Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports that Nationals manager Matt Williams lost his clubhouse as his club sputtered in the second half, frittering away the division lead in the NL East to the Mets, who clinched on Saturday evening.
From Svrluga’s article:
Now, several Nationals players believe Williams won’t be able to grow even if the club brings him back for 2016. And this isn’t just one or two malcontents. These opinions span positions and experience. “It’s a terrible environment,” one player said. “And the amazing part is everybody feels that way.”
Williams, who played for 17 seasons and made five All-Star teams, had very little coaching experience when the Nationals brought him on board as a manager. Nevertheless, the Nationals went 96-66 last season, which earned Williams NL Manager of the Year honors. Things went differently in 2015.
The Nationals entered play Saturday 78-75. They led the division by 4.5 games on July 5. They went 6-8 between the All-Star break and the end of July, 12-17 in August, and 12-11 in September.
Williams’ option for 2016 was exercised for the 2016 season back in February, but the Nationals will be under a great deal of pressure to make a change.
Nationals starter Max Scherzer bunted a ball into his face during batting practice on Tuesday, breaking his nose in the process. He ended up with a gnarly looking shiner around his right eye, making him appear a bit like Terminator. Scherzer still took the ball to start the second game of Wednesday night’s doubleheader against the Phillies.
Despite the injury, Scherzer was incredibly effective, limiting the Phillies to four hits and two walks across seven shutout innings, striking out 10 batters in the process. He might even have had some extra adrenaline going, as he averaged 96.2 MPH on his fastball, his highest average fastball velocity in a game since September 2012, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. The Nationals provided Scherzer with just one run of support, coming on a Brian Dozier solo home run off of Jake Arrieta in the second inning, but it was enough.
Wander Suero worked a scoreless top of the eighth with a pair of strikeouts. Victor Robles added a solo homer off of Pat Neshek in the bottom half. Closer Sean Doolittle took over in the ninth, working a 1-2-3 frame to give the Nats their 2-0 victory.
Over his last six starts, Scherzer now has a 0.88 ERA with a 59/8 K/BB ratio across 41 innings. He has gone six innings, struck out at least nine batters, and held the opposition to two or fewer runs in each of those six starts.