Washington Nationals Reaction: Bullpen Needs An Upgrade
The Washington Nationals defeated the Cincinnati Reds Sunday afternoon 10-9, but the bullpen struggled, giving up four runs and making it a very close game.
Through 57 games this season the Washington Nationals have been very solid at all facets of the game. The starting pitching has been very good, the offense, although inconsistent, has been solid at times, and the bullpen has been good enough, but not great. If the Nats are going to make a serious run in the playoffs, they will need to upgrade their bullpen in some way.
The Nats will face their first tough question about the bullpen very soon. Veteran Matt Belisle will be ready to come back from injury soon, and come back to the Major Leagues. The big question is who will Belisle replace, or will he even make it back on the MLB roster?
Sammy Solis, who was called up when Belisle got injured, has been very good in his time in the big leagues. Solis pitched three scoreless innings yesterday and showed how much value he can have being able to pitch as a long man as well. He has posted a 1.59 ERA in 17 innings and has struck out an impressive 20 batters.
Although the Solis-Belisle debate will not be easy to settle, it’s not the biggest question the Nats have in their bullpen. That main issue would be with the setup man and the closer. Felipe Rivero has been the primary set-up-man and has not been nearly as effective as he was last season. He struggled again Sunday afternoon, giving up three runs while only being able to record one out. His ERA on the season increased to an alarming 5.19.
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Although Rivero’s strikeout numbers have been impressive (34 in 26 innings pitched), it may be time for the Nats to give right-handers Shawn Kelley and Blake Treinen a chance to be the set-up-man.
The last part of the bullpen the Nats need to upgrade, is the by far most important. If you just looked at Jonathan Papelbon‘s numbers for the season, they do not look bad. He has 15 saves and has a solid 3.18 ERA. Although the numbers look solid, they do not tell the whole story.
In many of his saves this season, Papelbon has gotten into big time trouble and still wiggled his way out of danger. Sunday against the Reds, Papelbon loaded the bases with nobody out, and somehow got out of the pinch.
Papelbon has gotten out of the jams he has put himself in more times than not. But, if the Nats want to go deep into the playoffs, they are going to need someone who will not do this. If the Washington Nationals make the playoffs, they are going to be facing very good teams, who will not leave runners stranded and will take advantage of these situations.
Next: Recap: Nats Outlast Reds In Slugfest
If they are going to upgrade the closer position, the Washington Nationals will most likely have to look outside the organization. Some names to consider would be Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller from the Yankees (should they decide to sell). What they will do with Papelbon if they acquire another closer will be another big question, but one thing is becoming pretty clear. The Nats need to boost their bullpen someway and they have many different options of how to do so.