Washington.-While Juan Soto continues to grow to become one of the biggest stars in MLB at just 22 years of age, almost all rival managers agree on one thing: avoid Soto in the most difficult situations.
On Tuesday, Soto approached the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning after four failed plate appearances, and a 0-3 count in his favor and two runners on base, with the Nationals looking to win the game they it was tied.
Soto unleashed a shrapnel to center field to give Washington a 6-5 comeback victory in what was a delayed start to the season after a COVID-19 outbreak postponed its series against the Mets. “You hate to see him in that situation,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said after the game.
There are no managers who would like to see Soto’s hitting prowess with the game on the line, even if it was Soto’s first winning hit of his career. However, it’s not just the Braves and left-handed reliever Will Smith who should fear facing such a young phenom.
“I don’t care who he’s up against, the guy is just something else. You never expect to put him in that situation, ”Snitker said.
When Soto reached the 0-3 count, he looked toward the dugout for his signal: a green light all the way. “Oh hell no,” Soto said on MASN. “I was relaxed the whole time. I’m relaxed. If you throw it right there, I’m going to hit. “
Most hitters don’t swing at 3-0. Soto is not the majority of hitters. Manager Davey Martinez said after the 6-5 win that he wants the 22-year-old phenom to always be ready to swing at 3-0 counts, because he may never have a better chance at hitting a pitch. “I’m so happy you looked at the sign,” Martinez said in a Zoom call.
“We never want him to be beaten 3-0. If he hits a good pitch, we want him to swing. I would do it. It bothered me a lot if he had missed a good pitch to hit 3-0. We want him to hit, but what a great time at bat. “
“I know Juan knows the strike zone very well, he’s going to find a good pitch to hit. He analyzes his at-bats a lot and working counts is what he does best, ”Martinez said.
Veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who joined the team this week, said he wasn’t surprised to see Soto hit a good 3-0 swing and win with a big hit.