Nats balancing lefty-heavy rotation with righty-heavy bullpen

The Nationals are currently doing something they haven’t done in their nearly 20 years since relocating to D.C.: Running out a rotation with four left-handers.

Injuries to right-handers Josiah Gray and Trevor Williams have called for replacements, who just happened to be left-handers to make for a mostly lefty rotation that is rarely seen in baseball.

They are in the middle of a stretch where they have all four starting in succession. Three are scheduled to start against the Marlins this weekend started by MacKenzie Gore on Friday, and continuing with DJ Herz today and Mitchell Parker on Sunday.

It’s an ironic roster quick for manager Davey Martinez, who isn’t used to having too many lefties on his roster, starter or reliever.

“I couldn't even explain that really,” he said. “I sit back and go, 'How in the world did that happen?' But I like the ones we got, that's for sure. They're doing really well. Even DJ. I talked to him a little bit about the shape of his breaking ball. Right now, his changeup is good, his fastball is good. We worked out a little bit on the shape of his breaking ball. So when that starts coming around, he could really, really, really do well. So the other guys, they got no fear, right? I love them. They attack the zone. They're not afraid to throw their pitches when they need to, sliders or splits. They've been really good.”

Patrick Corbin has had his struggles, but he has been able to provide the Nats length when he starts, helping out the bullpen. Meanwhile, Gore, Parker and Herz have been pretty impressive so far.

After another dominant start last night, Gore has evolved into one of the better left-handed starters in the league with a 6-5 record and 3.24 ERA. Against the Marlins on Friday, he struck out 10-plus batters for the third time this season and recorded a career-high 25 swings and misses.

After being a surprise call-up this early in the season, Parker enters tonight’s start with a 4-3 record, 3.21 ERA and 1.086 WHIP in 11 outings. He has yet to give up more than three earned runs in an outing while posting a 3.07 strikeout-to-walk rate.

And after being another surprise call-up, Herz has impressed over his first two major league starts.

But Martinez doesn’t see left vs. right as an advantage one way or another. Hitters today aren’t intimidated either way, and the three-batter minimum rule has reduced the value of playing matchups out of the ‘pen.

“As you know in baseball now, they match up everywhere,” Martinez said. “So it's just a chess game, once it gets later in the game, what to do. We try to save our one bullet for when we need it. That's what we try to do. But having those other guys doing as good as they're doing and having Harvey and Finnegan in the back end of the bullpen, it definitely helps.”

The one lefty reliever currently in the bullpen is Robert Garcia. So with all the lefties in the rotation, opposing teams can keep their left-handed bats on the bench to face the Nats’ righty-heavy bullpen.

Martinez might wish one of his lefty starters could magically turn into a reliever.

“Let's put it this way, the bullpen, I'm just really happy I got one lefty because I've been here before where we didn't have any,” he said with a sly grin. “So that's kind of nice. We got guys, righties, that are capable of getting lefties out. For the most part, they've done really well.”

As for the right-handed starters, until Gray and Williams return from injury, there is only one holding down the fort from that side of the mound.

“I told Jake Irvin, he's the lone survivor right now,” Martinez said. “And he's doing really well.”

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