Williams discusses Nats’ 4-2 loss

Thanks to Tanner Roark’s strong start and Angels starter Garrett Richards suddenly losing his control in the fourth inning, the Nationals led 1-0 heading to the top of the eighth inning tonight.

The Angels then rattled off four runs off Tyler Clippard, and held on for a 4-2 win.

All four of the runs Clippard allowed were unearned; they came in an inning which saw Ian Desmond commit two more errors, giving him nine on the season. The first miscue came on a grounder up the middle off the bat of Albert Pujols that bounced off Desmond’s glove. The second was a throwing error after Clippard allowed a two-out, bases-clearing double to pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez that gave the Angels their first lead of the night.

Manager Matt Williams was asked whether he’s concerned about Desmond’s defensive play.

“For tonight, anyway, the first one’s a difficult error,” Williams said. “He’s got to range way to the middle. And he stretched out to catch that ball. If he comes up clean, he’s got a chance to throw him out.”

As for Clippard, the right-hander has now allowed at least a run in five of his 11 outings this season. Williams was also asked if he’s concerned about his top set-up man.

“I just looked at the pitch (to Ibanez). It’s a pretty darn good pitch, changeup down, off the plate, away,” Williams said. “And Raul’s a good hitter, but that’s a tough pitch for anybody to handle. Certainly wasn’t middle of the plate. Wasn’t up. He had just swung over the same pitch, essentially. He got enough of that one. So, concern? Yeah. I mean, Clip, for me, hasn’t found the changeup yet. He’s been a little inconsistent, certainly, with the location on his fastball. And the concerning thing there is that he had the righty-righty matchup and walked Iannetta.

“(We) didn’t help him out in the infield, either. Pujols hit one off the end. There was another ball hit off the end of the bat in the hole. So, concern? He’s making pitches. Tonight, they just happened to find a couple of holes. And then the last pitch to Ibanez was a pretty good pitch. I don’t know if there’s concern there. He’s making quality pitches, I think. Tonight wasn’t his night, for sure.”

The Nationals have three left-handed relievers currently in their bullpen, but Williams stuck with Clippard against the left-handed-hitting Ibanez.

“Clip’s been the eighth-inning guy here for a long time,” Williams said. “Certainly, (his) track record indicates that he’s good against lefties. He’s just as effective against left-handers as he is right-handers. So I want to stay with him there. I want him to be our guy that shuts down that eighth inning. Tonight wasn’t his night, though. And again, I think it was a pretty quality pitch. ...

“We have our guys set in the bullpen the way we want to have them set. I think that the fact that he just hasn’t had location is worrisome on his mind, but I also want him to close down eighth innings for us.”

The Nats pushed across a run in the fourth after Richard walked two and hit Jayson Werth, loading the bases with none out. But the one run was all they could manage.

“It goes like that in baseball sometimes,” Williams said. “But we’re in position. We get through the seventh and we have our guys lined up in the ‘pen. We’ll take those opportunities every day. It didn’t work tonight. But we’ll take ‘em every day.”

The Nats have to feel for Roark, who looked really good over 6 2/3 scoreless innings but won’t get credited with his second win of the season.

“He pitched well,” Williams said. “He continues to throw all of his pitches for strikes and compete. Pitched really well.”

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