After the Nationals' bullpen collapsed in jawdropping fashion, after the Mets had not only tied the game after trailing by six, but then took the lead on a go-ahead homer, the Nats found themselves with a pretty decent chance for redemption.
The top of their order was up in the ninth against New York closer Jeurys Familia, and Jayson Werth led off with a single. That brought up Anthony Rendon, who won a Silver Slugger in 2014 and had already recorded two hits on the night.
Looking to get a runner in scoring position, Nats manager Matt Williams called for Rendon to bunt, instead of swing away. So, Rendon crouched forward looking to lay one down, as Familia smoked 97 mile per hour fastballs to the inside part of the plate.
Familia is not an easy pitcher to bunt against, but Rendon saw him well enough to work a 3-1 count. That shifted the at-bat in Rendon's favor, but instead of pulling back and resetting for a full swing, he decided to stay with the bunt, intent on moving Werth to second.
Rendon made contact, but it was not soft enough and it allowed Mets first baseman to throw Werth out at second.
“It was bunted too hard," Williams explained. "We got a chance to get Jayson on second base with arguably our two best hitters coming to the plate and didn’t work."
Familia was careful in the next at-bat against Bryce Harper and walked him. Yunel Escobar then followed with a double play to end the game.
Williams said the Nats did consider allowing Rendon to swing at 3-1, but did not adjust their plan.
"Of course, but Familia is a ground ball guy. And he missed with three. If we go full there then we are going to swing, but just too hard of a bunt," Williams said.
Having Escobar up with two men on in the ninth is a situation the Nats will take if offered again. Escobar has been one of the team's best hitters this season and had three singles already on the night.
But not allowing Rendon to take a chance certainly loomed large afterwards in a game that will have plenty of people second-guessing what could have been.