Jul 9, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
For the last week, Matt Williams has faced a nightly lineup decision, the crux of which has boiled down to the question of who would start at third base.
For the next two nights, Williams will face another lineup decision. This time, though, the Nationals manager has another position to consider: designated hitter.
With the Battle of the Beltways series shifting north to Camden Yards, AL rules take over, so both clubs will be allowed to use a DH. The Nationals’ choice would seem obvious — Ryan Zimmerman — but Williams wasn’t ready to commit to anything following last night’s postponement.
“We just called [this game], so we haven’t thought in those terms yet,” he said. “We’ll spend the short bus ride [to Baltimore] talking about it, I’m sure.”
While Zimmerman is the logical choice, taking his throwing issues out of the equation, there are other factors for Williams to consider…
— Other everyday players could certainly use a semi-night off, with Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth high atop that list.
— If Zimmerman doesn’t play third base, Anthony Rendon would slide over to take his spot, leaving second base open and forcing either Danny Espinosa or Kevin Frandsen into the lineup. Williams might prefer his extra bat to come in the form of someone else, perhaps Nate McLouth or Scott Hairston.
The decision ultimately boils down to the same one Williams has been facing since Bryce Harper came off the DL last week and gave the Nationals a fully healthy roster for the first time since Opening Day. What’s more important: Offense or defense?
The Nationals’ best defensive alignment would have Rendon at third, Espinosa at second and the usual outfield configuration of Harper, Denard Span and Werth. Their best offensive alignment, though, would probably have Zimmerman staying at third, Rendon staying at second and either McLouth in one of the outfield spots or Hairston as DH.
The Orioles will start right-hander Bud Norris in tonight’s game, so McLouth would seem to provide the better matchup. Thursday’s series finale, though, will see lefty Wei-Yin Chen taking the mound for Baltimore, so that creates a better matchup for either Hairston or Espinosa.
Whatever the case, this will only be a two-day dilemma for Williams. The Nationals return to intraleague play Friday in Philadelphia, and they’ll play only three more games in an AL park the rest of the regular season: Aug. 29-31 in Seattle.
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