Soto set to return for Nats in series opener vs. Mets

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The Washington Nationals have waited five days to return to action. Juan Soto has waited a lot longer than that.

Soto is expected to make his season debut Tuesday night when the Nationals host the New York Mets in the opener of a two-game series.

Patrick Corbin (0-0, 1.42 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Nationals against the Mets’ Steven Matz (0-1, 3.18 ERA) in a battle of left-handers.

The Mets snapped a five-game losing streak Monday night with a 7-2 win over the host Atlanta Braves. The Nationals haven’t played since Thursday, when they beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-4.

The Nationals’ weekend series against the Miami Marlins was postponed after 18 uniformed members of the Marlins tested positive for the coronavirus. Washington tried staying sharp with an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday — the same day the team welcomed back Soto, whose positive coronavirus test was announced hours before the Opening Day game against the New York Yankees on July 23.

Soto said he never displayed any symptoms and believed his result may have been a false positive. He was allowed to return after testing negative twice last week, following clearance from the D.C. Department of Health.

The game Tuesday will be the first action that counts for Soto since Game 7 of the World Series last Oct. 30. Soto, who turned 21 during the postseason, hit five homers in the playoffs while leading the Nationals to the first championship in franchise history.

Soto also homered during Saturday’s scrimmage, which happened hours after he bounded into Nationals Park like a kid racing into the living room on Christmas morning.

“First time I saw him, he comes in my office with that big ol’ smile,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “Besides him being a baseball player, that’s what I miss about Juan — his personality, having him around, that big smile. We love the kid. He’s part of the family. So to get him back here, getting him going again, guys were excited. I know he was extremely excited to be back.”

While the Nationals are getting back one of their best players, the Mets could be without three-quarters of their infield. Third baseman Jeff McNeil was a late scratch Monday night due to lower back tightness while shortstop Amed Rosario (tight left quad) left in the third inning and second baseman Robinson Cano (tight left groin) exited in the fifth inning. Their availability for Tuesday night is uncertain.

“We’ve got to wait to see how they are (Tuesday) and we’ll find out more,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said.

Corbin didn’t factor into the decision in his season debut July 26, when he allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings in the Nationals’ 3-2 loss to the Yankees. Matz took the loss Thursday, when he allowed three runs over 5 1/3 innings as the Mets fell 4-2 to the Boston Red Sox.

Corbin is 2-5 with a 4.46 ERA in 14 games (13 starts) against the Mets. Matz is 1-5 with a 3.41 ERA in 12 starts against the Nationals.

–Field Level Media

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