In a season that continues to befuddle fans, the Washington Nationals bullpen is currently on a 16-inning scoreless streak.
The Washington Nationals bullpen is a fascinating creature.
In the first 30 days of the 2019 season, the Nats bullpen pitched 68.2 innings. That ranks dead last and it is nearly ten innings fewer than the Baltimore Orioles, who are ranked 29th.
Their ERA over that period is 7.34. Again, dead last, and it is half of a run worse than the 29th ranked team.
However, starting on Sunday, April 28 against the San Diego Padres, the Nationals bullpen has not allowed a single run.
Here is the innings pitched leaderboard for each Nationals reliever that has appeared during the streak:
- Erick Fedde (4 IP)
- Justin Miller (3 IP)
- Kyle Barraclough (2.1 IP)
- Wander Suero (2 IP)
- Tony Sipp (1.2 IP)
- Joe Ross (1.1 IP)
- Matt Grace (1 IP)
- Dan Jennings (0.2 IP)
Look over that list again. Did you notice that Sean Doolittle is not on it?
Incredibly, the rest of the bullpen is picking up Doolittle, who made 13 appearances over a 24-game stretch earlier this season.
Doolittle praised his teammates, saying, “I think it’s been great. The guys have been able to handle their own innings and Davey [Martinez has] given them a longer leash… These guys have been able to make pitches with men on base and get out of innings and put up some zeroes.”
This is not all good luck and variance. There have been several changes to the bullpen in recent days that have led to an increase in positive production.
First, the Nationals sent struggling reliever Trevor Rosenthal down to West Palm Beach, Florida, for an “extended spring training.” Martinez said there is no timetable for his return.
This season, Rosenthal has faced 28 batters and has retired nine, allowing seven hits, nine walks, and 12 earned runs in the process. His five wild pitches are the most in the major leagues.
Secondly, Ross is getting more usage as a relief pitcher after only appearing in two games before April 18.
Commenting on Ross’ transition to a relief pitcher, Martinez said, “He’s handled this role really well. I gotta forget [that] he was a starter. Now, he’s a bona fide reliever.”
Lastly, the Nats added Jennings, another left-handed pitcher, to their bullpen. He took a nasty 112 MPH comebacker off of his glove hand in his debut yesterday, and could not successfully complete the rest of his inning.
Jennings looked sharp last season for the Milwaukee Brewers. In 64.1 innings, Jennings posted a 3.22 ERA. He appeared in a whopping 72 games.
Jennings has mentioned that he believes he pitches better when he gets constant work.
That attitude means that as long as he is pitching well, he will be seeing lots of action in a Curly W uniform this season.