Washington Nationals: Several positives emerge from Cubs series

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 06: Sean Doolittle
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 06: Sean Doolittle /
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The three-headed monster

After inactivity throughout much of the off-season, the Nationals had the worst bullpen in the league throughout the first half. Mike Rizzo knew he had to do something to address the gaping hole that was the bullpen, and he did just that.

Rizzo made his first big trade a few weeks before the deadline, acquiring Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle from Oakland. The two formed a dynamic duo in the back-end of the Nats’ bullpen, but Rizzo wasn’t done just yet.

Shortly before the trade deadline, Rizzo went out and acquired Brandon Kintzler from Minnesota, bolstering the back-end of the Nats’ bullpen. While Kintzler was a closer in Minnesota, he is expected to primarily fill a set-up role with the Nats.

The three-headed monster that is the back-end of the Nats’ bullpen came out in full force against the Cubs this weekend. On Friday, Kintzler relieved Roark in the seventh inning, pitching two-thirds of an inning without allowing a hit. Madson relieved Kintzler to pitch the eighth, striking out two en route to a perfect inning. Finally, Doolittle closed the game out, working around a hit to pitch a scoreless ninth.

This was the first game that Dusty Baker was able to use each of his three elite relievers, and it worked wonderfully. Roark left the game with a lead after 6.1 innings, and the three-headed monster was able to come in and completely shut down the Cubs’ offense over the final three innings.

Each member of the three-headed monster pitched again on Sunday, locking down another win. Kintzler came in to pitch a scoreless seventh, Madson pitched a scoreless eighth with two more strikeouts, and Doolittle pitched a scoreless ninth.

After all was said and done, Kintzler, Madson, and Doolittle combined to pitch 5.2 shutout innings with seven strikeouts this weekend. This series provided the first look at the revamped bullpen, and they blew everyone away. What at one point was a glaring weakness, may now be a strength. Rizzo did an unbelievable job of rebuilding the back-end of the bullpen while also not parting with any of the Nats’ top prospects.

If this series was a preview of what’s to come, the three-headed monster in the back-end of the Nats’ bullpen is outstanding and should do an excellent job of holding down games.