The recent transformation of the Nationals’ bullpen from a collection of arms that provided reason for home fans to cower to a group that, at the very least, no longer causes opposing hitters to salivate is evident both on the stat sheet and in big block letters beyond Nationals Park.
in mid-July, the two men behind the creative banners that adorned the rooftop railing at the First Residences building on Half Street all season unveiled a new sign that read, “THE 9th IS DARK AND FULL OF TERRORS.” It was a clever “Game of Thrones” reference pegged to the start of the seventh season of the hit HBO series, and it perfectly described what it was like to watch a Nationals reliever try to record the final three outs of a game.
One day before that sign appeared, Washington, whose bullpen had an MLB-worst 5.23 ERA, acquired relievers Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle from the Oakland Athletics. All Madson has done since joining the Nationals is throw seven scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts and one walk. Doolittle, whose fiancee noticed the sign and kindly suggested that it go away, has allowed four earned runs in nine appearances, but he’s also converted all six of his save opportunities. Former Minnesota Twins closer Brandon Kintzler, who was acquired just before last Monday’s trade deadline, has allowed one hit in four scoreless innings of relief.
A Dusty Baker call to the bullpen is no longer reason to panic, and so as Doolittle closed the door on the Nationals’ 3-2 victory over the Marlins on Monday, a new banner had replaced the “Game of Thrones” burn beyond the Center Field Gate at Nationals Park.
“RYANS & SEANS & BRANDONS, OH MY!” it reads.
Nats fans, I have a feeling we’re not in Westeros anymore.
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