The reviews are in from Matt Williams' managerial debut with the Washington Nationals. The Nats beat the New York Mets 5-4 on Friday afternoon in the Grapefruit League opener with a late-game comeback capped off by a top of the ninth inning RBI triple from outfield prospect Michael Taylor. Williams' Nationals rallied from a three-run deficit with four runs over the last three innings. Jeff Kobernus singled to start the ninth, took second on a wild pitch to Taylor and then scored the eventual winning run on the 22-year-old, '09 6th Round pick's big triple.
The Nats were aggressive on the basepaths throughout the game, and in the ninth put themselves in a good position to take advantage of Taylor's hit. Williams told reporters after the first game of the spring that he was happy to see that the Nationals have been listening so far in camp.
"It's gratifying to put into practice what we've talked about," the 48-year-old first-year manager said. "[Jeff] Kobernus getting a really good read on a ball in the dirt and getting into scoring position, one. That's the way we want to play the game. Ian [Desmond] stealing a base. So, that's kind of the way we want to go about doing it. Like I've said before, there are going to be times when the ball is flying out of the ballpark and it's going to be a lot of fun to just sit there and hit. But we're going to have to play that way too, so that's gratifying. Regardless of win or loss, that's the way we've got to play."
Veteran outfielder Nate McLouth, who signed a 2-year/$10.75M deal with the Nationals this winter, liked what he saw from the Nats' new skipper, who seemed to McLouth to be enjoying himself. "It meant something to me being my first game here with the Nationals," McLouth said, "so I'm sure it was special."
As for his first impressions of Williams as a manager?
"He's positive," McLouth told reporters. "Paying attention to the game obviously."
"Cool and easy going," he continued. "And seemed like he was having a good time."
Wilson Ramos was behind the plate early in Friday's game, so he didn't interact with Williams much, but he said the new skipper is making a good impression. "I didn't talk to him that much," the catcher said, "but he looked like he was excited to be here with us."
As detail-oriented as Williams has been, he's also, according to McLouth at least, been able to joke with and get to know his players. "He's been real serious and pays attention to all the little details, but he jokes around too. I don't know if that really makes sense, serious and jokes around, but he does both and it's been a lot of fun so far."
Ryan Zimmerman said he's appreciated the consistent attitude the Nats' new manager brings to the park. "He does a good job of being the same guy every day," the Nationals' '05 1st Round pick said. "He's played in the game for a long time. Everyone is excited on the first day."
In the dugout, it was more of the same from Williams according to Zimmerman.
"He's a grown man," Zimmerman said, noting that he didn't expect anything else. "I didn't notice anything different."
"He's quiet, but he tries to get confidence in us," Wilson Ramos said, "so that's what we need. We need to be confident in the dugout and on the field, so that's what we need from a manager."