Numerous Nats Mistakes Lead to Loss, Second-Guessing

WASHINGTON — The Nationals season came to an abrupt end Thursday night, something Danny Rouhier has been saying would happen for days, if not weeks.

As luck would have it, Rouhier, the co-host of Grant and Danny on 106.7 The Fan, was left to host the midday show by himself on Friday, as Grant Paulsen had other duties to attend to. Rouhier, not surprisingly, spent much of the show looking back on all the things that went wrong in the 4-3 loss.

And there were many things that went wrong. Curious decisions by manager Dusty Baker and his staff, missed opportunities by several hitters in key spots, multiple relievers failing to record an out in the seventh inning. The list goes on.

After Rouhier spent the first hour of the show in a tandem vent session with a slew of morbid callers, Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post called in to help talk things out with Rouhier.

First, Svrluga gave his initial thoughts on the game:

“This is one you could really talk about, and I think we really will talk about, for years to come. There are so many things that go into the end of a season like this, and if you want to get real micro on it, you can go to Bobby Henley sending Jayson Werth and getting thrown out at the plate by half a mile. You can wonder about Dusty Baker taking Sammy Solis out with a left-handed hitter coming up. You can wonder about Baker double-switching Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon out of the game. It was Rendon’s spot that Wilmer Difo came up in and really was overmatched by Clayton Kershaw at the end.

“And you can really revel in a great moment for baseball. Nothing much better than a one-run game, tying run in scoring position, the winning run on base, Clayton Kershaw the best pitcher on the planet up against probably the best hitter in the National League this year, Daniel Murphy. Just a great, great moment.”

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Rouhier appreciated Svrluga’s take on the game, but he immediately wanted to jump into the decision-making.

“Barry, I want to go into one decision that I was flummoxed by. I couldn’t believe it, I hadn’t heard many people talk about this. Forgive the minutia, but I want your take on this. I want to know where I’m missing it. So the home run that [Chris] Heisey hits to score Danny Espinosa makes it 4-3. Kenley Jansen comes into the game after Clint Robinson singles. After Trea Turner makes an out, then you pinch run Joe Ross for Clint Robinson. Joe Ross then stays at first, goes first-to-third on a Bryce Harper single, then is ultimately replaced by Michael A. Taylor to go play center field.

“My issue is, why not go directly to Michael A. Taylor? He can backpedal to second base off Kenley Jansen when he comes in the game. And that single from Bryce Harper scores the tying run! I couldn’t believe that this was — you’re using two players when you’re ultimately going to have Michael A. Taylor go play center field. A golden opportunity to steal a bag right there from one of the best base-stealers in your organization. He’s that fast. I was befuddled by this. Help talk me out of it.”

Svrluga didn’t have an answer for Rouhier, instead agreeing that it was a questionable decision.

“No, I’m not going to talk you out of it, because I think that’s the kind of thing that you look at after a loss like this. I don’t know, one, if he’s gonna pinch run for Robinson there, why it doesn’t happen right away. I don’t know why Ross is the choice over Taylor, because while Ross is fast and he’s been used in that kind of spot before, he’s not an experienced base-runner, he’s not someone you’re gonna use to swipe a bag with.

“Now, I will say that Michael A. Taylor, while he is fast, I don’t think he’s an excellent base-runner, and I don’t think he’s great at reading moves and is really someone that you’re going to send there. That’s speculation on my part. But I agree with you, Danny.

“And one thing that happens, you talk about the game speeding up on managers, and maybe that’s a little bit what happened with Dusty last night, but it speeds up for everybody so that in some ways, I’ve found, after these really crushing season-ending losses where there’s so much to parse and pick apart, some of these questions go unasked. When they go unasked in the regular season, after a Tuesday night game, if you forget to ask something, you can always come back on Wednesday and say, ‘Hey man, why did you do that last night?’ We don’t have that opportunity today with Dusty Baker. So it’s just a little bit different. I understand your point, and I think it’s a good one, but it’ll be awhile before we find out what Dusty has to say.”

For what it’s worth, Svrluga’s “hill to die on,” to use Rouhier’s phrasing, was double-switching Zimmerman and Rendon out of the game while the Nationals were trailing. As he explained several times, Rouhier’s hill was the Ross-Taylor substitution debacle.

Hopefully a nice weekend will help the embattled host move onto other, potentially brighter scenes in the D.C. sports world. After all, the Capitals and Wizards seasons are kicking into action.

What’s that? The Capitals started their season with a loss? To their biggest rival? Sigh.

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