Matt Williams was clear in an appearance on the MLB Network Radio show "First Pitch" on Wednesday morning that his profanity-filled mound visit with Max Scherzer last Friday was not the heated exchange it was depicted as being in many reports.
In fact, Williams said, when he went to the mound in the top of the seventh, he had no intention of lifting Scherzer from the game with the score tied at 2-2, the tying run at second and Miami Marlins' infielder Dee Gordon due up.
"I walked out there, I asked him the question, 'Do you want this guy?'" Williams said. "And then he... responded."
Scherzer wanted to face Gordon, he [really] wanted to face Gordon and he let Williams know.
"He was never coming out of the game anyway," Williams said, "and it makes for a good story and it makes for people talking about it, but there was never any intention of him coming out of the game anyway.
"I just wanted to give him a little bit of a blow and pump him up a little bit, throw some energy at it and he ended up getting Dee for that last out."
Scherzer's competitive drive, Williams said, is part of what makes him the pitcher he is.
"He wants the ball in every situation," the second-year manager explained.
"And you can't ask anything more of a starting pitcher than to have that type of mentality. He's prepared. He is eager to get the ball any time he can get it and when he goes out there he's all about shutting that other team down, so there's been a couple of hiccups, of course, but every pitcher is going to go through that, but the mentality of him when he steps on the mound is that true ace mentality and other guys can feed off of that too."
In his own MLB Network Radio interview this past Sunday morning, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo too talked about the significance of the exchange between the manager and starter.
"Max was adamant about that he wanted to get the hitter and you've got to trust your horses and the guys who have brought you to the point where we're at right now and give them a chance to do it and the more you give a guy a chance to do it, the rope to do that and he gets it done, it makes it easier to give him the rope the next time.
"I think that 'Mad Max' has proven himself over the years that he's a guy that's earned and deserved that type of respect and Matt showed it to him and he was rewarded by getting a really tough hitter out in a crucial situation."
Williams made the decision to give Scherzer another opportunity last night, in a key matchup in the second game of three with the Baltimore Orioles in Nationals Park.
With the right-hander at 104 pitches after six, the Nats' skipper sent Scherzer back out for the seventh with a 3-2 lead.
J.J. Hardy doubled to start the inning and two outs later was standing at third with hard-hitting O's infielder Manny Machado (0 for 3 on the night, 0 for 14 career vs Scherzer) due up.
Scherzer was up to 117 pitches at that point, but Williams said afterward he never entertained the idea of going to another pitcher.
He had a left and right-hander warming in case he needed them, but, Williams said, "I'm not bringing anybody in in that situation to face Machado other than Max."
Scherzer and Machado battled for five pitches before the Orioles' slugger hit a 98 mph 2-2 fastball out to left-center for a two-run home run that put Baltimore up, 4-3.
"Had him two strikes, two outs, worked through that inning after the leadoff double and left one out, over," Williams said.
"I was just trying to absolutely let it fly and let it ride to the top of the zone," Scherzer told reporters, including MASN's Chris Johnson.
"That's where I usually get a lot of swings and misses. When I challenged him with my best, he beat me. I've got to tip my hat to him. He put a great swing on it. Sometimes you get beat. Tonight's one of those nights."
In a post game interview on MASN, Machado was asked if he was looking for a fastball from Scherzer in the 2-2 count?
"Hell yeah I was looking for it," Machado said. "I'm going to go mano a mano, you know, his best pitch against the best bat. Let's see who's going to win and I came up on top."
The home run was Machado's 30th of the year, the Orioles' second of the game and the 17th Scherzer has given up in 80 IP so far in the second-half after he gave up 10 total in 132 innings before the All-Star break.
The loss was the Nationals' second straight on a night when the division-leading New York Mets dropped their second straight to the Atlanta Braves.