Nats' Williams defends bunt decision, reacts to fans leaving early

Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams is under fire for his decision to sacrifice bunt Anthony Rendon with no outs in the bottom of the ninth of the Nationals' 8-7 loss to the division-leading Mets on Tuesday, a decision which he stood by during a radio interview on Wednesday morning.

After the Mets incinerated the Nationals' 7-1 lead in the sixth and mounted a comeback that thrust them into the lead heading into the bottom of the ninth, Nats outfielder Jayson Werth brought hope back into Nationals Park when he hit a leadoff single.

With Werth on first, Williams called for Anthony Rendon, who hasn't successfully laid down a sacrifice bunt this season, to move Werth into scoring position with a bunt with a 3-1 count.

Rendon botched the bunt, on which Werth was thrown out at second. Bryce Harper then walked to put the winning run on base, but Yunel Escobar then grounded into a double play to end the game.

Criticism abounded for Williams' decision in the wake of the loss, which bumped the Nationals down to six games behind the Mets for the NL East lead.

He discussed the decision with Washington D.C.'s 106.7 The Fan on Wednesday.

"I can look back to a situation that [Ian Desmond] was in over the weekend: Laid down a bunt, got a guy in scoring position, we tied the game, ended up winning the game," Williams noted for comparison.

"We want a guy at second base with [Harper] and [Escobar] up. We eventually got in anyway with one out. Their closer is a groundball guy and he ended up getting a double play to end the game. Could we have let him swing? Yeah. I chose to try to put the bunt down. He put it down; it was just a little hard. Again, we ended up with the same situation anyway."

Managers are often criticized for seemingly unorthodox moves that don't pan out. Williams emphasizes that he made the decision to bunt Rendon as a result of the information that was in front of him. "Everybody has an opinion. If the sacrifice bunt is executed -- you guys aren't privy to all the information that we have here. I'll leave it at that. We look at it as an opportunity to score and tie that game."

While the post-game focus was on Williams' decision, the Nats put themselves into that bind by allowing the Mets to score six runs in the seventh inning after taking a 7-1 lead.

The inning unraveled when Drew Storen came in in relief with the bases loaded. He faltered in the pressure situation, giving up a bases-clearing double to Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes.

Storen then walked Daniel Murphy, threw a wild pitch to allow Murphy and Cespedes to advance a base, and then walked David Wright and Lucas Duda to allow the Mets to tie the game.

"It's never going to go smoothly all the time," Williams said of Storen. "My job, at this point, is to let everybody know that I support him."

While Williams has always vouched his support for his players, regardless of the circumstance, the same can't be said of the Nats' fan base.

After leaving early in the Nats' loss to the Mets on Monday, fans booed Williams after he wrapped up his post-game press conference on Tuesday.

"Well, for me, again, we're into the game, so I don't notice," Williams said of Monday's early exit by fans. "I can tell you this: We got fantastic fans. They're avid supporters of all of us, and we'll leave it at that. Our fans are great. They've been out there every day in the heat. When it's really hot, they come out, they support. It was a really difficult day on Sunday. It was really hot, exceptionally hot. They're fantastic, and we all understand that and we appreciate their support."

(h/t CBS DC)