Game #104 Same strategy as yesterday but with the “A” bullpen

Photo by Sol Tucker for TalkNats

Yesterday, the strategy to beat an ace like Hyun-Jin Ryu was to “small ball”  him and wear him down, and the Nationals did that to knock him out of the game at 6 2/3 innings in a 1-1 tie. The Nationals hit into some tough luck, and Alex Verdugo had two Web Gems yesterday as the Nationals hit into some tough defense too. The Dodgers are one of the worst fielding teams, and we made a point of putting balls in play to stress their defense and eventually it worked as Justin Turner booted a ball and Corey Seager could not make a play. It worked for the most part although it is still a head-scratcher why Howie Kendrick earlier in the game was trying to bunt with two men on-base and no outs. Kendrick popped-up a bunt essentially killing that potential rally. Ryu was fortunate to exit the game tied at 1-1. Anibal Sanchez did go toe-to-toe with Ryu and out-pitched him. Some people hate to hear it, but it was another time that an umpire (Brian O’Nora) blew some big calls in a game with playoff implications.

The same strategies need to be in place for this game as the Nats have Joe Ross going after lefty “opener” Matt Grace starts the game, and the Dodgers send up Clayton Kershaw. The lefty certainly has not been as great as he once was, but he is still an ace. On the road this season, Kershaw’s 3.65 ERA shows he is more susceptible as a visitor than in his home park where he is at 2.30 and much tougher to beat. This game will most likely come down to the effectiveness of the Nats pitching staff and Joe Ross and the bullpen that will follow him.

Maybe the good news is that the full bullpen should be available tonight. Right now there are nine arms in the bullpen as the Nationals are only carrying three on the bench. With another devastating loss in the bullpen last night, the team now has 20 losses out of the ‘pen, and worst than that is that it really does not tell the full story of how the full impact of the bullpen has been felt.

You look at Joe Kelly coming in for the Dodgers last night with the game on the line as he relieved Ryu to face Anthony Rendon. If Rendon gets a hit, the loss could have been on Ryu since Kelly inherited two runners. Well, Kelly did his job and got Rendon. It was a ROOGY appearance for Kelly and he came through. How many times in April and May did manager Dave Martinez leave a starter in longer because of the faulty bullpen? He did not have “his” Kelly to come in, and he would leave in his struggling starter. Remember those days?

At some point, the failures of this season are more about the personnel that general manager Mike Rizzo has on the roster. To call up a fresh arm in the form of Kyle Barraclough must have felt like a gut-punch when Wander Suero, Tanner Rainey, and Fernando Rodney were all unavailable last night. Two bullpen losses in a row, and avoidable if Martinez had trustworthy arms.

Also, this umpire chart (below) is inexcusable by Brian O’Nora who blew it and in the process helped a pitcher who was struggling. Kenley Jansen gave up a hit, a hit-by-pitch, two consecutive walks and could not find the strike zone. To gift pitch one and two as strikes by O’Nora to Jansen is mind-boggling. It put Kendrick into swing-mode on every pitch that was close until he could not connect on one above the zone ending the game in strikeout. Maybe if Kendrick walks, which he should have, and last night’s game is 4-3 there is no guarantee the Nats win the game — but O’Nora took that opportunity away from the Nationals, and we will never know. Some would say that pitch #6 should have been hit by Kendrick, but if you had Robo-Ump it would not have mattered as Kendrick would have walked on four-pitches.

Will Mike Rizzo make any roster moves today? It might be a good day to send back Kyle Barraclough and bring up another bench bat to give Martinez a 4-man bench.

For those who think the Nats “Big Four” is improving — they are!

The 1,000 pound gorilla in the room is the health of Max Scherzer who is now dealing with a rhomboid strain. Let’s be real — the Nats will only go as far as Scherzer takes them. Happy 35th birthday to Max!

Update: The Nats optioned Kyle Barraclough to Double-A Harrisburg and recall Adrian Sanchez.

Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals
Stadium:   Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
1st Pitch:  4:05 pm EDT
TV: MASN, Sportsnet LA, MLB.TV
Nats Radio: 106.7 FM The Fan; SiriusXM® ( Streaming Internet 869)

Line-up subject to change (without notice):

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