Soto and Dozier crushed solo homers in the fourth inning, providing Joe Ross and the bullpen enough breathing room to help the Nationals drop the Reds 3-1.
Soto hit home run No. 25 into the second deck of right field to give the Nats a 2-0 lead. It was his fourth homer in his last 10 at-bats. The 20-year-old said he has been fine-tuning his swing with the Nats hitting coach Kevin Long.
“I feel really well at the plate,” Soto said. “We’ve been working a lot on my balance and all this stuff with Kevin Long, so right now I’m seeing the ball really better and swinging the bat better.”
It was a great sign for Soto, who could not even run back to third base late Sunday afternoon when he injured his right ankle. X-rays were negative after Sunday’s game and the talented left fielder did not have his ankle wrapped when he met with reporters postgame.
“I feel really well,” Soto said after Tuesday’s win. “Yesterday, I was a little sore from when I rolled up. But right now, it feels very good. In the game, it feels really well. I put some tape on it and just play.”
Nationals manager Davey Martinez held Soto out of Monday’s 7-6 nail-biting series-opening win over the Reds. Soto begged to pinch-hit, but Martinez played it smart by keeping Soto on the bench for the whole game.
“That was awesome,” said Martinez. “Juan hits the home run, he comes over and says: ‘I told you I was fine.’ I go, ‘Thanks.’ I didn’t want him to play (Monday). I wanted to give him a break. I go, ‘OK, you can play. That can be your last day off.’ “
One batter later in the fourth inning, Dozier blasted his homer over the left field wall against Alex Wood. The second baseman saw three changeups from Wood in his first at-bat, when he rolled over a grounder to third base. So in his second at-bat, Dozier fouled off the changeup and finally connected on a 2-2 knuckle curve.
“I knew he wasn’t going to go fastball to me,” Dozier said. “He threw a bunch of good changeups to me, down and in, down and in. I kept taking ‘em pretty good. I knew he didn’t want to throw me a heater, so maybe he’d try to go to his third pitch against righties, which is a slider.
“He started me off that count with (the knuckle curve) and I took right down the middle. So he tried it again and kind of left it over the middle of the plate.”
Dozier was under the weather for two days, but still pinch-hit late against the Reds on Monday night. His last start was Friday night in New York. He was back in the starting lineup Tuesday night and delivered his 17th homer of the season.
“Everything felt good (tonight), been under the weather,” Dozier said. “All good now. Stomach’s still turning a little bit, but it’s all good. Salmonella ... body aches are gone and I’m keeping stuff inside my body longer, but headache’s good, chills are great.”