The Nationals’ 7-6 loss to the Marlins on Monday, in which Washington blew a six-run, seventh-inning lead, was arguably the most painful of the season. It certainly felt that way as I watched MASN’s Ray Knight, who always wears his heart on his sleeve, try to put things in perspective with Johnny Holliday on Nats Xtra following the game. Uncle Ray could’ve been speaking at a funeral.
“Yeah, I just don’t know how in the world that happened,” a dejected Knight said after Rafael Soriano’s fourth blown save of the season. “You know, baseball is a game that is so flippin’ unpredictable. And a guy that we have talked about, his 200th save, and his ability to close games out. Give him a three-run lead and he walks the leadoff hitter, something you know you can’t do. I don’t have to say it. Everybody out there who’s got any clue knows that. And that set the stage for all this offense, Johnny. Guys are slamming the ball all over the field, but not just singles — doubles and triples, balls that were hammered by pitches that were right there.”
Knight questioned Matt Williams’s handling of the bullpen in the ninth inning. Lefty Jerry Blevins replaced Soriano with runners on first and third and one out and got Marlins lefty Christian Yelich to strike out. Blevins, who has struggled against right-handers this season (.324 batting average against after last night), remained in the game to face Jeff Baker, who delivered the game-winning hit. Williams later said that Tyler Clippard was unavailable after pitching twice in the previous three games, though he could’ve summoned Aaron Barrett or Craig Stammen.
“And I’m a little puzzled, honestly, about Matt bringing in the left-hander to face Yelich, who can fly,” Knight said. “That’s not going to be a double play. You’re going to have to get two hitters out. Finally bringing him in and striking him out. But you’ve got to have a right-hander ready. With [Jeff] Mathis on the [Marlins] bench, the only right-handed hitter left, according to my scorecard. If they had a left-handed hitter, I don’t know about him. But now you’ve got Baker, and a left-handed pitcher facing Baker with Barrett and Clippard in the bullpen available, Stammen available. Maybe the game started moving too fast, but right there, you’ve gotta go matchup, matchup, matchup, matchup if you use everybody.
“I don’t know that you leave a right-handed hitter up there to face a left-handed pitcher. You know their manager’s feeling really good about it because that’s the matchup he wants. One of the few times you see Matt Williams in any time not make a move there. He made a move — a late move. It was obvious to me that Soriano didn’t have his stuff. You tend to stay with a closer longer. I’m not being Mr. Negative here, I’m just pointing it out.”
Last night. pic.twitter.com/5l4mghJHkq
— Danny (@recordsANDradio) July 29, 2014
“It’s not the end of the world, it just seems that way right now,” Knight, trying to be Mr. Positive, said later. “This is not what you look for on a road trip, not with a club that’s playing really good baseball. But this team, they were dominating tonight. They were dominating offensively. They were dominating pitching-wise, until you get to the eighth inning, and somehow we allowed them to wake up. And they woke up, they just kept coming, and that’s great. They’re a young team, that’s great for them.”
You know what wasn’t great for the Nationals? Getting slapped. And that’s what happened, according to Knight.
“This club right here — this is what you have as a manager when you say, okay, this is like walking into a place and somebody slapping you and you try to figure out what happened. Why would somebody slap me? As a manager, you know, you kind of say that to your ball club, ‘Okay, you guys we were just slapped, what are we going to do about it?’ You come back tomorrow, you forget about all this stuff that happened — the bad stuff — and just continue to concentrate on the positive and get back out there tomorrow night and scrap. [The Marlins are] scrappy, they play tough, but there’s no way they’re a more scrappy team than we are. It just seems like that tonight. But tomorrow night you come out and you get ’em. I’m always one of these guys that tries to think about the positives. It stuns you, though. It absolutely stuns you, when you’re in a situation like this and you get to feel about the fifth inning that this is our game to lose. You know, you’ve got it won. It’s our game to lose and you end up seeing that happen with a lot of things going wrong.”
Chin up, Ray. The scrappy Nats will get ’em today.
Thanks to @DCSportsNexus for the Vine.