As they swept the Mets, the Nationals’ bullpen had an utterly dominant four games in New York. Nine relievers combined to throw 14 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing eight hits and striking out 16. The Mets scored only five runs all series long, and the bullpen played a major role.
Of the 43 outs the Nationals’ bullpen recorded over the sweep, the most important may have come today. It seems odd that the biggest relief out could come in a 10-1 beatdown, but at one point the game was far more tense than the final outcome suggested. In the seventh inning, the Nationals led only 3-1. Henry Rodriguez had loaded the bases with a two-out walk. In from the bullpen thundered Todd Coffey.
“That situation right there, the game is right there,” Coffey said. “The momentum of the game is huge, and it was going to swing one way or the other.”
Coffey swung it to the Nationals. Wright drove a fly ball deep to left, but Michael Morse settled under the ball in front of the warning track and made an easy out. Wright slammed his batting helmet down along the first base line, and Coffey walked off having performed the task he excels at most.
This season, right-handed batters have hit .182 against Coffey. Lately, he has been absurdly dominant facing right-handers. They have gone 1 for 27 with 10 strikeouts against Coffey since Aug. 11.
“Just sticking with the slider,” Coffey said. “Pound them in a little bit, keep them honest with fastballs away. Just go right after them.”
Coffey’s usage may be helping him. With an expanded bullpen, Manager Davey Johnson has made a concerted effort to pitch him in only short bursts, primarily in big spots with right-handed hitters up. Coffey has pitched one inning or less in his past 20 appearances, recording fewer than three outs in nine of those.
“I’m all out every time I go out there,” Coffey said. “I’m way better in a one-inning stint than a two-inning stint. The numbers are what they are. That’s the way it is.”