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Bullpen scoreless streak ends at 27 2/3 innings

May 20, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

AP AP

When Ross Detwiler got Devin Mesoraco to popup to the third baseman in the top of the 15th inning late Monday night, the left-hander extended a streak of dominance by the Nationals bullpen to new, hard-to-fathom lengths.

At that moment, the Nats relief corps had tossed 27 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. That’s more than three full ballgames’ worth of nothing but zeroes, a stretch that lowered the entire group’s season ERA to a ridiculously low 1.97, best in the majors.

All streaks, of course, must come to an end sometime, so when Detwiler served up a 2-run homer to Todd Frazier — the deciding blow in the Nationals’ 4-3 loss to the Reds — those dominant numbers lost some of their significance.

“It was just one bad pitch,” Detwiler said of the 2-1 changeup to Frazier that wound up in the Red Porch seats. “It was stupid. It sucks that our team’s out there fighting all night long, I make one mistake and I pretty much cost us the game.”

Detwiler’s one bad pitch notwithstanding, this recent sustained run of excellence by the Nationals bullpen shouldn’t be ignored. It has helped keep this team — plagued by injuries and inconsistent performances from its star-studded rotation — afloat into late-May.

And that hasn’t been lost on teammates.

“They’re out there every day, and you know they want the ball,” utilityman Kevin Frandsen said. “That’s my favorite part. They always want the ball. No matter how often they’ve thrown, they always want the ball. And I want the ball in all their hands. Especially Ross. In that situation, he’s our long guy there. Unfortunately, it didn’t come about, but I’ll have him out there every time. Like I said, everybody wants the ball. That’s the best part playing behind them, because they want that moment, especially in a tie ballgame, to keep it right there. They did their jobs like they always do.”

After Stephen Strasburg went seven innings Monday night, the bullpen didn’t figure to get much work. Ryan Mattheus entered with the Nationals trailing 2-1 and promptly retired 6-of-7 batters faced, giving his teammates a chance to mount a bottom-of-the-ninth rally against Reds closer Aroldis Chapman. Which they did.

That sent the game into extra innings and ultimately sent all but two members of the current eight-man bullpen (Craig Stammen and Jerry Blevins) into action by night’s end. One-by-one they emerged from the right-field corner — Rafael Soriano, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Aaron Barrett — each delivering the scoreless frames necessary to keep the game going.

“As a bullpen, you go out there and you look to just put up another zero, just get our guys up to the plate with an opportunity,” said Storen, who escaped an 11th-inning jam. “It’s tough. That’s a long game right there. But when you have guys going out and performing the way they are, you feed off them.”

It didn’t pay off at the end of that long game, but even after Detwiler’s 2-run 15th, the Nationals bullpen still ended the night boasting a league-best 2.08 ERA.

The only question now: Who’s available to pitch tonight?

“We’ll see once I get some sleep,” Storen said as he departed the ballpark well after midnight. “We’ve all thrown a lot. We’ll see how it goes.”

  1. Hiram Hover - May 20, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    “Who’s available to pitch tonight?”

    Well, I’ll happily take our two fresh relievers, Stammen and Blevins, over Sean Marshall. the only unused guy in the Reds BP.

    Of course, they have Cueto tonight, who, if he’s economical, could go 10-11 innings all by himself.

    Of the guys who did pitch last night, I want to give special kudos to Barrett. As I’ve pointed out before, Barrett has been pitching well, but MW has also been pretty careful to use him only in low leverage situations this month.

    But man oh man, Barrett gutted out a couple of stressful innings last night.

    • chaz11963 - May 20, 2014 at 10:36 AM

      Agreed HH. I have nothing but impressed by that young man. Great to see him making the most of this opportunity.

      Again… I just don’t know about Det… where is the Det from 2012 Game 4? He just hasn’t been strong and is a consistent disappointment. I get he needs time to transition to the BP… but geeeezzz… serving up a HR in the bottom of the 15th??? That’s just deflating for all of his teammates. He’s a much better pitcher than that.

