Before Ross Detwiler took the mound in the 15th inning of Monday’s marathon 4-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, the Nationals’ bullpen was in the midst of a dominant stretch. The last time the relief corps had given up runs before Detwiler’s 15th inning slip-ups were on May 11 in Oakland when Jerry Blevins surrendered two runs in the seventh inning of a blowout loss. That’s a span of 27 1/3 innings.
On Monday, the bullpen rattled off seven scoreless innings in relief of Stephen Strasburg, added to their scoreless streak and, again, gave their team every opportunity to comeback.
The bullpen has “been really, really good,” Nationals Manager Matt Williams said.
Ryan Mattheus, in his second game back with the Nationals from Class AAA Syracuse, fired two important scoreless innings on 22 pitches. Rafael Soriano pitched around a one-out walk and a stolen base. Drew Storen had two runners on base with one out, and despite a lengthy replay review, managed to escape the inning with a strikeout on a wicked change-up. Tyler Clippard, on the upswing after a slow start to the season, fired a perfect inning. And Aaron Barrett completed two scoreless innings despite three baserunners.
“As a bullpen, we just want to get one more zero and get our guys up to the plate with one more opportunity,” Storen said.
As a whole, the Nationals have the best bullpen in baseball. Its 2.08 collective ERA is tops in the majors, ahead of the second-place San Diego Padres (2.18 ERA). But perhaps the most impressive statistic is this: The bullpen has achieved that despite the fifth-largest workload in baseball — 147 1/3 innings.
Four relievers — Barrett (0.53 ERA), Clippard (1.77 ERA), Soriano (0.95 ERA) and Storen (1.17 ERA) — have ERAs under 2.00. All but one of the regular relievers (Detwiler, with a 4.50 ERA) have an ERA under 3.60;
Detwiler’s inning was the lone blip of Monday’s game. He gave up a leadoff single to Brandon Phillips and then two batters later fired a high change-up to Todd Frazier that was hammered to center field for the two-run, go-ahead home run. Detwiler, who has struggled in his role as a reliever, has allowed four home runs in 20 innings this season; last year he gave up five home runs in 71 1/3 innings.
The pitch “was stupid,” Detwiler said. “It [stinks] that our team’s out there fighting all night long. I make one mistake and I pretty much cost us the game.”
Despite firing eight innings, the bullpen is in decent shape for Tuesday. Because Barrett needed 26 pitches for two innings on Monday, he will likely be avoided on Tuesday. Mattheus also threw two innings. Jerry Blevins is fresh and, according to Williams, Craig Stammen will be available. The backend of the bullpen — Storen, Clippard and Soriano — threw only one inning each for the second day in row.
“The bullpen has been great,” utility man Kevin Frandsen said. “Obviously being on the other side the last couple years, it wasn’t ever a fun bullpen to face. Our guys, they prepare. They’re out there every day. That’s my favorite part: they always want the ball. No matter how often they’ve thrown, they always want the ball. I want the ball in all their hands. Especially Ross, in that situation, he’s our long guy and unfortunately it didn’t come about. But I’ll have him out there every time. Everyone wants the ball out there and that’s the best part playing behind them. They did their jobs like they always do.”
FROM THE POST
The Reds beat the Nationals, 4-3, in a 15-inning, near-five-hour marathon, writes Adam Kilgore.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 5, Columbus 0: On rehab, Ross Ohlendorf gave up one hit, walked one and struck out four over five scoreless innings. Taylor Hill added four scoreless innings. Brandon Laird went 2 for 4 with a home run. Jhonatan Solano also went 2 for 4.
Trenton 6, Harrisburg 4: Omar Poveda allowed five runs on six hits and struck out seven over six innings. Matt Grace blew the save by allowing one unearned run over two innings. Kevin Keyes hit his fourth home run, Matt Skole drove in two runs and Brian Jeroloman walked twice.
Lexington 10, Hagerstown 8: Jake Johansen allowed five runs, three earned, on six hits over six innings. Justin Thomas blew the save by allowing three runs on three hits in 1 1/3 innings. Wilmer Difo went 2 for 4 with three RBI. James Yezzo, Spencer Kieboom and Drew Ward each drove in a run.