The postseason history of the Washington Nationals is short, somewhat unremarkable, and largely painful. Yet for one brief but shining moment, Juan Soto changed all of that.
This was only night one of the #postseason.
— MLB (@MLB) October 2, 2019
The second-year outfielder nailed a bases-loaded single off of Milwaukee closer Josh Hader, driving in three runs and turning a 3-1 deficit — in the bottom of the 8th inning, with two outs, no less — into a 4-3 lead as the inning came to a close. Soto’s shot landed in right field, and took an unusual bounce slightly inward, just inside of the outstretched hand of rookie outfielder Trent Grisham. Grisham would be charged with the error that would ultimately lead to Milwaukee’s demise.
For once in the long and painful history of Washington, D.C. sports (especially in recent memory), as the game progressed into its late stages, something felt different — in a good way.
While the numbers showed Milwaukee’s win percentage generally being lower when Hader was brought in to start the 8th inning versus the 9th, he’s still one of the best closers in the game; you can’t fault Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell for relying on his best players when the lights shine the brightest.
But after Hader struck out Victor Robles to start the bottom of the 8th, momentum clearly began to shift. Michael A. Taylor advanced to first after being hit on the wrist by a pitch by Hader. Hader did strike out Turner next, but veteran Ryan Zimmerman blooped a 2-1 single into shallow field, putting two runners on base. Hader would then walk Anthony Rendon on just six pitches. And Soto would deliver his go-ahead single on Hader’s third pitch.
In short, this was the rare instance when a DC sports team came through in the clutch. And the moment was even more poetically beautiful, considering these Washington Nationals went from having a 19-31 in May to taking on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the National League Playoffs.