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Souza returns to Nats Park with big game

Jun 17, 2015, 11:33 PM EDT

AP

Steven Souza, Jr. played only 21 games for the Nationals before getting traded to the Tampa Bay Rays this past offseason, the but the big-swinging outfielder will long be remembered for his final play in a Nats uniform. That would, of course, be his leaping grab in left-center field to save Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter on the final day of the 2014 regular season.

So, as luck would have it, Souza returned to Nationals Park on Wednesday and faced none other than Zimmermann himself in his first at-bat back in Washington. Souza singled his first time up and homered in his second at-bat off Zimmermann. The single was the first hit of the day allowed by Zimmermann, adding a little bit of irony even though it was just 1 2/3 innings into his start.

“It’s fun competing against your friend,” Souza said. “He’s a competitor. Just left a couple of pitches over the middle.”

Souza also scored on a bunt in the eighth inning off reliever Blake Treinen with the help of two throwing errors. He also added a difficult sliding grab in foul territory to end the bottom of the second. The Rays won 5-0, completing a successful return for the former Nationals third round pick on a day that started with a loud applause from Nats fans when his name was called in pregame introductions.

“All the way around,” Souza said. “The way the fans responded, that was pretty emotional and a pretty high moment for me. I know that Jordan deserves all of the honor and I deserve nothing, really. But to have them do that, that was pretty cool.”

“That was awesome. What a nice applause the crowd gave him for a young player that’s only spent a year here,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “That was pretty impressive to see. You can tell there are a lot of baseball fans here that probably appreciate the same things we appreciate about him. The way he plays the game, he’s an exciting young player.”

Souza is fitting in well with the Rays as a frontrunner for the American League Rookie of the Year award so far. It’s still relatively early, but he leads all AL rookies in homers (13), RBI (30), walks (30), total bases (96) and runs (34). Souza is pacing the 37-30 Rays in nearly every offensive category.

The Nationals are already reaping the benefits of their return in the three-team December trade, with Joe Ross currently in their rotation and Trea Turner now headlining their farm system. But there’s no question the Rays are happy with their side of the deal.

“Just the way he carries himself every single day,” Cash explained. “He cares so much. He works extremely hard. He’s just such a good teammate and a good person. He goes about everything he does the right way. He’s always wanting to learn and try to get better. I guess on top of everything, he’s just a really good player.”

Though Souza was the key contributor to a Nationals’ shutout loss, his former teammates can’t help but appreciate his success this year from afar.

“I love the kid. We’re really good friends, and I’m happy to see him have success over there,” Ian Desmond said. “That’s what you want. You want players to get an opportunity to play, and when they do, to succeed. He’s doing that over there. He’s having a nice season. I’m sure not all of his numbers aren’t where he wants them to be, but he’s grinding it out for his team and they’re in first place in the AL East.”

“He’s a good hitter. He’s still really, really young and he’s probably going to turn into a really good ballplayer,” Zimmermann said.

Souza will always hold a place in Nationals history, but now he’s on a different first-place team and loving every part of it.

“It was rewarding. But I think it was more rewarding the way we came back after getting our tails whipped yesterday,” he said.

  1. 3on2out - Jun 18, 2015 at 6:16 AM

    JZNN already gave him a $5,000 gift certificate. Wasn’t that enough?

    • Doc - Jun 18, 2015 at 7:48 AM

      Yeah, Steve should give the 5K back to JZim. LOL

      A perfect baseball drama for Steven and the Rays.

      I hope he does get ROY Award. Even without the BA moving up, he seems to be going in the right direction.

      Still like the trade from our side.

  2. tcostant - Jun 18, 2015 at 7:54 AM

    I’m still banking the trade is a win for the Nationals. It might be a win for the Rays too, not so much for the Padres…

  3. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 18, 2015 at 8:16 AM

    I wasn’t a fan of the trade. Made my feelings known on this… but whatevs… Im glad he is doing well with the Rays, just wish it weren’t against the Nats.

