WASHINGTON – Juan José Soto thought he might compete in the Home Run Festival during All-Star Game activities could help you establish your swing for the second half of 2021. The Dominican reasoned that if he could get into the rhythm at Coors Field in Denver, maybe he could carry that over to Nationals Park.
Such a strategy seems to have worked.
After hitting two home runs in his first game after the All-Star break on Friday, Soto hit another Sunday in the Nationals’ 807 win over the Padres. The outfielder now has 14 home runs this season.
“I feel a lot better now,” Soto said. “I was thinking about that and really, (the HR Derby) helped me regain that feeling of how to lift the ball and everything. I tried everything I could in the first half and the ball was still on the ground… I think the Derby helped me a lot ”.
Soto hit .283 in the first half of the season, when he was in search of power. In three games after the break, the 2020 NL batting champion is 13-7 with those three homers, six RBIs and five runs scored.
“It’s awesome, because I didn’t know how quickly he was going to help me,” added Soto, referring to the home run competition. “It was a big thing for me to see those home runs on this series.”
Soto entered the Home Run Festival as the eighth seed, having hit just 11 homers in the first half. However, he was something to talk about at the event, including a 520-foot hit, the longest in the history of the event. A battle to remember with Shohei Ohtani in the first round ended with a victory for Soto via a tiebreaker. The Dominican would fall in the second round to eventual champion Pete Alonso.
“Yes, I think doing what he did at the Home Run Festival helped him understand what he really has to do,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said about it. “If you saw him at the Derby, he didn’t try to pull the ball much. He hit a lot of hits from center field and some from center-left. That’s him”.
Although his home run on Sunday walked “just” 362 feet, according to Statcast, it is not the distance that matters to the Nationals, but the fact that the ball is flying the fence.
“We just need him to give them a couple of rows back,” said Washington starter Max Scherzer. “If he turns on, that changes everything. When it’s on, it can charge us. It changes the game in so many different ways, no matter what you throw at it or not. When he does well, he makes our offense go well. “