NEW YORK — Juan Soto was steaming around third base and headed for home during the seventh inning Sunday afternoon when he saw the stop sign. Washington Nationals third base coach Bob Henley had his arms up as he watched the New York Mets relay the ball in from right field. Soto tried to plant his feet and stop, but his right ankle rolled over. He wanted to retreat to third base, but his body wouldn’t cooperate.
“I stayed there and made myself out,” he said after the game. “After that, I started feeling pinches in my ankle. But right now, it’s feeling better.”
After the Nationals averted a sweep by beating the Mets, 7-4, at Citi Field, the team diagnosed Soto with a mild right ankle sprain. X-rays returned negative, and he is considered day-to-day. Soto walked gingerly but seemed upbeat in the clubhouse and mentioned that, if he woke up feeling okay, he might play as soon as Monday night in the series opener against the Cincinnati Reds at Nationals Park.
The injury looked worse when it happened. New teammate Asdrúbal Cabrera had delivered an ultimately decisive two-run double, and the Nationals were sprinting around the bases when Soto saw Henley’s stop sign.
“We don’t need that right now, to lose a guy like him,” Cabrera said.
After the play ended, Soto couldn’t walk and a cluster formed around him, including trainer Paul Lessard, Manager Dave Martinez and several players. Soto argued he should stay in the game, but his manager and teammates told him to rest. He had already hit three home runs in the first two games of the series and scored a run Sunday.
“I was fighting him, ‘Just come out; let’s go take care of this,’ ” Martinez said. “Hopefully in a day or two he’s good to go."
Soto did some calf raises and felt okay, so he took his glove and tried to run to left field. He didn’t make it two steps. Finally, outfielder Gerardo Parra ran over.
“Hey, we got two more innings,” Soto remembered Parra telling him. “We got it. Go inside and be ready for tomorrow.”
Soto walked off the field. The 20-year-old understands ankle injuries: He broke his right ankle in May 2017 while playing at Class A Hagerstown. This felt nothing like that, he said.
Soto returned to the dugout in the ninth inning to watch his team polish off its win. Close friend Victor Robles, who replaced him in the outfield, smacked an important two-run homer to left to pad the Nationals’ lead.
Soto joked to the trainers, “I just come out to let him hit a homer.”
The lighthearted comment landed because, sooner rather than later, the Nationals expect to have their star left fielder back in the lineup.