Soto takes over NL batting lead, Nationals beat Marlins 7-5

Sep 22, 2021, 7:22 AM | Updated: 9:51 pm
Washington Nationals' Juan Soto is cheered by the team after hitting a two-run home run in the thir...

Washington Nationals' Juan Soto is cheered by the team after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, in Miami. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

(AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

MIAMI (AP) — Juan Soto took over the NL batting lead, getting three hits and three RBIs to help the Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 7-5 Wednesday night.

Soto singled, doubled and hit his 27th homer, raising his average to .321 and passing former teammate Trea Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who is at .318. Soto walked twice and with 130 tied Bryce Harper’s team season record, set in 2018.

“I try to motivate myself every day,” Soto said. “I just try to come in and grind it as hard as I can and play to win games. Since last month, I’ve been seeing the ball really well. I’ve been taking my pitches. It feels good.”

Soto has reached safely 49 times, second-most since 1901 ahead of a player’s 23rd birthday behind Ted Williams’ 54.

“What he’s done and what he’s meant to this team as you know, he carries this team, day in and day out,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “He knows the ball he wants to swing at, he’s ready to hit them and when he gets them, he smokes them.”

Josiah Gray (1-2), a 23-year-old rookie right-hander acquired from the Dodgers for Max Scherzer and Turner on July 30, got his first big league win. He allowed two runs and six hits in six inning with eight strikeouts and two walks.

“I’m really happy that I got that first one tonight but I try not to think about it too much and just go out there and pitch my ball game,” Gray said. “It’s definitely something I would think about here and there, but at the end of the day, I just want to pitch well and put the team in position to win.”

He nearly got his second big league hit when he lined the ball into right field in the sixth only for right fielder Jesús Sánchez to grab the ball on one bounce and throw him out at first.

Yadiel Hernández and Luis García also went deep for the Nationals, who won the season series 11-8. Washington remains last in the NL East, just behind Miami. At 63-89, the Nationals are nearing their poorest record since 2010´s 69-93.

Elieser Hernández (1-3) gave up four runs and seven hits in four-plus innings.

Yadiel Hernández homered leading off the second, Soto hit a two-run homer in the third — a drive into the right field upper deck — and García made it 4-0 with a leadoff homer in the fourth.

Miami closed to 4-2 on Lewin Díaz’s run-scoring single in the bottom half and Sánchez’s RBI single in the sixth, but Washington widened its lead in the seventh on Soto’s run-scoring single, Josh Bell’s sacrifice fly and Hernández’s RBI double against Zach Thompson.

Nick Fortes’ pinch-hit, two-run homer and Sandy León’s one-out drive off Ryne Harper in the ninth closed the gap before Tanner Rainey came in and retired Miguel Rojas and Jazz Chisholm Jr. on groundouts for his second save.

“Nick gets us two and Sandy gets us one and suddenly you need a runner to put the game on the line,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “It’s nice to see the guys continue to go.”

CEILING

Chisholm hit a sixth-inning ball that bounced off the roof in foul territory and was caught by first baseman Josh Bell, but ground rules say a ball is dead once it hits the roof outside fair territory.

TWO MARLINS TEAM CO-MVPs

Marlins pitcher Sandy Alcantara and first baseman Jesús Aguilar were voted the team’s co-Most Valuable Players by the South Florida Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Alcantara has become the ace of the rotation and leads the team in wins (9) and is among the NL leaders in starts and innings pitched. Aguilar has a team-leading 22 homers and 93 RBIs.

ROSTER MOVE

The Marlins selected the contract of RHP Luis Madero from Triple-A Jacksonville and designated RHP Taylor Williams for assignment.

UP NEXT

Nationals: LHP Patrick Corbin (8-11, 6.11) will start the opener of a four-game series at Cincinnati Thursday.

Marlins: RHP Edward Cabrera (0-2, 5.31) is scheduled to start the opener of a three-game series at Tampa Bay on Friday.

___

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Soto takes over NL batting lead, Nationals beat Marlins 7-5