      • 6ID20 - May 20, 2014 at 11:14 AM

        Time to face facts with Det. He’s. Just. Not. That. Good.

      • Candide - May 20, 2014 at 11:21 AM

        I get he needs time to transition to the BP…

        I don’t understand this. What’s to “transition?” You come into a game and your job is to retire the guy 60′ 6″ away from you. Makes no difference if you’re starting or relieving, whether it’s the first inning or the 15th, whether it’s the first batter of the inning or the third.

        Wasn’t there a game a couple of seasons ago where Jordan Zimmermann was suddenly thrown into the fray as a reliever and struck out the side? You either can retire the batters or you can’t.

    • stoatva - May 20, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      Also, Mattheus showed why the organization has been patient with him, to a fault. When he’s dealing, he gets the job done.

      • NatsNut - May 20, 2014 at 11:30 AM

        stoatva, it was his entrance music. He got smart and finally went back to “Firework.” Note that his crappy year last year came after he changed it. (It’s only weird if it doesn’t work. ;))

    • NatsLady - May 20, 2014 at 12:07 PM

      Off-topic, HH, but this article may address your question on how playoffs are calculated. IF you go on fangraphs, you can see all three methods.

      http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/where-the-marlins-are-one-of-the-best-and-worst-teams-in-baseball/

      At the top of this page are three tabs for the different “modes” of calculating odds.

      http://www.fangraphs.com/coolstandings.aspx

      • Hiram Hover - May 20, 2014 at 1:41 PM

        Very cool, NL – thanks.

        So if I understand their explanation, both projection systems do take Fernandez’s absence into account, but the “season to date” method projects the Marlins with high playoff odds (higher than the Braves and the Nats) because it assumes the remaining Fish will keep playing as they have in 2014–which for a # of them, means essentially career years. The standard “Fangraphs” method assumes those players will revert to something more like their career norms.

        I would also think that in the case of the Fish, reliable projections are harder because they have so many young guys, who just don’t have as long a track record to use as a baseline.

        None of this really matters a lot on May 20, I know, but it’s fun to get an understanding of it now.

  2. tcostant - May 20, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    Some clean up from last night. Before Det came in, i was hoping for Blevins. Bottom line Det was the long man and Blevins should have gone an inning or so first. Also, rather than waste the last pinch hitter in extras with a guy on 2B with no outs, you have to bunt the guy over to 3B and give yourself a chance to get a run w/o a hit.

    • stoatva - May 20, 2014 at 11:03 AM

      Will never be convinced that using Lobaton instead of Roark or Stammen or JZimm wasn’t a huge mistake.

      • 6ID20 - May 20, 2014 at 11:13 AM

        See comments about worst case in the prior thread. Except for Hamilton’s catch, Span would have scored Frandsen from second. But would that same hit from Span been able to score a pitcher running from first?

      • tcostant - May 20, 2014 at 11:15 AM

        Roark was on deck to bunt, but I guess MW changed his mind when a guy was already on 2B. Wrong move Matt, Roark should have been sent up to bunt.

      • 6ID20 - May 20, 2014 at 11:28 AM

        If Roark had been sent up there in that situation last night, we’d likely have a whole different narrative this morning. It would be “Whose fault is it that our pitchers can’t bunt?”

      • Hiram Hover - May 20, 2014 at 11:29 AM

        This is getting silly. You’re now arguing in favor of MW’s decision based on a double hypothetical (what if Frandsen runs into an out and what if Hamilton fails to make a catch on a hit that hadn’t even occurred yet?).

        MW’s decision–bunt Roark or let Lobaton swing away–had to be made on the info available to him at the time. Whichever he picks, there are no guarantees–he’s playing the percentages.

        Even when you factor in Frandsen’s iffy baserunning decisions this season (which I don’t think anyone has mentioned yet), I still think bunting would have been the higher % choice.

      • Section 222 - May 20, 2014 at 11:36 AM

        HH has it right. The bunt was the higher percentage play unless Lobo is a much better hitter than he is. Maybe if Lobo has been catching for 14 innings and you have Ramos on the bench, you bring him up and swing away, but not the other way around.

