Soto's smash sends Verlander to the showers
MAY 16, 2013 11:53p ET
"Hell, yeah," Soto said. "No, but it felt good. Spending so much time in the National League, you only get to see these guys on TV. Once you get to face them, you're like, "Wow!" It felt good."
It felt even better because the homer chased Verlander, the 2011 Cy Young winner, from the game and capped a seven-run third inning for the Rangers in a 10-4 win.
It was also Soto's first home run of the season. It was Soto's first time to hit one out since Sept. 23, 2012 at Seattle.
"I know Verlander is one of the toughest pitchers in the game," Soto said. "I was just trying to get good wood on the ball and managed to get a home run there."
Soto also managed to get Rangers starter Yu Darvish through eight innings on a night when he wasn't at his best.
Darvish gave up three runs in the third inning, including a home run from Don Kelly who had been homerless even longer than Soto. Darvish gave up another solo shot to Jhonny Peralta in the fourth before settling down.
"Soto got him through those eight innings," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "More than the home run he hit, that was huge. He was able to stay out there and continue to make Yu pitch."
Soto said the key was getting Darvish to throw strikes earlier in the count.
"When he was struggling earlier in the game, he was falling behind a lot of hitters," Soto said. "I was just trying to get him to get ahead of hitters. Once he started doing that in the fifth, sixth inning, seventh, he was rolling after that."
In fact, Darvish rolled to a career-high 130 pitches, and looked like he could have thrown a complete game if needed.
"I could feel that he was coming down a little bit," Soto said. "He was getting a little bit tired. But for 130 pitches, he was really strong."
Darvish looked particularly confident throwing a 62-mph curveball to Miguel Cabrera, one of the game's most feared hitters, in the fifth. Cabrera swung and missed.
"He's been throwing it. It's one of his pitches," Soto said. "I mean, I didn't recommend he throw it to him. But luckily he didn't hit it 800 miles."
Instead it was Soto who launched a shot over the out-of-town scoreboard in left field, making him an unlikely offensive hero.
Soto had just one hit in his previous 20 at-bats before the home run. He came into the game batting just .170 with one RBI.
But Soto is getting to play regularly lately in relief of an injured A.J. Pierzynski, who has been out with a strained oblique. Pierzynski is expected to get rehab starts on Sunday and Monday and could return as soon as Tuesday.
"I'm just in there a lot more," Soto said. "Obviously I know my position here on the team and I'm just glad to be there and helping the club win. Hopefully he's coming back soon, so that's a good thing."
Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire