Juan Soto overcomes clutch struggles with 3-run homer to spark Nationals win over Phillies

Juan Soto’s struggles with runners at the scoring position this season have gone from a blip on the radar to a worrying development.

In his first 67 games, the 23-year-old superstar is just .125 in the scoring position. In that case, Soto played 59 times and hit just one home run.

Poor crunch numbers are a big reason why this year’s National League MVP favorite, Soto, is having the worst season of his career, though it’s still a decent season compared to league-average players. In Sunday’s game against the Phillies, his .802 overrun was nearly 200 points lower than his .981 in his first four major league seasons.

One hit won’t fix Soto’s stats for runners in scoring positions, but it can help turn things around when he steps on the plate with runners on base. Maybe that was Soto’s 3-pointer in the second inning. At the very least, the 428-foot homer sparked the Nationals’ 12-and-9 hits in a 9-3 victory over the visiting Phillies.

The win ended a brutal eight-game losing streak, all of which came in eight games over seven straight days last week. The slip is the Nationals’ second eight-game drought of the season, the last time being in late April. No team in the majors has lost more than Washington’s 46, and the club’s 24-46 record is the worst in the National League.

The Washington bat’s breakout helped starter Jackson Tetreault earn his first major league win. In his second career start, Tetro didn’t need much help, as the 26-year-old right-hander threw the ice for Philadelphia’s heat in seven innings. He allowed 6 hits and 3 free runs while hitting 2.

This outing was much better than his first. Tetreault, who made his debut against the Warriors on Tuesday, had nine hits and seven hits in four innings. He is the third Nationals pitcher to complete seven innings this season.

Third baseman Maikel Franco scored the first blood for the Nationals, scoring Luis Garcia in the second inning. Garcia, the young shortstop, Martinez said earlier this week that he will continue to play every day, going 3-for-4 even after Alcides Escobar returns from the injured list , three-pointers and two-pointers. The 22-year-old former top rookie hit .360 in .507 through his first 19 games of the season after being drafted by Triple-A.

Soto then threw the first pitcher into the right field stand with a 109.6 mph exit to give the Nationals a 4-0 lead. Soto wasn’t perfect in scoring position, as he flew out twice and struck out on three other chances.

The Phillies got two runs in the fourth quarter thanks to a turnover from Nationals center fielder Ryan Thomas. His fly ball dropped on the warning runway gave Philadelphia another playable chance, with Alec Bohm’s break and Bryson Scott’s singles each cutting Washington’s lead in half. The Phillies scored the final inning one inning later, when Nationals wide receiver Keibert Ruiz’s back tried to start wide of the bag, allowing Kyle Schwarber to score.

But the Nationals got more runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Cesar Hernandez doubled home runs, Nelson Cruz hit fourth and Franco hit two in fifth long ball. Franco went 2-for-3 with a homer, a walk, two runs and three RBIs. Hernandez (3-for-4) scored Garcia in the seventh inning with an RBI single.

Carl Edwards Jr. and Cory Abbott followed Tetreault with a scoreless inning to close the door.

The Nationals got their long-awaited rest on Monday before heading to Baltimore for a two-game series against the Orioles. The rest day will be the club’s second scheduled rest day since May 20.

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