Trent Grisham had one of the worst errors baseball has seen in years Tuesday night. But his Buckner-esque misplay in right field wasn't the reason the Milwaukee Brewers lost the National League Wild Card Game. The blame for that rests with closer Josh Hader.
The Washington Nationals trailed 3-1 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning Tuesday night and wound up winning 4-3. That came because of a wild inning that opened promisingly for Hader.
The two-time All-Star struck out Victor Robles to open the frame, then things got weird. He hit Michael Taylor on the hand with a pitch on a 3-2 count, but replays showed the ball hit the bat before Taylor's hand. No matter, a review failed to overturn the call. Hader bounced back against Trea Turner, striking him out on a nasty 97 mph fastball. Then it all fell apart.
Hader surrendered a broken-bat single to center by Ryan Zimmerman and walked Anthony Rendon after falling behind 3-0. The bases were loaded for 20-year-old phenom Juan Soto and he didn't disappoint. Hader grooved a 95 mph fastball down the middle to Soto, who cracked it into right field. Here's what happened next:
First off, Grisham took a terrible route to that ball. There's no question about it and no excuse for it. That said, blaming him for the loss is silly. Even he fields it cleanly and gets the ball back to the infield quickly, the game would have been tied. Andrew Stevenson was running for Zimmerman and there's no way Grisham gets him at the plate, even with a perfect throw. It's also worth noting that Grisham played in 51 regular season games this season and didn't make an error.
No, the fault in that inning was with Hader, who was wild from the start, even in the zone. He wasn't hitting his spots and it felt like the adrenaline was forcing him to miss up. While the hit-by-pitch to Taylor should have been ruled a foul ball, it came on a 3-2 count and could have just as easily been ball four since it was way up and in. That pitch should have never been in that location.
Hader then still had chances to get out of the inning. He got Turner to strike out, but was clearly rattled by Zimmerman's bloop single. He immediately fell behind Rendon 3-0, got two strikes back and missed up with location on the 3-2 pitch. With the bases loaded he threw Soto a 97 mph fastball that was fouled off, missed away with a slider by about a foot, then put a fastball on a tee for Soto. He just didn't have it Tuesday night.
It's also worth noting that Hader blew his seventh save during his final regular season appearance. The Brewers were beating the Rockies 2-1 when Hader entered in the bottom of the ninth last Saturday. He got two outs then gave up a solo home run to Sam Hilliard in a game the Brewers eventually lost in the 10th.
Let's be real, it's silly to "blame" a single person for a loss of this magnitude, but Hader was far more culpable than Grisham, who at best would have briefly stemmped the tide of the inning if he made that play cleanly. The momentum would have been fully on Washington's side either way.
Hader, Grisham and the rest of the Brewers will have a long offseason to sit and stew on this game.