On Tuesday night, the Milwaukee Brewers entered the bottom of the eighth inning leading the Washington Nationals 3-1. Time to make a comeback was dwindling. The Nationals season was on the brink of defeat, and for a moment it looked as if Washington might yet again make another early playoff exit. Brewers’ cleanup extraordinaire Josh Hader, arguably the best relief pitcher in baseball the past few years, took the mound looking to shut down any hope of a Nationals comeback. That’s when the unthinkable happened.
Hader loaded the bases, and that’s when the first sign of October magic began creeping into Major League Baseball’s 2019 postseason. With two outs and trailing by two runs, Nats slugger Juan Soto stepped up to the plate and lined a bases loaded single to right field. Then, Milwaukee rookie outfielder Trent Grisham did the unthinkable. He overran the ball while misjudging it’s spin, and was unable to get in front of the hard-liner.
The blunder proved costly for the Brewers. As Grisham turned to the right-field wall to chase the ball, Washington managed to score three runs while Soto cruised into second base for a double. In the game’s most pivotal moment, good fortune instantly shifted in the Nationals favor as they took a 4-3 lead. The Nats eventually wound up victorious in the winner-take-all matchup, defeating the Brewers by the same score to claim the National League’s Wild Card spot in the upcoming Divisional series against the top-seeded Los Angeles Dodgers.
The loss puts a stamp on a once-optimistic season for Milwaukee. A team that managed to battle back from being 12 games under .500 in May, only to sneak into the playoffs despite a late season injury to their reigning NL MVP and outfielder, Christian Yelich.
According to ESPN, while speaking with reporters after the loss, Grisham said, “It’s going to sting. It’s going to sting for a long time. Essentially gifting the Nationals a divisional berth. It’s going to hurt. And I expect it to hurt when I debrief and go into the offseason.”
The 22-year-old rookie is a former first round pick from the Brewers 2015 draft class, and has been an integral part of the team’s run to the postseason since being called up from the minors back in early August. ESPN also reported that he said, “It hurt. It wasn’t ideal. It’s not how you want your first playoff game to go.”
The leadoff hitter’s mental lapse during the game’s biggest moment is one that will haunt Milwaukee fans and players over the course of the entire offseason. What’s glaringly obvious is that this could have been prevented. Yes, on Soto’s single the Nats certainly would tie-up the ballgame. However, Grisham’s lack of execution regarding simple fundamentals allowed Anthony Rendon to score the Nat’s go ahead run. It was the first big moment on a national stage for a kid who started his season playing in Double-A. These things always seem to happen during the postseason, and bring back memories of Bill Buckner’s ill-fated error that cost the Boston Red Sox their chance at a World Series in 1986.
Maybe next time, Grisham will be able to slow things down and take his game back to little league, because the “big leagues” just proved to be too overwhelming for the rookie on a routine play that should have resulted in a simple block-and-throw to the cutoff man.
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