On Sunday night, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Nationals’ closer Ryan Madson gave up a walk-off grand slam to Cubs rookie David Bote. This was just another example of the Nationals’ bullpen imploding. A few weeks earlier, two bullpen regulars, Brandon Kintzler and Shawn Kelley were traded. Kintzler’s downfall was due to disparaging comments made about the team. Kelley threw his glove after giving up a home run against the Mets. From blown saves to debatable trades, the bullpen is in disarray.
Implosion against the Cubs
With less than two months left the Nationals bullpen may of just ended any chance of the team earning a wildcard spot or winning the division. The Nationals are only five and a half games behind Atlanta for the division and five games behind the second wild card. But last night was not the type of loss that is easy to overcome.
Max Scherzer threw a gem, as he went seven shut-out innings, giving up three hits with one walk and eleven strikeouts. As many great Aces, Scherzer did not want to leave the game, but ended up handing the ball to the bullpen with a one-run lead and six outs to go. Koda Glover who recently returned from injury pitched a scoreless eighth. The Nationals scored two more runs in the top of the ninth to go up 3-0.
Madson took the mound in the ninth and recorded an easy first out. Jason Hayward then hit a grounder to Wilmer Difo, who bobbled and dropped it. The play was marked as a single. Madson then got in his own head and hit Robert Almora Jr. After Madson was able to get Kyle Schwaber to pop up. Unfortunately, Madson followed this up by hitting Wilson Contreras. Contreras rattled Madson even further as he continued to call time during the at bat. The game ended when the rookie Bote took Madson deep for a walk-off grand slam.
After this gut-wrenching lost, it will be difficult to rebound. Once again the bullpen fell apart when they were needed most.
Injuries and Bad Trades
With Kelvin Herrera and Sean Doollittle out with injuries, the closer role has become Madson’s job to lose. The bullpen has become even thinner after the questionable trades of Brandon Kintzler to the Cubs and Shawn Kelley to Oakland. Both trades occurred to get rid of negative attitudes in the clubhouse. But getting rid of two quality relievers while still in the playoff hunt is very questionable. Kelvin Herrera has been inconsistent since arriving earlier in the year. Sean Doolittle was in the midst of a career year as was named to the All-Star team. An injury has kept him out since the break and the back end of the bullpen is suffering because of it. Herrera was starting to step up in his absence before landing on the DL himself.
Mike Rizzo is one of the smartest GM’s in the game but made two debatable trades. Rizzo believed he was doing what is best for the team by making sure the clubhouse is only filled with positive vibes. In order to reach this goal, Rizzo has made the bullpen quite thin as he has lost two arms with playoff experience. The front office is expecting the other relievers to step up until Herrera and Doolittle can return. Unfortunately, this plan has not come to fruition so far.
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