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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.

Justin Verlander laughed at after saying Astros were “technologically and analytically advanced”

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Justin Verlander was at the annual Baseball Writers Association of America banquet last night, on hand to accept the 2019 Cy Young Award. Normally such things are pretty routine events, but nothing is routine with the Houston Astros these days.

During his acceptance speech, Verlander made some comments about the Astros’ “technological and analytical advancements.” The comments were greeted by some laughter in the room as well as some groans. At least one person on hand claimed that other players present were visibly angry.

It’s hard to tell the context of it all without a full video — maybe Verlander meant it as a joke, maybe the reactions were more varied than is being described — but here’s how reporters on hand for it last night are describing it:

If it was a joke it was ill-timed, as not many around the game think the sign-stealing stuff is funny at the moment. Especially in light of the fact that, despite having several opportunities to do so, Astros players have failed to show any accountability for their cheating.

And yes, that includes former Astros Dallas Keuchel, who was praised for “apologizing” at a White Sox fan event on Friday, but whose “apology” was couched in a lot of deflection and excuse-making about how it was just something that was done at the time and about how technology was to blame. Keuchel also tried to minimize it, saying that the Astros didn’t do it all the time. Which is rich given that the most prominent video evidence of their trash can-banging scheme came from a blowout Astros win in a meaningless August game against a losing team. If they were doing it in that situation, please, do not tell me they weren’t doing it when games really mattered.

Anyway, I’d like to think Verlander was just trying to take a stab at a joke here, because Verlander is the wrong guy to be sending to be sending any kind of messages diminishing the cheating given that he has a pretty solid track record of holding other players’ feet to the fire when they get busted.

For example, here he was in 2018 after Robinson Canó got busted for PEDs:

Of course, consistency can be a problem for Verlander when his teammates are on the ones who are on the hook. Here was his response to Tigers infielder Jhonny Peralta being suspended in the wake of the Biogenesis scandal:

“Everybody makes mistakes. He’s my brother. We fight and bleed and sweat together on the baseball field. If my brother makes a mistake, especially if he owns up to it and serves his time, I don’t see how you can hold a grudge or anything like that. “It’s one thing to step up and be a man and own up to his mistake.”

Verlander, it should also be noted, was very outspoken about teams engaging in advanced sign-stealing schemes once upon a time. here he was in 2017, while still with the Tigers, talking about such things in a June 2017 interview with MLive.com.

“We don’t have somebody, but I’m sure teams have a person that can break down signals and codes and they’ll have the signs before you even get out there on the mound.  It’s not about gamesmanship anymore. It used to be, ‘Hey, if you can get my signs, good for you.’ In the past, if a guy on second (base) was able to decipher it on a few pitches, I guess that was kind of part of the game. I think it’s a different level now. It’s not good.”

Which makes me wonder how he felt when he landed on the Astros two months later and realized they had a sophisticated cheating operation underway. If the feelings were mixed, he was able to bury the part of them which had a problem with it, because he’s said jack about it since this all blew up in November. And, of course, has happily accepted the accolades and the hardware he he has received since joining Houston, some of which was no doubt acquired by virtue of a little extra, ill-gotten run support.

Anyway, wake me up when someone — anyone — associated with the Astros shows some genuine accountability about this.