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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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In The Loop: Trea Turner's gender reveal, Lightning celebrate 5 OT win

In The Loop: Trea Turner's gender reveal, Lightning celebrate 5 OT win

First up in our look around the sports world, exciting news coming from Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner and his wife, Kristen. Just a few days ago the two announced they were expecting and now they have revealed it is a little boy. A huge congrats to the Turner family, looking forward to seeing this little one in the stands at Nats Park cheering on his pops!

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Little man!! 👶🏼

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Next up, hope you didn’t finish all your coffee staying up to watch the Blue Jackets vs. Lightning Game 1 as it went to 5 overtimes. The game itself lasted over six hours, with 150 minutes (and 27 seconds) played. Here was the reaction in the locker room after Tampa got the win. If that was just Game 1, can't imagine what the rest of the series will be like. Bring on playoff hockey in August!

Lastly, it’s Dame time. Portland Trailblazers superstar Damian Lilliard went OFF yesterday putting up 61 points to get a crucial win over the Dallas Mavericks. Yup, you read that right, he really just did that.

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Bullpen fluctuations from Sean Doolittle and others again create hole for Nationals

Bullpen fluctuations from Sean Doolittle and others again create hole for Nationals

Trevor Rosenthal entered a tie game in the ninth inning Tuesday. That sentence is likely to make Nationals fans shiver and wonder why a cold, prickly feeling just shot up their spine.

Rosenthal was working the spot as the Kansas City Royals closer. He has three saves, 10 strikeouts in eight innings, a 1.13 ERA and 0.625 WHIP. He’s thrown strikes 71 percent of the time this season after throwing baseballs to the backstop last year.

Out in San Francisco, another Trevor is working well as the Giants closer. Trevor Gott has a league-leading four saves and a 1.50 ERA. His WHIP is 1.000, though his numbers are more hollow than Rosenthal’s. Gott is striking out far fewer batters and dealing with runners more often.

Both were in Washington previously. Neither should be here now, especially Rosenthal, who was among the largest miscalculations in Major League Baseball in 2019. His season went so poorly, Davey Martinez was asked if Rosenthal had the yips. The Nationals eventually released the person who was supposed to be their setup man to start 2019. But, the good starts by the two Trevors this season define two truths: relievers are fickle, and that fickleness always seems to mess with the Nationals.

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Sean Doolittle’s appearance Monday did little to suggest he is coming out of his funk this year. He faced four batters in a blowout against the New York Mets. All four made hard contact. One hit a home run. A running catch in left field by Josh Harrison -- a ball Juan Soto likely does not get to -- saved him from further problems. Doolittle has significant velocity and action problems with his pitches. In March, he was expected to be the closer. He quickly slid back to setup man, to left-handed matchup pitcher, to now being dispatched with crossed fingers in low-leverage situations.

Setup man Will Harris is yet to throw a pitch in a regular-season game because of a groin injury. Though, he’s expected back Wednesday.

Their failures and lack of availability has forced adjustments. Javy Guerra has moved into the later innings. He has numbers similar to Rosenthal a year after being cut by Toronto and the Nationals. Guerra was used for mop-up duty last season. He’s an affable personality, can pitch often, throws strikes with a fair amount of regularity. This year, his outcomes -- and a need for someone to perform -- have sent him into the seventh inning.

Tanner Rainey has developed into the Nationals best reliever. Though he’s not the closer, he’s often used against the heftiest part of the opposing team’s lineup. Multiple players -- from Max Scherzer to Trea Turner -- recently said Rainey has some of the best stuff in the league. Command is the only question for him, as it is for so many hard throwers quickly elevated to the major leagues.

Daniel Hudson remains the closer. The question is if his arm holds up throughout the season following such heavy usage last season before odd preparation in 2020.

All of the chaos in the Nationals’ bullpen -- an annual tradition -- leads to another question: will they bother to make a trade before the Aug. 31 deadline?

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The deadline may show how much teams truly value winning in a 60-game season. Do they care enough to move prospects, even low-level ones, for short-term help? Is anything worth a month of work from a reliever, plus the postseason? If so, what would it be?

The Nationals could use the help because another year of unpredictability has produced a need. They acquired Doolittle to solve a problem in the past. They traded for Hudson to solve a problem last season. Maybe they can trade for Rosenthal to shore things up this year.

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