The flip side of last night's comeback

The Nationals' record-breaking, 14-12 victory Thursday night had some eye-popping moments. Most of them were positive. But not all of them were. There were still some issues on display during 3 hours and 15 minutes of chaos on South Capitol Street.

Start with the starter. Jeremy Hellickson was pounded by the Marlins, giving up nine runs in four innings, and doing all this when he supposedly wasn't 100 percent healthy. Prior to the game, manager Davey Martinez acknowledged Hellickson had been sick and was somewhat questionable for the outing.

Hellickson was going to try to make the start regardless, but the Nats had Jefry Rodriguez in the bullpen ready to go if they needed some emergency relief.

Jeremy Hellickson Throwing Red.jpgWhen Hellickson needed 23 pitches to get through the first inning with one run across the plate, there was reason to be at least mildly concerned. When he needed another 25 pitches to get through the second inning with six more runs across the plate, it seemed to be full-blown panic time.

But manager Davey Martinez left his starter in, long enough for Hellickson to serve up another two-run homer in the fourth and leave his team in a 9-0 hole before finally getting pulled.

"We talked to him after the second inning, and he said he felt good," Martinez said. "His ball was coming out pretty good. So we left him out there. And then he went back out again because, again, he said he felt fine. We needed length. Our bullpen right now is not built for length, even though we had Jefry."

Rodriguez finally did appear in the top of the fifth, and he retired the side on 13 pitches. But when the Nats started rallying in the bottom of the inning and the No. 9 spot in the lineup came up, Martinez didn't hesitate to send up a pinch-hitter for the young righty. (Adam Eaton wound up walking with the bases loaded to force in the team's second run.)

So after all that, Rodriguez was used for only one inning. Why? Martinez explained that he still needed to keep the 24-year-old on track to start Monday in Pittsburgh in place of the injured Erick Fedde.

"Somebody's got to pitch for Fedde," the manager said. "So I didn't want to leave him out there very long, in case he's the guy."

This was a strange game in many ways. Beyond the usage of the Nats bullpen, there also were anomalies within the lineup. Like, who would have thought this team could score 14 runs without getting a single hit from Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon or Daniel Murphy?

Or that this lineup was even capable of scoring 14 runs in the first place, given the way things had been going. This is a team, remember, that had been shut out in seven of its previous 22 games.

Somehow the Nationals have scored 46 total runs in their last 10 games. But here's how they have done it, their run totals for each game: 0, 0, 3, 17, 2, 3, 3, 4, 0, 14.

Maybe that's why, despite the drama that unfolded Thursday night, there wasn't a sense of utter joy inside the clubhouse afterward. Instead, there was a more steady resolve, a recognition that this one remarkable comeback didn't guarantee anything that will come after it.

"It was a good win," Martinez said. "But we've still got stuff to do."

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