By HAL McCOY
Are the one-and-done one-game wild card games really fair?
The Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers battled through 162 games to qualify for the playoffs.
After a 19-31 start through May, the Nationals found a way and made it. The Brewers used an incredible September run to qualify.
Then it came down to one game. It is like running a marathon, then having to immediately run a 100-meter dash.
Some might say that’s all they deserve because they didn’t win their divisions. But baseball is played all season in mostly three-game and four-game series.
Anyway, it is Milwaukee feeling the one-and-done, packing their gear for the rest of the year.
The Nationals scored three runs in the eighth inning off Milwaukee’s usually reliable Josh Hader to post a 4-3 victory. It was Washington’s first post-season victory.
Juan Soto, Washington’s 20-year-old wunderkind, drove a two-out base loaded hit to right field that scored two runs that tied it. And a third run, the winning run, continued home when right fielder Trent Grisham overran the ball and it skidded past him.
The Nationals, on a nine-game winning streak, move to the National League Division Series, a best-of-five against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
To get this one, Washington manager Dave Martinez used two starting pitchers, one not effective, the other nearly perfect.
Max Scherzer, the ace, started the game and lasted only five innings, giving up three runs, four hits and three walks. Two of the hits were home runs, a two-run rip by Yasmani Grandal in the first and a one-run blast by Eric Thames in the second.
Over his last 41 innings, Scherzer has given up 10 home runs, all to left handers.
The Nationals retrieved a run in the third on Trea Turner’s home run, cutting Milwaukee’s lead to 3-1.
All four runs came via home runs and why not? Baseball set an all-time record this season with 6,776 home runs.
Martinez brought in starter Stephen Strasburg in the sixth, his first-ever trip from the bullpen to the mound. He put a muzzle on the Brewers — three innings, no runs, two hits, three strikeouts.
It stayed 3-1 until the eighth when Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell brought in his closer, a guy who had converted 37 of 44 save opportunities this season.
Hader was as wild as an untamed pot-bellied pig.
With one out, he went to 3-and-2 on pinch-hitter Michael Taylor. He threw an inside pitch that simultaneously hit the knob of the bat and Taylor’s hand. After a review, Taylor was awarded first base on a hit-by-pitch.
After a strikeout for the second out, pinch-hitter Ryan Zimmerman, The Franchise, turned a bat into firewood, a broken-bat blooper to center field for a single.
Hader went to 3-and-0 on Anthony Rendon, came back to 3-and-2, then walked him to fill the bases.
Soto then turned Nationals Park into a madhouse with his game-winning hit.
It was no surprise the Nationals scored late to win. They led baseball this season with 207 runs after the seventh inning.
Milwaukee used its pitcher-by-committee method and it nearly worked — except for Hader. Brandon Woodruff started and the Brewers were 18-4 in games he started this season. Using mostly high fastballs, some reaching 100 miles an hour, he pitched four innings and gave up one run and two hits.
Brent Suter pitched a scoreless inning and Drew Pomerantz pitched two scoreless innings. Then came Hader and down went the Brewers.