A down season by Washington Nationals right fielder Juan Soto isn't fooling the Texas Rangers.
Soto went 1-for-4 with a double and a run in the Nationals' 2-1 win over the Rangers during the series opener on Friday night in Arlington, Texas.
Game 2 of the interleague series is set for Saturdayafternoon, with Josiah Gray (6-4, 3.95 ERA) getting the start for the Nationals. Texas will go with Matt Bush (2-1, 4.05) as an opener. Rangers lefty Taylor Hearn (4-5, 6.25) is expected to pick up multiple innings in relief.
Soto is batting just .214, but the slugger has 14 home runs and a .363 on-base percentage.
"What isn't good about him?" Rangers manager Chris Woodward said when asked about Soto. "He's obviously an extremely talented hitter. The way he hits the baseball. He uses the whole field. He hits balls to left-center like a right-handed hitter does."
Soto will hope to provide some offense for Gray, who will make his 14th start of the season. The 24-year-old is 4-0 with a 1.89 ERA in six road starts this year, having struck out 33 and walked 13 in 33 1/3 innings.
One of the promising young core pitchers on a rebuilding Washington team, Gray is enjoying a strong month of June. In three starts this month, he is 1-0 with a 0.53 ERA, having yielded two runs (one earned) in 17 innings.
The Rangers squandered many chances on Friday, going 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. They stranded 10, including runners on the corners in the ninth inning. Texas saw its two-game winning streak end, while Washington won for third time in four games.
Texas center fielder Adolis Garcia belted his 14th home run in the loss and he made a standout defensive play, throwing out Nelson Cruz at the plate in the fourth inning.
Both teams were off on Thursday before opening the three-game set on Friday.
During the off day, the Rangers swung a trade with the San Francisco Giants. They acquired outfielder Steven Duggar for outfielder Willie Calhoun, who requested a trade in May after he was sent down to Triple-A Round Rock.
Woodward said Duggar is expected to be available on Sunday.
Duggar provides outfield depth. The 28-year-old has been on the injured list since late April due to a left oblique injury.
The left-handed-hitting and right-handed-throwing Duggar projects to replace the role of Eli White, who was transferred to the 60-day injured list on Tuesday. White, who has a fractured right wrist, initially went on the 10-day IL on June 13.
"Steven Duggar is a strong all-around baseball player who can add value to a team in a variety of ways," Rangers president of baseball operations Jon Daniels said after the trade was made. "With the injury to Eli, we think his skill set fits our roster well."
The Nationals gave an update Friday on the status of right-hander Stephen Strasburg, who has been on the IL since mid-June. The 33-year-old is dealing with a stress reaction in his ribs that is related to his thoracic outlet recovery.
"He can't do anything until he's pain-free and feeling good," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. "There's no rush to kind of put a plan together."
--Field Level Media