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Williams feels pennant race heating up

Aug 16, 2014, 11:25 AM EST

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

With the 64-58 Pittsburgh Pirates – current owners of the final NL Wild Card spot – in town, this weekend’s series for the Nationals perhaps feels different than their previous three games up in New York against the Mets.

It’s mid-August and it’s two winning teams who could possibly meet later this year in October. Both are still very much alive in the playoff race with different immediate goals in mind.

Nationals manager Matt Williams senses that, and he’ll admit it. No matter how many times he has said ‘we’re worried about today’ this season, the rookie skipper can start to feel a difference as September nears.

“You want to have Game 1 mean the same as Game 125 or Game 150, but the reality is that it’s not that way,” he said. “This time of year it becomes a little more intense. Teams are fighting for something and you can see it out in the distance.”

Williams, however, issued a caveat on that notion.

“That’s the trap, though. The trap is out there, so our objective is to play tonight and play well enough to beat them tonight. We’re in a position at this point where we can control. That’s what we need to do, we need to focus on that.”

Williams has experienced a pennant race before. He had an accomplished 17-year playing career and participated in the postseason five times.

Williams was on a 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks club that won the World Series. He was also part of a 1993 San Francisco Giants team that won 103 games, but missed the playoffs.

Intensity is required for both players and managers, of course, but there is a difference. Williams tried to explain that on Friday, based on what he has learned in his first season as an MLB manager.

“It was there from Day 1. That doesn’t change,” he said. “Especially when you don’t have much control, you can’t let it go. There’s no physicality about managing or really about coaching. You have to maintain your mental tenacity throughout the whole season, because there’s no physicality to it. You can’t go out and hit and throw, make a difference. That intensity is there from Day 1 and it will continue to be.”

The Nationals currently hold a six-game lead over the Atlanta Braves in first place in the NL East. It’s a great spot to be in this time of year and that is not lost on Williams. He has seen the homestretch of a season go very different ways. Right now, he’s just enjoying the ride.

“Who wouldn’t want to have the opportunity, that’s the way I look at it. We have an opportunity and we’re excited about that. We just need to keep playing well to see where we can go to.”

  1. micksback1 - Aug 16, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    Here is the positive on Soriano as it pertains to me, I am getting so good at imitating Fred G. sanford that if they ever remake Sanford and son, I could play Fred, lol

    I watched Olbermann last night and he like me has pointed out, how can Soriano untuck his shirt, not once but twice after almost blowing a game.?

    • Doc - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:46 PM

      I miss my man Olbermann on any station he’s not commenting on the body politic. There’s nobody like him, and if there were, no broadcast station would hire him.

      As to his comment on Soriano, untucking is a bad habit which is hard to give up—particularly after a Save. LOL

      • micksback1 - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:38 PM

        amen to that about Keith, I miss him too, he was a trouble maker for the corporate controlled media.

  2. micksback1 - Aug 16, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    and, I Mick am going tonight!!!! I am excited!!!

  3. NatsLady - Aug 16, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    Don’t know if this was posted before. Here is a nice article about Rendon.

    • micksback1 - Aug 16, 2014 at 11:57 AM



    • Doc - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:54 PM

      Thanks NL!

      The media is just starting to discover Tony.

      Wait till they find out that he doesn’t take himself too seriously, unless of course he’s fielding a ball, or hitting one.

      • NatsLady - Aug 16, 2014 at 2:08 PM

        In between pitches he yawns, because baseball is boring. 😉

      • Doc - Aug 16, 2014 at 2:56 PM

        I’ve noticed the yawns too! Funny how the camera catches him doing that.

        They need to speed up the game for Tony! Maybe he should play video baseball when he’s not in the field, or AB, in order to keep his attention.

      • Doc - Aug 16, 2014 at 2:56 PM

        I’ve noticed the yawns too! Funny how the camera catches him doing that.

        They need to speed up the game for Tony! Maybe he should play video baseball when he’s not in the field, or AB, in order to keep his attention.

    • Another Tyler - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:56 PM

      “Overall, Fangraphs estimates that Rendon’s base running prowess has created 5.8 runs more than an average player. That trails only Dee Gordon (+7.7 runs), Ben Revere (+7.2) and Ian Kinsler (+6.2) among all MLB players.”

      I knew he was good on the bases, but this is pretty amazing.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 16, 2014 at 2:22 PM

      NatsLady, I heard Rendon hurt his hand on the road trip. He’s played through it but wonder if you knew anything.

