The Nationals make their way towards the National League Division Series with some decisions to make in the bullpen and specifically how many left-handers they will carry in the post season.
Left-handed closer Sean Doolittle leads the list as the lock. He is 1-0 with 20 saves, a 2.78 ERA and nine holds in 47 games. He is 17-for-17 in save opportunities with the Nats. Left-handed batters are hitting .158 (6-for-58) against his pitches.
Grace has come on strong after beginning the season in a revolving door with Triple-A Syracuse.
Pérez has broadened his responsibility from being a lefty specialist, but that is still his greatest asset.
Romero has struggled to stay healthy but has the best stuff of these left-handers.
Solis can get multiple hitters out, but has been slowed down by injuries himself. He played well in the postseason last year: 1-0, 1.93 ERA in five games versus the Dodgers.
Manager Dusty Baker spoke pregame Wednesday on the importance for the left-handed relievers pitching the next three weeks with the division already in hand. Will these final games make the difference for Solis, Pérez, Grace and Romero? Or will Baker let the entire season of work for these hurlers make the decision?
“You’d like to look at a combination of both,” Baker said. “I always take into consideration what a guy has done for us to get us there. And also how a guy is looking now. And also looking to where he was in the pecking order prior to these injuries.
“We’re in the process of trying to decide exactly who’s going to be on the roster. It’s not like a test or a tryout or anything like this. But you do have your eyes open. You want to take who are the best guys at that time.”
Baker confirmed the number of left-handers they carry will be based on their opponent. The Dodgers have their share of lefty hitters, as do the Cubs: Anthony Rizzo, Tommy La Stella, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Jay and Jason Heyward. Not to mention what teams like Arizona, Colorado, Milwaukee and St. Louis bring to the table.
“You also want to take what you’re going to need,” Baker noted. “If they have a bunch of left-handed hitters, or if they just have a few left-handers and mostly right-handers, or if your left-handers get mostly right-handers out, or ... all left-handers don’t get left-handers out. So, it’s going to be a tough decision for us. But hopefully you get past the first round and then you can assess things and see what you need for the second round.”