The Nationals and Braves both attempted to improve their bullpens at the July 31 trade deadline.
So far, the Nats have gotten the better end of the deals. Even without Roenis Elías for most of the last three weeks due to injury, the additions of Hunter Strickland and Daniel Hudson have outshone the Braves acquisitions of Chris Martin, Mark Melancon and Shane Greene.
In Friday night’s nail-biting 2-1 Nationals win over the Brewers, Hudson and Strickland bridged shutout seventh and eighth innings to allow Sean Doolittle to do his work in the ninth. Their work came after Patrick Corbin pitched six innings, giving up only one run,
“I liked the matchups with Hudson right there, then with Strickland at the bottom,” said Nationals manager Davey Martinez. “Able to get that run for Doolittle late.”
Even without left-handed hitters coming up for a bit, Martinez showed some crafty managing by getting lefty Matt Grace up in the ‘pen at one point. It made Brewers manager Craig Counsell think twice about his pinch-hitting choices. Martinez didn’t end up using Grace, but the showcase had an impact.
“Little something, something there,” said Martinez. “We got two outs there, I thought Strickland, even if he walks this guy, we have two more righties up.”
The success of the Nats bullpen in the one-run win was an example of general manager Mike Rizzo’s baseball acumen in action. Similar to what he did with the acquisitions of Gerardo Parra and Asdrúbal Cabrera, Rizzo appears to have made the right moves in mid-season to help the team to its ultimate goal.
In the bigger picture, if the trio of relievers Rizzo acquired can continue to pitch as well as they have since Aug. 1, Rizzo might have fixed the Nats’ biggest weakness during their 19-31 stumbling start.
Contrast the work of Hudson, Strickland and Elias with the three bullpen arms the Braves acquired, and the difference is stark.
Since, Aug. 1, Greene, Martin and Melancon have combined to pitch 16 1/3 innings, allowing 19 earned runs on 31 hits. Their combined ERA is a whopping 10.47.
Meanwhile, the Nationals’ newcomers have tossed 15 1/3 innings, allowing only two earned runs on 10 hits. Their combined ERA during that same span is 1.17.
Hudson has put together a 1.17 ERA himself in August, and Strickland is at a 1.50 ERA for the month. Greene has an 11.81 ERA, former Nats pitcher Melancon a 10.13 ERA and Martin a 9.53 ERA.
It has only been 17 days, but that is certainly good run for the updated Nationals bullpen.
Now that Hudson and Strickland are available, Martinez has options of hurlers that can throw 95-98 mph stuff that challenges hitters during the final innings. For the Braves, their new trio has struggled.
With the Nats’ win over the Brewers and the Braves’ loss to the Dodgers, the Nats trail first-place Atlanta by 4 1/2 games in the National League East.