Juan Soto, playing in his first postseason game with the Washington Nationals, drove in three runs with a bases loaded single off Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader in the bottom of the 8th inning to put the Nationals ahead for good. The Nationals rallied back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Brewers 4-3 in a thrilling comeback during the single-elimination NL Wild Card round.
Brewers rookie outfielder Trent Grisham missed played the ball and allowed three runs to score. Soto got thrown out in a run down, but the damage had been done. The Nats unloaded the bases and scored three runs to take the lead for the first time in the NL Wild Card game.
Since relocating to Washington from Montreal, the Nationals (originally the Expos) won their first-ever Wild Card game and advanced to the next round of the postseason.
The late-game comeback for the Nationals aptly summed up their season. The Nats got off to a slow start this spring with a horrendous 19-31 record over the first 50 games. The Nationals finished strong with a 74-38 clip and secured the top spot in the NL Wild Card.
The Brewers could not be stopped in September. They went 21-8 to finish the regular season and headed into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in baseball. Even when the Brewers lost Christian Yelich to a fractured kneecap on September 10, they continued their hot streak with a 13-5 record without their MVP candidate. Alas, their season came to an abrupt end after a disastrous 8th inning.
Brew Crew Fast Start 3-0
The Brewers got on the board early with a 2-0 lead in the first inning after a leadoff walk and a two-run home run to Yasmani Grandal. Grandal, who is known as a patient hitter who works deep counts, tagged the first pitch from Max Scherzer and the Brewers struck first blood.
In the top of the 2nd inning, Eric Thames crushed a fastball into the bleachers to put the Brewers ahead 3-0. A stunned crowd sat in silence as Thames rounded the bases. They witnessed something that had never happened before: Scherzer allowed a home run in the first and second inning. He had never done that before, which is a testament to the awesomeness of Scherzer over his career as a starter.
Brewers ace Brandon Woodruff missed most of the second half of the summer with an oblique strain. Woodruff looked good in Game 1 and tossed four innings and allowed only one run and two hits. He made one mistake all game, which was a solo home run to Trea Turner.
One Time for Juan Soto in the 8th
Juan Soto, 20, is a lefty-hitting outfield prospect that the Washington Nationals organization tapped to replace Bryce Harper. Soto had a heck of a season hitting .282 with 34 home runs and 110 RBI.
Juan Soto came up to the plate in the bottom of the 8th inning against an imposing Josh Hader. The Brewers closer recorded 37 saves this year with a 2.62 ERA and 0.81 WHIP. The left-handed Hader tossed sick stuff to lefties all season and they struggled to hit .143 against him. Soto hit an impressive .285 against lefties this season.
In this instance, a worn-down Hader lost the lefty vs. lefty battle. Hader gave up a single to right field that normally would have tied the game. However, a misplay by Trent Grisham allowed the ball to get by him and the winning run came home to score.
In Grisham’s defense, the Brewers would not have been in that situation had Hader not put two Nationals runners on base through a walk and HBP on pinch hitter Michael A. Taylor that looked like it could have hit the handle of the bat.
“Definitely looked like it got the bat, but it also got his hand,” said Hader.
“The inning was an ugly inning. Crazy things happen,” said Brewers manager Craig Counsell.
The Brewers were four out away from a trip to the NLDS, but Soto won the heads-up battle against Hader, then got a fortuitous bounce against Grisham.
JUAN SOTO PLAYS LOUD! pic.twitter.com/GbVGcLSyz5
— MLB (@MLB) October 2, 2019
Monkey off Max’s Back, Fear the Beard
Max Scherzer had lost six-straight postseason starts. That streak started back when he pitched with the Detroit Tiger, but followed him to Washington DC.
Scherzer didn’t get credited with the loss thanks to a bail out from Juan Soto. He finally got the winless streak off his back thanks to Soto spearheading the Nationals comeback in the thrilling NL Wild Card winner-take-all fight.
In an “all hands on deck” situation, Stephen Strasburg pitched three scoreless innings of relief. Local sports talk radio in the DC area and Nats fans were lobbying for Strasburg to start the Wild Card game against the Brewers because he had a better year than Scherzer. In the end, it all worked out because the Nationals secured the comeback win.
Nats fans lost their collective mud before the game when they discovered manager Dave Martinez had shaved his playoff beard. Baseball is a game chock full of superstitions and fans are even more frenetic about their rituals. The playoff beard is synonymous with hockey players chasing the Stanley Cup. However, baseball players have adopted the scruffy postseason tradition as well.
Dave Martinez is lucky he faded superstition with the Nationals comeback victory, otherwise the DC Visigoths would unleash an ornery Twitter storm calling for his public execution
On Deck NLDS: WAS at LAD
The NLDS kicks off in Los Angeles on Thursday against the top-seeded Dodgers (106-56). The Washington Nationals will send lefty Patrick Corbin (14-7, 3.25 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) to the mound in Game 1. Smack-talking righty Walker Buehler (14-4, 3.26 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) gets the start for the Dodgers.
The LA Dodgers won the season series over the Nats with a 4-3 record. According to the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, the Dodgers come into Game 1 as a -165 favorite. The Nationals are a +155 dog in NLDS Game 1.
According to William Hill, the LA dodgers are 5/2 odds to win the 2019 World Series. The Washington Nationals are 12/1 odds to win the championship.