Yunel Escobar led off the bottom of the 9th inning with a double and the Nats were behind 2-1. Matt Williams inserted speedster Trea Turner to pinch-run which would allow even a lousy bunt on the ground to get the speedy Turner to 3rd. Wheels were moving and tough decisions made.
Earlier in the game MW made some tough decisions in the 5th inning with starter Tanner Roark.
BIG DECISION(S) #1: Roark had runners on 3rd and 2nd and 1 out with Freddie Freeman stepping into the batters box in a 1-1 game with 1st base open in the 5th inning. Seemed like a smart decision to intentionally walk Freeman but certainly critics will find a way to find fault if Freeman comes around to score. MW then brought in the lefty Matt Thornton to face A.J. Pierzynski with the bases loaded and 1 out. Pierzynski would pop-out to Ian Desmond in short-left-CF and Desi would wheel around and throw a strike to home holding Markakis at 3rd. Credit to Thornton hustling to back up the play. Great pitch jamming Pierzynski. Rookie callup Adonis Garcia is a righty and MW left Thornton in with 2 outs and still bases loaded. Should MW have brought in a tough righty to face Garcia? Nope, MW let Thornton pitch to him and Garcia grounded out to 2nd base.
BIG DECISION #2: Ian Desmond stepped into the batter’s box and squared to bunt. Now if Ian Desmond failed to push the runner to 3rd, the naysayers would go off on Matt Williams saying with the runner already in scoring position you don’t give up an out! So this was already set up as “if player doesn’t execute then Manager takes the heat”. Well, Desmond couldn’t get the bunt down and didn’t look comfortable and got himself into a 2 strike count. What should the Manager do now?
BIG DECISION #3: Ian Desmond is in a 2 strike count. Do you bunt him with 2 strikes or let him swing away and hope he can hit it to the right side? If he doesn’t succeed this will turn the MW critics into a frenzy. Desi executes a not so great bunt but the speed of Trea Turner caused the Braves to throw out Desi at 1st and Trea Turner easily got to 3rd. Success on a 2 strike bunt.
If you saw MLB Network with Harold Reynolds, he called the Desi bunt the play of the “Play of the Game”. Little things turn into big things.
Harold Reynolds can't stop raving about Desi's bunt in the ninth.
— Beth Richardson (@Bethrich52) September 5, 2015
BIG DECISION #4: Lobaton was poor all game at batting. Who do you use as a pinch-hitter. Dan Uggla or the hot Wilson Ramos or maybe even Michael A. Taylor or Matt den Dekker? Remember Tyler Moore and Espinosa were already used. MW went to Ramos who HAS to put the ball in play, and Ramos struck out on 3 pitches and strands the runner at 3rd. If the Nats lose, MW gets questioned why he didn’t use someone else to pinch-hit since Ramos hasn’t pinch-hit this year.
BIG DECISION #5: Do you pinch-hit for the pitcher with Matt den Dekker or Dan Uggla with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th with Trea Turner standing on 3rd and the game over with an out? MW went with den Dekker and he singled home Trea Turner to tie the ballgame, and MdD becomes the hero for the moment.
BIG DECISION #6: The bench is getting short. Do you pinch-hit Dan Uggla or Michael A. Taylor with no outs in the 10th with Bryce Harper on 3rd and Ryan Zimmerman on 1st. MW went with MAT who hit a walk-off 3 run HR.
BIG DECISION #7: Lineup construction. Matt Williams batted Lobaton 8th in the batting order and if you would ever bat Lobaton higher in the order it would be against Teheran. Lobaton previous had 2 HRs vs Teheran and came into the game 7-13. Lobaton didn’t do well. Hit into a doubleplay with runners on 3rd and 1st and 1 out in the 4th inning, and with bases loaded in the 6th he flied out with 2 outs. Looks like MW made the right decision to not fall for small sample sizes.
BIG DECISION #8: Bringing in Papelbon in the 9th inning in a 2-1 deficit in your “home” ballpark is a no-brainer if your closer is rested as there is nothing he can save in the game going forward and nothing to save him for. Pitching Papelbon in the 10th gets applause from some for now but these types of decisions have a possible cascading effect on what happens if Papelbon is needed for Saturday night? Paps didn’t have to pitch on Thursday but pitched a stressful 9th in St. Louis on Wednesday. Let’s see how this unfolds tonight.
MATT WILLIAMS POST-GAME PRESSER VIDEO
There were other big decisions along the way. This is our Top 8. Is that right? Did we miss anything?