The starting rotation has not been able to shorten games for the Nationals recently, and that is causing major fatigue in the bullpen.
In Sunday’s 10-2 loss to the Marlins in the series finale, starter Tanner Roark lasted only four innings. Five relievers, including position player Mark Reynolds, had to record to finish the final five innings.
In Thursday’s 14-12 comeback win, Jeremy Hellickson gave up nine runs in four innings. That time, six relievers had to close out the game.
Gio Gonzalez went five innings Friday night in the 3-2 walk-off win. Four relievers were called on to get the final 12 outs.
It has been a problem that manager Davey Martinez has addressed a couple of times in the last two weeks. With starters not able to go six or seven innings, the bullpen’s had a heavy workload, and that could cause problems this week and even after the All-Star break.
Monday the Nats send out Jefrey Rodriguez in Pittsburgh as they begin a seven-game road trip. Martinez said he had to use relievers Sunday he did not want to have to call upon to finish the game.
“I believe going into (tonight) we’ve got some guys that can pitch again. But we’ll see. It’s hard when you got (Matt) Grace, who has done a great job. He’s, basically, really your only long man. But these guys have been eating up innings.”
“I didn’t want to put (Brandon) Kintzler in the game, down like that, nor did I want to put in (Ryan) Madson. They just kind of manned up and said that they wanted to go out there and pitch. I wanted to get Maddy out of the game earlier than that, and he looked in the dugout and wanted to stay out there and try to work on some things.”
Martinez said Reynolds was a last resort to save some pitches for his bullpen.
“He knew if we ever got strapped like that he would probably pitch. He’ll do whatever, he’s that guy. He went out there and got a nice out, so it was good.”
With his bullpen tired and worn out, would Martinez seek relief for the final two road series in Pittsburgh and New York this week?
“Well, it’s tough,” Martinez said. “When we sent Timmy Collins down, that was tough because I really believed we were going to lose him, and he went through waivers and we were able to get him back, which was really nice. I’m really happy with the guys we got down there. Just length-wise ... our starters have to pitch deeper in games. That’s the bottom line. When they start doing that, we will be really good. They did that earlier and we were pitching good in the month of May. So we just got to get better.”
But bringing up an extra arm is a short-term solution. Martinez said the Nats need Gonzalez and Roark to give them more than four or five innings, and to find a way to keep their club in games with a chance to win.
“Right now, they have hit that wall a little bit, and I do believe they are going to get better, and we have to get better.” Martinez said. “They all have to get better. They know that. And they will. I know they will. So we just got to stick with it. We got to keep working. Tomorrow we get Jefry out there. Hopefully, he gives us a good six or seven innings.”