Washington Nationals: What to Watch For in Upcoming Cubs Series

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May 8, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) scores a run as Chicago Cubs catcher Tim Federowicz (15) makes a late tag during the third inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
May 8, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) scores a run as Chicago Cubs catcher Tim Federowicz (15) makes a late tag during the third inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /
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Washington Nationals
May 31, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon (58) throws a pitch during the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Nationals defeated the Phillies, 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

A Consistent Bullpen

There still isn’t a clear solution for the eighth inning and the fantastic performances of the rest of the bullpen are still in too small of a sample size. Felipe Rivero has been, by far, the worst member (5.46 ERA, 3.61 FIP), even though he has been a bit unlucky (2.92 xFIP).

It will be interesting to see how he evens out the rest of the season. Blake Treinen‘s 2.30 ERA is deceiving due to his 3.92 FIP. Shaun Kelley has been the best thus far (2.91 ERA, 2.23 FIP).

What the Nats will need for the rest of the season, and especially against top offenses like the Cubs, are confident and consistent relievers, preferably three, for the eighth and ninth innings. We know Kelley has the chops to be one of them if he stays healthy.

More from District on Deck

Jonathan Papelbon‘s 4.66 xFIP and 3.04 walks per nine innings are concerning. Is he the permanent closer? He’s done well thus far (16 saves). He very well could be the permanent closer despite giving up the solo home run to Maikel Franco in the ninth inning yesterday.

If Rivero continues his underwhelming performance,  the Nats should look to add another reliever through a trade to complement Kelley and Papelbon. The starters have shown they can go deep into games, so those last two innings are what really matter.

This Cubs series will reveal a lot about the bullpen. If the offense knocks the Nats’ starter out earlier than usual, which is very possible, there needs to be another reliever that steps up other than Yusmeiro Petit in long relief.

Next: Recap: Nats Win On Werth Walk-Off

Whether the Washington Nationals win or lose, some offensive success and consistency out of the bullpen are the keys to what should be taken out of this series. We’ve still got a long way to go, but these are the most important three games since last September against the Mets.

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