WASHINGTON, D.C. — It doesn’t usually happen like this. October is the month in which misfortune attaches itself to the Washington Nationals. They are the ones who lose in the postseason in excruciating fashion. Games like Tuesday’s National League wild-card barnburner happen to them, not in their favor.

Maybe, then, this is a different Nationals team. All it took was a hit by pitch, a broken-bat single, a walk, a single and a timely error by the Milwaukee Brewers, all in the eighth inning, to erase a two-run deficit and send the Nationals to the division series with a 4-3 victory in front of 42,993 at Nationals Park. They advance to face the Los Angeles Dodgers, with left-hander Patrick Corbin expected to start Game 1 on Thursday.

For seven innings, the Nationals’ offense was inert against the Brewers’ stalwart pitching. When Milwaukee closer Josh Hader entered for a two-inning save in the eighth inning, it looked as if more of the same would come.

Then pinch hitter Michael A. Taylor reached on a controversial hit by pitch that looked as though it might have hit his bat before his wrist; pinch hitter Ryan Zimmerman poked a single into center as his bat shattered; Anthony Rendon drew a full-count walk; and 20-year-old Juan Soto stepped to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded.

Soto ripped a single into right field that was certain to score two runs. Rookie right fielder Trent Grisham — in for injured reigning MVP Christian Yelich — charged the ball and missed it. Rendon hustled home, staking the Nationals a 4-3 lead.


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