Imperial Valley Press

Nats’ Soto, MLB’s youngest player at 19, homers in 1st start

- Holtville High’s Lexis Smith takes a pitch during the Vikings’ home game on Monday afternoon. BY BENJAMIN STANDIG

WASHINGTON — Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, wasn’t sure his towering drive would clear the fence in left-center field. He was the only one.

Soto hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

“I didn’t think it was going to go out of the park,” said Soto, who also singled in four at-bats. “I just run hard, the same what I do in the minor leagues. Then I heard the noise and I know it’s gone.”

Per Baseball-Reference. com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Washington teammate Bryce Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

“He’s a special player,” Harper said.

The home fans roared and rose to their feet following the home run. That is when Nationals manager Dave Martinez really had to coach Soto.

“He didn’t know what to do about the standing ovation. We told him, ‘Hey, go out there,’” Martinez said. “You can tell he has passion for the game.”

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto’s drive highlighte­d a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen. It traveled an estimated 442 feet.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out. His parents arrived Sunday from the Dominican Republic but missed the game.

“Maybe it’s a blessing,” Soto joked. “I strike out. Then they come here and I do my thing.”

Washington’s starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings. One of those hits was the first career home run for San Diego’s Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game.

 ??  ?? Washington Nationals’ Juan Soto (22) takes a curtain call after he hit a three-run home run during the second inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, on Monday, in Washington. AP PHOTO/NICK WASS
Washington Nationals’ Juan Soto (22) takes a curtain call after he hit a three-run home run during the second inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, on Monday, in Washington. AP PHOTO/NICK WASS

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