Wild-card Nationals earn NLDS date with Dodgers by knocking out Brewers in dramatic fashion

WASHINGTON—Washington’s Juan Soto delivered a bases-loaded single off Josh Hader that scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, and the Nationals rallied to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 in the NL wild-card game Tuesday night.

After Hader loaded the bases by hitting a batter, walking another and allowing a bloop single, Soto took a 96-m.p.h. fastball to right and the ball skipped under outfielder Trent Grisham’s glove. That error allowed the go-ahead run to cross the plate and Soto to get to second, then turn for third.

Eventually, Soto, a 20-year-old outfielder, was caught in a rundown to end the inning, but that didn’t matter: He had turned a 3-1 deficit into a lead, and so he clapped his hands, pounded his chest and high-fived third base coach Bob Henley, shouting “Let’s go!”

“The inning was an ugly inning,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Crazy things happen.”

Grisham’s take?

“It’s gonna sting,” he said.

Stephen Strasburg threw three scoreless innings to earn the win in the first relief appearance of his major league career, regular season or playoffs. Daniel Hudson pitched the ninth for the save.

The Nationals, so familiar with playoff heartache, now will carry a nine-game winning streak into their best-of-five NL Division Series against the NL West champion Dodgers. Game 1 is Thursday in Los Angeles.

Washington had been 0-3 in winner-take-all post-season games, all NLDS Game 5 losses at home. But this time was different. The Nationals finally advanced, albeit in a one-game matchup, not a series. They did so thanks to one of the kids making his debut in October, Soto, who is wholly unencumbered by any past playoff failings on this stage and in this stadium.

Things didn’t look good early for Washington. Yasmani Grandal and Eric Thames homered in the first two innings off Nationals ace Max Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner whose teams had lost each of his most recent seven post-season games.

Milwaukee led the NL in walks, and Scherzer put leadoff man Grisham aboard. The first pitch to the next batter, Grandal, came in at 98 m.p.h. and was transformed into a blink-and-you-missed-it shot that rapidly reached the bullpen beyond right field. The ball landed with such force that it bounced back onto the outfield grass.

Just like that — three minutes and seven pitches into the evening — the Brewers led 2-0. The once-rowdy park sunk into sudden silence; if all of those red-wearing spectators’ thoughts could be heard, they might have been summed up as a sigh. Strasburg paced in the bullpen.

Milwaukee went up 3-0 in the second when Thames’ first career post-season at-bat ended with him driving a curveball deep to right-centre. That meant Scherzer had given up a pair of homers in three of his past six post-season appearances — and in each of his last three games in 2019.

Get more sports in your inbox

Get the Star’s Sports Headlines newsletter for a daily round-up of the latest big news.

Sign Up Now

Washington got one run off Brandon Woodruff on a solo shot from Trea Turner in the third off a high fastball, making it 3-1. Woodruff, a burly righty, lasted four innings, giving up just two hits, and was greeted by hugs from teammates in the dugout.

That’s when Counsell began his manoeuvres, going to Brent Suter for the fifth, then Drew Pomeranz for the sixth and seventh, before turning to the lefty fireballer Hader. That’s when the Nationals’ bats finally got going — and their team’s dramatic turnaround from 19-31 in May to playoff team gets to continue.

TORONTO STAR

Related Posts You Might Like: