Yankees' Juan Soto tosses his bat after hitting a two-run...

Yankees' Juan Soto tosses his bat after hitting a two-run home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Friday, May 24, 2024, in San Diego. Credit: AP/Gregory Bull

SAN DIEGO — Reggie Jackson famously said years ago that “fans don’t boo nobodies,” and it certainly wasn’t just anybody Padres fans let have it Friday night.

Juan Soto, traded from the Padres last December in a cost-cutting move, heard far more boos than cheers when he stepped into the batter’s box in the first inning against San Diego’s Yu Darvish (the noisy contingent of Yankees fans in the sellout crowd made it sound like a 60-40 boos-to-cheers split).

Those rooting for the Padres were elated, and it showed in their noise level, when Darvish struck out Soto looking at a 1-and-2 sinker.

But no one in the Yankees’ dugout was surprised about what happened in Soto’s next time at the plate.

With a runner on and two outs, Soto kicked off the Yankees' third-inning laser show when he roped a 0-and-1 sinker 423 feet to right-center for his 14th homer of the season and fifth in his last seven games. The ball left Soto’s bat at 107.9 mph and reached the seats so quickly that rightfielder Fernando Tatis Jr., who later took away extra bases from Soto with a catch up against the wall, hardly flinched as the no-doubter sailed well over his head.

Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton followed with their own blasts — the trio’s homers came within a span of eight pitches — but it was Soto’s overall performance, because of the circumstances, that highlighted the Yankees’ 8-0 victory.

Soto finished 2-for-4 with a walk, raising his batting average to .317 and his OPS to .994.

“To see him come out in a packed house and do his thing, that’s just a normal Friday night for Juan,” Judge said with a smile.

Said Aaron Boone: “It was a thing when he was coming to the plate. You could feel it in the stadium. It was a great environment and he answered like he usually does.”

Carlos Rodon, who improved to 6-2 with a 2.95 ERA after throwing six scoreless innings, added: “I think Juan Soto always shows up when the lights are bright.”

The lefthander paused. “It’s almost to be expected at this point,” he said.

Soto established that from Game 1 with the Yankees on March 28 in the season opener in Houston. In addition to an RBI single in the fifth inning that got the Yankees on the board, sparking a 5-4 victory after they trailed 4-0 early, Soto threw out the Astros’ Mauricio Dubon at the plate for the second out of the ninth inning to preserve the lead.

“I just get really excited every time I’m in a big spot,” Soto said Friday of what he enjoys about the “big” games or moments. “Even if I’m struggling, whenever I’m in a big spot, I’m giving 110% and trying to come through.”

Soto has done that repeatedly in his brief time wearing a Yankees uniform. Most of his numbers jump off the page, and none more so than this one: Going into Saturday night’s game, Soto had reached base in 46 of 53 games, reaching base multiples times in 30 of those games.

As for his comment about relishing coming up “in a big spot,” that wasn’t lip service. Soto entered Saturday slashing .357/.423/.619 (15-for-42) with three homers, two doubles and 28 RBIs this season with runners in scoring position.

Before the game, Soto said he wasn’t sure what kind of reaction he would get from Padres fans, a far larger and far more intense group than many people think. The boos were not a surprise. In his 1 ½ years with the organization after being obtained in a trade with Washington, Soto hit just .265 with 41 homers, 125 RBIs and an .893 OPS.

Hardly pedestrian numbers, obviously, but certainly not up to the standards Soto set for himself almost from the time he debuted with the Nationals in 2018 at the age of 19.

“It’s kind of tough for me because they were right there every day for me,” Soto said before Friday’s game of his expected reaction from Padres fans. “I tried my best, I played hard every day, but I didn’t play at my best. That’s one of the things I was sad about, because I couldn’t show them really how great I can be. But it is what it is.”

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