Washington Nationals Rapid Reactions: Matt Williams Continues To Hold Nats Back


Not all stories have happy endings. After hitting a go-ahead grand slam in the fourth inning, the Washington Nationals (71-66) fell to the New York Mets (76-61) in disappointing fashion Monday afternoon, giving up runs in four consecutive innings and eventually losing 8-5.

While certainly a considerable amount of the blame rests on the players who allowed the runs, some of those situations would never have been possible if it were not for mishaps by manager Matt Williams. Poor bullpen management, keeping struggling starter Max Scherzer in the game for too long, and refusal to pinch hit in key situations could have very well kept this game out of reach for the Nats.

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Entering the bottom of the fifth inning, the Nationals led 5-4. Scherzer had just given up his fourth earned run of the game, and was sitting at 89 pitches. Third baseman Yunel Escobar and shortstop Ian Desmond led off the inning with back-to-back singles, and were moved over to second and third two outs later on a productive groundout by Michael Taylor.

New York reliever Carlos Torres was unexpectedly pulled from the game with a strained left calf, and Mets manager Terry Collins was forced to pull a second bullpen arm (Erik Goeddel) to replace him. Rather than take his pick from his extended bench, Williams kept Scherzer in the game, who on the first pitch, grounded out to the second baseman and ended the Nats’ chances of adding to their lead.

Scherzer headed out to the mound for the top of the sixth, and promptly gave up a leadoff double to Yoenis Cespedes. The Mets’ center fielder would score three batters later, tying up the game and taking away the Nats’ lead for good. Clearly fatigued and having struggled all afternoon, Scherzer should not have been left in that game.

Williams had fresh long relievers in Blake Treinen, Doug Fister, Rafael Martin, and A.J. Cole, but neglected to go to any of them until they had already lost their lead. Granted, Treinen did give up the deciding run in the seventh, but if we were to guess what would have happened based on Williams’ past moves, Blake probably would not have been in the game at all. The most likely scenario would have been the Casey Janssen/Drew Storen/Jonathan Papelbon trio taking on the final three frames. Instead, Treinen, Felipe Rivero, and Janssen combined to go 0.1 of an inning while allowing three runs.

Fingers can be pointed to situational pitchers not getting their outs, and to the offense for not plating runs in any inning other than the fourth. However, with the players aside, this team needs to be managed so that it is always in the best position to win. Matt Williams has simply not done that this season, injuries or not. President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo may be willing to go on record and say he’s done “a masterful job,” but he is truly holding a playoff caliber team back.

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