ST. LOUIS - On the heels of back-to-back bullpen implosions caused both by injury and poor performance, the Nationals brought in two new relievers - Tim Collins and Trevor Gott - for tonight’s game against the Cardinals and removed Ryan Madson and Sammy Solís from the active roster.
Madson, who turned a 3-0 lead into a 4-3 loss via David Bote’s walk-off grand slam Sunday night in Chicago, was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a back injury (the official diagnosis was lumbar nerve root irritation). Solís, who gave up a critical three-run homer to Matt Carpenter during Monday night’s loss at Busch Stadium, was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.
Collins, who has made 47 combined appearances between Washington and Syracuse this season, had his contract purchased and will become the club’s primary left-handed matchup reliever. Gott, who has bounced back and forth between the majors and minors the last two seasons, provides another fresh arm from the right side.
Erick Fedde, still rehabbing from right shoulder inflammation, was transferred from the 10-day DL to the 60-day DL to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Collins.
Though Madson was hoping to avoid a DL stint, the Nationals couldn’t take any chances with the 37-year-old reliever, who on the heels of Sunday’s loss wasn’t available to pitch Monday night.
“We’re going to DL him and hopefully get him right,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He was a little sore today. He went through a bunch of treatment yesterday, and he said he was still sore. So I think the DL was the best thing for him.”
Madson said he had been experiencing back pain that at times shot down his right leg for a few days, but that he didn’t believe it affected his ability to pitch until Sunday night’s game. Even then, he only brought the ailment to anyone’s attention when he spoke to reporters after taking the loss, with Martinez finding out after that.
Madson thus becomes the third closer the Nationals have placed on the DL in the last five weeks, joining Sean Doolittle (stress reaction in left foot) and Kelvin Herrera (right shoulder inflammation). Both have been throwing in recent days, and Doolittle went through a full bullpen mound session this afternoon, though he admitted he’s still dealing with some rust.
Doolittle is trying to change his mechanics in an attempt to avoid a recurrence of issues with his back foot and allow him to finish out the season. It’s admittedly been difficult for him to watch the events of the last few nights in particular and not be able to help.
“I’m trying everything I can think of, and we are making progress,” he said. “It’s just against the backdrop of how the last few games have gone, it’s just a little bit extra frustrating not to be able to help.
At this point, Martinez said he’ll likely go with Koda Glover (who impressed in his first two big league appearances of the season but surrendered Monday night’s game-ending homer to Paul DeJong) as his closer. But the hard-throwing righty probably isn’t available tonight, having pitched three of the last four days.
That leaves Justin Miller, owner of one career save, as the potential closer tonight should the Nationals find themselves in position to need one.
Collins, meanwhile, takes over for the struggling Solís as the matchup lefty in the bullpen. It’s been a trying season for Solís, who has a 5.24 ERA and has allowed opposing hitters to compile an .871 OPS against him. The 30-year-old now heads back to Triple-A for the second time this summer to try to get himself right.
“He’s got to keep his head up,” Martinez said. “At some point, he’s going to be back and he’s going to help us. But we’ve got to get him out and figure out what’s going on.”
Update: If the Nationals are going to be in a position to need their bullpen late in tonight’s game, they’re going to have to make up an early 3-0 deficit. The Cardinals scored all three runs off Gio Gonzalez in the bottom of the second, getting a leadoff double from DeJong, a sacrifice fly by Harrison Bader, a two-out walk drawn by No. 8 hitter Kolten Wong and then a two-run homer by John Gant. Yes, the pitcher. The pitcher who entered tonight having failed to reach base in any of his 35 previous major league at-bats. That’s a good summation of the state of the Nationals right now.
Update II: This was not the start the Nationals wanted out of Gonzalez. He lasted only four innings. He gave up five runs on five hits and three walks (with all three of those runners coming around to score). He threw 78 pitches. He has left the Nats bullpen to provide at least four innings tonight. The lone bright spot: Matt Wieters has gotten hot. His RBI single in the fifth leaves him 9 for his last 17, and he has the Nats on the board. They trail 5-1 heading to the bottom of the fifth.
Update III: Well, they’re showing some life at last. Down 6-1 in the eighth, the Nats scored three runs to make a game of this. Bryce Harper hit his 30th homer of the season, a two-run shot just inside the left field foul pole. Daniel Murphy added an RBI single to make it 6-4, but then Matt Adams struck out looking at an 0-2 curveball on the black. So they’ll get one more shot in the ninth, but they’ll be trailing by at least two runs when they do it.