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Matt Williams on whether 'clutch' exists in baseball


Matt Williams on whether 'clutch' exists in baseball

With the introduction of advanced statistics and sabermetrics into the mainstream of baseball analysis in recent years, many debates have been both started and finished. One that may forever be a point of contention is whether the element of clutch exists and whether a player can be more reliable in clutch situations than another.

The basis of the argument by sabermetricians is that there is no stat that can define the notion of clutch and that numbers do not vary significantly for most players depending on high pressure situations. The other side says clutch absolutely does exist, but it can’t be quantified by numbers.

Nationals manager Matt Williams weighed in on the matter Wednesday and feels strongly about clutch being a factor. The question was inspired by Ryan Zimmerman’s 10th career walk-off home run the night before.

“I don’t think we have to look any further than some of the best players in our game. What it means to me is that the situation doesn’t become too big for that particular player. Heart rate doesn’t increase, they have the ability to relax, the ability to take an at-bat and understand what the situation is and look for a pitch and execute what you need to execute. That’s clutch,” he explained.

“I believe we have some guys on our club that can do that sort of thing. Some veteran guys that have been there and done it. When they get in a pressure situation or a situation where they have the opportunity to end the game with one swing or make the good pitch, or whatever it is, they’ve been there. You only gain that through experience, really, and failing in that situation. We’ve got some guys who can do that. I believe a clutch player is somebody that understands their situation that faces them and that doesn’t get too excited when that situation comes about and is able to simply do what they do.”

Williams also happened to comment on the idea of ‘momentum’ in baseball earlier this month. That is also the subject of debate for many of the same reasons.

“I think there’s momentum within a game itself, but once one’s over, you gotta start all over again the next day,” he said.

So, there you have it. Case closed, right? Probably not, but there’s one man’s opinion.

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John Gant homers, pitches Cardinals to 6-4 win over Nationals


John Gant homers, pitches Cardinals to 6-4 win over Nationals

ST. LOUIS -- Even John Gant cracked a smile.

Gant homered for his first major league hit and pitched one-run ball into the sixth inning, helping the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals 6-4 on Tuesday night for their season-high seventh consecutive victory.

Kolten Wong had three hits and three RBIs as St. Louis (65-55) pulled within four games of the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs and moved within one game of the Philadelphia Phillies for the second NL wild card. The Cardinals also improved to 18-9 since Mike Shildt was named interim manager on July 13, the most wins for a manager through his first 27 games in franchise history.

"Things are starting to click for us," Wong said. "We're playing confident. We're out there playing aggressive and I think it's the kind of baseball Cardinals fans have been waiting for."

The Nationals (60-60) have dropped six of eight to fall eight games behind Atlanta in the NL East.

"We've just got to keep pulling the same rope, keep grinding it out, keep trying to win ballgames," Nationals slugger Bryce Harper said.

Gant (5-4) permitted four hits and struck out six in 5 1/3 innings. He has given up just two earned runs over 11 1/3 innings in his last two starts, both wins.

The 26-year-old Gant was 0 for 30 for his career when he drove a 1-1 pitch from Gio Gonzalez (7-9) over the wall in left in the second. The two-run shot gave Washington a 3-0 lead.

"I was jogging kind of my hands in the air," said Wong, who scored on Gant's homer. "I already knew it was going out. Looking back I think he almost caught me."

Added Gant, "I thought it was going to hit the wall maybe but when I finally looked up and (Wong) was looking back at me, that's when I knew it was going over the wall."

Gant, who has a reputation for being a stoic player, admitted to smiling "once or twice" once he got back to the dugout.

Wong's solo homer made it 6-1 in the sixth, but Washington responded with three in the eighth. Harper hit a two-run shot, and Daniel Murphy singled in Anthony Rendon.

Matt Adams then struck out looking against Dakota Hudson, ending the inning, and Jordan Hicks worked the ninth for his fourth save in eight chances.

Paul DeJong also doubled and scored for St. Louis one night after he connected for a game-ending homer in a 7-6 victory. Matt Carpenter walked in the sixth to extend his on-base streak to 32 games.

"We have a 25-man roster and we have confidence in all of them," Shildt said. "They're here for a reason and guys are looking to contribute every night and in different ways."

Gonzalez was charged with five runs and five hits in four innings. The veteran left-hander is just 1-4 in his last six starts.

"I wasn't hitting my spots," Gonzalez said. "Just not being as consistent in the strike zone as I should be. It's just one of those games you can't explain."


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Nationals place Ryan Madson on 10-day DL


Nationals place Ryan Madson on 10-day DL

Ryan Madson is the latest Washington National headed to the DL, turning the team's relief pitching rotation upside down even more than it already is. 

According to MASN's Dan Kolko, the 37-year-old is nursing a "lumbar nerve root irritation" injury and will sit out for 10 days. 

In response, the team has named Koda Glover as the closer, who was promoted from Triple-A Syracuse Wednesday. 

Glover gave up a game-ending solo blast to the Cardinals' Kevin DeJong Monday night. 

The night before, Madson was on the other end of David Bote's walk-off grand slam in Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Cubs. 

As for Tuesday night, Glover's status remains unknown.