NEW YORK - The Nationals learned one important lesson from their late-inning collapse Wednesday night in an 11-5 loss to the Mets: The bullpen cannot deliver every time, especially when heavy use turns into taxed arms.
Ryan Madson was appearing in his third game of the series and admitted that game two took a lot out of him. In game three, he did not have enough firepower left and the Mets hit him.
Madson, who went to high school about 66 miles east of Dodgers Stadium in Moreno Valley, has appeared in 11 of the Nats’ first 19 games.
Can one day of rest before Friday’s opener against the Dodgers in Los Angeles be enough?
“We’ll see. We’ll see,” Madson said after Wednesday’s tough loss. “Hopefully, yeah, I think so. But a nice reset would be cool. But it’s part of the game. It’s part of being in the bullpen. Hopefully, this is little bit of a learning experience for myself and everybody else, just to know what could possibly happen. Just learn from it and go from there.”
Left-hander Sammy Solís warmed up three times before game one. He then appeared in games two and three against the Mets. Like Madson, he struggled in game three. Solís wallked both batters he faced.
First baseman Ryan Zimmerman made the point that because the Nats have played close ball games to begin the season, they have not been able to let a starter or long reliever finish out a game, and so the rest of the bullpen has not gotten any full days off.
“I think, during one of the pitching changes, infielders, we were talking, (we said) we haven’t really blown anyone out or gotten blown out to a point where these guys have had to be in there pretty much every night,” Zimmerman observed. “We are going to have stretches over the year where we win or lose by more than four or five runs and they can kind of get a blow every now and then.
“Those guys are great. They are a huge part of this team. If we are going to do what we want to do, they are going to be a big part of it.”
Manager Davey Martinez spoke to his bullpen crew prior to Wednesday’s game and set out the plan for usage in the game. With a 4-2 lead after seven innings, Martinez had hoped Madson would have a clean inning and then hand it over to Sean Doolittle. It did not go as planned.
“Before the game, I had conversations with these guys. Guys told me they were available, and we used them accordingly,” Martinez explained. “That’s how it works. Today wasn’t Maddy’s day, but I got all the confidence in the world in him, I do. He’s one of our guys. When he’s out there I feel really, really strong about him closing out that inning.”
* With men on first and third and one out in the fourth inning, the Nats led 3-1 over the Mets. A grounder off the bat of Jose Lobaton to Zimmerman appeared to have a chance of becoming a double play. But Zimmerman’s throw to shortstop Trea Turner at second was more toward center field, and Turner could not come up with it. The error by Zimmerman allowed a run to score, and the Nats’ lead was trimmed to 3-2.
“I just think he got out too far and had to throw the ball back the other way,” Martinez said. “It happens. These guys aren’t perfect, I get it. It’s a play we make nine out of ten times.”
Zimmerman said the throw didn’t go the way he had planned.
“If I just throw the ball to second we get the double play,” Zimmerman said. “Just a bad throw and kind of rushed it a little bit instead of taking my time. But I make a good throw to second, I feel like we can get Loby and get out of the inning. Tanner picked me up and gave us another ground ball and got out of it. Just a bad throw. Got to make a better throw.”
* The Nationals still notched the series win, which was big because they were coming off of a 3-9 stretch and desperately needed to slow down the first-place team.
They did, despite the 11-5 setback Wednesday, winning two of three.
“Great series. We won the series,” said starting pitcher Tanner Roark. “That’s all that matters. Nine times out of 10 you’re going to have Madson do what he does. Just one of those games. We had that game first night, now they had that this night. We won the series, get a day off tomorrow, relax.”
“It’s great,” Madson agreed. “If you take two out of three every time, we win. Great series. Zim tore the cover off the ball, so that was fun to see, like he’s been doing. He’s actually got something going there. Nobody can catch them when they are in seats, so that was awesome.”
* Roark talked about maintaining his focus when he felt that home plate umpire Tom Woodring wasn’t giving him the strike calls he expected Wednesday night. Roark ended up with three walks in the game. He now has seven walks against the Mets in two starts this season.
“I didn’t say anything bad. I just thought they were strikes,” Roark said. “We are going to disagree at times and just got to still take a deep breath. It was a big situation. Just step back, relax, get your composure and execute your pitch.”