Washington Nationals bullpen can't protect big lead in 8-6 loss to New York Mets
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
NEW YORK -- With the Washington Nationals ahead by four runs and victory six outs away, Brian Bruney emerged from the Citi Field bullpen gates Tuesday night. "I felt really good," Bruney said later. "I felt like it was going to be a really good night."
The rest of the Nationals had no reason to expect otherwise. They had averted calamity, even thrived, in the late innings this year. They were headed toward another victory and a new high point in their season, until they weren't.
Just as the Nationals further asserted themselves as potential contenders, their bullpen melted down, turning a sure win into a bitter 8-6 loss to the New York Mets before 31,606. Bruney and Tyler Clippard, at one point the most dominant reliever in baseball, figured in the six-run implosion in the eighth.
The Nationals squandered a game they had full control of throughout. They led by three runs after the first, five after the fifth and four after the seventh. But rather than bolstering their place in the standings, Washington fell back into a second-place tie with the Mets and snapped a three-game winning streak.
"That's a big letdown," Bruney said. "We just didn't duplicate what we did last night, and that's frustrating."
Said Manager Jim Riggleman: "It fell apart."
The Nationals' bullpen had bailed them out and preserved victories all season. They had not lost a game this season while leading by five runs.
"We really hadn't had a lead like that in a while," Clippard said. "It hurts."
Into the game jogged Bruney, carrying an ERA close to six and a season full of stumbles. Bruney had atoned with a clean performance Monday, and Riggleman hoped to give Clippard a second consecutive night off. Bruney, throwing only seven pitches, reverted to his earlier struggles. Jason Bay led off with a single and David Wright followed with a double into the right field corner.
"I can't control the results," Bruney said. "I feel good. I felt like I threw downhill, and that's a step in the right direction for me. Unfortunately, I got beat."
Bruney finally induced a groundball, toward Ian Desmond. "The ball took a funny hop," Desmond said. He bobbled it slightly, then in his attempt to recover, made an errant throw to first, allowing the Mets' first run of the inning to score.
Riggleman yanked Bruney before he had recorded an out. In came Clippard, a pitcher who would surely stabilize the inning, hand the Nationals a cushion in the ninth and allow them to breathe easy. He struck out Jeff Francoeur swinging, just as planned. Maybe he had been shaky lately, but the league leader in wins had it under control.