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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.

The Royals are paying everyone. Why can’t all of the other teams?

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Over the past several weeks we’ve heard a lot of news about teams furloughing front office and scouting staff, leveling pay cuts for those who remain and, most recently, ceasing stipends to minor league players and releasing them en masse. The message being sent, intentionally or otherwise, is that baseball teams are feeling the pinch.

The Kansas City Royals, however, are a different story.

Jon Heyman reported this afternoon that the Royals are paying their minor leaguers through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended, and unlike so many other teams, they are not releasing players either. Jeff Passan, meanwhile, reports that the Royals will not lay any team employees off or furlough anyone. “Nearly 150 employees will not take pay cuts,” he says, though “higher-level employees will take tiered cuts.” Passan adds that the organization intends to restore the lost pay due to those higher-level employees in the future when revenue ramps back up, making them whole.

While baseball finances are murky at best and opaque in most instances, most people agree that the Royals are one of the lower-revenue franchises in the game. They are also near the bottom as far as franchise value goes. Finally, they have the newest ownership group in all of baseball, which means that the group almost certainly has a lot of debt and very little if any equity in the franchise. Any way you slice it, cashflow is likely tighter in Kansas City than almost anywhere else.

Yet the Royals are paying minor leaguers and front office employees while a great number of other teams are not. What’s their excuse?