In the recently finished series finale against the Atlanta Braves, we wrote the Nationals had the opportunity to win a game they had no business winning. Well, they squandered that opportunity and lost. In the middle game of the series with the New York Yankees, the Nationals didn’t win a game they had no business losing.
This version of the Washington Nationals doesn’t have a clear strength. The starting pitching has been up and down, and injured. Hitting (for average) hasn’t really been an issue, though there is no power and the Nationals struggle to get timely knocks. The bullpen seems to be a positive, though their recent stretch of perfection mostly came in games the team lost.
Nationals manager Davey Martinez should have gone with Hand for the eighth and Hudson in the ninth to preserve the win against the Yankees.
Being a traditional baseball fan, I like my bullpens with one closer. If you have two-closers, you have no closers. However, watching the Tampa Bay Rays mix and match pitchers at the end of games has changed my mind a little. Their World Series team of 2020 had 12 different pitchers secure a save in the regular season.
Looking at matchups I would have run Hand out in the eighth (actually I would have left Scherzer in at 109 pitches to get through the inning), and brought in Hudson for the ninth.
The Yankees have had Brad Hand’s number in his last couple of outings against them. Players remember that. Hand has never gotten Giancarlo Stanton or Aaron Judge out, albeit in just a couple plate appearances. Hand, a lefty, facing three right handed batters to begin the ninth. Everything was stacked against him in this one, and once the leadoff hitter was walked, the feeling this game had slipped away was in full strength.
Just as Davey Martinez has stood by Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber, saying the Nationals can not win without them in the lineup, he is sending the message the team is going to have Brad Hand at the backend of the bullpen, closing. To this point Hand has been great. However, with how everything was aligned today, sending Hand to the mound in the ninth was ill-advised.