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Improbable rally extends improbable season for Washington Nationals

washington nationalsA two-out, bases-loaded single by Juan Soto scored three runs, aided by a Trent Grisham error, and sent the Washington Nationals to an improbable 4-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL wild-card game on Tuesday at Nats Park.

The Brewers led from the second batter of the game, when Yasmani Grandal took the first pitch from Max Scherzer, after a full-count walk to Grisham, over the right-field fence for a two-run homer.

Eric Thames took Scherzer deep for a solo shot in the top of the second to make it 3-0 Milwaukee, and all the Nats would seem to get thereafter came on a solo homer by Trea Turner in the third off Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff.

Woodruff gave Milwaukee four good innings, allowing one run on two hits, while Scherzer, the three-time Cy Young winner, struggled in his five-inning stint, allowing three runs on four hits, with three walks, striking out six.

Stephen Strasburg, in his first career MLB relief appearance, struck out four in three scoreless innings, allowing two hits, to keep his team in the game, but Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell had the game where he wanted, up 3-1 in the eighth, with closer Josh Hader coming in for a two-inning save.

Hader struck out Victor Robles on a 3-2 pitch to get the first out in the bottom of the eighth. Michael A. Taylor, pinch-hitting for Strasburg, was hit by a 3-2 pitch, on a play that was confirmed by a lengthy replay review.

Trea Turner struck out swinging for the second out of the inning.

Then Ryan Zimmerman, pinch-hitting for Adam Eaton, in what could have been his last at-bat as a National, toward the end of his storied career, fought off a 97-mph 2-1 fastball to land a broken-bat soft liner in short-center for a base hit that sent Robles to third.

Anthony Rendon worked the count to 3-2, then took a pitch just high and just outside to load the bases.

On a 1-1 count, Soto lashed a single to right, and Grisham, trying to come up with the ball to maybe have a shot at Andrew Stevenson, who ran for Zimmerman and represented the potential tying run, whiffed on the ball, and it passed him, allowing Stevenson and Rendon to score.

Daniel Hudson closed things out in the ninth, allowing a one-out single to Lorenzo Cain, before retiring Orlando Arcia on a foul pop to catcher Kurt Suzuki, and getting Ben Gamel on a fly to deep center for the final out.

The win sends Washington to the NL Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the NL West champion in 2019, for a best-of-five series beginning on Thursday in L.A.

This will be the fifth year in the last eight that the Nats have appeared in the NLDS. The team did not advance past this round in any of its previous four appearances.

Story by Chris Graham


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