    Souza is to me what Burns is to JoeS… 🙂

    • Joe Seamhead - Jun 18, 2015 at 10:12 AM

      Mrsb, the difference is that the Nats have Trea Turner and Joe Ross for Sousa. I liked Sousa and will always remember his catch to seal the only no hitter that I attended live, but I have never felt that trade was a mistake. it was a good deal for both teams, or maybe all three of them.The Billy Burns trade may yet work out, but I doubt it.

  4. alexva6 - Jun 18, 2015 at 8:44 AM

    Souza evidently turned his life around a few years back so good for him. Why not give him tonight off as a reward 🙂

    the trade still has the potential to help all three teams

  5. laddieblahblah - Jun 18, 2015 at 8:58 AM

    I am ordinarily far too lazy to do the research to come up with this, but something came over me. Blame the Wonk.

    Rizzo’s rap sheet – a felonious history of theft, chicanery, larceny and fraud:

    Guilty, guilty, guilty – should get life in solitary confinement, without hope of parole:

    2009 – Seattle gets Ryan Langerhans, Nats get Michael Morse
    2010 – Texas gets Christian Guzman + $82 mn, Nats get Tanner Roark and Ryan Tatusko
    2010 – Minnesota gets Matt Capps Nats get Wilson Ramos and Joe Testa
    2012 – Minnesota gets Alex Meyer Nats get Denard Span
    2013 – Detroit gets Lombo, Krol, Robbie Ray Nats get Dough Fister
    2014 – Tampa Bay gets Nate Karns Nats get Jose Lobaton, Felipe Rivero and Drew
    Vettleson

    “Do not buy a used car from this man” category:

    2012 – Oakland gets David Freitas (who?) Nats get Kurt Suzuki
    2013 – Oakland gets Michael Morse Nats get AJ Cole, Blake Treinen, PTBNL (no clue
    who that was)
    2014 – Cleveland gets Zach Walters Nats get Asdrubal Cabrera

    Jury still out, but an eventual guilty verdict seems very likely:

    2014 – Tampa Bay gets Steven Souza Nats get Joe Ross and Trea Turner
    2015 – Oakland gets Tyler Clippard Nats get Yunel Escobar
    2015 – Yanks get Tony Renda Nats get David Carpenter

    Hung jury, ordered back into deliberations:

    2011 – Oakland gets Peacock, Cole, Milone, Norris Nats get Gio Gonzalez
    2013 – Tampa Bay gets David DeJesus Nats get Mathew Spann

    Prosecutorial discretion – No charges were ever filed:

    2010 – Arizona gets Josh Willingham Nats get Corey Brown and Henry Rodriguez
    2011 – Arizona gets Jason Marquis, Jerry Hairston Nats get Zach Walters and Erik Komatsu
    2013 – Oakland gets Kurt Suzuki Nats get Dakota Bacus
    2013 – Cubs get Ivan Pineyro Nats get Scott Hairston
    2015 – Mets get Jerry Blevins Nats get Matt den Dekker

    The con man finally gets conned:

    2013 – Oakland gets Billy Burns Nats get Jerry Blevins

    Members of the jury are obliged to come up with their own verdicts, in each case.

    • laddieblahblah - Jun 18, 2015 at 9:00 AM

      Jeez, I spent so much time formatting all that, and WordPress just did what it felt like.

    • adcwonk - Jun 18, 2015 at 9:43 AM

      +100

      Well done!!!

      • laddieblahblah - Jun 18, 2015 at 10:13 AM

        Thanks, Wonk. I probably missed one or two. And I put it on you for messing up my morning…;o)

      • adcwonk - Jun 18, 2015 at 10:22 AM

        Thanks. I’m glad to spread it around!

