Nyjer Morgan and Chris Volstad. Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland. Over the years, D.C. has been home to some famous baseball rivalries and a new one seems to be brewing.
Last night, another chapter was added to the Juan Soto and the Braves Will Smith’s rivalry. The two’s growing tension dates back to June 18 of last season. Will Smith was warming on the mound in the middle of the eighth inning and started to yell at Soto.
Instead of standing in the on-deck circle, the slugger had walked over to the warning track behind the plate to get a better view of the closer’s delivery. Smith didn’t appreciate this and started yelling profanities at the youngster so he would back off.
Smith retired Adam Eaton and it wasn’t until the ninth inning that he and Soto squared off. Unfortunately for Smith, Soto took him 430 feet deep. The phenom didn’t say a word, but instead decided to stare down both his homer and the pitcher before trotting around the diamond.
Smith immediately retaliated by unleashing a tirade of expletives at Soto as he rounded the bases.
Fast forward to last night and Will Smith entered in the bottom of the ninth with a three-run lead. After retiring Alcides Escobar, Soto came up to the plate. On a 1-0 count, Smith threw a tailing fastball that struck the slugger in his side.
Soto took the high road, shrugging it off and taking his base. Josh Bell quickly grounded into a double-play to end the game and Smith was out of the jam with another save.
The second the pitch hit Soto, Smith started to walk towards the plate while staring down the lefty, showing that it was intentional. Federal Baseball’s Blake Finney pointed out that this was the first time the two faced off since their rivalry began, where hitting Soto wouldn’t bring the tying run to the plate.
Braves fans raced to Twitter to share their fear that Smith’s decision would lead to retalition on the side of the Nats. Other’s applaueded Soto’s decision to be the bigger man.
All eyes should be on tonight’s game to see if the Nationals retaliate. Hopefully the umpires issues an early warning to prevent any injuries. Here’s hoping Soto take’s Smith deep with the game on the line.