        Also, even though these kinds of hypos are kind of silly, Span’s lineout too Hamilton wouldn’t have scored Roark from first, but it sure would have scored Frandsen from third.

      • 6ID20 - May 20, 2014 at 11:39 AM

        A successful sac bunt there is also very much a hypothetical. That’s why you consider both best case and worse case when coming to any decision.

  3. Theophilus T.S. - May 20, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    I think the Detwiler issue may be resolved in a way not many currently contemplate. It all depends on how long Gonzalez will be out — given precursors of this event going back at least a month I’m betting he’ll sit for thirty days before they venture putting him back on the active roster. (Certainly the way he’s been pitching doesn’t cry out for rushing him back.) Unless Treinen pitches like Roark, I think he gets two starts and then Detwiler slides into that spot in the rotation. The current lack of a LH starter is glaring and leaves the team vulnerable to a lefty-pack lineup. There are no LHs down on the farm ready to do the job in the majors.

    Speaking of RHs, I see Ohlendorf pitched a great rehab game in his first start at Syracuse. As I said, unless Treinen dazzles I don’t see him filling that spot for any extended period of time — though I hope he becomes part of the picture next season. Ohlendorf could be the next guy up from Syracuse.

    • 6ID20 - May 20, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      Detwiler hasn’t pitched more than two innings in a stretch since last July 3rd. That includes spring training this year. Overlooking the fact that many of the innings he HAS pitched haven’t been good, where are they going to stretch him out to go longer than two?

      • 6ID20 - May 20, 2014 at 11:36 AM

        IOW, Det’s only possible path to ever becoming a Nats starter again is this: DFA, no one else wants him, he signs back on a minor league deal.

      • Theophilus T.S. - May 20, 2014 at 11:48 AM

        I assume Detwiler could go 4+, maybe five. Not ideal, but I really want to be able to trot a LH out there every five days.

  4. alexva6 - May 20, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    I’m taking a different take on this and say that Detwiler should have been in the game in the top of the 11th. If Stammen was available I’d bet that’s when he’d have gone in. If Detwiler is long man #2 then you need to use him as you would Stammen.

    It’s another case of Williams mismanaging the bullpen but in my opinion that is the most difficult part of the job so it is to be expected.

    • 6ID20 - May 20, 2014 at 11:49 AM

      Putting Det in the 11th last night probably would have allowed Metro riders to stay for the whole game, I’ll give you that.

  5. Theophilus T.S. - May 20, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    If Lobaton hits, you’re giving away the possibility of a bunt — because it’s proven that he can’t bunt. If Roark hits, you give away the possibility of swinging away — because, no matter how well he hits he’s clearly there to bunt, and he’s a pitcher. The 1B will be crawling down his throat. At this point, Lobaton is the only bat left on the bench and, assuming the bunt is successful, you give the top of the order a chance to bring in the winning run from third without a hit. (Not to mention you are burning your emergency catcher.) I think the bunt is the right play — and I think Z’mann, not Roark, is the guy you ask to execute it.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2014 at 11:50 AM

      Yes, I would’ve chosen JZim also but Roark is ice in the veins and can handle the bat.

      Soto being an inexperienced 1st baseman with a total of 30 MLB games possibly botched a bunt attempt and being right-handed makes fielding a bunt tough to execute except a play at 1st.

      Think Espi’s dribbler down 1st base line earlier. Those bang bang plays are never routine.

      I wish we had a redo button.

  6. Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    “6ID20 on May 20, 2014 at 11:28 am
    If Roark had been sent up there in that situation last night, we’d likely have a whole different narrative this morning. It would be “Whose fault is it that our pitchers can’t bunt?””

    I see you carried this over here from the previous post. You’re still wrong in your analysis and Roark has 4 successful sac bunts in only 16 plate appearances. He knows how to bunt. All the pressure shifts to the Reds who BTW were playing in for any play at the plate. The chance of Lobaton getting a hit there was not good, so what did you gain?

