After a tough loss, the Washington Nationals bullpen showed signs of trouble. What is the problem and how do they fix it?
The Washington Nationals feature a deep bullpen, but their fatal flaw came to light Thursday evening against the Miami Marlins.
Now, a series of rain delays ended what was a wonderful season debut for starter Gio Gonzalez. Able to build on his Grapefruit League outings, he threw first strikes, hit his spots and controlled counts. Despite a solid effort, he drew a no-decision.
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The problem was the bullpen, raising fears of nightmares and lost opportunities of the past. For one of the rare times the last couple years, the Nats beat themselves and Dusty Baker did his team no favors.
These things happen. Over the course of a 162-game season, you will have 50 easy wins and losses. How the other 62 games go depends on the manager. Well, that is paraphrasing Tommy Lasorda’s take. He won two World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, so he knows these things.
On the surface, it looks as if Baker is not sure how his pen lines up behind closer Blake Treinen. And, yes, that is a problem.
Koda Glover did his usual things in his inning. Shawn Kelley looked rusty as he sputtered a one-run lead in the eighth. Sammy Solis’ leadoff walk to start the ninth came back to bite Treinen and Joe Blanton was not effective.
Again, things never fully follow the script. It is possible after two-and-a-half hours of rain delays you can lose your edge. No one enjoys the “hurry and wait” game.
What became apparent is Baker has yet to plan an order.
Watching all the starters work with Max Wieters the first time in real games, the pattern is the same. Pitcher and catcher are not on the same page. Hits and walks happen. They meet on the mound and pitcher settles in for a good start.
When you have multiple innings to get used to each other, you can make mistakes and correct them on the fly. The bullpen does not have that luxury.
If Glover, Kelley and Treinen are the big three then why did Solis start the ninth? After the walk, Solis retired the next two before the matchup game forced Treinen in to get the last out. It backfired.
If the starters need a few batters to adjust to Wieters, the relievers do as well. Thursday had the look of throwing noodles against the wall to see what stuck. Okay, it is April and the Marlins, but these issues should have been sorted out in West Palm Beach, not at Nationals Park.
Here is how Ricky Keeler broke it down after the game:
With a tight race expected for the division, all games matter. There will be adjustments along the way for performance and injuries, but until everyone is on the same page, you must stick to the script. It cost them a winnable game.
Until proven otherwise, there are no games you can afford to give away. Yes, it is harsh, but so is the Wild Card game or watching the playoffs at home.