The Washington Nationals bullpen is entering a critical junction in the season. Whether they rise to the occasion may determine the Nationals season.
By going seven and two-thirds innings, Corbin made the bullpen record only four outs to secure the win.
Unfortunately, starters going deep into ballgames has become more of a necessity than a wish. This bullpen is so inconsistent, and when blows up it gets ugly quickly.
Starting today, that ugly cannot happen frequently. That goes for the starters too, but more significantly the bullpen. Here is why.
To start this season, the Nats have had four off days.
Between today, Friday, April 19, and May 29, the Nationals have two (2) off days. That’s it. One is on April 25, and the other is on May 13.
Davey Martinez, whether it be his fault or just purely out of necessity, has overworked two relievers already.
Brittany Ghiroli of The Athletic pointed out that of the Nationals’ nine wins, Sean Doolittle has pitched in eight of them. That includes one game in which the Nats led by 11 runs at one point and another in which the Nats led by seven runs entering the ninth inning.
Additionally, Matt Grace has pitched in 10 of the Nationals’ 17 games. That is 58.8%.
Thankfully, Doolittle and Grace have been effective in their innings despite their heavy usage. Doolittle has a FIP of 1.76 plus three pitcher wins and two saves. Grace has a 3.40 FIP and a shockingly high 9.45 strikeouts per nine innings.
Doolittle has an injury history with his shoulder, so overworking him could cause that to flare up again. Grace is on pace for over 60 innings pitched, which he has never done in his MLB career.
Other relievers are going to need to step up in for this unit to be successful. Outside of Doolittle and Grace, Kyle Barraclough is the only other reliever showing consistent signs of competency.
Justin Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, and Austen Williams cannot be trusted right now. Tony Sipp and Wander Suero are still inconsistent. Joe Ross is still missing in action. Something needs to change in the performances of those six relievers if the Nats want to have a shot at contending for a playoff spot during the late summer months.
If they can’t step up, it will force the starters to carry the load, and we know how injury prone Nationals rotations have been in the past. If that occurs, then all hope for this season is lost.
To ensure one more season of Max Scherzer’s prime doesn’t go to waste, the bullpen needs to do its job in conjunction with Scherzer and the pitching staff doing theirs.