    • Theophilus T.S. - May 20, 2014 at 11:53 AM

      My rationale for Z’mann is (A) chances of a successful bunt are low, also and (B) I’d pick Z’mann for a hit if he had to swing away on Strike 2 or if he saw an opportunity for a Baltimore Chop. Highly hypothetical but that would be my choice.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2014 at 11:54 AM

        I like your rationale.

      • Theophilus T.S. - May 20, 2014 at 11:54 AM

        Actually, all of the Nats’ starting pitchers, with the exception of Gonzalez, can bunt.

      • 6ID20 - May 20, 2014 at 1:23 PM

        Gio has 20 career sac bunts in 165 PA. Livo had 123 in 1113 PA – a lower percentage. So yeah, Gio can’t bunt.

    • 6ID20 - May 20, 2014 at 11:53 AM

      Don’t go making Roark into Livan Hernandez based on 16 plate appearances. Runner on first, you always try to bunt him over there. Runner on second, there are as many good reasons not to bunt as there are to bunt.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2014 at 11:57 AM

        I was actually in agreement with Theo above as my choice would have been JZim but I’ve seen Roark bunt. Again this isn’t as difficult a bunt since there was no force play.

        I think you stand alone with Matt Williams on this one. The gallery here seems to think you go with the odds. Again, this wasn’t like you had LaRoche on deck where the simple choice was swing away.

  7. jd - May 20, 2014 at 11:58 AM

    Ghost,

    This is not even close. If f the batter is Harper or Werth I can see an argument for trying to win the game with a hit but you are talking about a light hitting backup catcher who plays once a week now. And I agree with you that if executed properly the sac bunt is not that hard a play and Roark is good at it.

    Until last night I was ambivalent about MW. I wasn’t crazy about him but I wasn’t negative about him either. Also, I generally feel that one run games are mostly pot luck but this was managing 101, you really can’t screw up there.

    In answer to the question, what if Roark bunted and they got Frandsen at 3rd? the answer is: you move on, you made the right move and it didn’t work, it happens. I think fans would criticize the execution not the decision in that case.

    I know one thing. The other guy who interviewed for the job and lost out is sitting pretty in Detroit. Do you think Ausmus would have screwed up like that?

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2014 at 12:05 PM

      Thanks for addressing me but I’m 100% with you. Another good analysis by you.

      It’s 6ID20 who has the opposite view.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2014 at 12:09 PM

      Ausmus makes the right choice JD and even Price makes the right choice. No brainer in that situation.

      The Reds announcers were even shocked Lobaton was brought in with wondering if he could bunt. We he swung away they were astonished.

    • NatsLady - May 20, 2014 at 12:13 PM

      I said in the previous thread that after all the discussion of how difficult is is to pinch hit, MW then uses a guy who ISN’T used to pinch hitting vs a NL starting pitcher who IS trained to bunt. Maybe I wouldn’t use Gio to bunt, but JZ or Roark should be able to handle the job, and if Roark doesn’t you aren’t any worse off, you still have two chances to score Frandsen from second base.

      • NatsLady - May 20, 2014 at 12:15 PM

        Worst case is Frandsen is out at third, I guess, and there is no one to pinch run for Roark… I would think Roark could handle being on first base.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2014 at 12:31 PM

        Spot on NatsLady. Davey I remember executed this same play on August 22 last year vs the Cubs. Almost identical situation in extra innings.

        Span led off with a double and Lombo bunted and the catcher fielded it to throw out Lombo at 1st and advanced Span to 3rd.

        Cubs drew in the infield and Tracy hit a weaker grounder to the pitcher to score Span. Nats win.

    • Section 222 - May 20, 2014 at 12:40 PM

      Well argued jd.

      Ghost, you seem to put a lot of stock with what the opposing announcers say about the Nats players and managers. Honestly, would you tell opposing fans that the ought to listen to the off the cuff ruminations of Bob and FP? I wouldn’t. If the Reds announcers had said it was a smart move to PH with Lobo and swing away, I still would think it was the wrong move.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2014 at 12:51 PM

        It’s just an interesting aside. Nothing more nothing less. I did the same thing the other day transcribing the Mets broadcasters on the Soriano pitch to Daniel Murphy and subsequent catch by Werth.

