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Juan Soto thrived with his family in town: 'They give me the love I need'

Juan Soto thrived with his family in town: 'They give me the love I need'

WASHINGTON - Before the Nationals' Wild Card win over Milwaukee on Tuesday, Juan Soto ate his favorite dish --pastelón de plátano maduro -- prepared specially for him a few days earlier.

That was the only difference between that game, the first postseason game of his young career, and a regular season game. 

Apparently, the dish also has the side effect of inducing clutch hits. It was Soto's bat that came in big for the Nationals and completed their eighth-inning rally to gain the lead for the first time all game -- a single to right field (and fielding error) with the bases loaded and Washington down 3-1-- flipping the score in the Nationals' favor 4-3.

After the game, Soto's family took to the field to congratulate him.

"It's amazing for me," Soto said about having his family in town. "[Having] those guys, a lot of times in minor leagues they never get, they [can't] get there. But now we're here and win this game for them is amazing."

The amount of pride Soto's family has in him is evident, in particular in this video of Soto's dad tackling him postgame

"They give me the love I need," Soto said. "If I''m good, if I'm bad, they always been right there for me. They are everything."

It's unlikely Soto's family will travel to Los Angeles as the Nationals take on the Dodgers in the NLDS, as Soto explained that his mom has to go back to work in the Dominican Republic.

Let's hope she at least made him enough pastelón de plátano maduro to last the rest of October. 

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Carter Kieboom’s early defensive struggles at third base aren’t a major concern--yet

Carter Kieboom’s early defensive struggles at third base aren’t a major concern--yet

Carter Kieboom is getting his chance.

The 22-year-old infield prospect is competing for the Nationals’ starting job at third base this spring following the departure of Anthony Rendon in free agency. A natural shortstop, Kieboom has started just nine games at third in his professional career but is shifting across the infield because that’s where the Nationals need him.

So far, the early returns have been—well, not great. On Sunday, Kieboom dropped a line drive off the bat of Miami Marlins slugger Jesús Aguilar then sailed the throw over the head off first baseman Eric Thames for his first error of the spring. He picked up his second miscue against the New York Yankees on Tuesday, when he charged a groundball and missed his target while throwing on the run.

The plays aren’t pretty, but that’s what spring training is for.

Competitions are held, young players get their shot, everyone has something they’re working to improve. Kieboom is trying to earn a job at a position he hasn’t played regularly since he was a kid. Mistakes shouldn’t be reasons for alarm, they should be expected.

That being said, Kieboom will only be granted the it’s-still-early grace period for so long. Opening Day is less than a month away, meaning manager Davey Martinez is going to have to make a decision in the next few weeks about what he’s going to do with Kieboom.

If these errors continue, then he won’t be forced into playing Kieboom in the majors. The Nationals have a backup plan in Asdrúbal Cabrera ready to assume the position should Kieboom need more time in the minors to work at the position. Washington is already faced with few clear opportunities for Howie Kendrick to get at-bats, so sending Kieboom down makes it easier for him to make regular starts.

But for now, there’s no reason to panic over Kieboom’s first few errors. As NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes pointed out on the Nationals Talk podcast, the Nationals’ spring training leader in errors was none other than Victor Robles (he had three). You know, the Victor Robles who was a Gold Glove finalist in center field?

Kieboom is getting his chance. It’s just a question of how many the Nationals are going to give him.

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One year later, Bryce Harper is in a very different spring training atmosphere

One year later, Bryce Harper is in a very different spring training atmosphere

When Bryce Harper signed his then-record 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies last March, the stands at Spectrum Field in Clearwater were filled to the brim on a daily basis while the media scrums in the home locker room had twice as many reporters firing questions.

That’s what happens when the most polarizing player in baseball, a former MVP and No. 1 overall pick who’s drawn his fair share of both fans and critics, joins a big-market organization looking to jump back into contention for the first time in almost a decade.

But a year later, with the Phillies having missed the playoffs entirely and much bigger storylines dominating the sport, things have been calmer in Clearwater this spring.

"It's definitely different coming into camp," Harper said Tuesday, per NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury. "It's good knowing I'll be here the next 12 years, a lot more calm, not as crazy, not as many cameras. I'll enjoy that and just get ready for the season."

Harper made his spring season debut Tuesday, going 0-1 with a walk and sacrifice fly while playing five innings in right field. With a month to go before the start of the regular season, Harper’s goal for the rest of spring isn’t too complicated.

"Just be healthy," he said. "Take good routes in the outfield, throw the ball well out there, have good at-bats."

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