Bottom of the eighth. Two outs. Juan Soto up to the plate. All-Star closer Josh Hader on the mound. One ball, one strike.
Here comes the pitch. A high fastball, which had been giving Washington Nationals players trouble all night long.
Soto puts his best swing on the ball. Boom! A single into right field. Michael A. Taylor, who got on base via a hit by pitch, was trotting towards home for the second run for the Nationals. Andrew Stevenson, who was pinch running for Ryan Zimmerman, came around third to score as well.
It looked like the score would be tied at two apiece. But no! After charging Soto’s hit, Brewers rookie right fielder Trent Grisham, who was called up to take the injured Christian Yelich’s place in the lineup, made a costly error, as the ball skipped right under his glove and rolled even deeper into right field. This error allowed MVP candidate Anthony Rendon to score, and gave the Nationals a 4-3 lead going into the ninth inning.
Daniel Hudson, the new closer who the Nationals had acquired from the Blue Jays during the regular season, came on and retired the Brewers in four outs. The Nationals would move on the the NLDS, where they will play the Dodgers on Thursday night. Nationals fans enjoyed only their second win when facing elimination, moving to 2-8 in games where they have a chance to eliminate their opponent.
I am not a Nationals fan by any means, but I could not help but cheer for a team that has previously struggled so much in the postseason. At the same time, however, I realize how hard the game of baseball can be on players at certain times. I feel particularly bad for Brewers rookie Trent Grisham, who I can only imagine feels terrible about what he did.
Grisham knew what he was facing. All he had to do was field the ball, not necessarily to perfection, but clean enough as to where he could either have the chance to throw Stevenson out at home plate or just get the ball in to the infield.
Grisham did not do that. He made an error that saw the Nationals take their first lead of the game, and a lead the Nats would never relinquish. Hearing all the fans cheer when the Nats took the lead had to make Grisham feel especially bad, knowing that what he did was a major contributor to the Nats’ victory. After the game was over, cameras captured a somber Grisham with his head down, walking back to the dugout as he tried to forget what had just happened.
“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,” Grisham said during a postgame interview. This is coming from a guy that was looking at breaking into the major leagues next year, but was suddenly thrust into big league action with MVP candidate Christian Yelich’s season-ending fractured kneecap.
Did Grisham feel the pressure? Maybe. But he did not feel like the moment was too big for him. “I don’t think it got to me at all. I just ended up making an error. It’s not my first. It’s not going to be my last. It just happened that way.”
In hopes of trying to make him feel better, Grisham’s Brewers teammates were consoling him in the locker room afterwards. He appreciated the gesture, but it was not enough for him to forget about what had just happened.
“It hurt. It wasn’t ideal. It’s not how you want your first playoff game to go. We expected to win. There’s all kinds of thoughts and emotions running through your head. It just kind of stings right now.”