The championship leadership does not change the joy, the feeling of a 19-year-old who sees a go-ahead single slipping into the middle in the eighth inning, while his teammates see him pumping his fists in unfiltered delight. Disappointment does not win in these moments, especially when they come after an otherwise sluggish game after two hours of rain after a suppressed season. In these moments, the game is a game whose context is currently lost in a good night job.
The Nationals tracked the Milwaukee Brewers for the first eight innings and 4 ½ hours on the Saturday game. Then Juan Soto pushed a two-run single into the middle to help them make an eighth-run comeback in the eighth that helped them win 5-4. Victory brings the Nationals back to .500.
They started September as a losing team. Their tragic (non-magical) numbers ̵
This team has rarely had to look for the importance of September to find something beyond gain to find satisfaction and, if you let it, some pleasure. The young players could make it, players like Austen Williams, who before his first big league interview launched an audible "Wow" after being called on Saturday. There will also be comebacks like on Saturday. Whatever their place in the demoralizing playoff image, hard-earned victories like Saturday provide some evidence of character.
"It was great, that's proof of the guys," said manager Dave Martinez. "They do not stop."
The antediluvian part of the evening started with a deficit but also encouraging news. Stephen Strasburg looked better.
For reasons that neither he nor his manager could explain, his speed was two to four kilometers per hour slower than his career standards – all of which resulted in injuries. But while he worked through six strong innings in which he allowed two runs earned only when Anthony Rendon's mistake was changed to a stroke in the midst of this rain delay, Strasburg touched 95 and looked closer to the jug the members of him heard
The suspected problem, he said on Saturday night, was a tendency to exaggerate when he returned from the disabled list for the first time. Though he was not mechanically perfect on Saturday and Lapses cost him a few extra pitches and loss of control, Strasburg said these changes paid off – and Martinez seemed less worried about the right-hander.
Strasbourg's return probably will not be enough to save the Nationals. But his continued insistence on being healthy – in perpetual performance and increasingly encouraged postgame words – remains important to a franchise that invested $ 175 million in it last season. If they redesign their roster this winter, the job will be much easier if the family members feel they can count on him and his health.
September will also reveal something about this team's pride, about its willingness to push its desire to swing. And after a rain break that fell three minutes to two hours, one day after throwing away two key players, weeks after they had thrown others away, the Nationals did not calmly go into the night.
"You just have to try to be focused in the game," Soto said. "Come back and fight, just two more innings."
Greg Holland escaped a base-loaded jam after the game resumed in the eighth. Adam Eaton hit a two-out double to give the Nationals a chance in the eighth, one that develops quickly with Trea Turner's RBI single and walks by Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon. Then Soto, the brightest point of a dark season, made sure the single was in the middle.
Martinez wanted to let Soto rest for weeks, but injury and despair prevented him. He has played in every game since June 15 – in all but one game since the Nationals made him a surprise call in May. A week ago he seemed to suffer a break-in. In the last few days he has torn himself out. He explained the secret of his resurrection in terms that embodied the unique talent and character of this team.
"Just keep on doing Juan Soto stuff," Soto said. I just keep working, I'm fighting every day. "
His go-ahead single, his third hit of the evening, shot up his average .301, the final climax of a stunning rookie season. Rendon would hit a passing ball, an important run, as Justin Miller surrendered one in the ninth. But without the momentum of Soto, the Nationals would have had no leadership at all.
Almost every evening, the enthusiastic teenager recalls why the year's disappointments are not necessarily predictive over the next few years – and a reminder of Baseball's weird ways. Were not all the injuries that broke up this team, do not know what it has in Soto, nor know how to plan it, how to reinforce their offensive this winter. September is full of nights like Saturday, spent watching Soto pounding on the rookie of the year, overseeing the health of a key driver and seeing exactly what the next wave of bullpen prospects could offer. September also gives this team the opportunity to make a statement. And regardless of how these other efforts go, it gives them the opportunity to enjoy moments like Saturday when work pays off and things go well. Regardless of the circumstances, these nights count for something.