Washington Nationals: Bullpen impresses in fifth consecutive loss

CINCINNATI, OH - MARCH 31: Sammy Solis
CINCINNATI, OH - MARCH 31: Sammy Solis /

The Washington Nationals’ bullpen dominated, but it was not enough as the team dropped their fifth consecutive game and got swept by the New York Mets.

In a shocking turn of events, the Washington Nationals have lost five consecutive games after beginning the year 4-0. At 4-5, they have fallen below .500 for the first time since 2015, which was far and away the longest streak in the league.

The bullpen dominated, highlighted by Sammy Solis‘ two shutout innings, but it was not enough to earn the victory. Shawn Kelley, Matt Grace, Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, and Solis tossed six scoreless innings before Brandon Kintzler allowed the game-winning run in the 12th and final inning.

Kintzler, who had a dominant 2017 campaign, has gotten off to a rocky start in 2018. After beginning the year with a perfect inning in Cincinnati, he allowed seven runs in three innings throughout the Mets series.

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It is still early, but Kintzler’s 15.75 ERA is not a pleasant sight. His sinker has not had the same bite as it did last year and he has struggled to keep the ball down in the zone.

Kintzler’s abysmal start may be due to the cold weather, but that is not an excuse. He will be depended upon in October, when it will be just as cold. Whatever is causing his struggles, he and Derek Lilliquist need to figure it out quickly.

In addition to Kintzler’s struggles, the Nats’ baserunning was atrocious.

Trea Turner began the questionable baserunning by getting thrown out between third and home after rounding the base too aggressively. Bob Henley held up the stop sign, but Turner ran right through it to end the inning.

Although Bryce Harper had a terrific game, going 3-for-4 with two walks, he had a couple mishaps on the basepaths as well.

Harper’s first baserunning error came in the seventh on a Turner ground ball to third. Todd Frazier fielded it awkwardly and decided to tag Harper out. Instead of sliding to avoid the tag, Harper went into the bag standing up and was easily tagged out.

Then, in the ninth, Seth Lugo attempted to pick Harper off at first. He took second base, but did not see Henley waving him to third as well. He eventually made it to third, but did not score. If he advanced to third on the pickoff, he would have scored the game-winning run on a Matt Adams fly-out to center.

The final baserunning error came from Anthony Rendon. With two outs in the eighth and Harper at the plate, Rendon was picked off of first base. It was not disastrous because it allowed Harper to lead off the ninth against a righty, as opposed to the left-handed Jerry Blevins, but it could be costly in the future.

There were a few bright spots, such as a solid performance from Pedro Severino, but it was a frustrating night for the most part.

Next: Nats' minor league primer

The Nats have dropped five in a row, but they will get another chance to turn things around with the Braves in town for three games beginning on Monday. It is not yet time to panic, but it is certainly frustrating.