The Nats are 11-9 with 5 home games against beatable opponents directly in front of them. Things could be worse. At the same time, they lost a game last night and it felt like it was all their fault. It felt like errors in the field and in the dugout were the cause rather than where the balls happened to drop in or not. Not quite as bad as an implosion game but one that leaves a bad feeling in the gut, like the team isn't ready to win. Of course that's nonsense, but hey, people have their ideas and are going to fit what happens into what they already believe to be true. That's even the case with me saying it's nonsense.
So what are the stories from last night? The 8th inning decision making is one. Taking out Storen after getting one batter out is kind of iffy. I probably wouldn't do it given that Storen has been the Nats most effective reliever (that they've decided to keep in the majors) this year, but I understand the want to pinch hit late in the game. I can't kill Matt for this.
What I can kill Matt for is letting Clippard face Ibanez. Normally, I don't mind Clip facing a lefty in a big spot. Clippard has always been tough versus lefties (.184 / .268 / .320 for his career which is pretty amazing). In this specific occasion, Ibanez hits righties better but over the past few years he hasn't been an automatic out vs lefties (this year yes but it's early). So if say Ibanez was leading off the inning, I'd say fine. But at this point Clippard had thrown 19 ptiches. The last two batters got a single and a walk. He was starting to struggle and that should be accounted for. If that means burning through another pitcher so be it.
Matt's explanation is even worse, hinging on the idea that Clippard is his "8th inning guy". If you are still a believer in the closer role, I'd hope the idiocy of this idea expanding to earlier innings will bring you around. The relief staff is the only place, outside of pinch hitters, where things are not set before the game. This means the manager can use his players where they are most needed, rather than where they happened to be slotted. To assign roles like "8th inning guy" is to forcibly limit your options. It's ridiculous. In this situation it lead to a struggling Clippard both being saved for the 8th inning and being kept in the 8th inning, because that's "his" inning. It's a terrible way of directing a ballgame, one that requires no thinking and in fact aggressively wants you NOT to use judgement. It's a coward's way to manage. (which is why it's gained popularity - job security is first and foremost)
Other notes :
What's up with Clippard? He's walking more and everyone is scoring when they get on base but why? I noted last night that he has pitched in more games in the past 5 years than all but one pitcher (Matt Belisle) so it could be just wear and tear. There's nothing immediately telling in the fancy stats. This requires more digging.
Ian Desmond could use a night off. He has nine errors in his last 12 games and he's not hitting (.234 / .268 / .416).
Mike Trout's existence is one of the bigger problems Bryce faces. Everyone had Bryce pegged as a generational talent and he's actually not far off pace of that (if he even is off it). But there's a guy now who not only is that good, he might be better. At the plate, only two guys have been as good as Trout in their first 4 seasons in the last 50 years (Pujols and Frank Thomas) and both of those guys were a few years older when they did it. No one has been this good and this much a threat on the basepaths in 100 years. And this isn't mentioning that he's at least a good fielder. Trout has had 4 seasons that keep him in the argument for the best player in the history of the game. How does Bryce compete on that level? He doesn't.