The Washington Nationals bullpen might be headlined by should’ve-been-an All-Star closer Drew Storen, who sports a 1.73 ERA and 29 saves. However, often lost in the mix is left-hander Matt Thornton, whom the Nats acquired through waivers from the New York Yankees in August of last season. The 12-year veteran threw a 1-2-3 seventh inning Sunday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Pirates, bringing his 2015 numbers to a 1.85 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 3.20 SO/BB, and 14 holds in 24.1 IP. The 2010 All-Star may not be garnering national attention, but his quiet consistency has been invaluable to the struggling Washington bullpen.
Lefties this season have put up a combined .170/.188/.191 slash line with no home runs and one double in 48 plate appearances against Thornton. His 1.42 ERA against them ranks in the top eight of relievers who’ve pitched at least 13 innings versus left handers. He’s also stranded 17 inherited runners, the most on the Nationals staff.
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One of the main problems for the Washington Nationals in 2015 has been trying to find some level of consistency. The re-tooled relieving corps has struggled massively, with Tanner Roark, Aaron Barrett, and Sammy Solis all holding ERAs above 4.20. Plus, recently demoted Blake Treinen sports a 4.39 ERA. His counterparts down in the minors that have made appearances such as Taylor Jordan, Matt Grace, A.J. Cole and Rafael Martin have not fared much better.
Offseason acquisition Casey Janssen is finally rounding into form after spending a big chunk of the season on the disabled list, but with workhorse Craig Stammen out for the year after surgery in April, the Nationals have been forced to rely heavily on Storen, Thornton, and fellow left-hander Felipe Rivero.
The 38-year old Thornton does not have much postseason experience, having spent a majority of his career with the Chicago White Sox beginning in 2006, the year after the White Sox won the World Series against the Astros. He has six career appearances in the postseason, allowing one earned run in 5.2 innings. Three of those innings came last October for the Nationals.
Manager Matt Williams has shown his confidence in Thornton time and time again, and Nats fans have plenty of reasons to believe that he will do it again come this postseason. He was brilliant for the Nats down the stretch last season, allowing no earned runs over the final 18 appearances of the season, but can he do it again? Based off the performance that he had thus far, it isn’t too far fetched an idea.