His week began with a freak injury after he slipped in the dugout and banged his knee on the corner of the Nationals bench, sidelining him two days. When he returned, he went 0-for-14 and saw his batting average dip to an unfathomable .216. Along the way, his manager criticized him for not hustling out a double-play grounder.
So when Juan Soto took a mighty swing at the first pitch he saw from Zach Eflin in the bottom of the second Sunday afternoon and proceeded to watch the ball fly 420 feet into the second deck in right field at Nationals Park for a three-run homer, what exactly did it feel like?
“It’s like a flush,” the slugger said. “It’s like you flush your mind, your body, everything. You just feel amazing. Your work is coming through, and you just feel amazing when you see the ball flying like that.”
It was as cathartic a moment as Soto has had on a baseball field in a while. It may or may not have signaled a turning point in his disappointing season – he still wound up 1-for-5 in the Nats’ 8-3 victory over the Phillies – but it certainly energized the 23-year-old and his teammates, who have desperately needed that kind of production from their young leader.
“We need Juan to be Juan,” said Maikel Franco, who also homered during the game. “I know it’s going to come. Everybody gets excited. After that, everybody (got) excited, and they wanted to just continue to play hard and have great at-bats and do well for the team.”