Washington Nationals Rapid Reaction: Young Players Deliver, but Tanner Roark Can’t Close

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Jul 10, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) pitches during the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Bullpen Costs Gio the Win

So far in 2015, the Nationals bullpen has been an abject disaster. Apart from Drew Storen, who was snubbed from the All-Star Game, there’s been wild inconsistency from almost everyone. Aaron Barrett, Matt Thornton, Casey Janssen – no matter who Matt Williams calls upon, fans have absolutely no idea what to expect once they’re on the mound.

Friday night, the culprit for the meltdown was Matt Thornton. After Casey Janssen retired one of the two batters he faced, Williams brought Thornton in to face Matt Wieters. The move made sense from a match-up standpoint.  Wieters was 4-for-10 with a homer in his career against Janssen. Against Thornton, he was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Wieters’ OPS batting from the right side against left-handed pitching this season was also a paltry .368, another mark in Thornton’s favor.

But somehow, someway, Wieters came through with a perfectly placed double into the right-center field gap that scored the tying run. It ended Gio Gonzalez‘s chance at a win after the lefty pitched well for the third straight start and ultimately doomed the Nats.

While the decision to use Thornton makes sense given the statistics, Williams’ use of Tanner Roark in the ninth is a little more confounding. It seems that, once the game was tied, Williams expected the game to drag on for a while, given the lackluster offense to that point. If that was going to be the case, he wanted to use his long man in case it stretched into the 14th or 15th. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

Yes, hindsight is 20-20, but Williams would have been much better served to send out David Carpenter for the ninth. During his time with the Nats, Carpenter has been the best option outside of the closer for the team. It should have been his job to get the Nats through the ninth. If Roark was needed later on, so be it. Instead, the Nats ended up with the loss, and if he’s needed for multiple innings over the next two days, things could get dicey.

While this wasn’t Matt Williams’ worst handling of the bullpen, he still continues to have issues managing his pitchers. Hopefully, Williams is able to learn from Friday’s mistakes and this isn’t something that plagues the team into September or October.

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