BOSTON – Juan Soto grew up in the Dominican Republic watching Manny Ramirez play left field in Boston, and the Nationals slugger was looking forward to playing in the shadow of the Green Monster in his first visit to Fenway Park.
Instead, Soto was in the lineup at designated hitter and had to settle for imitating Ramirez at the plate.
Soto and Howie Kendrick hit back-to-back homers in Washington's five-run third inning, and Max Scherzer struck out 11 to lead the Nationals to a 10-2 victory over the Red Sox on Friday night.
"Juan is a big Manny fan. He was disappointed" he didn't play the field, Nationals manager Davey Martinez said. “We’ll see. He’ll be back out there tomorrow.”
A day after both teams’ games were postponed in the sport’s racial justice awakening, they returned for Jackie Robinson Day, lining up along the baselines before the game to listen to a recorded speech from the player who broke baseball’s color barrier. Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr. — the only Black player on the last team in the majors to integrate — knelt for the national anthem, with teammate Alex Verdugo taking a knee beside him.
“I think it was a great day for us to come back and play, and represent him well,” said Josh Harrison, who also homered for Washington. "It allowed us to take a step back and realize why we're all here. There’s a reason we play together ... because others made the sacrifices."
Trea Turner and Victor Robles had three hits apiece for Washington, which handed Scherzer (3-1) a 5-0 lead in the third. The three-time Cy Young Award winner allowed one run and six hits in six innings, winning his third straight decision and matching his season high for strikeouts.
It was his 97th game with double-digit strikeouts, tying Sandy Koufax for fifth on the career list.
“I’m flattered,” he said, breaking into a smile when told of the feat after the game. “It’s been a lot of hard work over the years. The fact that you can even mention me in the same breath as him, it’s an honor.”
Boston left-hander Martín Pérez (2-4) gave up six runs and eight hits in four innings, struggling with a blister on his index finger from the third inning on. The Red Sox scored one in the ninth and loaded the bases before Ryne Harper got the last two outs.
The 2018 World Series winners and the defending champions each entered the game in last place in their divisions. The Nationals snapped a three-game losing streak and sent the Red Sox to their fourth loss in five games; it's Boston's worst start since the Great Depression.
“No doubt we didn’t expect to be where we are now,” Boston manager Ron Roenicke said. “They started off poorly last year and then got really hot and just rolled right through, ended up winning the World Series. We know if this team is on their game, they’re obviously as good as anybody in baseball. On our end, we have to continue to try to do some things better.”
It was scoreless with one on and one out in the third when Robles and Turner hit consecutive doubles. Soto and Kendrick followed with the Nationals’ first back-to-back home runs of the season.
It was the 200th career RBI for Soto, who will turn 22 in October. According to ESPN, only Mel Ott, Al Kaline, Ken Griffey Jr., Mickey Mantle, Tony Conigliaro, Jimmie Foxx and César Cedeño were younger when they reached the milestone.
Washington scored three times in the eighth to make it 10-1, getting Harrison’s two-run homer and an RBI double from Turner.
Red Sox: Zack Godley will start Sunday instead of Nathan Eovaldi (calf).
Nationals: RHP Aníbal Sánchez (1-3) starts in the 7:30 p.m. game on Saturday.
Red Sox: RHP Chris Mazza (0-1) starts in the second game of the series.
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