Washington Nationals: Brandon Kintzler is a key reason for the recent success

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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 7: Pitcher Brandon Kintzler #21 of the Washington Nationals throws to a New York Mets batter at Nationals Park on April 7, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 7: Pitcher Brandon Kintzler #21 of the Washington Nationals throws to a New York Mets batter at Nationals Park on April 7, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /
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The once shaky Washington Nationals bullpen has become a strength of this time. And Brandon Kintzler is a big reason for that vast improvement.

On Saturday, April 28, the Washington Nationals lost the second game of a three game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 3-4 loss was the eighth consecutive loss for the Nats in games decided by one run.

The Nationals had a record of 11-16 and trailed the Mets by six games in the standings. It was a dark time.

Then something clicked. The Nationals won their next six games and 13 of their next 15. The Nats are now 24-18 and only 1.5 games behind the current NL East leading Atlanta Braves.

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Several heroes have emerged over the last two weeks and should be recognized, particularly Matt Adams, whose offensive play has forced Davey Martinez to find a way to include him in the lineup every day.

However, overall, the offense isn’t markedly better than before, scoring 4.4 runs per game during the first 27 games and 4.6 runs per game over the last 15.

The starting pitching has been consistent all year long and Jeremy Hellickson has solidified the fifth starter spot.

But arguably the success that the Nationals have enjoyed over these last 15 games have been due to the solid play from the bullpen, in particular, Brandon Kintzler.

After that loss to to the Diamondbacks, the collective bullpen ERA was 5.03. Heading into Sunday night’s match up against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the bullpen sported an ERA of 2.75 over the previous 14 games.

Just how important has the bullpen been? 8 of the Nats’ first 16 losses  came when the team was tied or leading after five innings. Of the last 15 games, the Nats have only lost one such game.

Ok, so the bullpen has been responsible for the turnaround. But why should Brandon Kintzler get the credit? Kintzler had an ERA of 4.85 after the first 28 games. Over the next 14 games,  he pitched to a 1.17 ERA.

Additionally, during this winning stretch, Kintzler has lead the bullpen with 8.1 innings pitched. No one else has pitched more than 6.2 innings. In fact, Kintzler’s 22 total appearances is second to Sammy Solis‘ 23 games.

With Kintzler’s heavy workload, the occasional bump in the road is to be expected. Sunday night, Kintzler surrendered 3 earned runs on 4 hits, allowing the Diamondbacks to tie the game, before being relieved by Ryan Madson. However, the Nats were able to pull out a victory.

Next: Grading the Nats starters

It’s clear that the Washington Nationals have found a formula that works. It’s equally clear that a strong bullpen is key to continuing their recent success. Brandon Kintzler has quietly established himself as the most important piece of that bullpen.

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