In a back-and-forth game there for the taking, the Nationals needed their big hitters to come through in clutch moments and help break a season-long five-game losing streak.
The Nats came back three times Friday night to find a way to win 12-10 over the Marlins thanks in large part to their big hitters.
Down 8-4, the Nats chipped away with single runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Then Victor Robles came through with a two-run double that tied the game at 8-8 in the seventh.
But the most dramatic of their big hits Friday night was reserved for their slugging second-year left fielder Juan Soto.
With two men on, one out and the Nationals trailing 9-8 in the bottom of the eighth, Soto unloaded on a 3-1 100 mph fastball from Marlins right-hander Tayron Guerrero, sending it over the right-center field wall. The homer gave the Nats an 11-9 lead. In the next at-bat, Matt Adams extended the advantage with a solo homer and suddenly it was 12-9 Nats.
This season it has been hard for Soto to get fastballs from pitchers. But he was not surprised that Guerrero threw heaters to him.
“Yeah, he (is brought) in to throw a fastball because he got one of the harder fastballs in the league,” Soto said of Guerrero. “I just try to sit on it. He’s going to throw the fastball for a strike, so he don’t want to try with the off-speed because he wants to come back with his next pitch, so I just see the fastball and I think don’t too much with that one.”
The 29,173 at Nats Park roared their approval watching the Soto homer leave the field of play, as did Nationals manager Davey Martinez.
“It was huge, and where he hit it,” Martinez said. “That’s him. When he starts using the middle of the field, he’s really good. He’s been doing that, so he’s fine right now.”
Soto has 15 hits in his last 30 at-bats. He is on an eight-game hitting streak. He went 3-for-4 with the three-run shot, two runs and a walk.
“Swinging at strikes, using the whole field,” Martinez said. “He’s really good when he’s using the whole field, accepting his walks.”
Since his return from a stint on the injured list with back spasms, Soto said constant work with hitting coaches continues to pay off.
“Right now, I just try to come in early and work with Kevin Long and Joey Dillon,” Soto said. “They been working really hard with me, and I feel appreciated for that. I want to keep working.”
Soto was asked if he felt like his swing was too big early in the season and whether that was that leading to strikeouts.
“No, not at all. Not at all,” Soto insisted. “Sometimes that I swung too hard, but it’s normal for me. I’ve been doing that since minor leagues, so I just try to be in control and swing with control.”
What about the three separate comebacks to win?
Soto said the dugout was confident the Nats had opportunities available to them even when they were down 8-4 in the fifth inning.
“We just never give up, we just ... every time, every inning we try to fight, no matter if we down, we just try to keep going because we know we’re good,” Soto said. “So, we going to keep going, keep going, until the last out.”