Dan Schlossberg's Weekend Report: Matt Williams Pulled a Rock • Latino Sports

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Dan Schlossberg’s Weekend Report: Matt Williams Pulled a Rock

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OF COURSE Matt Williams should have left Jordan Zimmermann in the game Saturday.

Not only was he coming off a complete-game no-hitter but also was one out away from his second straight shutout, having retired 20 straight San Francisco hitters before issuing a five-pitch walk to Joe Panik.

Joe Panik has become a household name overnight

Joe Panik has become a household name overnight

Zimmermann, the best of a solid starting staff in Washington for the second straight season, had thrown exactly 100 pitches and was still strong. Lifting him was the worst idea since John McCain picked Sarah Palin as a running mate.

It also put Williams in rather inglorious company. He’ll rank in baseball lore with John McNamara, whose failure to replace gimpy Bill Buckner with Dave Stapleton cost the Boston Red Sox the 1986 World Series, and Charlie Dressen, who not only lifted starter Don Newcombe with a 4-2 lead in the last inning of the last playoff game in 1951 but also inserted Ralph Branca, who had thrown a gopher ball to Bobby Thomson in the first game of that best-of-three set.

Consider the fact that Zimmerman had not given up a hit since the third inning or a run for the entire game. Maybe Williams, a rookie manager, was succumbing to the pressure of the playoffs. The minute Panik walked, Williams panicked, waving to the bullpen without even asking Zimmerman whether he was winded.

A former Giants third baseman, Williams had said he would lift his pitcher “if he got into trouble.” But issuing a

Matt Williams will have all winter to ponder his ninth-inning blunder

Matt Williams will have all winter to ponder his ninth-inning blunder

two-out walk to a hot hitter in the ninth inning of a shutout hardly sounds like trouble. Thanks to his ill-advised move, however, Williams has brought real trouble to his team in its quest to produce the city’s first world championship since 1924. The Nationals figure to be packing for the winter as early as Monday night.

As for the Giants, who parlayed a Buster Posey single and Pablo Sandoval double into the tying run, they must have been thrilled. Sure, Drew Storen has been hot since succeeding Rafael Soriano as closer but he hasn’t been as hot as Zimmerman. Nobody in baseball, not even the vaunted Clayton Kershaw, has been pitching better.

With the Division Series shifting to San Francisco Monday, the Gnats face an uphill climb — and likely early elimination in the first round of a playoff system that the Giants have mastered. After blanking Pittsburgh in the wild-card game, Bruce Bochy’s club has won 10 straight postseason games, two short of the record held by the New York Yankees (who did it twice). Loaded with pitching, San Francisco could even sweep the previously-favored Nationals and come into the final round of the playoffs with plenty of rest.

Buster Posey prolonged the rally, as usual

Buster Posey prolonged the rally, as usual

Powered primarily by Posey and Hunter Pence, the Giants rely on pitching, defense, and production in pressure situations. That’s how they won world championships in both 2010 and 2012. Since this is also an even-numbered year, perhaps they’re on their way to winning their third trophy in five years — an impressive achievement at a time the commissioner boasts of “parity.”

Elsewhere in the majors:

With an eye on the success of Dartmouth grad Brad Ausmus in the Detroit dugout, Houston has invested in another cerebral thinker, 40-year-old Stanford alumnus A.J. Hinch. A big-leaguer for eight years, he has experience as both a manager (Arizona 2009-10) and player development executive (San Diego) . . .

A.J. Hinch returns to the managerial ranks

A.J. Hinch returns to the managerial ranks

Unless he’s hiding an injury, Corey Hart will make a nice signee for a club that likes versatility plus power. Injured for most of his 2014 Seattle tenure, the two-time All-Star averages .271 with 26 homers and 85 RBI over the 162-game schedule. A 10-year vet, Hart plays first base plus all three outfield spots . . .

After winning six AL Central titles in 13 years as Minnesota manager, former Mets infielder Ron Gardenhire is out for hire. He’d been with the Twins organization since 1988 and was 2010 AL Manager of the Year . . .

Bo Porter’s past alliance with Fredi Gonzalez, who hired him as a coach with the Marlins, helped him land on his feet after Houston let him go. Porter succeeds Doug Dascenzo as third-base coach in Atlanta, which has also signed former Yankees scouting executive Gordon Blakeley . . .

Yu Darvish should head the Texas rotation again

Yu Darvish should head the Texas rotation again

After suffering through an injury-riddled season, the Texas Rangers rotation eagerly anticipates the return to health of Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison (spinal fusion), and Martin Perez (Tommy John surgery), giving them a solid nucleus to team with returning Derek Holland. The fifth starter, if he re-signs with the club, figures to be Colby Lewis.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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