Nationals Notebook: Juan Soto delivers September to remember

During a season where the Nationals went from contenders trying to reclaim their World Series mojo to pretenders building for the future with prospects, we’ve had quite a bit of disappointment in 2021.

But what could have been the longest month of the season has turned into one incredible run for the Nationals best player: Juan Soto is hitting .439 with 7 homers and 21 RBI in September. He’s also walked 33 times, meaning Soto is getting on base almost 60% of the time. His 138 walks this year are a team record and his 110 runs scored have tied his career high.

While he might not reach career highs in homers and RBI, it’s more than reasonable to see him pass the 30 & 100 bench marks. Soto’s .322 batting average is tied with former National Trea Turner (remember him?) for the best in the majors.

Moving forward, this team needs to sign Juan Soto long-term and build around him. Because it would be a shame to let this dynamic player depart, and it would also be a shame to have him toil in the darkness of a sub-500 team that’s trying to stay out of last place.

Digesting the Division: The NL East that seemingly nobody wanted to win is still led by Atlanta (83-72) with Philadelphia (81-75) two and a half games back. The New York Mets’ (73-82) 1-9 nosedive eliminates the club that led for a big chunk of the first half of the season. And even though they took two of three from Miami (64-91) last week, the Nationals (64-92) are in last place.

O’s Woes: The Birds (50-106) won just enough this month (9-15) to avoid the infamy of tying their franchise-worst 47-115 season of 2018. The can still play spoiler with games coming up against Wild Card hopefuls Boston and Toronto.

Say Isn’t That: Finally, Max Scherzer allows an earned run — his first since Aug. 21. Actually, he allowed five in five innings. But Max gets the no-decision so he still hasn’t lost since May 30. And he is 7-0 with a 1.43 ERA in his new surroundings. Trea Turner hit 9-for-24 and is batting .322 with a career-high 25 homers this season. Oakland is on the precipice of playoff elimination, and losing Josh Harrison (. 285 with 8 homers and 59 RBI) won’t help. Yan Gomes (6-for-13) did his best to keep the A’s in contention (three games back with six to play) as they swept AL West leading Houston over the weekend.

Last Week’s Heroes: Juan Soto hit .476 with three homers and six RBI while walking 14 times. Rookie Keibert Ruiz regained his footing after a slow start and hit .435 with two homers and eight RBI. Patrick Corbin gave one hope that 2021 may be an aberration by striking out seven over 6.2 scoreless innings for his ninth win of the year while Josh Rogers went 1-1 with a 2.92 ERA over his two starts. Tanner Rainey tossed 2.2 scoreless innings over three appearances.

Last Week’s Humbled: Reliever Sam Clay failed to get an out in his appearance, giving him a little taste of infinity. Ryne Harper, Patrick Murphy, and Alberto Baldonado posted double-digit ERA’s. Carter Kieboom batted .200 while Andrew Stevenson hit 1-for-13.

Game to Watch: Sunday the Nats take the field for the final time, battling Wild Card hopeful Boston. Will the Red Sox be playing for their postseason lives? Or perhaps home field in the Wild Card Game? Either way, we’ll be tuned in one more time to celebrate the crushed dreams, sad farewells, and hopeful future 2021 delivered. Who’s going to The Salt Line?

Game to Miss: Friday night the Nationals begin their series with Boston and while they will have fireworks after the game ends, different fireworks will be on display at the Maryland football team will be hosting No. 5 Iowa. Will the Terps and their quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa be ready for prime-time? I’ll be there to see.

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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