Neftali Soto gets back on track with blast that propels Senators to 6-2 victory

(Samuel Getty / Harrisburg Senators)

Neftali Soto wasn’t the only Harrisburg Senator who struggled during their three-game series in Trenton against the Thunder. After all, the Senators were shut out in two games and managed to scratch out only 18 hits in the set, 15 of which were singles.

“We just ran into some good pitching on the road trip,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “A little bump in the road with the wins and losses, but they had some good arms.”

Soto wasn’t exactly tearing the cover off the baseball before the Senators’ bus rolled into Trenton, but the first baseman had put together a modest six-game hitting streak batting out of the cleanup spot in the order. But when the 28-year-old scuffles to a 1-for-11 series, it’s noticed because Soto is counted on to be such a big part of the Harrisburg offense. When he goes cold at the plate, even for just a little bit, the Senators run production typically disappears into a string of zeroes on the scoreboard.

But Thursday night at FNB Field, Soto put the Thunder series behind him and led the Senators to a 6-2 victory over the Hartford Yard Goats.

Deadlocked at two apiece in the eighth inning, Drew Ward worked a leadoff walk against Hartford reliever D.J. Johnson to bring Soto to the plate. Soto jumped on Johnson’s first offering, a belt-high fastball, and unloaded a line drive that caromed off the scoreboard in right field.

“I was just looking for a pitch that I could hit hard,” Soto said. “The last couple of games have been kind of rough.”

Earlier in the bottom of the sixth inning, Soto tied the game up with a sacrifice fly that he crushed into centerfield but hung up in the swirling winds. “He hit that better than the home run ball,” LeCroy said.

“It’s good to see him get going a little bit.”

*****

A trio of Senators’ relievers and some shaky infield defense made things interesting the last three frames. RC Orlan, Ryan Brinley, and Wander Suero each worked around some combination of hits, walks, or errors in getting the final nine outs without allowing a run.

The southpaw Orlan struggled finding the strike zone especially against left-handed batters as he walked two sandwiched around a Ward error at third base. But Orlan battled back and struck out Ashley Graeter and got Eastern League April Player of the Month, Ryan McMahon, to ground out to second.

“He had trouble with all lefties until the last one,” LeCroy said. “Lefties are going to be his bread and butter. He’s got to be a little bit better throwing strikes, but he found a way to get out of it.”

“I’m going to keep putting him in some of these situations. He’s earned that right to do it. He’s done pretty well when we give him the ball.”

Brinley was victimized by a pair of errors, Ozzie Abreu fumbling a high chopper and Ward dropping a pop-up between home and the mound, but also managed to escape unscathed. With a four-run cushion, Suero worked around a pair of hits in the ninth to secure the victory for the Senators.

*****

ICYMI: John Simms notched another quality start scattering four hits and allowing two runs over six solid innings. Simms has yet to allow more than two earned runs in any of his five starts this season…although the Senators were only 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, that is a little misleading as Ward, Soto, and pinch-hitter Mario Lisson all delivered sacrifice flies to get baserunners home from third base with less than two outs.

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