December 3, 2022

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'It just comes to me': Soto joins elite 100-HR club

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ATLANTA — At the head-turning pace he is on, Juan Soto will check off career milestone after milestone for years to come. Tuesday night marked a significant one in his accumulation of achievements: home run No. 100 at just 23 years old.

“It means a lot,” Soto said following the Nationals’ 16-4 loss to the Braves at Truist Park. “It’s just a number that not many players get to, and it feels an honor to be there.”

Soto rocked an 89.5 mph cutter from Braves right-hander Bryce Elder a Statcast-projected 451 feet to right-center field at 112.5 mph. The milestone dinger was the fourth-longest of his career.

“For me, it’s just a blessing,” Soto said. “It just comes to me. I never tried to hit a homer, or anything like that. I’m one of the guys who just tries to hit singles every day. So for me to become consistent hitting homers, it’s just impressive and it tells how good I’ve been working on my body and everything.”

At 23 years and 169 days, Soto is just the seventh active player to belt 100 homers at age 23 and younger, per Elias Sports Bureau. He joined Miguel Cabrera (23 years, 127 days), Bryce Harper (23 years, 181 days), Ronald Acuña Jr. (23 years, 184 days), Albert Pujols (23 years, 185 days), Giancarlo Stanton (23 years, 221 days) and Mike Trout (23 years, 253 days). Soto first homered in 2018, his age-19 season.

“It’s awesome,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He’s so young, and for him to get his 100th home run at this early stage in his career, he’s going to hit a lot more. I’m happy for him. He swung the bat well today, he really did.”

The milestone home run adds to Soto’s success against the team’s National League East rival. He has hit 14 dingers against the Braves in 58 games, second to only his offensive production vs. the Phillies (17 home runs in 60 games). He also increased his Truist Park homer total to nine, third most at any opposing stadium behind Citizens Bank Park (12) and Citi Field (10).

The noteworthiness of Soto’s night was enhanced by what he did in his other plate appearances, too. With a 112.8 mph single in the first inning, he became the first Nats batter to record multiple 112-plus mph base hits in the same game since Statcast was introduced in 2015.

“The home run he hit wasn’t a cheapie,” Martinez said. “I mean, he crushed that ball. I hope he hits many, many more this year, and maybe a few tomorrow.”

Soto also drew a walk in the eighth frame for his 44th game with at least one home run and one walk before his 24th birthday — which is not until Oct. 25. He trails just Mel Ott (68), Ted Williams (62), Eddie Mathews (61), Jimmie Foxx (55), Trout (50) and Mickey Mantle (49) on the leaderboard, dating to 1901.

Following the game, Soto greeted the young fan who had the commemorative baseball with one of his bats outside of the clubhouse. The fan, coincidentally enough, was wearing a Soto T-shirt inside Truist Park.

“For me, it’s my first time, so it feels pretty cool,” Soto said. “They were really happy. I’m happy he was wearing one of my jerseys and everything. It was pretty cool for me, and I hope I can do it many, many more [times].”

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