I know, DC SOUPLY is all about the bad things in DC sports, the seamy underbelly. The hideous mistakes in judgment and action, the blustering nonsense of players who then fail to live up to their words. The millions spent on mediocrity. The endless rotation of hope and despair.
But last night…
I can’t let what happened last night go by without acknowledging it, because you know I would have acknowledged it if things ended poorly. And they really, really almost did.
The Nats were in a single-elimination Wild Card game against the Brewers, and immediately, ace Max Scherzer gives up a walk and then a two-run HR in the first inning. I almost tore up my Scherzer jersey. (But I didn’t, because dang those things cost a lot and Mad Max is still a 3-time Cy Young, so I haven’t completely lost my mind.) Then in the second inning, he gave up another HR. Trey Turner managed to get his own HR, but then THAT. WAS. IT. For a really, really long time. Waaaaaay too long. Like, so long that I am certain (don’t lie) that everyone watching was considering when to head out of the stadium or when to turn off the TV. I definitely was.
Then the eighth came, and weirdly, hope appeared, coming in sideways. Every other Milwaukee pitcher had stymied the Nats all night, but fiery Brewers closer Josh Hader arrived on the scene and at first, it looked impossible. Robles struck out swinging. One out. But…
Michael A. Taylor was hit by a pitch. We had a man on with only one out. When had that happened before in the game? Felt like never. (It had in fact happened only once before in the game, in the 2nd. By 10:45pm, that felt like four months ago.) And then Trey Turner was up, and we were all wondering if he would hit a second dinger… until he struck out. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Two outs. Man on first. Not good when you will be eliminated with just four more outs.
Then ol’ man Zimmerman came up, and you had to wonder if this was just going to be a sign of the changing of times. The young kids showing the last generation to the exit. Until he singled and drove Taylor to third. Two men on. Two outs.
Hope? Nah, that’s still silly. Any mistake and the inning was over.
And a mistake happened… by the Brewers. They walked Rendon. Bases loaded. Two outs.
Twenty-year-old Juan Soto stepped to the plate. And I will tell you exactly what I was thinking: “Juan, you almost created an even bigger deficit when you missed that fly ball earlier in the game. YOU NEED TO MAKE UP FOR THAT.”
And OMG. He did.
I mean, even if you asked a total Nats fan-person to script the at bat, they probably would have asked for a single to score one or two runs, and allow the rally to continue. Instead, Soto drops a ripper into right that Brewers outfielder Grisham misplayed, allowing three runs!!!!!
I didn’t care one bit that Soto was so busy celebrating he got tagged out between second and third. He’d done the impossible. He gave the Nats the lead. (In fact, the sight of him laughing as he was tagged out brings a tear to my eye. Sniff.)
So then I figured Strasburg comes in for one more lights-out inning and we’re done. But the Nats put in a reliever (Hanson). Oh no. Have the Nats not seen their bullpen this year? Don’t they know their relievers are generally consider, um, bad? Could we clutch defeat from the jaws of victory?
The Brewers backs seemed broken. Even a one-out single didn’t seem to give them too much life, especially when it was immediately followed up by a pop up to our catcher. One long fly for the final out was all that was needed.
NATS TO THE NLDS!
What is this strange feeling I’m having about DC sports? I can’t remember having this feeling in a long, long time.
Could it be… joy?