Juan Soto on base four times in Saturday’s game against the Cardinals


As Juan Soto stepped to home plate for his first at-bat Saturday night and his walk-up song “Esa Muchacha” blared from the stadium’s speakers, scattered fans throughout Nationals Park did something that might become a recurring theme over the next couple of days .

They stood and gave Soto a standing ovation that extended through Soto playing with the dirt under his feet in the batter’s box. With the Aug. 2 trade deadline looming, it’s unclear how many more of his at-bats they’ll see.

Or how many times they’ll watch his ritual of pointing to the fans in right field, then down the first base line before throwing ahead of the first inning like he did again in the Nationals’ 7-6 win against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.

The Trea Turner trade made the Nats’ future clear. So would a Juan Soto trade.

If Soto is dealt in the coming days, he will have provided a productive departure, as he reached base in all four of his plate appearances Saturday.

Soto walked in his first two at-bats, but the Nationals (35-67) weren’t able to bring him home either time. Victor Robles’s solo shot in the third inning was the team’s only run in the early going, and it leveled the score 1-1.

Soto then singled in the fifth inning off Cardinals left-hander Packy Naughton, who was brought in to give Soto a difficult matchup. Two batters later, Nelson Cruz drove in Soto and César Hernández with a two-out double; Yadiel Hernandez singled to score Cruz and tie the game 4-4.

Andrés Machado allowed the first two Cardinals to reach base the ensuing inning, and Hunter Harvey surrendered a sacrifice fly that scored one of those base runners to put the Cardinals up 5-4.

Soto walked again in his final at-bat in the seventh, putting a pair of runners on for Josh Bell. This time, Bell made the most of the extra runners on base; he launched a three-run homer that just cleared the out-of-town scoreboard and ended up as the game-winner even after the Cardinals (53-48) added a run in the eighth.

Why didn’t Eric Fedde make his scheduled start? Fedde was placed on the 15-day injured list before the game, retroactive to July 27, with right shoulder inflammation. Cory Abbott was recalled from Class AAA Rochester to fill his spot.

Fedde said he didn’t feel like himself in his start Sunday against the Arizona Diamondbacks and had more discomfort than usual the following day. Fedde said his concern level about the injury is “not very high” and hopes his IL stint will be brief. He has made 19 starts this season, the second-most on the team behind Patrick Corbin, and has a 4.95 ERA.

“It’s not ideal, but just trying to look at the season big picture,” Fedde said. “It’s tough when you’re in it, but I just want to be at my best to finish the year.”

Paolo Espino moved up a day in the rotation and took the mound in Fedde’s place Saturday; Josiah Gray will now start Sunday. Espino allowed seven hits over 4⅔ innings, but two high-80s fastballs by Espino right down the middle of the plate led to home runs by Nolan Arenado and Paul DeJong.

Arenado’s solo homer opened the scoring in the second inning. DeJong’s two-run blast in the fifth pushed the Cardinals in front 3-1.

Where is Dee Strange-Gordon? With Class AAA Rochester. Strange-Gordon started at shortstop Saturday and finished 1 for 3 with a walk in his first game with the Red Wings since being signed to a minor league deal in mid-July. He was designated for assignment by the Nationals in mid-June and opted to become a free agent but, after re-signing with the team, reported to the Florida Complex League to get back into playing shape.

In 22 games off the bench as a utility man this season, Strange-Gordon had a .308 batting average but only two extra base hits and no walks.

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