Juan Soto clubbed a bases loaded single that scored three runs with two outs in the eighth as the Washington Nationals rallied to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 in the NL wildcard game on Tuesday.
Washington trailed 3-1 entering the eighth before coming from behind for three runs against Brewers closer Josh Hader.
The Nationals advance to the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers with game one set for Thursday at Dodger Stadium.
The Brewers appeared to be headed to victory when the roof caved in in the eighth. It took a hit by pitch, a broken-bat single, a walk, a single and a timely error by a Brewers’ rookie outfielder Trent Grisham to erase a two-run deficit.
The 20-year-old Soto came through with a hard-hit single with the bases loaded. The ball rolled under the glove of Grisham, who was filling in for injured reigning MVP Christian Yelich.
“Just get a base hit to the middle,” Soto said. “That’s what I’m thinking.”
The single turned the tide for the Nationals, setting off a wild celebration as Michael Taylor, Andrew Stevenson and Anthony Rendon came around to score.
“They played to the last out. They don’t quit,” said Nationals manager Dave Martinez. Yasmani Grandal and Eric Thames homered for the Brewers, who got to Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer early.
But Scherzer stayed in the game as the loss was punch in the gut for the Brewers, who had won 18 of their final 23 regular season games.
Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg earned the victory after pitching three scoreless innings of relief. He gave up two hits, walked none and struck out four. Daniel Hudson notched the save by pitching a scoreless ninth for the Nationals, who closed the regular season with an eight-game winning streak.
Scherzer surrendered three runs as he exited the mound after five innings
and the Nationals’ postseason hopes in doubt.
But Brewers pitcher Hader allowed three runs on two hits and a walk in a wild eighth inning.
Milwaukee scored three runs in the first two innings and held on to a 3-1 edge entering the bottom of the eighth.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell then called on Hader, a hard-throwing southpaw, who notched 37 saves this season.
But Hader wasted no time putting Nationals batters on the bases. Taylor went to first after he was hit in the hand by a pitch.
One out later Ryan Zimmerman followed with a broken-bat single, and Rendon drew a walk on a full count to load the bases and set the stage for Soto’s heroics.
“It’s a baseball inning where something bad happens and the other team takes advantage of it,” said Counsell.
“Grisham tried to make a play and it got away from him.”
The Nationals were 12 games under.500 in May, but Soto said something clicked after that.
“Everything changed. The energy of the team changed in May.”
The Nationals went 3-4 against the Dodgers during the regular season.
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