Juan Soto’s downturn usually requires some disclaimers.
The first two months of the season haven’t gone as smoothly as expected for the preseason National League MVP frontrunner, but he’s been doing well. His leading 39 walks against the Colorado Rockies on Sunday outweighed his impressive .228 batting average, and his .795 on-base and slugging percentage — albeit well below his career The .963 mark — still 33 percent above his 0.963 mark among qualifying Nationals hitters, league average and best.
However, the past two weeks have felt like a real downturn for the 23-year-old superstar. In his previous 13 games, Soto had just five hits, no two hits and zero home runs. Nationals manager Dave Martinez even moved Soto from the analytically preferred No. 2 to the third last weekend in an attempt to give the slugger a boost.
Sometimes, however, all it takes is a big swing to break a downturn. Soto broke the scare in the first inning of Washington’s 6-5 win over Colorado when he hit a two-run homer to help lead the Nationals (18-31) to their first home series win of the season.
Soto took a 2-0 slider from Rockies starter Kyle Freeland and put it on the red seat in left midfield at 399 feet. It was Soto’s first long ball since May 12. He later walked and over the wall in his first two-hit performance in 16 games and his first multiple-hit-and-a-walk game since May 5.
The bullpen nearly gave up as the Rockies scored twice in both the seventh and eighth innings after the Nationals’ offense led the pitchers 6-1. But the closer Tanner Raney hit back-to-back hitters with runs in the eighth before shutting the door in the ninth for his fifth save and Washington’s fourth in five innings. victory.
Nationals starting pitcher Josiah Gray attempted to recover from a troubling game against the Dodgers on Tuesday when he hit a home run in his second game. Rockies starting hitter Charlie Blackmon fired a high fastball into the Nationals bullpen from right field to give Colorado an early 1-0 lead.
Giving up long passes has been a problem for Gray this season, as the 24-year-old has the third-most home runs of any pitcher in the majors (13). On Tuesday, he dropped three home runs against the Dodgers — the team that traded him to Washington as part of a package to acquire Trey Turner and Max Sherzer.
But Gray settled down and was only allowed two more hits and no runs. Although his pitching numbers were inefficient due to walking four batters, Gray had just three hits and one run in five innings while striking out for his fifth win.
The Nationals scored two more points in Game 2 thanks to a three-game winning streak. The rallies started at the bottom of the order as Alcides Escobar went 0-2 in a single game, and Victor Robles took the single to midfield. Robles hit a career-high six in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubles, then stole second, Escobar after Rockies second baseman Brendan Rodgers conceded the ball Run home.
Robles then stole the third — his fourth brushed in two days — and scored on Cesar Hernandez’s single in left field. Hernandez extended his streak to nine in the win, hitting the bases with two singles and two walks in four of his five innings.
Ryan Thomas gave the Nationals a 6-1 lead after two runs in the sixth.
Relief Carl Edwards Jr. extended his scoreless streak to 11 in the sixth, but Andres Machado and Kyle Finnegan rallied in the seventh The innings and eighth struggled to bring the Rockies back into the game before Rainey shut down.
Washington starts a 10-game road trip Monday against the New York Mets before heading to Cincinnati and Miami.