TINSMAN: Juan Soto is the hero D.C. deserves

Brian Tinsman
October 02, 2019 - 1:29 am
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The legend of Juan Soto was immortalized on Tuesday night.

A season of anguish and triumph for the Washington Nationals hung in the balance, as they trailed the Milwaukee Brewers by two runs, with two outs in the eighth inning.

Moments before, Anthony Rendon withstood "M-V-P" chants from the sellout crowd of 42,993 to patiently work a walk that loaded the bases. 

As Soto stepped into the box, it was easy to remember every time that past Nats teams have failed in this moment. In the playoffs, in elimination games, especially at home, the Nats never found the clutch hit or shutdown inning.

But Soto wasn't here for those painful moments. This was his first time in the postseason spotlight, and he was the hero that D.C. deserved.

With a 1-1 count, Soto stroked a single to right field, which bounced in front of hard-charging Brewer Trent Grisham. As the Nats circled the bases on contact, Grisham glanced up, ready to throw to the plate.

In that moment, the baseball gods smiled on Soto, whose hit bounced under Grisham's glove. Grisham chased the ball down, but it was far too late. One run scored. Two runs scored. When Rendon rounded third and sprinted home, the Nats got their first lead of the game.

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The city roared in approval. Soto soaked in the moment with teammates. A hero was born.

Even after a stellar rookie campaign, Soto's sophomore success was uncertain. Coming into this season, Soto had the unenviable job of replacing Bryce Harper in the lineup and in the hearts of Nats fans.

He did the first part with ease, batting .282/.401/.548 during the regular season. That's better than Harper, who batted .249/.393/.496 in his last season in D.C. and .260/.372/.510 in his first season with the Phillies.

During the regular season, Soto scored 110 runs and delivered 110 RBIs, but none as iconic as the three he drove in to clinch the NL Wild Card Game.

No matter what happens in the NLDS, Nationals fans will never forget the night Juan Soto saved the 2019 season.

Looking ahead, the Nats will need Soto to stay hot for the NLDS and beyond. He was one of the team's hottest hitters during the regular season and could be called on again in the clutch.

Depending on how things play out this offseason, Rendon could leave the team in free agency, making Soto the face of this offense. Even if Rendon stays, Soto has the talent to surpass him.

No matter what happens, we'll never forget the night he saved the 2019 season.

Brian Tinsman has covered D.C. sports since 2011, both from the team marketing and skeptical fan perspectives. Tweet your criticisms @Brian_Tinsman.