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Nats third base coach on sixth-inning send of Werth: 'You feel like it might have cost us'

Nats third base coach on sixth-inning send of Werth: 'You feel like it might have cost us'

Trying to reduce the game that ultimately sunk the 2016 Nationals to one moment is an impossible task. This affair was too much of a thrilling, beautiful mess that oversimplification doesn't do it justice.

Between all the unconventional managerial moves, the hour-plus seventh inning, the unlikely appearance of Clayton Kershaw, Game 5 of the NL Division series between the Nats and L.A. Dodgers will go down as a classic that will take days — if not weeks — to unpack.

But in a contest that had so many twists and turns, there will be some who still won't be able to get past what Bob Henley did in the sixth inning.  

With the Nats up 1-0 and two out, their third base coach opted to send Jayson Werth toward the plate on a two-out double down the left field line from Ryan Zimmerman. The problem? Werth was trying to score from first, and Dodgers left fielder Andrew Toles got the relay throw in time to shortstop Corey Seager.

Werth was thrown out at the plate — and it wasn't even close. Catcher Yasmani Grandal caught Seager's relay while Werth was around 30 feet away, and waited to put the tag on him.  

“Does it hurt? Sure, it hurts,” Henley said in a hushed tone afterward. “Anytime it doesn’t work out and you feel like it might have cost us.”

The play ended the inning, denying Washington a desperately-needed insurance run in a game that ended in a 4-3 loss.

“I know [Werth]’s not an above-average runner, I understand that,” Henley said. “But we’ve been aggressive all year as a club, and I took a shot at it.”

“He's aggressive and there's two outs,” added manager Dusty Baker. “And with the hitters we had coming up after, he feels terrible about that because it didn't work. But Toles got to the ball very quickly, got rid of it, and you know, did what he was supposed to do, hit the cut-off man.”

Indeed, Henley’s aggressiveness is well known in the clubhouse. He’s affectionately known as “Sendley” to players, and they’ve been seen wearing shirts that honor his mentality: “Send ‘em one, send ‘em all, send ‘em short, send ‘em tall.”  

That mindset puts pressure on defenders to force them into making the perfect throw, which doesn’t always happen. On Thursday night, it did, and it cost the Nats dearly.

“We’ve been aggressive ever since I’ve been here on that play,” said Werth. “You live and die by those moments sometimes.”

The move was criticized instantaneously as many took to social media to voice their frustration about the risky call.

As Baker mentioned after the game, the blunder was not the sole reason the Nats are going home early. They were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position in Game 5. They struck out 12 times. They couldn't drive runners in from third base with less than two out. And most of all, the four-run frame they yielded in the seventh inning proved to be too much to overcome.  

But the image of Werth being cut down at home could come to symbolize what this night, this series and this brief playoff run was — a missed opportunity.

“Heartbroken," Henley said. "I’m heartbroken. Our goal was to win it all. We’re a tight-knit bunch. We gave it all that we had. I’m just so proud of the guys and everyone. Just heartbroken.”


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Ryan Zimmerman on coronavirus pandemic: 'It's like I'm retired, but I can't leave the house'

Ryan Zimmerman on coronavirus pandemic: 'It's like I'm retired, but I can't leave the house'

Just a few weeks after the Nationals hoisted the Commissioner's Trophy last fall as World Series champions, Ryan Zimmerman had a decision to make.

The longtime Nationals infielder has played in every season since the club moved to Washington in 2005 and holds multiple franchise records. The two-time All-Star, who turned 35 this past September, had to decide to return to the Nationals for another season or to retire as a champion.

After a couple of months of contemplating the decision, Zimmerman decided to keep playing. The Nationals re-signed the infielder to a one-year deal in February, hoping to get a victory lap, if nothing else.

"That was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to come back," Zimmerman said in an interview with NBC Washington. "I still love playing and think I can be productive, but I wanted to see what it was like to have a season where you're the defending World Series champions, to see how much fun it would be. Going on the road and see our fans, people that are excited to see us that don't necessarily live in D.C."

The MLB season was supposed to begin last Thursday, and the Nationals home opener was set for April 1. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, baseball, like all other professional sports, is currently on pause.

"I always thought when I wasn't doing anything in the spring, that during the summer I'd be able to do anything I want," Zimmerman said. "It's like I'm retired, but I can't leave the house."

As for the sports fans that are missing watching their favorite teams every day, Zimmerman feels for them.

