National League Wildcard Game Recap: Brewers @ Nationals

The 2019 playoffs kicked off tonight from our nation’s capital at Nationals Park.  The Washington Nationals (93-69) hosted the Milwaukee Brewers (89-73) for the right to move on and face the awaiting Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS.  For the Nationals, this was their first time in the winner take all wildcard game and started Max Scherzer (11-7) to hopefully keep the surging Brewers bats at bay.  The Brewers countered with Brandon Woodruff (11-3).

With the house rocking with red towel’s waiving and the Nationals faithful dancing in the stands, Trent Grisham stepped into the box as the leadoff hitter for Milwaukee and drew a walk on a pitch that just missed low and away. On the next pitch, Yasmani Grandal sent the ball to the back of the Nationals bullpen for a 2 run home run, and just like that,  Scherzer found himself in a 2-0 deficit.

The Crew got to Scherzer again at the top of the second, with an Eric Thames home run, which just kept drifting back and found its way into the right center field stands.  This quieted the home teams fans a bit as they were now down 3-0 in the early goings.  In the home half of the 2nd, Kurt Suzuki tried to answer with a blast to left that died on the warning track and into the glove of Ryan Braun.  Trea Turner, in the third inning, hit a shot to left center field that landed in the Brewers dugout and got his team on the board, now trailing 3-1.  For Turner, this was his first career playoff home run.  By the end of the fifth inning, both starting pitchers would find themselves cheering from their respective dugouts as Woodruff pitched 4 innings and Scherzer was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the fifth.  Scherzer’s last pitch was a 98 mph fastball middle away.  The Nationals brought in Stephen Strasburg for his first-ever relief appearance outside of the All-Star game. 

The two bullpens were effective thru the middle to late innings, the Brewers used Brent Suter and Drew Pomeranz to get them to Josh Hader and Strasburg only allowed 2 hits in his 3 innings of work, finally giving way to Daniel Hudson in the ninth.  Going into the bottom of the 8th, the Nationals had only managed 3 hits off Brewer pitchers, but their patience paid off and in the inning, they would find them scoring 3 runs and taking the lead and the party was on in Washington.  The inning started off, with a strikeout to Victor Robles followed by an HBP of Michael A. Taylor, which was challenged and upheld.  Turner followed with a strikeout, so with a runner at first and 2 outs, this looked to go down as the previous 7 innings had, quietly.  The Nationals brought in veteran Ryan Zimmerman in to pinch-hit, who singled, advancing Taylor to 3rd. Andrew Stevenson came in to run for Zimmerman.  On a 3-2 pitch, Anthony Rendon walked and loaded the bases. 

Juan Soto followed with a single to right, which probably would have scored 2 runs and tied up the game, but the ball squirted away from Grisham and allowed Rendon to come all the way around from first to score the go-ahead run and the Nationals first lead 4-3.   
Hudson came on in the 9th with a chance to get the save and advance his team on to the next round.  With one out he allowed a base hit by Lorenzo Cain, and Orlando Arcia popped out to the catcher behind the plate.  So with 2 outs and the tying run on first, in stepped Ben Gamel as the Brewers last hope.  On a 1-0 pitch, Gamel sent a flyball to center, and into the waiting glove of Robles to record the final out. 

42,993 fans were in attendance of this 2:55 affair and with the 8th inning jubilation, there were probably 42,993 fans covered in beer as the fans celebrated this one.  Christian Yelich was injured for this game, and fans around baseball I’m sure will be in the discussion for a while if he had been in right field for the 8th inning, would the outcome had been the same.  But the game is in the books and that’s where it stands for the 2019 Milwaukee Brewers.