Washington Nationals: Dusty Baker deepens bullpen mess

rjuckett
May 14, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals pitching coach Mike Maddux (51) talks with Washington Nationals relief pitcher Shawn Kelley (27) on the mound against the Philadelphia Phillies in the ninth inning at Nationals Park. The Phillies won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
May 14, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals pitching coach Mike Maddux (51) talks with Washington Nationals relief pitcher Shawn Kelley (27) on the mound against the Philadelphia Phillies in the ninth inning at Nationals Park. The Phillies won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /
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Nearly a quarter of the way through the 2017 season, the Washington Nationals mus do a better job managing their bullpen. Here is why.

The Washington Nationals were lucky to earn a split of Sunday’s Mother’s Day doubleheader against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Nats choked away a good performance from Gio Gonzalez in the day game and were bailed out by Michael Taylor in the nightcap. Although the Phillies struggle overall, they battle Washington hard.

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Philadelphia—a scrappy bunch against the Nationals—exposed why Washington is in long-term trouble year. Come October, the home team is not going anywhere.

The bullpen problems are obvious. There is no closer. No one has the confidence to set up a non-existent closer. Relievers can pitch the sixth or the ninth. What the Phillies did this weekend was show other teams Dusty Baker cannot manage the hand he is dealt.

A trade now is not happening. David Robertson is a band-aid to a problem requiring stitches that will cost a small fortune. Come July, the Nats will need to do something. Not now.

Instead, Washington must figure out how to use what they have. Still, they can do better.

Case in point Sunday. Coming off a rocky 25-pitch outing Saturday night, Baker uses Shawn Kelley to close Game 1 Sunday over Koda Glover. On paper, not a bad move. But Kelley is not supposed to pitch in back-to-back games, according to the team. Glover was already warm after backing Enny Romero in the eighth.

With another game to follow, the move backfired. Kelley turned a 4-2 lead into a 5-4 loss. Glover came in to finish the inning and both pitchers were unavailable for Game 2.

In the night game, Baker burned Wednesday’s projected starter Jacob Turner in the eighth. Again, he blew the lead. If it was not for Taylor’s heroics, Max Scherzer’s incredible performance would have been for naught.

Here is our take on the doubleheader here:

Albers, who is the scrap yard find of the decade, pitched a scoreless ninth giving Turner the most undeserved win in team history.

Although it is not Baker’s fault his relievers refuse to throw first-pitch strikes or control at-bats, he can assign pitchers to roles. Blake Treinen, Oliver Perez and Joe Blanton were nowhere Sunday. Instead, you burn a starter and then forced to call up one for the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday.

It cannot be A.J. Cole, as he was optioned too recently and cannot come back, and Joe Ross’ issues remain unresolved. Hello, Erick Fedde?

All the public woods of patience and team strength are good signs. You never want to see players or managers rip their colleagues in public. But, there better be butt-chewing in private. Of the four save opportunities this past week, the Nats converted one.

There are two certainties currently, the National League East race is over and Washington will lose their NL Divisional Series with the current roster.

Next: Werth player of the week

Bryce Harper has put the offense on his back and will carry the team to the playoffs. Someone in the bullpen needs to do the same, or the season is toast.

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