Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Late Inning Bullpen Decisions Haunt Nats
Before we get into what was bad about the bullpen last night, let’s give credit to Doug Fister, Matt Thornton, Blake Treinen, and Felipe Rivero (who was pitching his third game in a row). The four of them combined to give up no runs on four hits over 4.1 innings, striking out two batters, and walking none.
With a 5-3 lead in the eighth inning, the Nats went to Drew Storen, but Storen’s second half struggles happened again. Storen gave up a leadoff single to Tommy Pham and then hit Brandon Moss with a 1-2 slider.
With two on, Greg Garcia laid down a bunt and with Storen being told to throw to third, he threw it to Escobar, who could not catch the ball, which allowed the runner to score. Even if Escobar catches it, that is not the sure out as opposed to Storen going to first with it. Eventually, the Cardinals would tie the game on a double play by Stephen Piscotty. In Storen’s last 18 games, he has an ERA of 6.62 as opposed to a 1.89 ERA in the first half.
Since the game was tied, Matt Williams chose to go to Casey Janssen after he threw 26 pitches Monday night. Janssen got the first two outs, but pinch-hitter Cody Stanley doubled to left and Pham walked to extend the inning. Then, Moss hit a 1-0 fastball over the wall in dead center for the walk-off home run. By throwing 21 pitches last night, Janssen has thrown 47 pitches in his last two games.
Meanwhile, the Nats’ prized trade deadline acquisition, Jonathan Papelbon, continues to sit in the bullpen. Yes, you don’t normally use the closer in a tie game on the road, but when you get to September and you are 6.5 games back, you have to get a win in anyway you can get it.
However, Papelbon has not thrown more than one inning in any outing this season and the pitcher’s spot was due up in the tenth inning. While I don’t necessarily put all the blame on Williams, there is something I do blame the Nats for involving the amount of pitchers that were available.
With Joe Ross on the mound, the Nats had to know they could need any ptichers they could get. Yesterday, on the first day of the 40-man rosters, the team only called up three players: catcher Pedro Severino, second baseman Dan Uggla, and reliever Sammy Solis (who last threw on August 28). Yes, the Nats will probably call up more pitchers tomorrow, but Williams’ lack of bullpen management and the organization not calling up more pitchers were definitely late to the party on this one.