Nationals' Soto credits HR Derby for recent power surge
"You can tell. I just feel so much better now," Soto said Sunday after Washington beat the San Diego Padres to avoid a three-game sweep, according to MASN's Mark Zuckerman. "I was thinking about it, and it really helped me a little bit get that feeling of how to put the ball in the air and everything.
"I tried everything I could in the first half, and the ball still was going to the ground. ... I think the derby helped me out big-time."
Soto homered in Washington's 8-7 win over San Diego as the Nationals snapped a six-game losing streak. The 22-year-old went deep three times in as many games to begin the second half of the season after swatting only 11 long balls in the first half.
"It's just kind of impressive, though, because I didn't realize how quickly it was going to help me out," Soto said. "To see those homers in this series, it was great for me."
While some sluggers have resisted participating in the Home Run Derby for fear it could mess with their swing, Soto hoped it could help restore his. He bashed 46 round-trippers in the exhibition before bowing out in the second round to eventual champion Pete Alonso.
"I do believe him going to the All-Star Game and doing the Home Run Derby did help him understand really what he needs to do," said Nationals manager Dave Martinez. "Because if you watched him in the Home Run Derby, he didn't try to pull a whole lot of balls. He hit a lot of balls to center field. He hit some to left-center. And that's who he is."
Soto reached base nine times in Washington's series against the Padres, upping his slash line to .295/.415/.484 for the season. The outfielder posted a .351./490./695 line in 47 games last year.