2019 National League Wild Card Game
|2019 National League Wild Card Game|
93 - 69 in the NL
|1 - 0
89 - 73 in the NL
On paper, the 2019 National League Wild Card Game, between the Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers, appeared to be a mismatch, with the host Nationals prohibitive favorites. The two teams had never played in the postseason, and the Nationals had never won a postseason series since their relocation to the nation's capital,, but they had played very well after a poor start, and had one of the strongest pitching rotation in the majors, backed with a strong and balanced offense. In contrast, the Brewers had needed to get extremely hot in September to qualify for the game, and were riddled with injuries, most serious to team MVP Christian Yelich, out of the postseason due to a broken kneecap suffered in September. And while both starting pitchers - Max Scherzer and Brandon Woodruff - were All-Stars, Scherzer was a dominant ace who could down an opposite team by himself, whereas Woodruff was expected to only be an opener, with uncertainty to follow...
While logic was respected, the Brewers were leading the game until the 8th inning, when an untimely error by RF Trent Grisham allowed three runs to score and the Nationals to prevail, 4-3.
|1||Milwaukee Brewers 3 Washington Nationals 4||October 1||Brandon Woodruff (0-0) Max Scherzer (0-0)||8:08 pm|
Game 1 @ Nationals Park
|WP: Stephen Strasburg (1-0); LP: Josh Hader (0-1); SV: Daniel Hudson (1)|
|Home Runs: MIL - Yasmani Grandal (1), Eric Thames (1); WAS - Trea Turner (1)|
- Attendance: 42,993
Logic was respected in the game, with Washington, the better team on paper, coming out on top, although the Brewers gave the Nationals a run for their money and the game was not decided until a dramatic 8th-inning rally punctuated by an egregious error by rookie RF Trent Grisham.
The Nationals were hoping for starter Max Scherzer to have the type of dominant outing with which he had made baseball fans familiar over the years, but it wasn't the case, as another side of his showed up - his propensity to give up the gopher ball. The Brewers got to him immediately as Grisham, who had started in place of the injured Christian Yelich since mid-September, drew a walk on a full count and C Yasmani Grandal hit Scherzer's next pitch over the right field fence for a two-run homer. And while Scherzer retired the next three batters in order, the Nationals were down, 2-0, just like that. For his part, Brandon Woodruff, who was not expected to go deep in the game, came up firing with a 1-2-3 inning. In the 2nd, Scherzer gave up another gopher ball, that one to lead-off hitter 1B Eric Thames on a 1-0 count. It was now 3-0 and Washington was in serious trouble. The Nationals' ace recovered after those early mistakes, pitching until the end of the 5th and only giving up a pair of hits and a couple of walks. However, the early hole he had placed his team in meant the Nationals had to play catch-up for the rest of the game.
The Nationals got one of the early runs back in the 3rd when SS Trea Turner homered off Woodruff with two outs, making the score 3-1. However, it was just about the only blemish on the Brewers starter's ledger during the game, as he gave his team four solid innings, giving up just the one run on two hits, while striking out 3 and walking none. He was succeeded on the mound by Brent Suter, who pitched a scoreless 5th, and then Drew Pomeranz who faced the minimum in adding two more goose eggs in the 6th and 7th. Meanwhile, Nats manager Dave Martinez asked his second ace starter, Stephen Strasburg to take the mound and he gave him three solid innings, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 4. Thus, in the middle of the 8th, the Brewers still a 3-1 lead built in the first two innings. That is when the game turned around.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell sent his best reliever to the mound to protect the two-run lead, Josh Hader. He had been almost unhittable in 2018, but a mere mortal in 2019, and this would not be one of his better outings. He retired CF Victor Robles for the first out, then faced Michael A. Taylor, pinch-hitting for Strasburg. On a full count, Hader hit Taylor on the hand with a pitch, but the Brewers challenged the call, claiming the ball had hit the knob of Taylor's bat. The video review was inconclusive, and Taylor was allowed to take first base. Hader then struck out Turner for the second out, but another pinch-hitter, Ryan Zimmerman, batting for RF Adam Eaton, kept the rally alive with a bloop broken bat single to center, allowing Taylor to take third base. Andrew Stevenson ran for Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon drew a walk to load the bases. Then came the fateful play of the game: LF Juan Soto singled to right, and in trying to rush to keep Stevenson from scoring the tying run, Grisham let the ball slide under his glove, allowing both Stephenson and Rendon to score; Grisham managed to pick off Soto between second and third, but it was too little too late, as the Nationals were now ahead, 4-3. Daniel Hudson was called upon to close out the win, and while that particular task had been fraught with peril all season for the Nationals, this time the veteran pitcher who had been acquired in a trading deadline deal was up to it, striking out Thames, then after a single by CF Lorenzo Cain, getting SS Orlando Arcia to pop up in foul territory and LF Ben Gamel to fly out to Robles for the final out. The Nationals were moving on to the Division Series.
- Anthony Castrovince: "Who has edge? Crew-Nats position by position", mlb.com, September 30, 2019. 
- Jamal Collier: "So WILD! Nats stun Crew, head to NLDS", mlb.com, October 2, 2019. 
- Steve Gardner: "Brewers season unravels in fateful eighth inning of NL wild-card game against Nationals", USA Today, October 2, 2019. 
- Steve Gardner: "Nationals stun Brewers with late rally to win NL wild-card game", USA Today, October 2, 2019. 
- Tom Haudricourt: "In this wild-card format, there is no tomorrow. The Brewers played that way all September.", USA Today, September 30, 2019. 
- Gabe Lacques: "'Adrenaline is beyond normal': Who will win Nationals-Brewers NL wild-card game?", USA Today, October 1, 2019. 
- Gabe Lacques: "Washington Nationals finally write a happy playoff ending: ‘We’re not going home’", USA Today, October 2, 2019. 
|Major League Baseball Wild Card Game|