Bryce Harper may be gone, but the future of the Washington Nationals is still bright with the emergence of Juan Soto and Victor Robles
Down to their last strike on Tuesday night in Philadelphia, the Washington Nationals counted on their young, budding superstar to come through as their former superstar stood out in right field.
Victor Robles, the Nationals 21-year-old center fielder, homered in the top of the ninth inning on a two-strike, two-out pitch off Phillies reliever Edubray Ramos to tie the game and force extra innings. In the 10th, it was the turn of the Nationals other young star to shine. Left fielder Juan Soto hit a three-run, 432-foot home run over the foul pole in right field to put the Nationals ahead 9-6. “I think that’s the hardest ball I’ve ever seen hit,” manager Dave Martinez said after the game.
Later in the inning, Robles added an RBI double to give Washington a 10-6 win at Citizens Bank Park. The Nationals improved to 5-5 in 2019, while the Phillies continue to lead the NL East at 7-3.
The Nationals saw Bryce Harper, their franchise player for the past seven seasons, walk away in the offseason and join the Phillies on a 13-year, $330 million contract. Any concern that they would miss his bat in their lineup, though, has been alleviated by the emergence of Robles and the 20-year-old Soto. After going 3-5 with two RBI on Tuesday, Robles is now hitting .324 with three home runs and a 1.116 OPS this season. Soto, meanwhile, a year after hitting 22 home runs and finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting, has two homers and eight RBI.
Before their heroics, however, Harper victimized his old team again with a three-run home run to the opposite field in the third inning. In his first 10 games with the Phillies, Harper is now hitting .333 with four home runs and a 1.299 OPS. The Phillies took a 6-1 lead on Tuesday, chasing Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg from the game after four innings and six earned runs.
The Nationals managed to come back, thanks largely to the two young players who have mostly replaced Harper in their lineup. “They had great at-bats. I mean, all the way around, the boys, they battled their butts off and I’m so super proud of them,” Martinez said.
Soto debuted with the Nationals last season when he was just 19 years old, the same age as Harper was in his first season in Washington. Watching him and Robles play may remind the Nationals of their former star, and for the next 13 years, Harper will also get a good look at these young players blossom into superstars.