Juan Soto: National Hero
It’s not often that a crowd is cheering for the guy caught in a rundown between 2nd and 3rd after he is tagged for the third out during a win-or-go-home post season game. But the fans in D.C. lost their collective minds last night when 20-year-old Juan Soto hit the base-clearing go-ahead double that he unsuccessfully tried to stretch into a triple.
The one-and-done NL Wild Card game seemed to be going the way of the Brewers for most of the night until the bottom of the eighth. It started immediately in the first inning with the usually dominant Max Scherzer giving up a 3-2 walk to Trent Grisham, and following it up with a first pitch home run to Yasmani Grandal. Scherzer calms down a bit and gets out of the first. Eric Thames homered for Milwaukee to start the second inning, and then came a one-out single for Orlando Arcia. Scherzer finally gets it together and doesn’t give up any more runs. Trea Turner hit a solo shot to get the Nationals on the board in the bottom of the third, but then things get pretty boring scoring-wise. The desperate Nationals brought in Stephen Strasburg to replace Scherzer in the sixth to pitch. The game was relatively boring after the Turner home run.
That is, until the bottom of the eighth inning.
The trajectory of the game seemed to change after Michael Taylor, pinch hitting for Strasburg, got hit in the hand and took first base with one out. Trea Turner struck out for the second out. Just when things are starting to look bleakest for the Nationals fans, Ryan Zimmerman came in and singled, sending Taylor to third. Zimmerman is replaced on the base path by Andrew Stevenson, and Anthony Rendon walked to load the bases. With loaded bases and two outs, Juan Soto comes up to bat:
Even if Grisham hadn’t bobbled that ball in right field, the game would have for sure been tied off of that hit, so hopefully he’s not beating himself up too badly this morning knowing that his team’s season basically ended at that moment.
How cute is that picture of Juan Soto’s dad, bursting with pride, planting a big old smooch on his kid? BTW: Soto is too young for a celebratory beer, but man did he earn one for when he turns 21 later this month. Can you imagine if the fire-hot Washington squad somehow manages to knock out the Dodgers in the NLDS? They managed to win 3 of 7 against the MLB’s winningest team over the regular season, so it is entirely possible. Soto might get to have that beer a bit early if they pull it off.