…Hey-na, hey-na, the bullpen’s back!
With the addition of Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson, the bullpen has started to take shape and has been very effective. Two of the Nats most reliable starters faltered on this recent road trip — Max Scherzer surrendered five runs in the first two innings, on back-to-back-to-back home runs to lead off the game. Yesterday, Nats fans everywhere collectively held their breath as Stephen Strasburg left after just 51 pitches with some forearm stiffness. What happened next will blow your mind!
The Nats bullpen came in and was effective:
- In Scherzer’s start, they came in the 6th inning in a 5-4 game and pitched, 2.2 scoreless innings, before Enny Romero gave up the walk-off.
- In Strasburg’s start, the bullpen was fantastic: 7 IP 5 H 2 ER 4 BB 8 Ks. The two runs were scored after Matt Grace pitched 2.1 IP, and arguably should have been pulled after he gave up a walk and a hit, with around 30 pitches. Where earlier in the season the bullpen might have wilted and blown the five-run lead, Joe Blanton came in and struck out Paul Goldschmidt looking. Yes, you read that right Joe Blanton struck out Paul Goldschmidt. Then followed to hold Chris Owings to a ground out, ending the threat.
Since another fantastic Mike Rizzo deal, Madson and Doolittle have been very good. They have brought a leveling of the bullpen from both a performance and emotional perspective. They’ve had men on: Doolittle has suddenly been unable to get his first batter out, walking three straight leadoff batters. It hasn’t fazed him. Even after the uncharacteristic error by Anthony Rendon put runners on the corner with no outs, and a two-run lead, Doolittle did not panic. He got the next three guys out, including just a sac fly from Goldschmidt, before getting a fly ball and a strikeout to end the game. Madson has been even better — he has yet to surrender a run, giving up two hits, a walk and three strikeouts.
The rest of the pen has fallen in behind those two. Grace has become a very valuable lefty, replacing Sammy Solis after the latter’s utter implosion. His last eight outings have been very good — the only runs he has given up are when he’s pitched past two innings. His walks have decreased, his strikeouts have increased, and he’s posted a .579 OPS against. His last five outings, he has walked just one against five Ks. Blanton has rebounded terrifically after what seemed to be a lost season. The only runs he’s given up were in the 3-run outing he had in Anaheim. Other than that, he has been terrific and gotten some huge outs. In his last 8.2 IP, he has given up just seven hits, three of which came in that lone awful outing. He has surrendered just four hits and one walk outside of that. Over his last two months, Romero has 1.99 ERA, striking out 11.5/9, walking a high 4.7/9, and a 1.455 WHIP. But when you’re bringing 100 MPH gas from the left side, you can get away with some of that. Matt Albers has continued his surprising campaign. Oliver Perez has done a fantastic job coming in and getting out of jams—he’s stranded 19 of 22 inherited runners.
Adding Madson and Doolittle have allowed the Nats to push all of their relivers “down the line,” putting them in better roles. This bullpen has a very good balance of left and right relief, an ice-in-the-veins closer and set-up man. Add in rumors the Nationals are still looking at Justin Wilson, and this bullpen could go from a pouring-gasoline-on-a-grease-fire group to a lock-down relief corps. If we get the Killer Koda Glover back, or if Shawn Kelley can return and be as effective as he was last year, look out.
Finally, as a side note, please, spread the word. We need to make this happen on Doolittle’s entrance. How cool would it be to see all of Nats Park doing this as he comes in to lock down a playoff win?Tags: Enny Romero, Joe Blanton, Matt Grace, Mike Rizzo, Nationals, Nats, Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals