Stuck on repeat, Nationals bullpen blows yet another game


The Washington Nationals lost to the New York Mets, 6-5, on Saturday afternoon to drop to 3-4. Here are five observations from the game...

1. Trevor Rosenthal didn’t pitch Saturday. Though, he did influence the game.

The Nationals again turned to Justin Miller in the eighth inning since Rosenthal is yet to record an out this season. Miller’s appearance was his third in four days. He was pitching where Rosenthal had been expected to before the season began.

It went poorly. Miller allowed back-to-back home runs which tied the game, 5-5. The Nationals were six outs away from taking the first two games on the road with Max Scherzer looming for a sweep attempt Sunday. That chance quickly went away because of Miller’s rough outing.

The Mets took the 6-5 lead later in the inning against Tony Sipp.

Not being able to use Rosenthal in big situations -- or any situation, at the moment -- has further contorted the already struggling bullpen. Miller is pitching too often because he’s one of the few guys who can be trusted. Someone trustworthy often becomes less so because someone else can’t be trusted, forcing the trustworthy pitcher to become over-exposed and less effective. This is the give-and-take in a mediocre or below bullpen.

Washington has allowed 17 runs in the eighth inning this season. It has allowed 40 runs total this season. That’s 42.5 percent of the runs in one disastrous inning.

Right now, the Nationals bullpen is the worst in baseball. How long until they do something about it?

2. Saturday was at least better for Kyle Barraclough.

He faced the minimum in the seventh inning despite allowing a leadoff walk to Keon Broxton. Yan Gomes threw out Broxton when he attempted to steal, Barraclough struck out Juan Lagares and Luis Guillorme flew out to left.

Barraclough entered the game with one of the season’s most misleading stats, his 2.70 ERA. Barraclough’s WHIP was 2.10. His hits per nine, 13.5. OPS against, 1.009.

Those swollen numbers tell the truth about how Barraclough has been pitching early. All five of the runners he inherited this season have scored. The strange thing about Barraclough: he made 61 appearances last year. He inherited only two baserunners the entire time (both scored). So, look for Barraclough to be used to start innings whenever possible. A quirk, and not ideal, but Washington needs to find any path to bullpen improvement, even if it means limiting when a reliever can be used.

3. Brian Dozier remained in the No. 2 spot Saturday. His results also remained the same.

Dozier went 0-for-3 with a strikeout in three non-competitive at-bats. His average is down to .080.

Nationals manager Davey Martinez pinch-hit for Dozier (using Matt Adams) with two runners on the seventh inning. The move was an aggressive one from Martinez and a good indication of where Dozier is at this point.

Howie Kendrick pinch-hit in the game, too. His first start of the season could be coming soon. The suggestion is not to pull Dozier from regularly being on the field. Rather, it’s to give him a break for a day as well as a new spot in the lineup. This is not working.

4. Mets reliever Jeurys Familia went 49 appearances between home runs allowed at Citi Field. Saturday, he gave up two in the eighth inning -- the first time in his career he has allowed two home runs in an inning.

Stranger yet was one came off the bat of Wilmer Difo. The backup switch-hitter now has 14 career home runs. And, Saturday, he had a chance to own the game-winning hit. That was until the bullpen tried to get through the eighth.

5. Patrick Corbin made his second start of the season. It went well until the sixth, when he allowed two home runs.

Corbin’s final line on a day the Mets scored their first five runs via five solo home runs: six innings pitched, six hits, three earned runs, one walk, nine strikeouts. Half of his hits allowed left the park. Corbin gave up 15 home runs all of last season. He never allowed three home runs in a game.

So, a mixed bag for him. His slider was effective. But he had problems with J.D. Davis -- who was in the lineup because he hits left-handers well -- and Michael Conforto, who has confounded Corbin throughout his career. Davis homered twice. Conforto, despite hitting from the left side, hit his fourth home run off Corbin in just his 14th career at-bat against him.


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