- - Saturday, June 30, 2018

PHILADELPHIA | The first at-bat this season for Juan Soto came on April 5 in Rome, Georgia against Kyle Muller, a second-round pick of the Atlanta Braves in 2016.

Lefty swinger Soto hit a two-run homer to left field for the only runs his team, the Hagerstown Suns, would score in a 5-2 loss to the Rome Braves in a low Single-A South Atlantic League game.

Less than three months later Soto is now the everyday left fielder for the Washington Nationals, after playing briefly at high Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg before he was promoted to the majors May 20.

Soto hit two more homers here Friday night against the Phillies, with a shot in the first and one in the ninth to put a nice bookend on a 17-7 win by the Nationals. Washington hit a season-high seven homers in the game.

There are four players in history who hit at least two homers in a game before they turned 20: Mel Ott, Ken Griffey, Jr., Bryce Harper and Soto. Harper did so as a rookie in 2012 with the Nationals, and Soto has done it twice.

Soto, who turns 20 in October, is hitting .336 with nine doubles, eight homers and 21 RBI in just 116 at-bats over 35 games in the majors with Washington.

“I just go in there and make a good swing, good contact,” Soto said after Friday’s game. “Hit a line drive and if it’s going good, if not okay. It feels pretty good. I hope we can do the same thing tomorrow and keep going.”

Soto has reached base in 31 of 35 games and has a hit in 11 of his last 12 outings.

Nationals manager Dave Martinez noted Soto hit one of his homers to left-center field, and Bryce Harper hit his homer in the fourth inning to left field on Friday.

Soto (to) left center, Harper the other way,” Martinez said.

“Hitting is contagious,” Harper said.

That is certainly the case for Soto, who played in just 83 minor leagues before this year.

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