WASHINGTON (AP) — Juan Soto’s latest feat: homering in a game played before he made his major league debut.
The 19-year-old Soto delivered a tiebreaking, pinch-hit, two-run shot in the sixth inning of a game that began and was suspended because of rain last month, five days before he was called up from the minors for the first time, to lift the Washington Nationals to a 5-3 victory over the New York Yankees in the opener of an unusual doubleheader Monday.
Game 1 resumed with the score 3-all and the Nationals about to bat in the bottom of the sixth. After Bryce Harper — who had a full beard back on May 15, when the game began, but was clean-shaven this time — struck out, and Anthony Rendon singled, Soto drove a 97 mph fastball from Chad Green (4-1) to the back of the second deck in right field.
“I thought he had a good chance to hit the ball hard,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “That was hard.”
It was Soto’s sixth homer since he was brought up from Double-A Harrisburg on May 20 — and second against the Yankees. Soto stood and admired this one before beginning his trot around the bases.
“A pitch right in his hot zone. Soto got us again,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Obviously a really good looking player. Two pretty big shots he’s hit against us.”
Soto also was involved in a double play while playing left in the seventh. Didi Gregorius lined to Soto, and he lobbed the ball to shortstop Trea Turner, who sprinted to second base to double off Gary Sanchez.
Soto’s stats — and all others from Game 1 — will count as being part of the originally scheduled game on May 15, but Soto’s official debut will still be considered on the actual date it happened, according to the Nationals, citing the Elias Sports Bureau.
“I wish he was climbing the ladder more routinely. He should be in about Double-A now,” Boone said. “What can you say? Nineteen and obviously doing really well.”
Wander Suero (1-0) got the win for 1 1-3 scoreless innings — one inning on May 15, and one out on Monday.
Sean Doolittle struck out Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and got Gary Sanchez to fly out to center in the ninth for his 18th save.
Game 2, which was completely rained out May 16, was to begin a half-hour after Game 1 finished, with Washington’s Erick Fedde facing New York’s Sonny Gray.
The Nationals had lost five of six games entering the day.
In the month-plus since the games were supposed to be played, both teams’ rosters changed, of course. Aside from Soto’s arrival, two position players who started the game for Washington, Howie Kendrick (out for the season with an injury) and Andrew Stevenson (demoted to the minors) are no longer around. For the Yankees, their original starter at first base, Tyler Austin, is in the minors.
Martinez said the closest thing he could compare this situation to was Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, when the Tampa Bay Rays — he was Joe Maddon’s bench coach then — wound up losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in a contest that began on a Monday, was halted in the sixth inning because of rain, and concluded on a Wednesday.
“It’s weird, man,” Martinez said.
Another oddity: The loss means the Yankees’ streak of winning eight consecutive series now gets retroactively shortened to seven series, because it’s as if Game 1 took place entirely on May 15.
Yankees: OF Brett Gardner was not listed in the lineup for Game 2 because an MRI exam showed swelling in his right knee, although Boone said he didn’t expect Gardner to go on the DL. … With Gardner’s status uncertain, the Yankees recalled OF Clint Frazier from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre and optioned INF Ronald Torreyes to that minor league affiliate.
Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson, on the DL for two weeks with a strained right hamstring, took fielding practice before the start of play Monday and said he “felt fine.” Hellickson has taken two bullpen sessions and “felt 100 percent,” so expects to be able to return soon. … 1B Matt Adams was “still a little sore” after getting hit by a pitch on a finger Friday.
The Nationals open a three-game series at home against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, and Martinez has not yet announced who his starter will be. The Yankees return to New York for a three-game set against Seattle, with RHP Domingo German (1-4, 5.23 ERA) pitching on Tuesday against Mariners LHP Marco Gonzalez (7-3, 3.42).
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