By Steve Fainaru
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 14, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO, May 13 -- When the San Francisco Giants traded right-hander Shairon Martis to the Washington Nationals in 2006, it didn't immediately register.
"I didn't know what they meant," said the 22-year-old native of Willemstad, Curacao. When he finally understood, his first thought was: "I need to find new friends."
Martis came back to face his former team for the first time Wednesday afternoon, and times have changed. He held the Giants to two hits over seven innings and is now the Nationals' surprising stopper.
Martis (5-0) is undefeated in his first seven starts. He is the antidote to the team's ongoing struggles with winless right-hander Daniel Cabrera, whose meltdowns during moments of crisis have been addressed in internal meetings.
Martis, one of the youngest players in baseball, is seemingly unflappable. After pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the first, he cruised almost effortlessly through the next six innings and took a load off the Nationals' embattled bullpen.
"I'm just trying to get what we need right now," he said. "I'm trying to give us six or seven solid innings."Bullpen Woes
The fine print on the Nationals' bullpen is becoming painful to read. Even after Wednesday's win, the bullpen is 1-10 and has blown 10 saves in 16 opportunities, an astonishing number.
Right-hander Kip Wells picked up a save Wednesday, getting the last five outs. But it was still slightly unnerving. Joe Beimel, who gave up a two-out, two-strike, game-ending homer to Pablo Sandoval on Tuesday, gave up two hits and one run in one-third of an inning Wednesday. Wells gave up a triple to Nate Schierholtz and a run-scoring double to Fred Lewis in the bottom of the ninth before straightening himself out.
With the Nationals pounding the ball, their bullpen woes have become magnified to the point where Manager Manny Acta is directly blaming the relievers for the Nationals' 11-21 record, the worst in baseball.
"If our bullpen had just been average, we could have 17 or 18 wins right now," Acta said after Wednesday's game.