  4. kirbs3256 - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    I can’t help look ahead…the road trip to Seattle and LA Dodgers scare me to death….and then after a 3 game set with Philly, Atl comes in for 3…..We must survive those 9 to lock it down.

    • NatsLady - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:39 PM

      Ryu went on the DL yesterday. There is “no timetable” for his return. Hopefully the Dodgers will have a substantial lead in their Division and will be careful with him (and with all their players). Seattle is another matter, they could be scrapping for a WC spot. We start that series Sept 1, so relief is coming. Barett will be back for the bullpen, and Treinen for the “rotation” — such as it will be at that point.

      We have an off-day before the Mariners series. It’s three games. Hopefully we will be at a point where 1 of 3 will be fine. Maybe we’ll miss King Felix. Though I think it would be great fun to compete against him, just NOT in a winner-take-all, like Game 7 of the WS..

      • kirbs3256 - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:41 PM

        I agree. I would love to see it against Felix, but really don’t want it to happen.

      • NatsLady - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:48 PM

        That got a little tangled.

        I think you are right to “worry” about the Seattle series, but it’s three games and hopefully we are at a point where 1 of 3 is tolerable.

        OTOH, I’m not too worried about the Dodgers series, which begins on Sept 1. Relief is at hand becaue of expanded rosters.

        The trick, IMO, is to come back from the road trip with a 5 game lead. Then you can start resting regulars, go to a six-man rotation, etc. We play the Mets seven more times, including four at Nats Park North.

        Sept 5 to the end is all in the division, ending with seven games at HOME (Mets and Fish).

      • kirbs3256 - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:52 PM

        I think you are dead on about the Sept. relief. Especially the 6 starters. Since you are our expert researcher….I am really starting to worry about Tanner and the amount of innings. No way he will be anything close to career numbers by the end of the year/hopefully October.

        If Gio doesn’t fix himself, will we see a playoff rotation of Fister/Zimm/Stras/Roark?

      • NatsLady - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        I said a few days ago they need to limit Roark’s innings. Yes he’s not under 25 BUT, this is the first time he’s pitched anything like what we are expecting of him AND they are all major league innings AND we want him in the playoffs. He hasn’t had a month off like Fister and Gio, or even three weeks, like JZimm. I’d say two, maybe three more starts for him and he goes to the bullpen for long relief, and just enough of that to keep him sharp.

      • kirbs3256 - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:06 PM

        Yeah, 147.2 is his Max in 12….he’s already past it…should be interesting

  5. NatsLady - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    Baseball Prospectus, which is conservative, has the Nats at 97.1% to make the playoffs, 94.9% to win the Division.
    Fangraphs has 98.7% for the playoffs, 96.7% for the Division.

    Reasonable people have made their deposit for the playoff strip.

    • kirbs3256 - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:40 PM

      I can not get my hopes up for this…….when I looked at the line last night and saw Tanner had 1 hit after 4 I thought “We got this on lock”….and not 20 minutes later it was a game again. I can not bring myself to believe it.

      • NatsLady - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:54 PM

        Did the Nats win?

        Pirates are a tough team, in the middle of Division/WC race. Very similar to the Nats in that they are overall good, not just good in one area (though their pitching is suspect, it’s far from awful). Hurdle is a good manager, he’s not going to make a lot of mistakes. Remember, we were playing (are playing) without Zim and Werth, and with a guy in RF who–though fun to watch–hits at Espinosa levels. Ramos had a bad game, two double plays and a muff at the plate.

        Yes, they are without McCutchen, and that was a break for us, plus getting Charlie Morton (and getting TO Charlie Morton). So it evened out. And that’s why this is a pretty even match. Enjoy it! This is fun!

    • micksback1 - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:22 PM

      to add, part of their assessment is also based on this, when we get into mid September, each loss by the teams chasing the leader becomes magnified as well. In other words, the old magic number. if Nats are up say 4-5 games on Sept 15, then playing 500 or a little less is OK, from the standpoint that Braves or marlins have to play almost 900 baseball to catch them

      This is where we were last year at this time

    • rayvil01 - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:25 PM

      There’s a fourth of the season left. That’s a lot of games.