"Were just as bummed as they are," he said. "You don't realize how much you miss sports until they're gone."

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Zimmerman has been home with his wife, Heather, and two daughters, Mackenzie and Hayden. While the couple admitted they are not used to being home this much during this time of the year, they said they were "blessed" to be in the situation they are in.

The infielder has served as the primary cook of the household, making dinner for the family every night, while Heather said she has a good routine down with the two young girls.

"It's been an interesting time," Heather said. "We're just taking each day at a time, shift every day to make it work."

Throughout their time in Washington, Zimmerman and his family have been very active in the community. During the difficult times for many, they have helped hospitals by sending over lunches, donating money, and purchasing items for a local women's shelter through an Amazon wishlist. 

While the Zimmerman's wait for the next time they can head to Nationals Park and resume their normal lives, they agree there are way more important things to be thinking about right now.

"The most important part is everyone stays safe and thinks about each other," Zimmerman said. "Baseball will come back at some point. But right now, there are a lot more important things than baseball."

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Max Scherzer remains in West Palm Beach, continues to work toward the start of the season

Max Scherzer remains in West Palm Beach, continues to work toward the start of the season

Everyone else had stopped. The Nationals were still playing.

Commissioner Rob Manfred decided to shut down spring training, stall the start of the season and formulate a plan for Major League Baseball’s response to the growing coronavirus pandemic in mid-March.

The Nationals were still on the field when baseball slammed on its breaks. Once off of it, they, like all the other players, were mired in a space filled with confusion and wonder. What’s next? What does this mean professionally? What does this mean personally?

“We just didn’t know what was going to happen,” Max Scherzer told NBC Sports Washington. “We were trying to get as much education and trying to learn exactly how this was going to shake down, what that meant, not only for us, but across the world and kind of what the new normal was going to look like. And, what we were going to be able to do and not do at the team complex. It just seemed like every 24 hours, everything was changing and it basically was there for like a 10-day period, and I think everybody was trying to figure out how they wanted to handle the situation with their families.”

Scherzer continued his workouts at the facility until it was closed and converted to a coronavirus testing center late last week. Since, he’s been home in a rental house and maintaining on his own.

He snagged some weights from the clubs’ glass-enclosed gym and resistance bands from the minor-league side of things on his way out. Scherzer works out in the morning. He’s also still throwing. He’s on the mound twice a week, going through 40- to 50-pitch bullpen sessions with a partner.

“What we’re trying to really get to grasp on is how long is this going to last and basically when the startup of the season is going to happen again,” Scherzer said. “As of right now, everybody has kind of circled June 1 though we obviously know that’s not firm. But that kind of looks like the earliest potential kickoff of three weeks of spring training, then the season. In my head, that’s kind of where I am basing everything off of right now.”

Last time the public saw Scherzer, he was sore. Pain in his right lat built up from his throwing sessions. The reason was because he put more stress out there -- purposely -- in order to keep it off his middle back. That was the problem last season when he twice ended up on the injured list. Scherzer is not sore now.

“Literally right after the whole shutdown, that next week when I was playing catch and throwing bullpens, I was feeling really, really good,” Scherzer said. “It’s hard to even say it was an injury. For me, physically, I feel great right now. I’m ready to ramp back up. Really ready to get back after it. Doing everything I can to stay as strong as I can right now so when we get the green light to go, hopefully, I’m off and running.”

Scherzer didn’t watch old games or get a baseball fix on Opening Day. He didn’t want thoughts about being on the field in his head. No “We should be playing…” in any other circumstance. Instead, he just continued to prepare, perhaps the top quality which will put him into Cooperstown when his career ends.

When -- or if -- the season does resume, Scherzer wants to be ready to throw three innings right away. He foresees three weeks of spring training before the new Opening Day. That means four starts for a pitcher. He would be ready for seven innings by the end.

Until then, he’s trying to enjoy family time, stay focused on preparation, and not let his usually busy mind drift too far. Time to talk trash, time to be with his teammates, time to stalk the mound will come again someday.

“You can always look at every situation with a positive or negative kind of light,” Scherzer said. “We were ready to start the season. We were all ready. We were gung-ho ready to start the season. The thing is, life in this world now, we’ve all had to deal with drastic change to our lives and everybody’s trying to do the best they can to cope with it and try to make the best of the situation when we’re in such a dire crisis right now. For me, just trying to find everything I can do to stay ready for when we do get the call to get the season going.”

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