Boos ignite Juan Soto’s vengeance, Yankees bomb Padres in reprisal

Yankees' Juan Soto jumps to celebrate his homer against the padres that came in the backdrop of boos at San Diego on May 24, 2024.
Sara Molnick
Saturday May 25, 2024

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Juan Soto‘s return to Petco Park in a Yankees uniform was met with a chorus of boos from the San Diego faithful. However, the slugger seemed to understand the harsh reception and exacted his revenge with a home run in New York’s homer barrage, which his teammates appeared to embrace in solidarity.

Before his first game back in San Diego, the former Padres outfielder told local media he loved his time in America’s Finest City and spoke highly of the fan base. Juan Soto expressed regret that he couldn’t show them his full potential during his year-and-a-half stint, saying he was “kind of sad” because he didn’t play at his best while trying hard every game.

“It’s kind of tough for me because (the fans) were there every day for me,’’ Juan Soto told at a pre-game press meet. “I know I tried my best. I played hard every game. But I didn’t play at my best, you know? And that’s one of the things I was kind of sad about, because I couldn’t show them how great I can be.’’

Now thriving in pinstripes and putting up the numbers the Padres envisioned, the sellout Petco Park crowd voiced their anger and frustration toward Juan Soto. Padres fans didn’t hesitate, booing him the moment his name was announced in the lineups Friday night. The jeers grew louder with each step toward the batter’s box, reaching a thunderous volume when he dug in.

But they did little expect what reprisal it could invite!

Juan Soto responded with a vengeance. He smashed a massive two-run home run off Yu Darvish, igniting an 8-0 Yankees win front of 43,505 fans. He went 2-for-4 with a homer and a double, narrowly missing extra bases when Fernando Tatis Jr. made a stellar catch in the seventh inning. This was Juan Soto’s first game back in San Diego after spending a season and a half with the Padres.

New York Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton celebrates with teammate Aaron Judge after hitting a two-run home run as Juan Soto looks on during the third inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, May 24, 2024, in San Diego.
AP Photo/Gregory Bull

Juan Soto’s 14th homer of the year, a 423-foot two-run shot, left Tatis motionless as it sailed over the fence. His Yankees teammates appeared to show solidarity, joining in the home run barrage at their former star’s previous home park.

Just two pitches later, Aaron Judge followed with a 409-foot homer to left, his 16th of the season, continuing his hot streak in May. This marked the first time Judge and Soto hit back-to-back homers. Then, Giancarlo Stanton hammered a two-run, second-deck blast two batters later, as the Yankees pummeled Darvish for five runs in the third inning. Stanton’s 417-foot shot, his 13th homer, extended the lead to 6-0.

The trio combined for 1,249 feet of home runs within minutes, the second time all three have homered in the same game. The Yankees’ revenge continued with Gleyber Torres adding a fourth homer off Darvish in the fourth inning, a rarity for the Padres’ starter this season. The homers had elite exit velocities of 107.9 MPH, 104.9 MPH, 110.9 MPH, and 108.7 MPH.

In addition to his homer, Juan Soto doubled and walked, while the Padres managed just three singles all night.

Juan Soto takes his revenge with a reality check

Reflecting on the game, Juan Soto remarked, “It’s just baseball. At the end of the day, even if you have the best team on paper, you’ve got to go out and try to win games. But stuff happens.”

Juan Soto never quite became the game-changer the Padres had hoped for when they acquired him from the Nationals on August 2, 2022. Despite San Diego’s desire to give it another year with the slugger, financial issues, including a loan taken to make payroll last fall, led to his trade to the Yankees on December 6.

Yankees' Juan Soto rounds after hitting as homer against the padres that came in the backdrop of boos at San Diego on May 24, 2024.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone praised Juan Soto, stating, “He’s been pretty awesome,” and expressing admiration for his intangibles, highlighting him as “a really good teammate” who is “about winning” behind the scenes.

However, some Padres players and coaches have privately questioned why Juan Soto’s intensity and performance seem to have improved since his move to New York, though the public sentiment from the San Diego clubhouse remained positive.

Padres right fielder Fernando Tatis Jr., one of Juan Soto’s closest friends, remarked that while their friendship takes a back seat on the field now that they are opponents, he still admires the Yankees slugger as a great person and player. Tatis mentioned he was “definitely not surprised” by Juan Soto’s success, knowing he would “rise to the occasion” because he’s “that type of player.”

“I’m definitely not surprised what he’s doing,” he said. “I knew he’d rise to the occasion. He’s that type of player.’’

Juan Soto, 25, arrived in San Diego as the favorite to win the American League MVP award. He was hitting .312 with 13 home runs, 41 RBIs, a .409 on-base percentage, a .563 slugging percentage, and .972 OPS. The slugger has been one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters with runners in scoring position, batting .357 with a .619 slugging percentage, three homers, and 28 RBIs. Soto added to his totals Friday night by launching a two-run home run in the third inning.  

After the eighth inning, Juan Soto left a note on the grass in right field that his former teammate Fernando Tatis Jr. picked up and read when he took the field in the ninth. While the Yankees slugger wouldn’t reveal what the note said, he mentioned it was “something cool” and that Tatis enjoyed it because when Juan Soto hit a double earlier, Tatis looked at him laughing about it.

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