In the top of the seventh with the game tied at 3-3, former Mets infielder Asdrúbal Cabrera delivered a clutch, two-out, bases loaded two-run double down the right field line to score Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon.
“I tried to hit the ball to the other side of the field and it was a fastball in,” Cabrera said of the base hit agianst his former team. “I got jammed a little bit, but it was right to the line, so that was really good.”
On the play, Soto attempted to stop rounding third base following coach Bob Henley’s late hold signal. Soto came up lame, favoring his right leg. Soto limped so badly that he could not get back to third base in time. He was tagged out to end the rally.
Soto was assisted by director of athletic training Paul Lessard and manager Davey Martinez near third base during the seventh inning stretch. He attempted to stretch out his right calf and walked toward center field. After a few steps to test the leg, Soto turned around and told Martinez he could not continue and left the game. Victor Robles replaced him in center field, with Gerardo Parra moving to left field.
More good news arrived in the clubhouse when Martinez reported that Soto’s injury was not considered serious.
“He’s got a mild (sprain). X-rays are negative,” Martinez confirmed. “So he’s going to be day-to-day. He wanted to go back out there and I was fighting him, ‘Just come out, let’s go take care of this.’ Hopefully in a day or two he’s good to go. It was his ankle. He rolled his ankle.”
Soto said his ankle was not bothering him that much after the game.
“Good. I feel a little better now,” Soto said. “Walking is getting better. I just went 100 percent running to the plate and then Bobby tried to stop me and, when I tried to stop, my ankle just rolled over. Then I just tried to go back and I can’t. I stayed there and made myself out. After that, I started feeling pinches in my ankle. But right now it’s feeling better.”
Robles blasted a two-run shot off of closer Edwin Díaz in the ninth for his 15th homer of the season. Cabrera had two hits and two RBIs, while Rendon went 4-for-5 with two runs scored.
Aníbal Sánchez lasted five innings, allowing three runs on seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts.
Besides the health of Soto, the win was critical for the Nationals to stave off a surge from the Mets in the division and wild card races, snapping a six-game skid against the Mets.
“Good win and a long, hard-fought series,” Martinez said. “It was a a lot of energy these three days. A lot of fun and you see that. Our players, they were engaged. They were in it for the three days and we came out on top today.”
The Nationals got off to another good start, tallying three unearned runs in the first inning thanks in part to some sloppy defense by the Mets. Trea Turner and Rendon singled off of Jacob deGrom. Soto walked to load the bases.
With two outs, Cabrera reached base when deGrom could not handle the throw from first baseman Pete Alonso. Two runs scored. Soto then came home and was safe when catcher Wilson Ramos dropped the ball on the tag attempt at home plate. The Nats led 3-0 after the first inning.
The Mets rallied in the second inning with three runs to tie the game off Sánchez. Joe Panik laced a run-scoring single and Jeff McNeil delivered a two-run double. The game was tied 3-3 after two innings.
The game settled in with both starters completing five innings. Then the Nats rallied with two runs in the seventh.
The bullpen, much maligned for allowing a pair of late game comebacks by the Mets, came through this time.
“I could tell you something about our bullpen against a team that’s coming in swinging the bats the way they’re swinging,” Martinez said. “To get four innings out of the bullpen today, they did a great job.”
Tanner Rainey recorded two outs in the sixth and Matt Grace (1-2) struck out pinch-hitter Luis Guillorme to end the frame. Grace allowed a double to McNeil to begin the seventh and the Mets scored a run in the frame on a Michael Conforto sacrifice fly.
But Hunter Strickland was able to notch a pair of outs, including a called third strike to the dangerous J.D. Davis. With two men on, Daniel Hudson came on to get Ramos to line out to left field and end the threat.
In the eighth, Wander Suero put together a clean 1-2-3 inning, highlighted by strikeouts of Todd Frazier and pinch-hitter Aaron Altherr.
In the ninth, closer Sean Doolittle gained some redemption following Friday’s four-run, six-hit meltdown to record his 26th save. He got McNeil to line out to right field and struck out Amed Rosario. He finished the game by inducing a groundout from Conforto. Doolittle arribved on the mound to derisive cheers from a Mets crowd that watched him implode Friday night.
This time, he got some sweet revenge.
“It made me laugh, it made me smile,” Doolittle said of the cheers from the crowd. “The fans are on me a little bit and it’s all good, I understand it. But when they do that, I had to laugh to myself. In a weird way, it relaxed me a little bit. I’m at my best when I’m able to have a little fun with it.”
The Nats return to D.C. with an important win to salvage the series, finishing 5-4 on the road trip, and relieved knowing their home run hitting 20-year-old Soto is OK.