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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.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.