Washington Nationals: Bullpen mismanagement costs team a sweep

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18: Yoenis Cespedes
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18: Yoenis Cespedes /

The Washington Nationals were cruising to a sweep over the New York Mets, but bullpen mismanagement turned the game upside down very quickly.

After winning the first two games in New York, the Washington Nationals were surging towards a sweep of the rival Mets.

For most of the game, it was looking like the Nats would complete the sweep. Then, the eighth inning came around. The Nats roughed the Mets bullpen up for six runs in the eighth inning on Monday night, but the Mets returned the favor with a nine-run eighth on Wednesday.

After seven strong innings from Tanner Roark, Dave Martinez turned to Ryan Madson.

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Madson, who is typically an extremely reliable reliever, did not have his best stuff. While it was frustrating, it was certainly understandable. Including Wednesday, he had pitched in three consecutive games and four of the last five.

For a 37-year-old reliever with a history of arm injuries, this is terrible mismanagement. Madson is a dominant setup man and it can be easy to rely on him to hold every lead, but Martinez must learn how to not overuse him.

After Madson gave up the lead, Sammy Solis came in with runners at second and third and the Nats down two. He proceeded to walk the bases loaded and eventually walk in a run.

Solis, who is typically reliable as well, should not have pitched on Wednesday night either. He had pitched the night before and has shown a tendency to struggle when pitching on back-to-back days.

The final Nats pitcher of the night, A.J. Cole, also struggled. He entered with the Nats trailing by three and the bases loaded, and promptly served up a grand slam to Yoenis Cespedes.

After struggling in the rotation and now in the bullpen, Cole may be heading towards a minor league assignment. He is out of options, however, so the Nats would have to risk losing him on the waiver wire.

There was a major positive that came from the loss, though. Ryan Zimmerman went 3-for-4 with two homers and a triple. On the night, he raised his OPS 196 points.

Zimmerman had gotten off to an abysmal start to the year, but is finally beginning to turn things around. Over the last two games, he is 4-for-8 with five RBI. The Nats should not expect a repeat performance from a year ago, but he is progressing towards a similar level of productivity.

Wednesday night’s loss was frustrating, but it is worth remembering that the Nats still won the series. Any series win is big, but winning a series at Citi Field is huge. The Mets are a good team and played the Nats hard all series.

Next: Howie Kendrick off to a great start

Now, the Nats have an off-day and then begin a series against the Dodgers. Hopefully they can use their momentum to continue to play well on their West Coast trip.