The Nationals rallied in the bottom of the eighth inning to sweep the rug out from under the Brewers, turning a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead thanks to a bases-clearing single and subsequent fielding error by Trent Grisham in right field.
The whole inning unfolded, in part, because of an arguably botched hit-by-pitch call by home plate umpire Mike Everitt during Michael Taylor‘s at-bat. Replays showed Josh Hader‘s fastball appeared to hit Taylor’s bat first before glancing Taylor and ricocheting into his shoulder, but after replay review, the initial ruling was upheld. Taylor went to first base instead of continuing the at-bat and potentially making the second out of the inning. Trea Turner would strike out in what might have been out number three but was merely the second out. The rest, as they say, is history.
While it is true that Taylor taking first base as opposed to potentially making an out changed the shape of the inning, it was ultimately Hader’s fault. He uncharacteristically did not have command of his pitches. He fell behind Robles 2-0, missing up in the zone, before ultimately striking him out. Hader then fell behind Taylor 2-0 and the count became full as Hader continued to miss high in the strike zone. All five of Hader’s pitches to Turner were in the upper-third of the strike zone or higher, resulting in his second strikeout. Ryan Zimmerman blooped a single to center field to keep hope alive, which came on a 2-1 pitch with both balls registering quite high in the zone. Hader fell behind Rendon 3-0 with three more high pitches, eventually putting him on first base with a walk. During the fateful at-bat against Soto, Hader’s second pitch was a slider low and away that Gameday barely had the space to illustrate. The third pitch, which Soto ripped into right field, was a high fastball right over the plate. According to Statcast, it’s an area in which Soto hit .375 and slugged 1.029 during the regular season.
During the regular season, Hader struck out 138 batters and walked only 20 across 75 2/3 innings. Among qualified relievers, no one had a higher strikeout rate than his 47.8 percent and no one had a better differential between strikeout rate and walk rate than Hader’s 40.8 percent. This is not a guy who is famous for lacking command of his pitches. Whatever the reason for Hader’s struggles — adrenaline, nervousness, just an off-night — he is why the Brewers are not advancing into the NLDS. It is not Everitt’s fault, even though he did appear to get the call wrong.