Williams on Roark, Espinosa, Werth, Desmond, beating Atlanta

Nationals manager Matt Williams was proud the team was able to bounce back after losing the first two games of its series with Atlanta to earn a pair of victories on Saturday and Sunday and remain atop the National League East.

“After the first two, I am proud of the guys for staying in there and battling,” Williams said. “We have talked about it many times - you have to have a short memory. After the first two, got two real good pitching performances and the guys battled to get some runs and play good defense and executed. That’s what we will have to do in order to win games.”

Williams said Tanner Roark mixed up his pitches well and adapted to when one pitch wasn’t as consistent, similar to his June 17 start against the Astros.

“Just all those weapons. The ability like he did last time out, not this time, but last time couldn’t find his fastball, he went to his curveball,” Williams said. “He’s got the ability to change on the fly out there and find something that he can throw for strikes that’s working for him. Same case today.

“He wasn’t throwing exactly where he wanted to. But he was able to work through it. He wanted to stay in the game when I went and got him. Wasn’t happy about that. He had two really long innings, back-to-back. It was a good opportunity to get (Craig Stammen) in there”

Williams was complimentary of Roark for not letting ball and strike calls that didn’t go his way interfere with the task at hand. He explained how Roark keeps his emotions in check.

“He focuses on the next pitch,” Williams said. “Regardless of the call, or regardless of whether he thought it was a strike or any of that, he is focused on the next one. That is a very good trait to have as a pitcher. Because it doesn’t affect him one way or another.”

The Nationals outscored the Braves just 7-1 in winning the final two games of the series. They struck out 19 times against the Braves starters in those two wins. The Nationals’ pitching was very good, but their offense also did a nice job of taking advantage of what was given to them with each pitch.

“We want to create those opportunities,” Williams said. “We’ve been talking about it all year. So create the opportunities and then deliver on it. And then deliver on it. In the last two days we have done that really well. Last night and certainly today. Base hits with guys on second base. You add one at a time and it gives you an opportunity to win the game.”

The bullpen did well with Stammen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano not allowing a run.

“Clip has some history with these guys,” Williams said. “There’s some decent numbers there, especially for the guys he was going to face. He did a nice job of mixing in the curveball today. Certainly fastball where he wanted it and got through that inning relatively easy, which is encouraging for him. Bullpen has been pretty beat up, so to keep pitch counts down is important, too.”

Second baseman Danny Espinosa compiled five hits in the series, employing small ball to get on base many times during the four games.

“We have been working a lot,” Williams said. “He’s been working with (hitting coach) Rick (Schu) a lot. He spread out his stance a little bit, which gives a little bit better look at the ball. And he is becoming more and more comfortable. It was some time ago he made some changes to open up a little bit to see the baseball a little better.

“Three bunt hits in the series? So that’s a weapon for him that he is utilizing if it’s given. Staying on the fastball for the double down the line. He lined out also in the series. He’s seeing it good, which is good. Good for him. He works hard.”

Williams confirmed he will consider giving Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth a day off or two, possibly in Milwaukee. Werth struck out 10 times in the four-game set and Desmond whiffed 10 times as well, but hit his 14th homer on Friday.

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