Jhonatan Solano’s home run, stolen base help propel Nats


Catcher Jhonatan Solano, right, is hitting 393 in eight starts with the Nationals, and Washington starters are 3-0 in his last three games behind the plate. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)
July 4, 2012

His go-ahead home run had barely settled in the first few rows of the right field seats, but Jhonatan Solano’s swift trek around the bases was already near completion.

The 26-year-old rookie seems to have grasped the art of hitting in the major leagues: he’s batting .393 in eight starts. And he seems comfortable working with pitchers; Nats hurlers are 3-0 in his last three games.

But his home run trot could use a little polish.

Solano said he didn’t think he had hit the two-strike slider from Giants starter Madison Bumgarner far enough to get out of the park, prompting him to sprint around the bases. He earned his lone style points with a fist bump as he stepped on home plate.

“I got good contact and saw the ball was hit well,” said Solano. “But then I saw everybody clapping and screaming.”

His solo home run in the fourth inning helped the Nationals erase an early three-run deficit and take a 4-3 lead. It was the second home run of the rookie’s career and his sixth RBI as his third career multi-hit game helped turn back San Francisco.

Solano said he doesn't feel much pressure on the first-place team. His main objective is not to stand out.

“I try to do everything good because I don’t want to look like the only one that can do nothing,” Solano said with a smile.

Since he was promoted from Class AAA Syracuse on May 29, Solano has backed up catcher Jesus Flores, a starter as a result of the season-ending knee injury suffered by Wilson Ramos. Manager Davey Johnson said he will use Solano often to spell Flores as the summer heat continues.

Solano began the season in the minors for a seventh straight season. He was the franchise’s de-facto third catcher, behind Ramos and Flores. But when Ramos was injured in May, Solano was rehabbing a strained neck.

Sandy Leon, who replaced Ramos, sprained his ankle in his first game after joining the Nationals. Still rehabbing, Solano could only watch as Carlos Maldonado was called up. Bypassed twice, Solano received his promotion when Flores was briefly sidelined with a tight hamstring.

On June 7, Maldonado became the third Nationals catcher to head to the disabled list, which gave Solano an indefinite stay with the big club.

“I’ve never seen such depth in catching as this organization,” said Johnson.” “All of them are great receivers, catch and throw, block balls great. And all of them have good bat potential.”

Solano recorded another first against the Giants with the first stolen base of his career in the sixth inning. He had just 10 steals in his minor-league career.

He also helped settle down starter Edwin Jackson after a three-run first inning by the Giants. Jackson then tossed four consecutive scoreless innings to allow the Nationals’ offense to take back the lead.

Solano said Jackson tried to be too perfect in the first inning, but was able to make adjustments. He said he told Jackson to stick with it and forget the three-run deficit.

“I know I’m a young guy,” said Solano. “All I worry about is calling a good game and when I hit, just make good contact. Do the little things.”

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