Edwards Jr. and Finnegan leading back end of bullpen

CINCINNATI – For so long considered the weakness of a rotation-dominated pitching staff, the Nationals bullpen has been a point of strength two months into this season.

Leading the way for the relief corps have been Carl Edwards Jr. and Kyle Finnegan, two setup guys who have proven their worth in the back end of the bullpen.

Edwards, signed to a minor league contract in February, has been lights out since his first appearance as a National.

In his season debut, the veteran right-hander gave up three runs in one inning against the Mets. Afterward, he vowed it wouldn’t happen again.

It hasn’t. He’s almost been perfect in 12 outings since, posting 14 scoreless innings while giving up just two hits and six walks and recording 12 strikeouts. His ERA is 1.80 and his WHIP is 0.800. 

Meanwhile, Finnegan’s numbers have been a little misleading. On the surface, he has a 3.86 ERA and a 1.286 WHIP. But if you look at his game logs, he too has been mostly lights out.

Fifteen of Finnegan’s 23 outings have been scoreless, and all but one of those were at least a full inning of work. Since a stretch of allowing at least one earned run in three straight appearances from April 30-May 5, the right-hander has allowed just three earned runs over 10 1/3 innings to the tune of a 2.38 ERA.

The last outing for both Edwards and Finnegan came in Saturday’s 10-8 win over the Reds, the third appearance in four days for both relievers.

After the Nationals had cut the Reds’ 7-3 lead to 6-3 in the top of the seventh inning, Edwards entered to face the middle of the Cincinnati order. He retired the side with a groundout, flyout and strikeout on 10 pitches.

Finnegan took over in the eighth after the Nats tied the game at 7-7 in the top of the frame. He struck out the side on 11 pitches.

Manager Davey Martinez is grateful that he can trust both pitchers in high-leverage situations, but he was hoping to give them some rest after an uptick in usage the past couple of days.

“Carl, we were trying to stay away from today,” Martinez said after yesterday’s win. “You know, he's been pitching a lot and it just didn't happen. When we got to 7-6, we called down to the bullpen, talked to him and he says, 'I can do it.' And kudos to him. He came out there and really did well. Then Finney and all those guys that came in and shut the door down.”

It was a welcomed sight after the Nats saw starter Erick Fedde and first man out of the ‘pen, Jordan Weems, collectively give up the seven runs to the Reds over five innings. Both of them struggled to throw strikes and put hitters away when ahead in counts.

Fedde threw 86 pitches and 52 for strikes over 4 2/3 innings and gave up two walks. Weems threw 23 pitches and 13 for strikes while recording just one out and walking two batters.

“The biggest thing for our bullpen is pumping strikes. Right?” Martinez said. “I mean, they got to get ahead of hitters, pump strikes. (Tanner) Rainey was good today. Finnegan was awesome today. But yeah, those guys come in there and the walks, you know, when we walk guys, it really kills us. So we got to pump strikes. And then when we do that, we're really good.”

That’s what Edwards and Finnegan do. And that’s what’s helped them be really good this season.

Edwards throws strikes 64 percent of the time, while Finnegan throws strikes 68 percent of the time this season.

It’s a simple concept, but one Martinez hammers into his pitchers’ mindsets. It seems Edwards and Finnegan have received the message.

Game 56 lineups: Nats at Reds
Nats stay in the fight to win wild one over Reds (...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.masnsports.com/