        (Ayy, I’ve messed up many a morning myself with this stuff 😉 )

        Next task (for you?) — what are the great draft picks Rizzo has had over the years? (E.g., Rendon, who was originally projected as a #1 pick, dropped like a stone because he had the “injured” label on him, and missed almost his entire last year of college — Rizzo snapped him up at #6 in 2011. Or: Giolito, same deal, teams were scared because of potential TJ, His stock dropped, and Rizzo snapped him up at #16 in 2012. Or, that year when Rizzo payed way way over slot to sign guys — which ended up causing MLB to make new rules penalizing those who go over slot!).

        Another task: a list of the when letting guys walk and then getting comp picks? If I recall correctly, letting Alfonso Soriano walk netted us a pick that we used to get JZ!

        Lots of work to do, laddie — get on it! 😉

    • Doc - Jun 18, 2015 at 10:34 AM

      Good work, Mr. BlaBla!

    • ArVAFan - Jun 18, 2015 at 10:47 AM

      Thank you for doing the work on this. Certainly more interesting reading than the alternative (paying work. You know, the work that allows me to go to games to appreciate the results of the above.). OK, now, back to the paperwork!

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 18, 2015 at 10:53 AM

      “2013 – Cubs get Ivan Pineyro Nats get Scott Hairston”

      I hated that trade.

      • Sweet. Fancy. Charles. - Jun 18, 2015 at 2:21 PM

        IIRC, Pineyro is still in AA, and not lighting it up there; OTOH, he’s only 23. But still. What’s to hate?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 18, 2015 at 2:27 PM

        LMAO, what’s to hate was the acquisition of Scott Hairston. He was awful. Sure, he had 3 nice hits in his Nats career that made a difference but his Ks and defensive blunders were epic and far outweighed the positives. Nice guy though

    • natsguy1 - Jun 18, 2015 at 2:45 PM

      The PTBNL in the Morse trade with the A’s was Ian Krol, who (as you noted) was then part of the package sent to Detroit for Fister.

    • Section 222 - Jun 18, 2015 at 3:01 PM

      Fun stuff laddie. Good work. I’d disagree with your verdict on Willingham for H-Rod, CBrown (Rizz got conned), and maybe Marquis for Walters (in light of the Walters trade for AsCab, that’s would go in conman category).

  6. Hiram Hover - Jun 18, 2015 at 9:00 AM

    Glad to see him play well–just wish he wld save it for other opponents.

    A win-win-win trade is fine be me.

  7. laddieblahblah - Jun 18, 2015 at 9:14 AM

    I hope everyone caught the pre-game MASN interview of Souza by Dan Kolko. He was very, very appreciative of the way the Nats brought him along, and is even grateful that the Nats gave him a chance to play every day by trading him to Tampa Bay.

    I liked him all the way back to ST of 2014, and still do. Not surprised, at all, that he is such a mainstay for a first place team. He will get better the more he sees of AL pitching. He sure seemed to know what to expect from JZ, didn’t he?

    All the best to that young man, after today.

  8. jd - Jun 18, 2015 at 9:28 AM

    Laddie,

    I like Souza a lot but I still think the trade that sent him to Tampa was still a heist. Even if they only got Turner it would have been a good trade but to also get Joe Ross boggles the mind.

    • laddieblahblah - Jun 18, 2015 at 10:11 AM

      I think it will turn out that way, too. But Souza is now making substantial contributions to the Rays while Turner and Ross are still outstanding prospects who are mostly about the future. Probably a winner for both sides, and not exactly a steal, liked so many of Rizzo’s other grand larcenies.

      One of those trades that can go either way, but which favors the Nats. To get a young potential no. 2 starter and a young potential everyday SS for a single, older power hitter like Souza favors the Nats over the longer haul, although the Rays are substantially benefitting from the trade in the here and now.

      Steve Jr. looks like the AL ROY, right now. And I think he is going to get better as the year progresses.

  9. natsguy - Jun 18, 2015 at 9:42 AM

    Souza is Ok. But has anyone bothered to check his non HR stats.

