There are plenty of questions about the way things went down last night in the Nationals' 8-5 loss to the Cardinals in Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Washington Nationals' manager Matt Williams has spent the last twelve hours answering questions about his bullpen management, sometimes contentiously, and explaining his thought process in using Casey Janssen instead of Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth after the Cardinals tied it at 5-5 in the eighth.
In an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Sports Junkies this morning, Williams addressed that one question, Janssen over Papelbon, explaining that in his mind, with all it took just to get to the eighth (Joe Ross, Doug Fister, Matt Thornton, Blake Treinen, Felipe River and Drew Storen), there weren't too many options.
"So we've used everybody, just about, to get to the eighth inning," he said. "We've got it set up to for the eighth and the ninth, the eighth doesn't go our way and the score is tied. So everybody wants to know why you don't use Papelbon in that situation? So let's say for instance [Papelbon] throws a clean ninth and we score in the tenth, who's closing the game for us?"
The shows hosts offered a couple options/guesses...
"I guess it would be somebody, right?" Williams asked.
"All these people want to know why Papelbon isn't in the game, because we lost. He's our closer, he's the one that closes the game. Now when you're at home, it's a different story, it's a different story, because you always have the hammer at home. You always have the last at bat at home. But on the road it's a different story.
"So 99 times out of 100, every single manager is not going to use their closer on the road in a tie game, because they need somebody to close that game."
When he discussed the decision last night, he said much the same. Janssen took the mound in a tie game, recorded the first two outs, but then gave up a double by Cody Stanley, a walk to Tommy Pham and the game-winning, walk-off home run by Brandon Moss.
"We want [Papelbon] closing games out, yeah," Williams told reporters.
"So we're down to two guys. [Janssen and Sammy Solis]. We want a one inning guy there, because we're going to have to hit for the pitcher anyway, and we're going to have to go long with Sammy in that regard, but [Janssen] had an opportunity against Pham but walked him and Moss hit the ball."
Janssen, he said, "just left a ball up, middle. Again, he had Pham two strikes and threw a couple close, just couldn't put him away."
It was the second straight loss to the Cardinals, and the second one lost in the late innings as the Nationals are fighting to keep their already slim postseason hopes alive.
So how do they move on and try to avoid the sweep in St. Louis and then go forward?
"We have to," Williams said last night.
"We don't have a choice. We've got tomorrow. We've got [Max Scherzer] going for us tomorrow. Try to get that one and head back home. There's nothing we can do about it at this point, except look forward to tomorrow."
"The game is over," Bryce Harper said when asked about moving on.
"The game is over right now and we've got to focus on tomorrow, see what we can do against [Michael] Wacha and try to have a good game tomorrow and try to get that 'W' before we go home. We've got seven at home, so hopefully we can win that game tomorrow and get home and play some good baseball at home and see where we're at."