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Juan Soto’s bases-clearing single helps Nationals stun Brewers 4-3 in NL Wild Card Game

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The Brewers got to Nationals starter Max Scherzer early, swatting a pair of home runs in the first two innings. It was a 3-1 Brewers lead well into the eighth inning, looking like another early playoff exit for the Nationals. Juan Soto, however, delivered a bases-clearing single that was aided in part from a fielding error by right fielder Trent Grisham. The hit and error gave the Nationals a 4-3 lead, one that Daniel Hudson would protect in the ninth inning to send the Nationals into the NLDS.

Yasmani Grandal opened the scoring in the first inning. After Trent Grisham drew a leadoff walk, Grandal lined a two-run homer to right field, giving starter Brandon Woodruff a lead before he even took the mound. Eric Thames added a solo homer to right-center off of Scherzer in the second inning to make it a 3-1 game.

Trea Turner put the Nationals on the board in the third, drilling a solo homer of his own to left field off of Brandon Woodruff. Woodruff gave up the lone run on two hits with no walks and three strikeouts over four innings. Scherzer was on the hook for three runs on four hits and three walks with six strikeouts across five innings of work.

Brent Suter, who took over for Woodruff in the fifth, found himself in trouble after a two-out single and a throwing error by Mike Moustakas, but found his way out of trouble. Drew Pomeranz worked a 1-2-3 sixth with two strikeouts, then came back out for the seventh and worked another 1-2-3 inning.

Meanwhile, Stephen Strasburg — who had never pitched in relief before tonight — took over for Scherzer in the sixth. He held the Brewers at bay, yielding a pair of hits with no walks and four strikeouts across three innings.

As expected, the Brewers relied on closer Josh Hader to see the team to the finish line. He found himself in hot water after hitting Michael Taylor with a pitch — it appeared, on replay, that the ball hit the bat first, but umpires did not overturn their call — and allowing a two-out bloop single to Ryan Zimmerman. Hader walked Anthony Rendon to load the bases. Juan Soto then lined a single to right field, a hit that normally would have scored two runs but the ball skipped lower than Grisham anticipated, going behind him. The go-ahead run scored and Soto was thrown out between second and third base to end the inning, but only after the damage had been done.

According to FanGraphs, Soto’s single changed the Nationals’ win probability from 22.7 percent to 83.8 percent, a staggering increase of 61.1 percent. Their win probability chart shows it all.

Hudson started the ninth, striking out Thames. Lorenzo Cain kept hope alive with a single to center field, but Orlando Arcia popped up to the catcher and Ben Gamel flied out to center field to end the game. A stunning loss for the Brewers, a stunning victory for the Nationals.

The NLDS begins on Thursday night with the Dodgers hosting the first two games against the Nationals.

Report: Some MLB teams using outside labs for COVID-19 testing

MLB COVID-19 testing
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The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Zach Buchanan report that the Diamondbacks are one of several teams that have used labs other than the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Utah to process COVID-19 testing. MLB has encountered delays with its testing, despite promising 24-hour turnaround time, so teams have tried other avenues — with the league’s endorsement — in order to get faster results.

The SMRTL had processed performance-enhancing drug screenings for MLB. The league converted it to process COVID-19 tests amid concerns that having a season and all of the testing that would be required throughout would take away testing resources from the general public. That some teams are utilizing labs other than the SMRTL suggests the league, indeed, is usurping those resources.

In prospect Seth Beer’s case, he tested positive for COVID-19. He needed to test negative twice consecutively to be cleared to return to play. Beer went to a third-party site in the Phoenix area. He received his second negative test and was cleared to return on July 9.

The Diamondbacks said that the labs they have used have assured them that they are not taking away tests from the public. That seems like a claim MLB and the D-Backs should demonstrably prove. Per Rosenthal and Buchahan, the D-Backs have gone to an outside lab about 20 times, which accounts for less than one percent of COVID-19 tests taken by players and staff. Still, those are 20 tests that could have been used by the general public. And if the D-Backs and a handful of other teams already are using outside labs, then the rest of the league likely already is or soon will be doing the same. In the end, there will be a lot more than 20 tests taken at outside labs by MLB players and staff. Considering that “Tier 1” players will be tested every other day throughout the season, the total of third-party tests taken — if things continue the way they are now — could easily reach into the thousands by the end of October.

We all want baseball back, but the players, coaches, and all other staff are no more important than cashiers, teachers, and delivery drivers, so they shouldn’t have more access to COVID-19 testing simply by virtue of being associated with Major League Baseball and all of its influence and financial muscle. It would be unethical for MLB to be cutting in line ahead of other people who need testing just as much as if not more than the players.