday. That's quite a list.
Soto already has 56 regular-season homers and this postseason he's tacked on three more. He's positioned himself to be a superstar for a long time in this game and often careers that start like this end up in the Hall of Fame.
But Soto wasn't done after his home run. In the fifth inning, he delivered the biggest blow of the game, a two-RBI double to give the Nationals a three-run lead.
A 20-year-old player on the biggest stage this sport has for the first time had that game against Cole, who had been nearly untouchable since late May. Amazing.
"Soto is really talented," Cole said. "I'm not pleased with the double. I threw him a good slider up and in, but on the next pitch I challenged him and he stayed with it. He uses the whole field, stays within himself, stays back. He's a good hitter."
Soto doesn't shrink from the big moments, as we've seen time and again this postseason. He actually rises.
"Most of the time just take a deep breath and focus," Soto said, regarding how the moment never bothers him. "It's just the pitcher and me. Everybody around, I forget about everybody around. It's just you and me and you try to make me out and that's how everything comes down and try to enjoy it."
He certainly enjoyed himself in Game 1. The Nationals now lead the World Series after they found themselves on the ropes in the Wild Card Game and in Game 5 of the NLDS. All three times, Soto came through in the clutch.
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