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Nats rookie Juan Soto makes second MLB debut, retroactively hits HR on first-ever MLB at-bat

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USA Today Sports

Nats rookie Juan Soto makes second MLB debut, retroactively hits HR on first-ever MLB at-bat

The Washington Nationals hosted the New York Yankees to finish a once-suspended game, tied at 3-3 in the sixth inning. Though it seemed like just a makeup, it was anything but for rookie Juan Soto.

It’s true that Soto struck out as a pinch hitter in his first-ever game on May 20. Since then, the 19-year-old has caught fire, batting .312 with five home runs and 12 RBI in 23 games this season.

But the makeup of the suspended game took place on May 15, five days before Soto was called up from Double-A to give the Nats an extra bat. Soto would make his major league debut once again.

Though it’s uncommon for a player to compete in a game prior to his major-league debut, it’s been done before. Barry Bonds hit a go-ahead single in a suspended game that dated a month before his debut. Closer Jeff Reardon threw a scoreless inning and picked up a win in a suspended game nearly two months before his debut, as well.              

After Anthony Rendon hit an opposite-field single in the bottom of the sixth, Soto pinch hit for Matt Adams who has missed the previous two games with a hand injury.                                                  

And Soto, with a chance to change his first career at-bat from a pinch-hit strikeout to anything but, did just that. He turned on a fastball and sent a rocket to right field. Aaron Judge took a few steps before looking up toward the bleachers. The ball landed in the second deck.

Talk about a first career at-bat. A no-doubt, two-run shot to give the Nationals the lead in a game that took place before his first major-league debut.

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Jayson Werth explains why he 'always thought' Bryce Harper could end up with Phillies

Jayson Werth explains why he 'always thought' Bryce Harper could end up with Phillies

During Phillies spring training on Friday, Jayson Werth visited his old team and former Nationals teammate Bryce Harper. It just so happened he had arrived on the one-year anniversary of Bryce Harper deciding to leave Washington to sign a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies. 

Werth spent six seasons sharing an outfield with Harper but before his days in Washington, he helped the Phillies win the World Series in 2008. His play in Philadelphia earned him a seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nationals in 2011. 

Harper's exit from DC is a sore subject for Nationals fans, even though a World Series championship definitely helped numb the pain. Werth explained in a story by NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury that he always had a hunch Harper could end up in Philly. 

"I always thought this would be a possible destination for him, even way back when, for a bunch of reasons," Werth said. "Kind of where the team was, the money was right, the owner was right, the town's right.

"But more than anything else," Werth added with widening eyes, "Citizens Bank Park is just an awesome place to hit. We always talked about that."

Werth clarified he doesn't want anyone to think he was pushing Harper to Philadelphia, just that as players they naturally had plenty of conversations about other ballparks. And it's hard to argue with that. 

Before he played a single game for the Phillies, Harper was Citizens Bank Park's all-time leader in slugging percentage. In 2019, Harper hit the second-most homers of his career (35) and his second-highest slugging percentage as well.

Werth even enjoyed a nice bump hitting in Philadelphia. During his time with the Nats, Werth his .291 with a .922 OPS to go along with 15 home runs and 45 RBI in 52 trips to Citizens Bank Park. 

Between the 81 games in a hitters ballpark and a $330 million contract without the deferred payments the Nationals reportedly offered to Harper last year, it makes a decent amount of sense he decided to take his talents north. 

But hey, the Nationals won a World Series the following season, and in epic fashion I might add, while there's no guarantee the Phillies get there any time soon. I mean, have you seen their pitching staff outside of Aaron Nola and Zach Wheeler?

So Bryce is happy and Nats fans are happy. Everyone wins, right? 

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How have MLB teams fared the year after winning the World Series? Not great

How have MLB teams fared the year after winning the World Series? Not great

The Washington Nationals have climbed the baseball mountaintop by winning the 2019 World Series. Now the question is whether they can stay there.

Even with Anthony Rendon gone, they have plenty of talent. But history shows a troubling track record for reigning MLB champions.

In the last 15 years, only one team that won the World Series even made it back the following season. That was the Phillies, who lost to the Yankees in 2009 after winning the title the year prior. There has not been a repeat champion in baseball since the 2001 Yankees.

Here is a look at the last 15 World Series-winning teams and how they fared the next season:

[Team (WS year) - record next season (difference in record, playoff result)]

Red Sox (2018) - 84-78 (-24 wins, no playoffs)
Astros (2017) - 103-59 (+2 wins, ALCS)
Cubs (2016) - 92-70 (-11 wins, NLCS)
Royals (2015) - 81-81 (-14 wins, no playoffs)
Giants (2014) - 84-78 (-4 wins, no playoffs)
Red Sox (2013) - 71-91 (-26 wins, no playoffs)
Giants (2012) - 76-86 (-18 wins, no playoffs)
Cardinals (2011) - 88-74 (-2 wins, NLCS)
Giants (2010) - 86-76 (-6 wins, no playoffs)
Yankees (2009) - 95-67 (-8 wins, ALCS)
Phillies (2008) - 93-69 (+1 wins, lost in WS)
Red Sox (2007) - 95-67 (-1 wins, ALCS)
Cardinals (2006) - 78-84 (-5 wins, no playoffs)
White Sox (2005) - 90-72 (-9 wins, no playoffs)
Red Sox (2004) - 95-67 (-3 wins, LDS)

The last 15 World Series champs have gone on to average 87.4 wins the following season. Thirteen of the 15 teams won fewer regular-season games as defending champs. And the biggest increase year-over-year was just two more wins. That was done by the 2018 Houston Astros, and some would put an asterisk next to that win total.

Some teams have really bottomed out. The Red Sox won 24 fewer games in 2019 after winning the 2018 World Series and had 26 fewer wins in 2014 after winning in 2013. The 2013 Giants won 18 fewer games than they did in 2012 when they won it all.

Eight of the 15 teams, so more than half, failed to make the playoffs. But of the seven teams that did, five made their League Championship Series. So, technically a third of the last 15 World Series champions reached the ALCS or NLCS the following year. Those on their own aren't terrible odds.

Now, as troubling as this research may seem for the Nationals' outlook, there are reasons to believe they can make another World Series run. They have a nucleus of young talent that could maintain or even raise the team's ceiling.

Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Trea Turner could all get even better. Top prospect Carter Kieboom could play a factor. Their bullpen should be improved. And they could win more regular-season games just by avoiding the injuries and slow start they incurred last season.

But perhaps expectations should be set accordingly. It is very difficult to win a World Series. Repeating as champs, or even getting close to doing so, has proven nearly impossible in recent years.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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