I’ll start off with a story.
I sat at my desk late one night, thinking about what article I wanted to write next. The Dodgers were playing the Padres at the time. It was late in the game, maybe the 7th or 8th Inning and a familiar face walked up to the plate.
The familiar face was outfielder Trent Grisham.
Once a top prospect in the Brewers’ system, now a Padre. Like many people, I first thought of that play. It was the final act in a Brewers uniform for Grisham, as he was traded a month later, when his career would then take off.
Yes, of course I’m talking about the 2019 National League Wild Card Game.
A painful memory for sure, but while thinking about this I remembered that it is just that, a memory. While reminiscing about how long ago that play was I was trying to remember the last time I had watched that play. I came to a strange conclusion:
I have not watched that play since I watched it live.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten close, but I have not been able to watch that full play unfold since the fateful night of October 1, 2019.
And I’m guessing not many of you have either.
I don’t blame any of us. Imagine a die hard Red Sox fan willingly watching the Bill Buckner play from the 1986 World Series. But I decided to step outside of my comfort zone that night and watch one of the most heart wrenching plays I’ve ever witnessed.
And I hope you will too.
Grisham in Right: the Play
Lets go back to the scene.
The Brewers are up 3-1 in the bottom of the 8th inning in the 2019 NL Wild Card Game. They have Josh Hader on the mound as the Nationals begin to run out of time to narrow the deficit.
Hader was set up to get a six inning save and send the Crew to the NLDS, but the Nationals showed a little bit of life with a very close (and challenged) HBP and a single. After walking Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto came to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded.
Soto was in a 1-1 count when he ripped a single to right field.
Then, it happened.
As he prepared to make a throw to the plate, the ball dribbled under right fielder Trent Grisham’s glove and rolled behind him. He eventually grabbed the ball and threw out Juan Soto in a rundown between second and third.
But the damage was done.
All three runners came around to score, giving the Nationals a 4-3 lead at the end of the inning. The deflated Brewers couldn’t get the tying run across in the 9th and the Brewers were sent packing as the Nationals moved on to the NLDS and eventually went on a deep playoff run to win the World Series.
To me, and many fellow Brewer diehards, this was one of the most heart breaking moments in Brewers history, but did his error really cost the game?
Lets go back to the moment: Bottom of the 8th, Bases loaded, Soto up but this time we’ll try a new approach.
A New Scenario
Soto rips a single into right and Grisham fields the ball and throws it back into the infield.
The Brewers keep the lead and they go on to win the World Series, right?
Based on the players and how the play unfolded we can imagine that both Turner and Stevenson score from 2nd and 3rd, and if there is a throw from Grisham to the plate, Rendon goes to third and Soto goes to Second in a tie game.
There’s even a chance that Anthony Rendon can score on the cleanly fielded play! It’s rather unlikely, but it could always happen.
Now the Nationals have Runners on either second or second and third with two outs and a shaky Josh Hader on the mound. The Nationals then hold all of the momentum.
Baseball, like many sports, is momentum-driven. A team’s talent can be irrelevant if they get hot at the right time, and that’s exactly what happened with the 2019 Nationals. They started the 2019 season 19-31, but stormed back to win 93 games and the top wild card spot. They then rode that momentum through the playoffs to a pennant and eventual World Series’ championship. The Brewers ran into a buzz-saw in the Washington Nationals.
Even without Grisham’s error, the Nationals now have all of the momentum in a tie game at home. Do the Nationals automatically win that game? No, but teams typically don’t do well under the circumstances that the Brewers were under.
Trent Grisham’s infamous error was heartbreaking, but it definitely wasn’t win or lose. If Grisham fields that play, the Brewers still didn’t have any guarantees and they had an incredibly tough climb ahead of them.