San Diego slugger Justin Upton's seventh inning home run off Doug Fister put the Washington Nationals in a 6-2 hole, but the Nats rallied against Tyson Ross and the Padres' bullpen in the bottom of the inning and pulled within one when Bryce Harper lined an 0-1 slider from left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski to right-center for a two-run single after Anthony Rendon's bases-loaded walk forced in a run.
With the score suddenly 6-5, Nationals' third baseman Yunel Escobar stepped in against Rzepczynski with runners on the corners and one down and got up 3-0.
He was given the green light to swing if he got something he could hit.
Escobar, who started the at bat third in the NL in double play grounders with 17 in 111 games and 469 PAs, sent a 92 mph fastball to third to start an inning-ending and rally-killing 5-4-3 DP.
[ed. note - "Strike zone plot via Brooksbaseball.net"]
It was a strike, but should Escobar, who'd taken ball four in all eight plate appearances this season that ended on a 3-0 pitch, have been swinging?
Patient at bats and walks by Jayson Werth and Rendon against Padres' righty Shawn Kelley set the Nationals up with the opportunity they had, and a walk would have loaded the bases back up with one out.
Matt Williams was asked, after what ended up a 6-5 loss that snapped the Nationals' three-game winning streak and left them 6.5 games out in the NL East when the New York Mets won, if he gave Escobar the green light?
"Of course, yeah, we do it all the time," Williams said. "It's a good situation for him. He's hitting five in our lineup. He can pick a pitch and get it airborne, he just happened to get on top of that one."
"He's second in the league in grounding into double plays?" a reporter noted.
"He also hits fifth in our lineup and is hitting .308 and he's a good RBI guy," Williams responded.
"So, we do it all the time. We do it with Jayson [Werth]. We do the same with Bryce [Harper]. We do it with just about everyone in our lineup. To pick a pitch and get one to hit."
Entering tonight, #Nats were 7-for-14 with 2 HRs and a double when putting a 3-0 pitch into play this season.— Mark Zuckerman (@ZuckermanCSN) August 27, 2015
Williams said the Nationals took their shot when it felt like they had a chance to tie it up.
"They've got a pretty good back of the bullpen, eighth and ninth guys, so, again, we had opportunity," he explained.
"Yunel hit it good, he just hit it into the ground. But, again, I have confidence in all our guys to get a pitch to hit."
With a one-out error in the third before the Padres scored four runs, and the missed opportunity in the seventh, did the loss sting a little bit more?
"Yeah, but over the last two years-ish, I can remember back to Jayson hitting a 3-0 grand slam last year," Williams said.
"I can remember a lot of success in those situations. So you have to take that with it when it doesn't happen for you. But we can't change the way we play. We must try to take advantage of those opportunities.
"Again, you can look at it a million ways: I'm not going to put the handcuffs on him 2-0, and I'm certainly not going to do it 3-1. So, it's an opportunity for him to pick a pitch to drive, to get airborne, didn't happen tonight.
"We're not going to change the way we play. We do it all the time, and 3-0 swings are a big part of our game, we've had a lot of success doing it, it didn't happen tonight."