On some level it must be tough to be Matt Williams. The Nats are a team everyone predicted to win the division (particularly post-ATL injuries) so simply winning the mediocre-team filled NL East is not going to prove to anyone that he is particularly adept at his job. Winning a playoff series also may not be enough to prove to people that he's the right man for the job as the playoffs are often seen as a luck-driven (or at least as the "residue of design" driven). The simple truth is it's hard for Matt Williams to walk out of this season as a success. One could feel sorry for the guy... if he didn't seem to bring so much of this on himself.
Last night was another night of questionable decisions. The big one being why the hell Jerry Blevins was allowed to pitch the entirety of the 9th. Of course, if you follow Matt-logic the reasoning is simple. Tyler Clippard, who pitched in each of the last 3 games, was obviously not pitching last night. Any manager would do the same. But Matt Williams also has a mostly-followed edict that guys that pitch two of the last three nights are also to be avoided, especially the back of the pen if the Nats aren't winning. This meant Thorton, Soriano, and Storen were all removed from his set of first choices and it left him, in a one-run game with the team's closest rival, with essentially Stammen, Blevins, and Detwiler as his bullpen arms. Despite there being a day-off for the Nats today, he was going into battle with the Nats pitcher most likely to blow up and arguably his three weakest bullpen arms.
It's not necessarily a bad plan to go into a game with, and if the Nats blew out the Braves or vice-versa you can see sticking with it. But life gave Matt Williams a close game and you have to be able to adjust in these circumstances. Stammen in the 5th and 6th made some measure of sense* and then, yes you have to pinch hit for him. So Blevins to start the 7th, with two lefties up to start, made a lot of sense. However, letting Blevins face Justin Upton, who homered earlier, to end the inning,was pushing it. I could sort of justify it in a "Heyward is up next" way but still I wouldn't have done it. Blevins did K Upton, though
Letting Blevins face Heyward to start the next inning was an easy decision but then letting him face Chris Johnson, who earlier you didn't let Gio face presumably because you know he hits lefties better? Mistake. Letting him face the righty Laird with nothing but righties coming up? Mistake. Letting him face Pena? Mistake. Neither of the last two were BIG mistakes because... well both Laird and Pena stink despite being RHB. But with a man on, in a one-run game, you shouldn't be pushing your luck, you should be optimizing your chances of winning. In other words you should be working to give up no more runs. He got away with it for Laird but not for Pena. This set up the real bald head-slapper, letting Blevins face Gattis.
Blevins had run a gauntlet of questionable match-ups; Upton, Johnson, Laird, Pena and has escaped so far. For each one you could come up with a reason it was ok. Nobody on, next guy a lefty, these guys stink . But now, 29 pitches in, you came to the absolute no-brainer. Blevins does not face Gattis here. Gattis is good. Gattis KILLS lefties. There are men in base and in scoring position. There is a righty on deck. No manager lets Blevins face Gattis. But Matty did.
Does he treat the playoffs differently? I sure as hell hope so.
Since the All-Star break the offense has been mediocre but not terrible. Rendon is the lowest regular with a .666 OPS and LaRoche is the highest non-Span regular at .787. (Asdrubal hasn't come around yet either .614). Span is killing it (.447 / .505 / .511) but you can kind of see having a slap-hitter get hot, even extremely so, doesn't carry a team.
Meanwhile the bench continues to be awful. Lobaton (.582), Hairston (.464) and Frandsen (.455) just aren't doing anything. Frandsen has to be the biggest Rizzo mistake of the year. No one thought bringing him in was a good idea and he's been terrible. Yet here we are in August with Frandsen getting key ABs. If Rizzo could admit mistakes and cut bait mid-season, I think he'd be in my personal Top GMs (3? 5? I'd have to think). But this stubborness to prove he's right is a big issue.
Speaking of bad managers - why did it matter when we were calling for Span to be moved down in the lineup? Becuase you never know when that extra AB is going to be important. Case in point : BJ Upton batting first.The Braves do this and what do you know, 9th inning tie game two-out and two-on, and who gets his 5th AB before anyone else? BJ Upton. What does he do? Get out like he normally does. Then they lose in extras.
*I would have liked to see Storen in the 5th - it seemed like a game hinging AB for Chris Johnson. But I understand no manager would have done that. It was "long relief" time still.