In his first regular season game as Nationals manager, Matt Williams experienced nearly every possible situation on the field. An early deficit. A star outfielder getting hit in the head in a collision. A comeback. The starting catcher coming out of the game with an injury. Losing the lead again. Managerial tactics. Another comeback against the New York Mets closer. Extra innings. Hang on to the lead. All perhaps that was left was an instant replay challenge.
And in the final at-bat of the final inning of the game, Williams actually exercised his right to challenge a play in the new instant replay system even though the Nationals had just taken a four-run lead. If there’s a close play, Williams is of the belief that he might as well use the replay challenges if he still can.
After Anthony Rendon’s three-run home run gave the Nationals a 9-5 lead in the top of the 10th inning with two outs, Danny Espinosa grounded out softly to third baseman David Wright. Espinosa raced down the first base line but was thrown out by Wright at first on a close play.
The players ran off the field because it was the final out of the inning, but Williams thought it was a close enough play to challenge. Some players lingered on the field and near the dugout while the umpires re-watched the play. The umpires ruled that Espinosa was out but Williams felt the situation called for it.
“It was two outs in the last inning and it’s a questionable call and we hadn’t used it,” Williams said. “I tried to get out of the dugout as quickly as possible according to how they want us to do it. That’s a hard one because everybody runs off the field. In that situation, if can get a guy on first base with two outs, then we want to try to do that. We hadn’t used it until that point. I makes you feel a little fun because you don’t want to rub it in when you’ve just gone ahead. But we have to do that for our club in case we have another opportunity to get another guy to the plate.”