Baseball in October is a time when legacies are made and one single moment caan be remembered for years to come.
The start of the 2019 MLB postseason kicked off with the Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals facing off in the NL’s wild-card game and delivered everything that this time of year is about.
Our first taste of baseball in October took us down to the final outs. Milwaukee sat on the verge of clinching it when everything changed and Washington’s years of playoff misfortune finally reversed.
As one young outfielder celebrated his moment of greatness, another will be left being called the new Bill Buckner.
Here are the winners and losers from a thrilling NL wild-card game that fans will never forget, and ended in a 4-3 Nats win.
Winner: Stephen Strasburg
Strasburg took the mound in the sixth inning without a single relief appearance in his career. He dominated over three innings in an unfamiliar role in the biggest moment of his career.
Washington needed hope after Max Scherzer crumbled under October’s pressure. Strasburg allowed a single to the first batter he faced then retired the next seven. He gave Washington’s hitters a chance to cut the deficit and they delivered in the eighth. Strasburg further strengthened his resume for contract talks and helped end years of October heartbreak in D.C.
Loser: Josh Hader
Milwaukee set the game up perfectly for its All-Star closer to deliver in a role he shined in all year. Hader entered the game in the eighth and crushed this team’s hopes in a matter of minutes.
The hard-throwing reliever could never command his pitches. The playoff atmosphere and a hostile crowd rattled him. Hader missed everywhere around the plate to load the bases before Juan Soto finally sank him. Hader’s stuff is unhittable when it’s on, but the Brewers paid dearly for Hader’s wildness.
Winner: Brandon Woodruff
The Brewers hoped Woodruff would be able to give them three effective innings. The 26-year-old delivered four brilliant innings of work just a few weeks after returning from an oblique strain that sidelined him for two months after the All-Star Break.
Woodruff toyed with a lineup that scored the sixth-most runs this season. The postseason environment helped him reach 100 mph on his fastball and he used his slider and changeup to keep Washington’s hitters off balance. When Milwaukee gave him run support in the first and second inning, he delivered with shutdown innings and walked off the mound having outperformed a future Hall of Famer.
Loser: Max Scherzer
There are few pitchers in baseball who a team would trust in an elimination game as Scherzer. Instead, the three-time Cy Young recipient proved to be a disaster on the mound for the Nationals.
The signs of trouble started early with a leadoff walk, already an uncharacteristic beginning for Scherzer, and Yasmani Grandal made him pay for it. Eric Thames took him deep in the second inning to further put Washington behind. It marked the first time Scherzer allowed home runs in each of the first two innings since 2011 and the timing of that history couldn’t have been worse.
Winner: Yasmani Grandal
Milwaukee desperately needed a hot start against Max Scherzer and an unlikely playoff hero delivered. Grandal needed redemption in the postseason after entering with six RBI in 75 career postseason at-bats. The All-Star’s two-run blast to open the first inning provided a spark for Milwaukee and silenced Nationals Park. A strong postseason will help one of this offseason’s top free agents make even more money.
Loser: Keston Hiura
The path to stardom in baseball is paved with bumps along the way. Hiura took his lumps in a brutal postseason debut. He faced Scherzer for the first time and quickly got sent down. Hiura’s first three at-bats all ended in strikeouts, including a critical moment with two runners on in the fifth, and it only took 12 pitches. The future is extremely bright for Hiura, but this was a night to learn from.
Winner: Juan Soto
Soto couldn’t do anything right for most of the night. He looked lost at the plate and it carried over to the outfield with a horrible misplay near the wall. Then the beauty of October showed with a shot at redemption.
The 20-year-old stepped into the box facing the scenario every kid dreams up. Two outs and the bases loaded facing a two-run deficit and the season on the line. He came through with the biggest hit of his career in an amazing moment that captures why he’s already becoming one of the game’s best players.
Loser: Trent Grisham
A young player’s career can be defined by a single moment in the postseason. Grisham will be living with the images of his game-changing error for years to come.
The rookie wanted to make the big play too potentially save his team and it backfired. Grisham took a terrible angle on what would have been a game-tying single by Soto on the bottom of the eighth. It slipped through his glove, leading to theNationals scoring what would be the game-winning run. It’s the play that will live in infamy for Milwaukee for years to come and follow Grisham even longer.