It’s no coincidence that the virtual pitcher in this particular scene from the trailer is Cardinals right-hander Miles Mikolas, who had a memorable encounter with Soto in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series last October. After retiring Soto on a groundball to escape a bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning, Mikolas turned toward the Nationals’ dugout at Busch Stadium and grabbed his crotch. Soto had adjusted himself toward Mikolas as part of his shuffle after taking a pitch earlier in the at-bat.
“I was just having fun,” Mikolas said after the game. “He’s a great hitter; great hitters have routines. That’s part of his routine, his shtick.”
“I’m just going to laugh about it,” Soto said.
“It’s a routine that he uses to get to the next pitch,” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said before Game 1 of the NLCS, during which Soto was booed heavily by Cardinals fans. “I mean, when you talk to him he really feels like that’s his batter’s box, he owns that batter’s box. And when he does that, it’s basically just saying, ‘Hey, I’m going to get back in here and I’m going to get ready to hit the next pitch.’ ”
As his shuffle began to draw more scrutiny during the playoffs, Soto admitted that it had evolved into something more than a tic.
“I like to get in the minds of the pitchers,” he said. “Because sometimes they get scared.”
Wednesday’s trailer also features a Nationals dugout dance party, with Trea Turner in the middle, getting down in Washington’s new home white alternate jerseys with blue ‘Nationals’ script. Spurred on by outfielder Gerardo Parra, the Nationals began dancing in the dugout after every home run in the middle of last season, and they didn’t stop until they captured the team’s first World Series title.
In a less joyful scene for fans of the defending champs, Anthony Rendon is depicted in an Angels jersey, looking as calm as ever as he swats a pitch into left field. No word on whether this year’s game will also include virtual hugs for Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg or banging sounds from the Astros’ dugout at Houston’s Minute Maid Park.
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