Jorge Soler wasn’t exactly piling up the base hits during the World Series.
By the time Dansby Swanson threw the final out of the 2021 MLB campaign to Freddie Freeman to deliver the Braves a title, Soler had totaled six hits across the six games. For reference, teammate Eddie Rosario picked up 14 hits in winning NLCS MVP.
But it wasn’t about the quantity. It was the quality. Each of Soler’s hits against the Astros came in crucial moments. He became the first player to lead off a World Series with a home run. He slugged a go-ahead, pinch-hit solo home run in Game 4 that proved the difference-maker. And on Tuesday, in the Braves’ 7-0 Game 6 win, he opened the scoring in the third with a mammoth three-run shot.
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Those are the types of swings that prompted Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos to acquire him from the Royals at the trade deadline. Soler hadn’t exactly been sitting the world on fire in Kansas City, having slashed a paltry .192/.288/.370 in 94 games, but the ability to change the game with a swing remained as he had hit 13 homers. He was, after all, just two years removed from a 48-homer campaign in 2019.
The difference he made in Atlanta was instantaneous. He slashed .269/.358/.524 with 14 home runs in 55 regular-season games and gave the Braves a powerful right-handed outfield bat.
Soler’s postseason impact before the World Series was miniscule. He appeared in the first three games of the NLDS against the Brewers, picking up just one hit in 11 at-bats before he tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to quarantine from the team. He missed most of the NLCS until he returned to make two pinch-hit appearances in Games 5 and 6, with just a double in Game 6 to show for it.
But it didn’t take him long to spark Atlanta in the World Series. Soler liked the first pitch he saw from Houston starter Framber Valdez in Game 1, sending a leadoff home run 382 feet to left to give Atlanta the lead.
He hit a double in Game 2, but he and rest of the Braves couldn’t keep up with Houston’s bats in a 7-2 loss. He walked twice in Game 3 but didn’t stand out in the box score as his team quietly won 2-0.
Soler was back at it in Game 4, however. He was brought in to pinch hit for Tyler Matzek in the bottom of the seventh right after Swanson had hit a game-tying homer. He promptly untied the game, crushing a hanging breaking ball from Cristian Javier 372 feet to left for a solo home run to give Atlanta a 3-2 lead.
Then, of course, there were his heroics in Game 6. He turned around an 83.4 mph cutter from Luis Garcia and sent it an estimated 446 feet to left and out of Minute Maid Park. The no-doubt blast that silenced the Houston crowd in the potential elimination game. It was all Atlanta would need in its shutout victory.
For all those home runs, he was named World Series MVP. He became only the second Cuban-born player to win the award, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
He finished the World Series with a slash line of .300/.391/.800 with six hits (three homers), six RBIs, four runs scored, three walks and seven strikeouts.
Soler became just the sixth position player to be voted World Series MVP with six or fewer hits.
Now, Soler could potentially join another small group. A free agent at the end of the season, he could become just the sixth World Series MVP to leave a team after powering it to a title. The others to do so: Ray Knight (1986, Mets to Orioles), Jack Morris (1991, Twins to Blue Jays), John Wetteland (1996, Yankees to Rangers), Hideki Matsui (2009, Yankees to Angels) and Edgar Renteria (2010, Giants to Reds).
Soler has played his part as a hero in Atlanta, and his name will for years bring back memories of the improbable Braves team that went from the worst record among teams in the playoffs to World Series champion. And he did it with just a few crucial swings of the bat.
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