Soto on NL batting title: "It feels really good"

Juan Soto won the 2020 National League batting title on the last day of the season after going 1-for-1 with a walk in the Nationals' 15-5 trouncing of the Mets at Nats Park Sunday.

"Outstanding," said manager Davey Martinez of the accomplishment during the postgame Zoom video session. "Not only a batting champ, but I think he's one of the youngest in over 100 years. What can we say about Juan Soto. He comes every day ready to play, not just hitting but his defense, his baserunning, everything. He's just keeps growing every day. Congratulations to him and what he's done. Unbelievable accomplishment."

Soto walked in his first at-bat, and then singled in the second inning off Mets starter Seth Lugo. The right fielder was replaced by pinch-hitter Jake Noll in the third. Martinez knew what was at stake, and did not want to chance Soto not getting to keep the title.

Soto-HR-Swing-White-NLDS-Sidebar.jpg"I had pulled up all the stats of what was going on," Martinez said. "I kind of knew where he was at. So we kept an eye on what was going on throughout the league. I told him we knew what the situation was. I said, 'You did your job. You got the base hit. Let's see how it plays out. You were tremendous this year. I appreciate everything that you have done. Let's get ready for next year.'"

1-for-1 with a walk Sunday means Soto ends the season hitting .351. Braves' first baseman Freddie Freeman finished second, going 1-for-4 with a .341 batting average.

"I feel really happy," Soto said. "I just thank God for everything. I just feel really amazing all the job we done this year. You just feel really good, the hitting coach, everybody was happy with me. I'm glad it just happened."

In 47 games, Soto was the major league leader in slugging percentage (.695), on-base percentage (.490), and OPS (1.185). He is the first player with at least 195 plate appearances in a season to be ranked No. 1 in all three of those categories since slugger Barry Bonds did it in 2004.

Of course, this is for 60 games and not 162, but still a tremendous run, especially considering Soto did this after missing the first 13 games of the season due to COVID-19 protocols. His first game was Aug. 5.

"It was always considered a 2020 championship season," Martinez said. "For me, Juan did everything he could. He ended up leading the league in hitting, and rightfully so, and he deserves every accolade that he gets. He really does. It's not easy. There are a lot of good players in this league. For what he did and what he went through, even in the beginning of the year starting off the way he did. Man, what an incredible 60 games he had."

Soto said those first two weeks at home as he waited it out on the COVID-19 injured list was tough. Tough as he watched the games on television and wished he was battling with his teammates on the field.

"For me, at that moment I feel really bad about being just at home seeing how the guys started a little slow," Soto said. "I just feel bad for me (not being) there. I just tried to keep my body in shape, and keep it in shape because when I come back I want to play right away. That is why I was tracking the pitches on TV. It was a hard time but I was going to come back ready to go."

He came back and was red-hot in August, batting .367 with 11 homers and 25 RBIs. In Soto's final six games of the season, he hit .400, going 6-for-15 with two doubles, two homers and five RBIs.

"It was different because we just played 60 games and I didn't get to play all the 60 games," Soto said. "You feel good about it because you see how consistent you got to be to win it. That means you got to be consistent the whole two months. It just feels good. I never win one in 160 games (so) I couldn't tell you if it feels the same, but it feels really good, this one."

Soto is also the youngest batting champion since 1941. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Pete Reiser was the National League batting champion in 1941 at the age of 22 years, 19 days. Reiser hit .343 for the Brooklyn Dodgers and was an All-Star that season.

"You haven't seen the best of Juan," Martinez said. "He's going to continue to get better in all aspects of the game. You are talking not only about a potential MVP this year but for many, many years. He's really good and he wants to get better."

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