Two opinions and some analysis that the relievers did their job.
In a tie game to begin the top of the 8th, Felipé Rivero took the mound to face all the lefties. 1st up was Ichiro who grounded a ball into the 3.5 hole as Rendon was shaded up the middle. Rivero struck out Yelich. Up to the plate came Justin Bour. Once again Rendon was shaded up the middle and when you look at Bour’s spray chart against lefty pitchers you see he mostly pulls grounders to the extreme right-side.
Here’s Bour’s spray chart against LHPs and you can see only 1 groundball ever hit directly next to the rightside of the 2nd base bag and the rest go directly to 1st base or where you’d want your 2nd baseman positioned :
Here is where you see Rendon running to as he was positioned near the 2nd base bag shaded up the middle:
The next play was an Ozuna groundball to Ian Desmond who tries to start a 6-4-3 doubleplay and Rendon throws the relay throw to 1st base and Clint Robinson is low in stretch mode as the ball is thrown to where CRob needed to adjust to the throw and he never got out of his knee-bent stretch and the ball sailed into the camera well sending Ozuna to 2nd base and Rendon was charged with an error, and Rivero had an earned run on his record and the Nats were in a 3-2 deficit. Rivero pitched quite well and whether you think he was BABIP’d or there was some questionable positioning, this is part of the problem we wrote about in the continuing slide in the Nats defensive efficiency and Nats pitchers’ BABIP that has worsened 3 years in a row since Mark Weidemaier took over as the Nats defensive coordinator.
Then there is the 9th inning save opportunity for Papelbon and probably the only mistake MW made is where you could insert Tyler Moore at 1st base for defense in place of Clint Robinson, and he did not. They did position Clint Robinson at “no doubles” with Rojas at-bat to lead-off the 9th inning. One thing you will notice from the screengrab is that CRob with nobody on base doesn’t play deep to give himself extra reaction time; however, due to CRob’s speed if he is too deep at 1st base he won’t be able to cover the bag to receive throws from his other infielders, and that is just another issue with CRob at 1st base. Rojas gets the ball by CRob even though he is positioned near the line in “no doubles” defense.
To complicate things, Bryce Harper fielded the double and airmailed the throw over the cut-off man and Rojas advanced to 3rd and scored an unearned run on a Dee Gordon Sac Fly. Papelbon got the “blown save” on an unearned run.