Juan Soto drew the ire of Braves reliever Will Smith on Monday night, when he launched a 445-foot home run to center field off the left-hander and stared him down on his way to first base.
Soto, who was named NL Player of the Week earlier in the day, faced Smith in the top of the ninth inning. He knew he got all of the pitch as soon as he hit it. The 21-year-old stood in the batter’s box for a few seconds and watched the ball fly before directing his eyes to Smith on the mound. Smith then barked an expletive at Soto as he jogged toward first
After the game, Nationals manager Davey Martinez jumped to his young outfielder’s defense.
“Will Smith said something to Soto that I didn’t really appreciate,” Martinez said in a Zoom press conference. “So I just want to let him know, hey, it wasn’t Juan who threw the ball. His job is to hit so just be quiet and get on the mound. You threw the pitch, make a better pitch.”
Last week, Soto was hit by a pitch thrown by New York Mets starter David Peterson one inning after Austin Voth hit J.D. Davis. The umpiring crew felt Soto, who finished with four home runs in the series, was hit intentionally and they issued official warnings to both dugouts.
“He means nothing by what he does,” Martinez said. “When he does his shuffle, it’s just to get him to the next pitch. He doesn’t do it to show anybody up, he doesn’t do it—when pitchers start acting the way they’re acting, it does bother me. But he doesn’t do anything back. He stands up there and he gets a good pitch to hit and he hits the ball really hard. That’s what you’re supposed to do.
“It told him, ‘What’s funny is, look, it’s not going to be the first time you get hit or less so it’s just part of it. We’ll keep an eye on you and what transpires from it and we’ll go from there. But don’t let that deter what kind of hitter you are. You’re a really good hitter so get ready to hit good pitches.’ That’s what he does.”