Trent Grisham, welcome to October. The 22-year-old midseason call-up, who was such a big part of the Brewers’ postseason push, especially after Christian Yelich went down, learned quickly and the hard way that the reason the crowds are bigger and louder is that every play’s import is magnified, and that if you make a mistake, you can’t just go out and get ‘em back tomorrow. “You play baseball for these big situations,” said Yelich, whose injury was the only reason Grisham was in right field, “and you’re going to come up short sometimes.”
Grisham overran Juan Soto’s bases-loaded single in the eighth, allowing the go-ahead run to score and giving the Nationals a 4-3 win in the play-in game.
It’s not hard to see what happened. Grisham was aggressive charging and rounding on the ball, already thinking about his throw to the plate to try to retain Milwaukee’s lead. The ball took an odd little hop slightly to its left, forcing Grisham to alter his own trajectory, awkwardly.
“Top spin coming up, so I was getting ready to throw to home,” Grisham said. “I came in a little off balance. It kind of took a little funky hop on me just because I came in off balance. I couldn’t really gather myself. The ball got by me.”
Call it a rookie mistake if you like, even if it’s not, not really. Veterans can and do fall prey to October-induced decision-making like that. Even with a clean scoop, Grisham wasn’t going to be able to throw out pinch runner Andrew Stevenson at the plate, and he should have been focused on fielding the ball cleanly to keep the runners from taking an extra base. That’s all obvious in retrospect, though. In the moment, Grisham only had visions of a spectacular play to help his team win a winner-takes-all game, and he had enough adrenaline surging to convince him he could do it.
“When getting down to six, five, four outs to go,” Grisham said, “of course you feel all that pressure. It’s exciting. You want to live in those moments and live up to those expectations.” He declared that “I don’t think [the pressure] got to me at all,” but I’m not sure how else to read a situation where a player admitted he was feeling the pressure, and was overaggressive, and his overaggressiveness cost him.
But again: you don’t need to be making your postseason debut for that to happen. Ask any of the parade of Brewers veterans who came over to console or commiserate with a teary-eyed Grisham at his locker after the game. They’re the same ones who told reporters again and again that they wouldn’t be here in the first place without Grisham, who started the season at Double-A but forced a call-up with his spectacular play, and stepped in as an everyday player after Yelich broke his kneecap. The Brewers got insanely hot after that, and Grisham was a big part of it, slugging home runs and, yes, playing steady defense. “Trent’s why we’re here. Trent got us here,” manager Craig Counsell said. “The inning was an ugly inning. Crazy things happen.”
That they do. And Grisham seemed convinced that there was nothing special about his misplay. “I just ended up making an error. It’s not my first and it’s not going to be my last,” he said. It’s just the damned finality of the whole thing, now that it’s October. There are no second chances for Grisham and the Brewers, just a long five months until it’s time to pick up a baseball again.