Left-hander Sean Burnett said it was his slider that the Cubs’ Carlos Pena turned on and tied the game up at 8-8 in the seventh. It was a major turning point in the series finale that Chicago trailed 8-0, coming all the way back to stun the Nationals, 10-9.
Burnett said the location of the slider was not where he wanted it to end up and Pena took advantage.
“It was a badly executed slider,” Burnett said. “He was probably trying to be aggressive early in the count and I knew that. I just made a terrible pitch and he put a good swing on it and did what he was supposed to do with it.”
Burnett said it hurts to lose any game, but losing a game you led by such a big margin is tough and is not indicative of what this year’s bullpen can accomplish.
“Bullpen has been throwing great,” Burnett said. “I just need to pick up my slack. I have been bad all year. I have been making guys throw more pitches than they have to by coming in for me or me not going multiple innings. I need to step up and start executing first and foremost.”
The numbers have been reversed for Burnett this year. In 2010, Burnett had a 2.14 ERA in 73 games, but this season, it has ballooned to 5.76 ERA in his first 40 games.
So can he pinpoint the problem? Burnett said it has been frustrating for him, because it is not about fixing just one pitch.
“The first half it has been every pitch,” Burnett said. “I have been beat with every pitch. (Thursday) it was a bad slider. It seems like every outing I make one bad pitch and they seem to be taking advantage of it. That is the way it happens at this level.”
He said no one was relaxing in the bullpen, even with the 8-0 start.
“As a reliever, you never know when the phone is going to ring,” Burnett said. “It is always nerve-racking down there. You think it might be easy when it is 8-nothing, but you never know. Then they start to chip away, you get back in that mental game plan. That is no excuse. I know from my part I just went up and made a bad pitch.”
There also has to be a ton of added pressure to fix what is wrong with Burnett now, because manager Davey Johnson needs his only southpaw reliever to deliver. Johnson maintained last week he still has confidence in Burnett, but Thursday’s result will certainly test his patience.