At the trade deadline, Juan Soto lost homers to the Mets

At the trade deadline, Juan Soto lost homers to the Mets

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Opinion

Juan Soto’s final at-bat Monday night was not unusual: He walked for his third free pass of the game to open the bottom of the eighth inning.

What happened next was not so typical: When Soto took his weapon down the first base line, he received a standing ovation from the fans at Nationals Park. They believed they might have seen the last time he was seen in a Washington Nationals uniform. It was the same for Josh Bell in his next at-bat.

Neither look meant much on Monday. 7-3 A loss against the New York Mets, however, could mean more at Tuesday’s 6 pm trade deadline. Soto knew — he handed his helmet to the fans before going into the dugout during a changeup later in the game.

“I’m controlling what I can control,” Soto said. “Just going out there and playing hard for the fans out there. Because like [the fans] They were saying they love me. So I love them back.”

Back in the fourth, Soto hit his 21st home run of the season – one off former teammate Max Scherzer. He took his time, turning the bases and touching home plate. The fans behind him stood and applauded a little longer as he walked to the dugout.

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Scharzer understands Soton’s situation well: He spent more than six years with Washington before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Trey Turner at the end of last year.

Scherzer’s presence on the mound was another reminder of how much the organization can change this season. Nine more innings went by Monday night, and Soto and Bell were still with the Nationals. But a lot could change in the coming hours.

At the trade deadline last year, the Nationals were 47-55. After Monday’s loss, they are 35-69 — the worst record in the majors. They are 31 games behind the Mets in first place in the National League East.

Soto and Bell got to Scherzer in the first round — with the help of some poor defense. Soto worked a full count, two-out walk, then Bell doubled down the right field line. At first, it looked like he was going to put runners on second and third, but right fielder Stalling Marte threw the ball to second – in the absence of his teammate. Soto stole home and Bell advanced to third — with nothing covering those bases — as Washington took the lead.

Soto would face Scherzer two more times, homering and then walking in the fifth. With each at-bat, he looked down the eraser with his signature swing.

“[Scherzer] I don’t like it,” Soto said with a smile. “He puts his face down. … He doesn’t want to see me. And I understand because he’s doing his job. And he’s giving 100 percent — no matter how good our relationship is.

Soto flashed his arm as Thomas Nido threw to the plate to end what could have been a tough second inning for starter Patrick Corbin. Despite Soto’s contribution, New York still led 3-1.

Washington finished with just six games. Following a three-run home run in the fourth, Luis Garcia singled home Yadiel Hernandez to make it 4-3. Bell, a pending free agent, finished 1 for 4, but Soto’s final line was as fitting as the Nationals’ final game, going 1 for 1 with three walks, two runs scored and a 421-foot blast.

“He had a good at-bat against a guy like Max,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He kept the ball in the zone, made good shots, got the ball to shoot and hit it long.”

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Anyone used to seeing Scherzer pitch for the Mets? The Nationals and Mets have faced off 11 times this season, but this was only Scherzer’s second appearance in Washington. Seeing former players play for a division rival still doesn’t seem familiar to Martinez.

“It’s still weird,” he said before the game. “When you see him, you make memories in your head. But I say, ‘Well, we went out there and tried to beat this guy. Let’s figure out how to do this.’ “

How did Corbin happen? He threw 90 pitches and allowed four runs in 4⅓ innings. He was coming off his worst season of the season – He didn’t get out of the first inning against the Dodgers on Wednesday – but he was able to retire from the side to start Monday’s game.

But the next two innings looked like what Nationals fans have grown accustomed to over the past two-plus seasons. In the second, the Mets scored three runs on five hits and a walk, with Soto’s help finally stopping the bleeding.

Pete Alonso hit a 110.9 mph shot off Corbin for his 27th home run that now cleared the wall in left center. It took Corbin 24 innings to get out of a scoreless fourth, and after striking out Francisco Lindor for the first time in the fifth, it was a complete night. His ERA rose slightly to 6.57, and his record fell to 4-15.

Lindor’s three-run homer scored Steve Cishek in the sixth.

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