WASHINGTON (AP) — A teenager among men, Juan Soto has impressed his teammates on the Washington Nationals with his maturity and, even more so, his potent bat.
Soto hit a tie-breaking two-run double in the eighth inning, and Washington beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-2 Thursday night in the deciding matchup of a three-game inter-league series between neighboring rivals.
Soto, a 19-year-old rookie, is batting .326 with 16 RBIs in 28 games. Starting in the cleanup spot for the first time, he drew a walk and delivered the game’s pivotal hit.
“I think we’re all amazed every single day,” Washington ace Max Scherzer said. “He puts together great ABs. He has antics and has some flair. He’s a great young player. He’s just enjoying himself.”
Bryce Harper led off the eighth with a double off Mychal Givens (0-4), and Trea Turner followed with a single. After Anthony Rendon struck out, Soto hit a liner into the gap in left-center.
“He’s got unbelievable poise,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of Soto. “No matter what the situation is, he goes out there with a game plan.”
Whatever that plan is, it’s effective.
“I just try to be focused and keep working,” Soto said.
Rendon homered for the Nationals, who received seven strong innings from Scherzer and flawless work from their bullpen.
Newcomer Kelvin Herrera (1-0) pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle got three straight outs for his 20th save in 21 tries.
Seeking to end a rare run of two straight losses, Scherzer left a tied game after allowing two runs — both on solo homers — and striking out nine.
Afterward, the right-hander heaped praise upon Soto for the manner in which he’s adapted to playing in the big leagues.
“He has a great feel for the strike zone,” Scherzer said. “To have that type of eye, it’s remarkable for him to be able to do that at this time and this age and this level.”
Activated from the 60-day disabled list before the game, Colby Rasmus homered for the Orioles in his first at-bat since April 6.
“Me and Max, we go way back, so I felt real good,” said Rasmus, who had been sidelined with a hip injury.
In addition, Rasmus made an outstanding throw from right field to the plate, nailing Wilmer Difo on a tag-up play in the seventh inning with the score tied.
Mark Trumbo also homered for Baltimore, his sixth of the season and third in four games.
Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman gave up two runs and four hits over six innings. The right-hander was lifted with the score tied, leaving him winless in his last seven starts.
WALK THIS WAY
Martinez put Harper in the leadoff spot for the first time since May for this reason: “The thinking is if he’s hitting up top, he’ll start taking his walks again and it will get him going.” It worked. Harper walked twice.
Struggling Orioles slugger Chris Davis will start Friday night in Atlanta, manager Buck Showalter said. Davis hasn’t played since June 11, when an 0-for-5 outing against Boston dropped his batting average to .150. Since then, he’s been working on his swing and mental approach in an effort to turn around his unproductive season.
In addition to activating Rasmus from the DL, the Orioles optioned OF Joey Rickard to Triple-A Norfolk and moved LHP Richard Bleier (latissimus tear) to the 60-day DL. Also, DH Pedro Alvarez cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Norfolk.
Orioles: RHP Chris Tillman (back) will next pitch for Class A Delmarva after allowing three runs in two innings for lower Class A Aberdeen on Wednesday night.
Nationals: RHP Brandon Kintzler (flexor strain) is close to coming off the DL. Martinez hopes the reliever can pitch an inning on a rehabilitation assignment before being is activated. … Martinez said RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) will soon go on a rehab assignment and pitch five or six innings.
Orioles: Alex Cobb (2-9, 7.14 ERA) helps Baltimore open a three-game series on the road Friday night against the Braves, who lead the NL East.
Nationals: Tanner Roark (3-7, 3.87) takes the mound in the opener of a three-game set against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies, who entered play Thursday in a second-place tie with Washington.
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