Juan Soto was born in October and, apparently, born to play in October. Once again, this time on the World Series stage, he announced his arrival to the baseball world with big hits and Soto Shuffles, the latter of which seemed to feature more swagger by the at-bat on Tuesday night.
The Nationals now have a 1-0 lead in the World Series over the Houston Astros and there are many reasons why, but Soto's three hits and three RBI certainly pop off the box score. He had a solo home run in the fourth inning that landed on the railroad tracks in center field. And then he doubled in two runs in the fifth with a screamer off the wall in left field.
His first RBI knock tied the game at 2-2. His second gave the Nationals a 5-2 lead. Both were off of Gerrit Cole who before Tuesday had not been assigned a loss since May 22.
Time and time again, Soto has shown the biggest moments in Major League Baseball do not faze him and there is no more prominent stage than the World Series.
"Sometimes I just put gum in my mouth, but most of the time just take a deep breath and focus," Soto said when asked how he deals with playoff pressure.
"It's just the pitcher and me. Everybody around, I forget about everybody around. It's just you and me and you try to make me out."
Whatever his system, it's working. Soto continues to associate himself with some of the best young players to ever play the game. He became the second-youngest player in MLB history to have three hits in a World Series game behind only Andruw Jones. Only Jones, Miguel Cabrera and Mickey Mantle were younger when they hit their first World Series homers.
Soto turns 21 on Friday, yet he may already have a case as one of the best players in Nationals team history. Max Scherzer has done more, for sure. Obviously, Ryan Zimmerman. Stephen Strasburg is probably safe in the top three.
But after that? Soto has already provided so many major postseason moments that it's hard to compare anyone directly. Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon have longer resumes, but Soto is doing things in October they have not.
Soto already had the go-ahead RBI hit that pushed the Nats over the Brewers in the NL Wild Card game. He had two homers against the Dodgers in the NLDS, including the one to tie Game 5 in the eighth inning. And now, Game 1 of the World Series can be added to the list.
Consider the fact Soto already has 10 RBI in his postseason career, as many as Harper had in Washington and more than double that of Jayson Werth, who had four but is remembered as a Nationals postseason hero.
Soto is doing remarkable things at a young age. Technically that isn't a new phenomenon for him, but he keeps raising the bar.
On Tuesday night's postgame show on FOX, Alex Rodriguez was comparing Soto's swing to Hank Aaron, Manny Ramirez and Albert Pujols; three legends. How did this happen so fast?
Remember that Soto made his MLB debut just 16 months ago. Before that, he didn't exactly come through the pipeline with the hype of a Harper or Strasburg. He has emerged from relative obscurity to become a superstar player on baseball's biggest stage and in a very short period of time.
His meteoric rise is just not seen around sports. Baker Mayfield went from a walk-on to a Heisman Trophy-winner to a No. 1 draft pick, but he hasn't had nearly the same success at the pro football level as Soto has in baseball. Cam Newton was a junior college transfer who won the Heisman and was picked first, but he was a top recruit years before that.
Maybe Giannis Antetokounmpo in the NBA, but he was a first round pick. So was Kawhi Leonard, as unlikely as his rise to a Hall of Fame career has been.
These days there is so much attention paid to talented young athletes with everyone trying to discover who is the next big thing. Somehow, Soto laid low long enough to where many people are now hearing his name for the first time while he is lighting it up in the World Series.
It seems unprecedented but, then again, that is Soto's way of doing things.
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