      One thing that is encouraging is that the Nats have limited their losing streaks. Longest is 4 games. NatsLady attributes that to starting pitching and I won’t argue. When looking back at the epic 10-game September swoons that the ’69 Cubs, the 2011 Braves, and others have had they were streaky teams. This team isn’t. So, I’m hopeful…but cautious. Biggest worry bead for me is that MW may be wearing out the A-team bullpen. Storen and Clippard look fine. But, the numbers are accumulating. Time to use Thornton and Det more.

      • micksback1 - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:41 PM

        agreed, i just reinforcing prospective’s analysis on Nats chances. Believe me, the 69 cubs, 64 Phillies, 78 RedSox and the mets being over 12 back after labor day in 1973 are always on my mind


      • NatsLady - Aug 16, 2014 at 2:11 PM

        Three teams in a hundred years are why there is a 3% chance the Nats might not make it… So, eh, I’ll pay the “processing fee” if they mail the tickets and don’t make it. But if they do, I’ll have my seat ready.

  6. Another_Sam - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:59 PM


    I heard the chatter surrounding the new commissioner selection. The talk was about how baseball needs to rekindle local interest and visibility especially among younger potential fans. For the Nationals, this is easy: Get a storefront in Tyson’s Corner. A real no brainer. Recall that long ago the Orioles had a ticket office on Farragut Square. [I realize that in the StubHub era, there’s no compelling reason to sell tickets. But it would be a nice touch.] What a guilty pleasure it was to take a long lunch and go to Farragut Square for the events. The Orioles storefront frequently had real players, and real broadcasters, and real print reporters on site to mingle with fans young and old. This was a great way to raise awareness and increase visibility. Come on, Nationals. Get with it. [Note that today Denard was in Tyson’s for 30 minutes. Yep — 30 minutes. And just Denard.] Nationals, get a community outreach going in the new downtown of the area.


    • NatsLady - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:12 PM

      I understand what you’re saying, but I kind of disagree. I really don’t want the boys, in the middle of a pennant race, doing a lot of events. I want them in the hot tub and sauna. If we clinch then, yes, ABSOLUTELY, get your butts out there. I wish more Nats lived here in the winter, and could do that stuff

      • Another_Sam - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:20 PM

        My point was that they should have a year-round storefront – a continuous presence. . This was a great way to Maintain a visibility. They convinced many that the Orioles were the local team.

      • David Proctor - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:23 PM

        Even the ones who do live here year round don’t do events.

      • NatsLady - Aug 16, 2014 at 2:04 PM

        Oh, absolutely agree on that. And they should maybe fly the players in a few times in the winter for events, not just big charity events but “hello” type deals. And you never know, at a storefront booth they might get some season ticket sales and jersey sales.

    • 6ID20 - Aug 16, 2014 at 2:40 PM

      They had a store in Tysons Corner mall during the Christmas season after the great 2012 year. I went in there a few times while I was doing my Christmas shopping. Every time, I was the only customer in the place. Moral of the story: It’s not the 1990s any more, and Tysons Corner isn’t Farragut Square.

  7. Another_Sam - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:26 PM

    I didn’t mean to suggest that players hung out at the store – far from that. But that the Orioles name was always visible in the crossroads of movers and shakers.

    • npb99 - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:33 PM

      I remember that store too. Very good location, and seemed to always have a lot of traffic. And a lot of the local businesses, law firm, lobby shops, etc., had season ticket plans to the O’s.

  8. npb99 - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:34 PM

    Just to state the totally obvious, redundant comment of the day, boy is it nice to read the sports section in the morning, nursing that cup of coffee, and seeing a nice 6 game lead for our guys. Sweet.

  9. NatsLady - Aug 16, 2014 at 2:22 PM

    So. Are we drafting Davis before or after she has Tommy John?

  10. NatsLady - Aug 16, 2014 at 2:40 PM

    Jayson Nix is starting at second base for the Buccos. You think we have challenges?
    .145 /.192/.188 (For two teams in 2014).

    Here he is against lefties: .118/.189/.118 (4 for 34).

    Guess we just have to leave Michael Taylor in there to keep the competitive balance. :)

    • David Proctor - Aug 16, 2014 at 3:00 PM

      Watch him go 4/4 against us.

  11. Doc - Aug 16, 2014 at 3:08 PM

    Looking at the few stats that I do, I’ve often been puzzled by the more runs scored by Rendon, than Span.

    Catching my attention was Another Tyler’s post above about Runs Created with base running prowess by Rendon. He’s in the company of Ben Revere, Ian Kinsler, and Dee Gordon.

    It sort of puts runs scored by Rendon in perspective.





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