Juan Soto reaches rare milestone with 20th home run

Juan Soto
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Nationals rookie Juan Soto‘s meteoric rise has hardly gone unnoticed this year, and on Friday, he added to an already-impressive resume with a solo shot off of Kevin Gausman‘s 95.1-MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Not only did the 383-footer narrow the Nationals’ deficit against the Braves to just one run, but it also placed the outfielder in rare company: At 19 years old, he’s only the third teenager to record at least 20 home runs in major league history.

The two former rookies who also share this record? One of them still belongs to the Nationals, as Bryce Harper was the last to do it after finishing his age-19 season with 22 home runs in 2012. The first player to record the feat, however, was Tony Conigliaro of the 1964 Red Sox. The young outfielder rounded out his first year in the big leagues with an as-yet unchallenged record of 24 total homers before his 20th birthday.

Soto has been white-hot since his call-up in May, but managed to ramp up the intensity even more over his last few games this month. Entering Friday’s contest, he’s batted .364/.451/.636 with three homers and a 1.087 OPS in 51 plate appearances since the start of September, and is proving a stiff competitor to Atlanta rookie Ronald Acuña as award season draws near.

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

Minnesota Twis v Kansas City Royals
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.