ATLANTA — Juan Soto’s season has been historic for a 19-year-old and that would normally make the Washington Nationals outfielder a lock for National League Rookie of the Year.
Not in 2018, though, with the way 20-year-old outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. is performing for the Atlanta Braves.
The phenoms will be on the field together for the last time this season Sunday as the National League East-leading Braves (83-65) and disappointing defending two-time champion Nationals (75-74) conclude their three-game series.
“You’re seeing two premium young players in baseball right now,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “You’ve got to appreciate the way they play the game. It shows how mature they are at that age.”
Acuna was a home run short of the cycle in his first three at-bats against three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer in the series opener Friday night and Soto became the second youngest player to reach 20 homers in the same game.
Soto had his homer streak snapped at four games in Saturday’s 7-1 victory by the Nationals but extended his on-base streak to 20 games with a hit and three of Washington’s 14 walks. He also stole three bases.
Soto, who has drawn 74 walks in 103 games, is batting .304 with 72 runs scored and 63 RBIs. Acuna, who had his first four-hit game Friday, has a .296 average with 25 homers, 71 runs scored, 55 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 97 games.
Acuna joined the Braves on April 25 and Soto was promoted May 19. The only thing that has stopped either since is Acuna’s monthlong stay on the disabled list because of a knee injury suffered at the end of May.
Acuna, who moved into the leadoff spot after the All-Star break, and Soto have regularly put on shows when the Braves and Nationals play.
Acuna has batted .424 in 33 at-bats with three home runs, a triple and three doubles, and six RBIs in seven games against the Nationals.
Soto has four homers and nine RBIs in 12 games versus the Braves while batting .289 with 12 walks.
They appear to have established a mutual admiration society despite their competition for NL Rookie of the Year.
“I’m having fun sharing the field with him,” Acuna said through a translator.
“Everything he does is fun,” said Soto, also through a translator. “I keep watching him.”
Braves second-year left-hander Sean Newcomb (12-8, 3.82 ERA) will try to break a four-game pratfall at SunTrust Park as he opposes veteran Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark (8-15, 4.37) in the finale of the 1-1 weekend series.
Newcomb is 0-3 with 10.70 ERA in his past four home starts, yielding 21 runs and 33 hits in 17 2/3 innings. But he is coming off a strong road outing at San Francisco, tossing six innings of one-run ball and not issuing a walk for the second time in his 47 career starts.
Newcomb is 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in three starts against the Nationals this year.
Roark has posted an 8.62 ERA in his past three starts but has had mostly career success against the Braves.
Although he’s 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in three games (two starts) this season, Roark is 7-5 with a 3.08 ERA lifetime against Atlanta in 22 games (15 starts).
Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte is 12-for-29 with a homer against Roark,and Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon is 4-for-9 with two doubles against Newcomb.