There was a point in this game when the Nationals were leading by a score of 4-2 with 2-outs in the 5th inning. Manny Pina hit a grounder back to starting pitcher Jefry Rodriguez and he could not field the ball putting two runners on base — and that is when the floodgates opened up. Rodriguez struggled from the first batter of this game. He actually walked the first two batters in the game who both scored for an early two run deficit, and the Nats scored 4-runs back for him thanks to Juan Soto and Mark Reynolds. For some reason(s), manager Dave Martinez allowed JRod to stay in the game into the 5th inning, and eventually 7-runs would score in that 5th inning.
After the 5th inning, both teams had shutouts as the bullpens bent but never broke. For the Nats, another bright spot was when Austen Williams entered for his MLB debut and pitched two scoreless innings. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Tim Collins who relieved JRod in the 5th inning as he walked two batters and gave up a grand slam to Christian Yelich that moved the score from 5-4 to 9-4 which was the final score.
“We had no Cordero, no Suero and no Grace,” Dave Martinez said. “I want to see [Jefry Rodriguez] go through those struggles because if he’s going to pitch here, he’s got to do that. It’s the bottom of the order.”
Truth be told, JRod struggled with the top, middle, and bottom of the order. He even walked the opposing relief pitcher on four pitches. With this loss, the Nationals rollercoaster ride pushed the team back below the .500 mark. It was a painful loss given Rodriguez’s command issues which were well documented in his walk total of seven batters in just 4 2/3 innings.
If Martinez really did not want to pitch Jimmy Cordero, Wander Suero, Matt Grace and Koda Glover who was used — the Nationals still had plenty of relievers to cover at least 5 innings of work between Austen Williams, Sammy Solis, Tim Collins, Greg Holland, and Justin Miller. In fact 3-of-those-5 relievers were used plus Koda Glover to cover 4 1/3 innings and Holland and Miller were never used.
There was also the ability yesterday to add relievers since a team can carry as many as 40 players after September 1st, and general manager Mike Rizzo chose not to. There were certainly some mixed messages given by Dave Martinez as to why JRod remained on the mound as long as he did, but he was pulled in a 5-4 game which was within reach of another comeback and almost in an instant seemingly put out of reach when Collins served up the grand slam to Yelich for the final scoring on the day. Collins had to endure getting up in the 4th inning to warm-up then sat and was up again in the 5th inning which is never ideal for a reliever to warm-up then cool-down and warm-up again. Collins certainly did not want to make any excuses for his issues on this day.
“I don’t think there’s anything normal in the bullpen,” Collins said. “Those are situations you just have to adjust to. Being a bullpen guy, sometimes you’re gonna get up and sit down, get up and sit down. It’s just a matter of not flipping the switch off when you have to sit down. That’s certainly not an excuse for what happened today. Just a matter of executing pitches. Shouldn’t happen.”
Tomorrow the Nationals will welcome the Cardinals to town for a Labor Day early afternoon game. Max Scherzer and Jack Flaherty are the probable pitchers.