The Associated Press
WASHINGTON–It was a long and odd day–one that started with teenager Juan Soto homering in a game that officially was played before he made his major-league debut.
Soto delivered a tie-breaking pinch-hit, two-run shot in the sixth inning of a game that began and was suspended because of rain last month–five days before he was called up from the minors for the first time–to lift the Washington Nationals to a 5-3 victory over the N.Y. Yankees in the opener of an unusual semi-doubleheader yesterday.
“Geez, he has a bright future. How old is he, 19? You don’t see too many 19-year-olds doing what he’s doing,” Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge said about Soto.
“I’m excited to see him develop for years to come.”
In Game 2, Judge made two key catches of balls hit by Trea Turner, including one on the warning track that bailed out Aroldis Chapman with two men on in the bottom of the ninth to end it, as the Yankees grabbed a 4-2 victory with the help of Aaron Hicks’ go-ahead two-run homer.
That final-out fly “got me to hold my breath for a sec,” Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone admitted.
Throw in a trade by Washington to add reliever Kelvin Herrera from the Kansas City Royals, full-throated chants of “Let’s go, Yankees!” from portions of the sellout crowd of 42,723, and all in all, so much happened at Nationals Park.
“That was weird,” Nationals’ closer Sean Doolittle said, summing up things neatly.
Game 1 resumed with the score 3-3 and the Nationals about to bat in the bottom of the sixth.
After Bryce Harper, who had a full beard back on May 15 when the game began but was clean-shaven this time, struck out and Anthony Rendon singled, Soto drove a 97 m.p.h. fastball from Chad Green (4-1) to the back of the second deck in right field.
“I thought he had a good chance to hit the ball hard,” said Nationals’ manager Dave Martinez.
“That was hard.”
It was Soto’s sixth homer since he was brought up from ‘AA’ Harrisburg on May 20–and half have come against the Yankees.
Soto stood and admired this one before beginning his trot around the bases.
“A lot of people tell me, ‘Hey, you’re killing the Yankees,'” Soto said.
“Everybody knows the Yankees, likes the Yankees,” he noted. “That feels pretty good.”
Soto also was involved in a double play while playing left in the seventh. Didi Gregorius lined to Soto and he lobbed the ball to shortstop Turner, who sprinted to second base to double off Gary Sanchez.
Soto’s stats–and all others from Game 1–will count as being part of the originally-scheduled game on May 15.
But Soto’s debut still will be considered to have come on the actual date it happened, May 20, according to the Nationals, citing the Elias Sports Bureau.
Wander Suero (1-0) got the win for 1 1-3 scoreless innings–one inning on May 15 and then one out yesterday.
Doolittle struck out Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, then got Sanchez to fly out to centre in the ninth for his 18th save.
The Nationals had lost five of six games entering the day.
Game 2, which was completely rained out May 16, began a half-hour after Game 1 finished.
Washington led 2-1 before Hicks’ ninth homer, which came in the fifth against Erick Fedde (0-2) and got plenty of Yankees fans excited–and loud.
The rookie righty lost to the Yankees for the second time in less than a week, giving up three runs in 5 1-3 innings this time.
Stanton provided some cushion with an RBI double off Sammy Solis in the seventh, part of a 4-for-5 showing in Game 2.
Sonny Gray (5-4) allowed two runs in five-plus innings, with Mark Reynolds driving in both.
Arizona beat the L.A. Angels 7-4 in the only other interleague game yesterday.