    • adcwonk - Jun 18, 2015 at 9:47 AM

      You mean the fact that after last night’s 3-for-4 game he raised his BA to .222

      Or that he has 84 K’s — more than Desmond, and 2d in all of MLB?

      😉

      Thanks for bringing some perspective, natsguy!

      • Doc - Jun 18, 2015 at 10:38 AM

        Souza also has more HRs and Ribbies than Desi. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think that his OBP is better than Desi’s

      • adcwonk - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:20 AM

        I wasn’t implying that Souza was playing as badly as Desi. But I thought it worth putting into perspective. He has an awful lot of K’s. And makes a lot of outs to go with all his doubles and HRs.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 18, 2015 at 10:55 AM

        Although a substantial portion of his OBP has come against the Nats …

      • Sweet. Fancy. Charles. - Jun 18, 2015 at 2:26 PM

        He’s young, as has been noted above. Chances are really good he’ll learn, and improve those numbers significantly in the next few years. In the meantime, he’s showing promise toward being someone people buy tickets to see. Well, if he were someplace people actually did buy tickets, he would be, anyhow. But still.

      • adcwonk - Jun 18, 2015 at 2:41 PM

        Well, if he were someplace people actually did buy tickets, he would be, anyhow.

        (snicker . . . . )

    • laddieblahblah - Jun 18, 2015 at 10:25 AM

      Yeah, sure. They are not much worse than Joc Pederson’s, who is in the running for NL ROY. Those guys are rookies seeing big league pitching for the first time.

      Bryce did not exactly tear up the league as a rookie, either, but still won ROY, and rightly so. Souza’s power numbers will be much better than Bryce’s rookie stats, if he can stay healthy. Steve Jr. is on pace to hit 30-35 if he keeps it up. And he will end the year with higher BA and OBP numbers, as well.

      Leads his first place team and all AL rookies in a number of offensive statistical categories, and has been getting stronger as the year has progressed. I suspect the Rays are very pleased with what they got.

  10. natsguy - Jun 18, 2015 at 9:48 AM

    Nats are not really a team right now as much as they are a conglomeration of pieces playing out of position. Lots of shortstops in the wrong place. Not much of a bullpen. Not much starting pitching other than Scherzer. Very hard to watch. Its not late but it is getting there. Time to start figuring this out really soon. Will be interesting to see when Rizzo acts.

    • bowdenball - Jun 18, 2015 at 10:00 AM

      I agree with most of this, but I don’t know if there’s really that much urgency or if it’s really getting close to being too late. They’re still just 1.5 games back. They could very easily have the same deficit on September 1 and still end up winning the division. And as we learned last year when an 88 win team and an 89 win met in the World Series, it really doesn’t matter how you get your ticket to the dance as long as you get in the door.

      • veejh - Jun 18, 2015 at 10:06 AM

        ST is practice for the regular season. The regular season is just practice for when it REALLY matters how the team plays, the post season. Our division is so weak, it’ll be difficult to not make it. We’ll get all of our starters back and everything will fall into place. Book it.

      • adcwonk - Jun 18, 2015 at 10:15 AM

        ST is practice for the regular season. The regular season is just practice for when it REALLY matters how the team plays, the post season.

        Davey Johnson used to say — and I’ve forgotten part of it — but it was something like:

        The first 1/3 of the season is for seeing who you got and what they have
        The second 1/3 of the season is for [I forgot]
        The last 1/3 of the season is for playing for the playoffs.

        Frankly, we still don’t even know “who we got” — because we have no idea if Werth or RZ will be major contributors this year. (Or even SS? Or Ian?)

      • Toot D. Blan - Jun 18, 2015 at 10:16 AM

        The way they’re playing now, they will need to win the division at all costs. Because being even one game behind at the end of the season is not going to get them a wild card berth. They are further behind right now in the wild card race than they are in the division race. That’s not good.

    • Sweet. Fancy. Charles. - Jun 18, 2015 at 2:30 PM

      I keep saying this, but once again: Everything up to the AS break is playing for pole position.

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