The over-used bullpen implodes, and a great #Nats comeback wasted

Fernando Rodney (Photo by Tom Cicotello @42skidoo for TalkNats)

A great Washington Nationals comeback was wasted after the Nats bullpen gave up 5-runs and a blown save in the 9th inning. We should have been celebrating another great comeback win if the bullpen had more depth. Part of it was yesterday’s doubleheader stressed the bullpen, but manager Dave Martinez did not use Javy Guerra in either game of the twin-bill or in today’s game. Instead he went to five relievers who all pitched yesterday plus the fact that the 42-year-old Fernando Rodney pitched both games of the doubleheader and was the pitcher who blew the 9th inning save and took the loss in this game.

It is hard to place blame on Rodney given his workload, and the fact that the umpire blew a big 3-2 pitch that should have been a strikeout but turned into a walk and the eventual go-ahead winning run loomed as the ultimate difference in the outcome. In back-to-back days, Rodney threw a total of 63 pitches.

As expected, Max Scherzer came off of the 10-day IL, but he only lasted 5.0 innings which was one of the issues. As you would expect after a 19-day layoff, Max was not at his sharpest and finished with 86-pitches and 3-runs over 5.0 innings. From here, we have to see how he feels on Friday.

“I felt good. … I just felt rested today,” Scherzer said. “I’m more concerned about with the back tomorrow. When the onset came on the next day, so I won’t know anything until tomorrow.”

The Nats offense tied the game and got Scherzer off the hook in the bottom of the 5th inning after a Trea Turner single and an Adam Eaton walk gave Anthony Rendon a chance, and he took advantage and smashed the first pitch for a 3-run home run. In the 6th inning, Matt Grace gave up a 2-run home run, and the Nats offense came back and scored 3-runs on a double-steal by Brian Dozier and Victor Robles before a pitch was thrown then pinch-hitter Gerardo Parra hit a 2-run double followed by a go-ahead Trea Turner single. Matt Adams in the 7th inning added-on a home run to give the Nats a 2-run lead. In the 8th inning, Tony Sipp gave up a solo home run to Daniel Murphy and in the 9th inning the lead was blown on an Ian Desmond home run followed by a Murphy game winning force-out RBI as he drove in Charlie Blackmon on a potential  doubleplay that Murphy  legged out by inches. The shame is that the winning run never should have been a possibility because Blackmon  should have struck-out as mentioned (see chart).

Sometimes you chalk it up to that this is just baseball, and the players in the other dugout get paid too. With a doubleheader yesterday, it felt like today could shape up like this in the bullpen’s battle of attrition. The Nationals primary closer, Sean Doolittle, saved both ends of yesterday’s doubleheader and was deemed unavailable for today as expected.

“We had no Doolittle,” manager Dave Martinez said. “We talked to Rodney before the game, and he said he can close the game out. So that’s what we had.”

For Martinez, he pitched the best pitcher he considered available for a 9th inning save. Overall, the Nats starters only lasted a combined 21 innings in this series leaving the bullpen to cover the remaining 15 innings. For three games the bullpen came through, and in this game it was the ex-Nationals who were the ultimate difference in the final three runs scored. In the end, the Nationals won three of the four games in this series.

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