Washington Nationals: Sammy Solis a second-half secret weapon

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ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 1: Reliever Sammy Solis #36 of the Washington Nationals delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on July 1, 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 1: Reliever Sammy Solis #36 of the Washington Nationals delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on July 1, 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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Washington Nationals reliever Sammy Solis broke onto the scene in 2016, but struggled for much of the first-half. Fortunately, he has returned to form in the second-half.

In 2016, Sammy Solis was given an opportunity in the Washington Nationals bullpen due to various injuries. He took full advantage of this opportunity, and quickly became one of the Nats’ most reliable relievers. He became so reliable that Dusty Baker trusted him to pitch in every game of the National League Division Series.

However, Solis got off to a rough start in 2017 and did not come close to resembling the lights-out reliever he was a year ago. Then, he was placed on the disabled list in late April and it all made sense; he had struggled because he was pitching through an injury.

Elbow inflammation ended up forcing Solis to miss nearly the entire first half and he did not return until July. He initially struggled upon returning, but was sent to AAA Syracuse and turned himself around.

Solis finally returned to the Nats on July 27, and he hasn’t looked back since. At the time of his return to the majors, he owned a 14.73 ERA. Over the last couple months, he has lowered his ERA all the way to 6.29. While 6.29 is still less than ideal, it is outstanding considering how he started the season.

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Lowering your ERA by over eight points is very difficult, but Solis has been able to do just that through pure dominance.

Since the All-Star Break, Solis leads the team in batting average against (.136), WHIP (0.82), on-base percentage against (.215), slugging percentage against (.186), on-base plus slugging against (.402), and hits allowed/9 (4.24). He also has nine straight scoreless appearances.

These numbers are phenomenal, and prove that Solis has been among the most dominant relievers in the league since the All-Star Break.

Solis also brings versatility to the table. He has pitched in many roles this season, from a mop-up reliever, to a set-up man, to a lefty specialist, and he even closed a game in Houston in late August. Relievers seem extremely tied down to their respective roles nowadays, but Solis’ ability to pitch whenever his name is called is invaluable, especially in the postseason.

The once disastrous Nats’ bullpen has been much improved since acquiring Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, and Sean Doolittle, but it is not all thanks to the three-headed monster; improved performances from other relievers, especially Solis, have also contributed to the transformation.

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Pitching and defense win games in the postseason, and we all saw how important bullpens can be throughout the 2016 postseason. If Solis’ dominance continues throughout the postseason, everyone will forget his first-half and he could become a key part of the Nats’ playoff run.

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