From the start this season, the Washington Nationals and manager Matt Williams showed a willingness to insert rookie right-hander Aaron Barrett in any situation.
After pitching his way onto the roster with 10 ⅔ scoreless in Grapefruit League action, Barrett made his MLB debut in the ninth inning of a tie game on Opening Day in New York's Citi Field, striking out two in an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 frame.
The opportunities he received early, Barrett explained in late April, gave him confidence that Matt Williams believed in his ability to get opposing hitters out.
"It definitely gives me confidence," Barrett said. "But knowing that, it doesn't matter what the score is, what inning it is for me. As a player I just know that my job is to go get guys out. Whether we're up. Whether we're down. Whether it's the sixth, whether it's the ninth, whatever inning, whatever situation, my job is to control what I can control and get guys out and everything else, it is what it is."
"Whatever the situation is, whatever the inning, the score, my job is to get guys out," Barrett continued. "At the end of the day that's all I can do and that's going to give our team the best chance to win."
In 40 ⅔ IP in the regular season, the 26-year-old, 2010 9th Round pick put up a 2.66 ERA, a 2.59 FIP, 20 walks (4.43 BB/9) and 49 Ks (10.84 K/9).
Barrett ended his first major league season with a string of ten scoreless appearances out of the bullpen, holding opposing hitters to a .167/.231/.208 line over his final seven innings of work.
His first postseason experience ended with a wild pitch on an intentional ball.
Williams brought Barrett on in the seventh inning of Game 4 of the NLDS with San Francisco with two on and one out after Nationals' left-hander Matt Thornton gave up back-to-back, one-out singles by Joe Panik and Giants' catcher Buster Posey.
Barrett walked the first batter he faced, Giants' outfielder Hunter Pence, loading the bases, then fell behind 2-1 to Pablo Sandoval before spiking a fastball that bounced by catcher Wilson Ramos, allowing Panik to score the go-ahead run.
Since it was then a 3-1 count, Williams told the right-hander to walk Sandoval intentionally, but Barrett, who would later say he didn't feel the ball come out of his hand, sailed the throw, sending it over Ramos to the backstop where the Nats' catcher recovered it in time to throw home and get Posey at the plate.
That was it for Barrett. And the Nationals.
Though they rallied to tie the game up at 2-2 in the top of the seventh, the Nats couldn't do it again. The Giants held on for a 3-2 win and took the NLDS, 3-1.
Asked about his decision to go with Thornton and then Barrett in the seventh, Williams told reporters after the Nats were eliminated from the postseason that he went with the pitchers who filled that role in the regular season.
"Those are our seventh inning guys," Williams said.
"That's how we set this up. We had two lefties at the top of the inning, and if we got to the righties, we were going to go with Barrett. That's what he's done for us all year long.
"We are certainly not going to use our closer in the seventh inning. So that's why we went with it."
A reporter wondered that night if he had stayed with Barrett too long?
"I don't think so," he said. "Aaron's been doing that job for us all year long. He's a strikeout guy. He's got the ability to strike that guy out. Unfortunately it was a wild pitch.
"So, you know, that happens. But he's been our guy that we've gone to in the middle of orders with every team that we've played all year long to get a big strikeout or get a big out."
This time Barrett didn't get the job done.
In an interview on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Sports Junkies on Friday, Williams was asked to revisit the seventh and his decisions in the inning that essentially ended the Nats' 2014 campaign.
"Aaron, first and foremost," Wiliams said, "don't want to take anything away from Aaron's season. The job that he did for us was phenomenal. Coming in to face Giancarlo Stanton when he was the hottest hitter on the planet and striking him out... he's been in that situation many, many times and he understands it. It didn't happen for him and ultimately that inning unraveled on him.
"But that's our guy that we've gone to all year. That's the guy that has come in and done a great job in that situation.
"And frankly, that's the why he's on the roster for the playoffs. To be in that situation. He's not a one-plus inning guy, he's the guy that comes in and gets the tough righty out. He ended up going full on Pence. Pence fouled a ball off, and then he ended up walking him.
"And then we've got where we're at. We've got the bases loaded and a wild pitch. And it unraveled a little bit on Aaron out there, and again, I love him in that spot.
"I love him in the spot to come in and throw the slider and get the big out. You think about, recently, he was in that situation in September and he came in and got a double play ball.
"Hindsight is great when it doesn't work out and it doesn't go your way, but he's our guy for that spot and he's been that all year and he's done a fantastic job with it."
But when did Williams get the "vibe" that Barrett just wasn't ready for this one of the "Junkies" asked?
The Nats' skipper rejected the idea that Barrett wasn't ready for the postseason pressure and spotlight.
"He is ready for that," Williams said. "He is ready to be that guy. He was that guy all year. It's not about him being 'ready,' it's he missed with three fastballs, got back to a full count, Pence fouled a ball off and ended up walking.
"It happens. It happens in baseball. Now if he makes a good pitch on a slider and Pence hits into a double play, then he was the perfect guy for the situation. But it didn't happen. Didn't got that way."