Soto lifts Nats to 4-3 come­back wild-card win over Brew­ers

The Saline Courier - - SPORTS - By Howard Fen­drich As­so­ci­ated Press

WASH­ING­TON — Af­ter all the heartache and close calls, all the early ex­its, maybe it makes sense that a 20-year-old kid who never had been to the post­sea­son, Juan Soto, would help the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als fi­nally ad­vance.

And maybe, just maybe, it makes sense that it would be this par­tic­u­lar edi­tion of the Na­tion­als, a club that went from 12 games un­der .500 in May to play­off par­tic­i­pant, that demon­strated the nec­es­sary never-give-up for­ti­tude when things looked bleak.

Soto de­liv­ered a bases­loaded sin­gle against Milwaukee closer Josh

Hader that scored three runs with two outs in the eighth in­ning, thanks in part to an er­ror by rookie out­fielder Trent Gr­isham, and the Na­tion­als came back to beat the Brew­ers 4-3 in the NL wild-card game Tues­day night.

“We started off hor­ri­ble, as we all know, and we vowed that we wouldn’t quit,” Na­tion­als man­ager Dave Martinez said, talk­ing about the year as a whole but sound­ing like he could have meant this par­tic­u­lar evening. “I told the boys, ‘I prom­ise you, stay with it, don’t quit, this will turn around.’ And it did. And here we are to­day.”

The Na­tion­als carry a nine-game win­ning streak into their best-of-five NL Divi­sion Series against the league-best Dodgers.

Game 1 is Thurs­day in

Los An­ge­les, and some in the sell­out crowd of 42,993 chanted “Beat LA! Beat LA!” as mem­bers of the Na­tion­als be­gan their cel­e­bra­tion on the in­field with fam­ily mem­bers.

That in­cluded Soto’s fa­ther leap­ing onto his back and tack­ling him amid the ex­cite­ment.

The Na­tion­als, who moved to Wash­ing­ton from Mon­treal be­fore the 2005 sea­son, had been 0-3 in win­ner-take-all post­sea­son games — all NLDS Game 5 losses at home, by a grand to­tal of four runs. In­deed, eight of their past nine play­off losses had been by one run apiece.

This time, it went the other way.

“We’ve been here a bunch of times. Never kind of broke through,” said Ryan Zim­mer­man, the Na­tion­als’ first draft pick back in 2005, so some­one who has been through all the dis­ap­point­ment. “Fi­nally caught a break tonight.”

It was Zim­mer­man’s bro­ken-bat bloop sin­gle as a pinch hit­ter that helped load the bases in the eighth off Hader, who took the loss.

Hader hit an­other pinch hit­ter, Michael A. Tay­lor, a rul­ing that stood up when the Brew­ers chal­lenged, ac­cord­ing to Ma­jor League Base­ball, be­cause there wasn’t “clear and con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence to over­turn the call.”

Said Hader: “Def­i­nitely looked like it got the bat, but it also got his hand.”

Hader, who had 37 saves this sea­son, also walked An­thony Ren­don, fill­ing the bags and bring­ing Soto to the plate.

What was Soto think­ing right then?

“Just get a base hit up the mid­dle,” he said, “and try to help to tie the game.”

The run­ner-up for 2018 NL Rookie of the Year did more than that. Soto ripped a 96 mph fast­ball to right, and the ball skipped un­der Gr­isham’s glove for an er­ror. That al­lowed the go-ahead run to cross the plate and Soto to get to sec­ond, then turn for third.

“Right guy, right spot,” win­ning pitcher Stephen Stras­burg said about Soto.

Even­tu­ally, Soto 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, then pounded his chest and high­fived third base coach Bob Hen­ley, be­fore shout­ing “Let’s go!” and its Span­ish equiv­a­lent, “Va­monos!”

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

Gr­isham, who has ap­peared in only 51 games in the ma­jors and took over in right af­ter reign­ing NL MVP Chris­tian Yelich was lost for the sea­son three weeks ago with a bro­ken kneecap, said the ball “came in with a lit­tle top­spin, took a funny hop.”

His team­mates tried to con­sole a tear­ful Gr­isham with a series of hugs in the club­house af­ter­ward.

“It’s go­ing to st­ing,” he said.

Af­ter Max Scherzer fell be­hind 3-0 by giv­ing up homers to Yas­mani Gran­dal in the first and Eric Thames in the sec­ond, Stras­burg re­placed him in the sixth and 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, get­ting Ben Gamel to fly out to the warn­ing track in cen­ter with a man on to end it.

“Hats off for us to for con­tin­u­ing to fight, be­cause we know if we could keep it close we could have a chance at the end,” said Trea Turner, who got Wash­ing­ton within 3-1 with a solo shot off Bran­don Woodruff in the third.

It wasn’t un­til the eighth, though, that the Na­tion­als would push more runs across. Just the sort of dra­matic turn­around they pulled off this sea­son, go­ing from 19-31 in May to play­off team. And now it con­tin­ues. “Kind of sums up our sea­son, the way this game went,” Zim­mer­man said. “We’ll take it and we’ll move on.”

TRAINER’S ROOM Brew­ers: OFS Ryan Braun (calf) and Lorenzo Cain (an­kle) were in the start­ing lineup de­spite late-sea­son in­juries. They came into Tues­day a com­bined 0 for 29 with 12 Ks against Scherzer and went 0 for 4 while he was in the game.

Na­tion­als: C Kurt

Suzuki, who missed most of Septem­ber be­cause of a both­er­some right el­bow, played nine in­nings Tues­day. ODD FOURTH

The fourth in­ning was bizarre. Fire alarms — false alarms, thank­fully, the Na­tion­als even­tu­ally said — rang out. The pub­lic ad­dress sys­tem went com­pletely silent for sev­eral min­utes, so the Rac­ing Pres­i­dents mas­cot race in the mid­dle of the in­ning went on with­out the usual play-by-play, and the ini­tial two Na­tion­als bat­ters in the bot­tom half went to the plate with­out any walkup mu­sic or an­nounce­ment of their names.


Left-han­der Pa­trick

Corbin will start Game 1 for the Na­tion­als against the Dodgers, who elim­i­nated Wash­ing­ton in Game 5 of their 2016 NLDS. LA won the teams’ sea­son series this year 4-3.


Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als’ Juan Soto gets a kiss from his fa­ther, Juan Jose Soto, right, af­ter de­feat­ing the Milwaukee Brew­ers 4-3 in a Na­tional League wild-card base­ball game at Na­tion­als Park, Tues­day, Oct. 1, 2019, in Wash­ing­ton.

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