Morning-after notes on the bullpen, Blanton, Kelley and Murphy

PHILADELPHIA - Some more notes, reactions and repercussions of last night's ugly 17-3 loss to the Phillies ...

* The last thing the Nationals needed last night was a start of anything fewer than five innings. So when Jeremy Guthrie had to be yanked with only two outs in the bottom of the first, the rest of the pitching staff might as well have gone into crisis mode.

All things considered, though, the bullpen came out of this one as reasonably well as it could, given the circumstances. Blake Treinen, Koda Glover and Sammy Solis all were unavailable but should be good to go today if needed.

Meanwhile, Enny Romero (52 pitches in 1 1/3 innings), Joe Blanton (35 pitches in 3 innings), Oliver Pérez (38 pitches in 2 innings) and Shawn Kelley (24 pitches in 1 inning) will probably need a day off, but not much more than that.

Dusty Baker considered his team fortunate to emerge from this as well as it did.

"Oh yeah, big time," the manager said. "We didn't know how we were gonna fill the rest of those innings, because you have to play eight here with them as the home team. Joe Blanton saved my whole bullpen for today and tomorrow. Then we got a whole series coming up against the hard-hitting Cardinals. Things tend to snowball like that in succession, but hopefully we ended it today."

Stephen Strasburg front gray far.jpgBaker will still need Stephen Strasburg to deliver quality innings this afternoon, but if the right-hander can go six or seven and then hand it over to the three relievers who didn't pitch last night, the Nationals should be OK.

There's also a decent chance the club makes a move to bring up a fresh arm from Triple-A Syracuse to help provide some insurance.

"Yeah, we'll do something," Baker said.

* As Baker mentioned, the most important performance last night came from Blanton, who churned out three perfect innings of relief. Though he has been a starter through much of his career, the veteran right-hander hadn't pitched three innings in a game since Sept. 30, 2015, with the Pirates, having morphed into a setup man last year with the Dodgers.

"It is what it is," Blanton said. "I never went three innings last year, was mostly a one-inning guy. But sometimes the game dictates for us to do different things. You just kind of put your mindset in a different mode, attack hitters. Hopefully they put the ball in play, keep your pitch count down and save some other guys."

Every veteran reliever has been in this situation at some point, with a starter knocked out early. Blanton, though, seemed particularly sympathetic to Guthrie, turning emotional as he discussed what happened to the 38-year-old in his first big league appearance since 2015 (when the two were teammates with the Royals).

"I know it's not the way he wanted it to go, by any means," Blanton said, nearly choking up. "Any time a guy on your team has a start like that, it's tough. It's not what he's worked for. It's tough. But he's been around a long time. He's bounced back from last year to get to here and put himself in that opportunity. Hopefully, more good things will come. Everybody has these. Anybody who has pitched has had them. It's just a matter of fighting back and moving on."

* Kelley nearly gave the Nationals a scare in the bottom of the eighth, when he threw a couple of bad pitches in a row and prompted Baker and head athletic trainer Paul Lessard to come out of the dugout to make sure he was OK.

Kelley, who has had two Tommy John surgeries, insisted there was nothing wrong with his arm. His knee had been tight for a couple of days, but said he didn't believe it was causing a problem. He remained in the game and wound up striking out Andrés Blanco to end the inning and keep Baker from having to summon yet another reliever to finish this game.

"They said they thought they saw me grimace, but I didn't," Kelley said. "I was just frustrated with throwing two more balls to that guy. I think it's fair to say sometimes they're a little overly cautious with me. So they saw something and wanted to come out and be sure, but it wasn't anything."

* Might as well end things on a positive note: Daniel Murphy went 3-for-4 with two doubles. He now has played in five games and recorded at least two hits in all five of them.

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