We have said it over and over that a coach’s job is to put their athlete in their best situation to succeed for their team. By this point in the season, we should know who each player is on the Nationals roster. Each player is unique in their own way with a history which includes patterns of strengths and limitations. In less than a week, the Nats have lost three games and all of them in the bullpen, but these were also team losses where the Nats offense only averaged 2.67 runs per game. Two of the losses came from tie games, and one from a 2-1 lead that was not held. Ultimately the players lost the game, but there were questions as to lineup construction, pitcher usage, and moves in the game.
Last Sunday, the Nationals were going for a sweep of the Phillies. The Nationals were behind 3-2 in the game when Trea Turner stroked an RBI single to tie the game. With a day-off the next day and light pitch counts the day before, only Doolittle should have been hands-off. In the 7th and 8th innings in this Sunday game, Tanner Rainey and Wander Suero were used before Matt Grace was brought in the 9th inning to face the lefty Jay Bruce and Grace struck him out. Was that a LOOGY situation? Apparently not as manager Dave Martinez kept him in the game at a point when Javy Guerra or Fernando Rodney should have come in to face the right-handed Maikel Franco who hit the walk-off home run on the first pitch he saw from Grace. Game over.
On Wednesday in Baltimore, Erick Fedde gave 6.0 strong innings of 1-run baseball and departed with a 2-1 lead. Up first from the bullpen was Wander Suero who completely melted down. He faced 5 batters and only got one out. He was not pulled once he gave up the tying run and stayed in to face lefties when Tony Sipp was ready. Martinez said after the game that the Orioles would have pinch-hit for their lefty if Sipp came in. Fine, force the other manager’s hand, who is he going to pinch-hit with? They did not have a Howie Kendrick on their bench. After the game, we also learned that Suero was dealing with a personal issue.
In last night’s game, the use and usage was questionable with 5 rested relievers with 4 innings to cover. What does Davey do? He goes to one of his un-rested relievers — Tanner Rainey. We have written extensively that Rainey just has not been effective when used two games in a row. Does Davey have analytics? Before this outing, Rainey had an 11.37 ERA when pitching in a game with no rest which he did for the 9th time tonight. When Rainey has at least one day of rest, his ERA is 1.15. Rainey quickly turned a 2-1 deficit to 3-1. Even before Victor Robles clutch two-run game tying home run in the top of the 9th inning, a key run was surrendered which changed the course of the game. The five arms who did not pitch yesterday were Javy Guerra, Wander Suero, Tony Sipp, Fernando Rodney and Sean Doolittle. Can’t those five pitchers cover four innings before you think of using Tanner Rainey, Matt Grace of Kyle McGowin again? Where was the plan? Instead, Rodney was used in multiple innings which he has never done in a Major League game this year. The man is 42 1/3 years old and his record of throwing 2o or more pitches is not good. He has not thrown a scoreless appearance of more than one inning in 6 years. That is not his thing. Rodney this season now has 5 outings of 20 pitches or more where he has given up at least one run. In a walk-off situation you need zeros. Rodney gave Martinez a scoreless 8th inning on 17 pitches. He did his job. Now he will be unavailable certainly for today and probably tomorrow.
Part of the issue is on the general manager too as Mike Rizzo controls the personnel on the team. Where else can Martinez turn in the late innings? This bullpen needs help.
Know your players. Have a plan. Put your player in their best situation to succeed for their team.