When the Nationals landed in Phoenix on Sunday evening, Nationals Manager Matt Williams headed to his home in Scottsdale instead of the team hotel. After being away from home for over three months, Williams will finally be able to spend time in his own house with his family.
Williams’s return home will also mark his first trip to Arizona as the Nationals’ manager. The Diamondbacks are one of the teams Williams is most identified with. Williams not only made Arizona his full-time home, but he is a former Diamondbacks player, coach, broadcaster, front office executive and part owner. Williams left such a major imprint with the Diamondbacks that one of the four mascots during the in-game mascots race, known as the Legends, is named for him.
“It’ll be fun,” Williams said after Sunday’s game. “Certainly get a chance to sleep in my own bed, which’ll be good. Good to see [my wife Erika] and [daughter] Madison, that’ll be good, too. But beyond that, we want to win and play well and beat those guys.”
Williams was an original member of the expansion Diamondbacks’ first season in 1998. He played six seasons with them, made three playoff appearances and helped them beat the New York Yankees to win the 2001 World Series. After he retired, he worked in the front office as a special assistant and helped instruct players. He had also bought a small ownership stake in the team.
In 2010, Williams became a member of Manager Kirk Gibson’s coaching staff. He moved from first base coach to third base after one season but continued instructing the infielders. He built a relationship with one of the team’s advance scouts, Mark Weidemaier, who he eventually brought with him to Washington.
But Williams’ ties to Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo, and his strong reputation as an instructor, made him a candidate for Washington’s vacant managerial position. By late October, Williams was officially hired.
Now Williams will have the chance to face a team he knows intimately well. Fresh off a thorough beating at the hands of the Oakland Athletics in a weekend three-game sweep, the Diamondbacks are exactly the sort of opponent the Nationals could use.
The Diamondbacks have the second-worst record in the National League at 15-25. Their pitching staff has been horrid and the Nationals are scheduled to face two struggling starters in Bronson Arroyo (3-2, 4.89 ERA) on Tuesday and Brandon McCarthy (1-6, 5.66 ERA) on Wednesday in the three-game series.
The Diamondbacks have a team ERA of 4.81, which recently dropped below the Houston Astros’ ERA for second-to-last after being in last place for so long. The starting rotation’s ERA is a baseball-worst 5.46. The bullpen, on the other hand, has been better: a 14th-best 3.71.
The Nationals need to beat the lowly teams on their schedule, and the Diamondbacks are the ideal opponent to bounce back against. The Nationals will send Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister to the mound against the Diamondbacks’ offense, averaging 3.74 runs a game, the sixth-lowest mark in baseball.
While the Nationals take on the Diamondbacks, Williams will stand in the visitor’s dugout for the first time as the manager of his new team, his old one across the field.
FROM THE POST
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 4, Columbus 1: Blake Treinen allowed one run on four hits over six innings, striking out four. Manny Delcarmen notched his second save. Jhonatan Solano went 2 for 4 with an RBI. He is hitting .298 with 19 RBI. Brian Goodwin also had two hits.
Binghamton 2, Harrisburg 1: A.J. Cole allowed one run on four hits, walking three and striking out three over 4 2/3 innings. Cutter Dykstra went 2 for 3 and Rick Hague drove in the lone run.
Myrtle Beach 6, Potomac 1: John Simms allowed five runs on four hits and struck out five over five innings. Bryan Harper allowed one unearned run over three innings, while striking out four. Randolph Oduber went 3 for 4 and Oscar Tejeda drove in the lone run.
Hagerstown 3, Kannapolis 2: Hector Silvestre fired four scoreless innings, Michael Sylvestri added three scoreless frames and Jake Walsh threw two scoreless innings. Dixon Anderson earned the win despite allowing two runs in the top of the 10th. The Suns won with three runs in the bottom of the 10th. Rafael Bautista drove in two runs with a double and Wilmer Difo drove in the winning run with a bunt single with one out.
Kannapolis 2, Hagerstown 1: Lucas Giolito fired six scoreless innings, walked one and struck out seven. Justin Thomas allowed two unearned runs in the seven the lose the game. Drew Ward drove in a run and Spencer Kieboom went 2 for 3.