        I am intrigued by how the competition sees the situation.

      • jd - May 20, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        222,

        You know, I generally don’t stress over one run loses because I think you will generally win some and lose some. The fact that you are in a 1 run game indicates that the 2 teams are close and the game will be decided by a mistake here or there. Fight another day.

        What bothered me last night was that I think the manager lost the game for us and that shouldn’t be, ever. The manager needs to be either an asset or neutral. The games is too hard to lose based on bad decisions.

  8. NatsLady - May 20, 2014 at 12:11 PM

    I have heard twice that the A’s need starting pitching depth, and that is why they claimed Jeff Francis (LHP) off waivers. from the Reds the other day. You figure if that doesn’t work out Billy and Mike will be on the phone? Personally, I hope Det works out in the bullpen, because the idea of a fireballing lefty is fantastic. But my heart wouldn’t break if he went to Oakland–unless we face him in the WS.

    • letswin3 - May 20, 2014 at 12:37 PM

      There ya go. Do they have a second baseman in the minors that can hit a little and get on base? If so, send them Det and wish him good luck. We could even sweeten the pot a little for a trade like that. I was hopeful that Det would be a real pro and give the BP every chance to show that he can get an inning (and maybe 2) with efficiency, but he’s looked like he’s just “showing up”, without giving it the full 100%, all year.

  9. jd - May 20, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    NL,

    I agree with you but I am not sure Det is embracing the opportunity, I think he wants to start. Lefties who throw mid 90’s will always get a million chances. Oliver Perez kept failing and bouncing back. Det will make a good living, probably not with us. The problem is that I think his value in a trade isn’t what we’d like.

    I think MW needs to continue sending him out there in lower stress situations. Maybe if he starts having success he’l warm up to the BP idea.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 20, 2014 at 12:41 PM

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Rizzo raises the ceiling in his office today in some closed door meetings. Rizzo is a smart enough baseball man to know how bad that decision not to bunt was. A 1-4 record in extra innings is poor and the managerial decisions in handling the 14th have to be questioned.

      In addition, Detwiler doesn’t look happy to me and I remember how unhappy Lannan was when he got AAA’d in 2012 and how he stepped up when called upon for a spot start like a true professional. Yes, Det could start for many teams but that’s not going to happen in DC.

      Detwiler is a problem and it has to be fixed. Rizzo made the right choice in removing him from the starters role but now his value is diminished some.

      I hope they can fix it as fireballer lefty relievers are rare.

    • NatsLady - May 20, 2014 at 2:03 PM

      Yes, that is why he might fare better in Oakland if they need starters, as evidenced by them picking up Jeff Francis. Det might benefit from the change of scenery even if they do use him in the bullpen for a while. There just aren’t going to be openings here (I sincerely HOPE) and he watches minor-leaguer after minor-leaguer get spot starts ahead of him.

  10. letswin3 - May 20, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    I was pleased to see Mattheus deliver a couple of really good innings last night. I think he’s an asset and can provide some tough innings when called upon. His goofy encounter with that locker last year was likely little more than the end result of a hugely competitive guy being a slave to his testosterone charged emotions …. and I’m satisfied that there will not be another stupid recurrence of that kind of sophomoric behavior. It looks like he might bounce around a little between AAA and The Nats as they need to fill some starts, but I’m a Mattheus fan, and hope that he gets more calls as the season progresses.

    • tcostant - May 20, 2014 at 1:14 PM

      I was at the game and I heard the Firework song for the first time since Mattheus’ been back, it made me smile and he pitched well.

    • adcwonk - May 20, 2014 at 2:13 PM

      Yeah, but look at his ERA this year!

      0.00
      ;-)

  11. Sec 3 My Sofa - May 20, 2014 at 2:15 PM

    FWIW, Maybe it wasn’t as ckear as all that
    http://m.washingtonpost.com/blogs/nationals-journal/wp/2014/05/20/examining-matt-williamss-decision-in-the-14th/

    I’d have bunted anyway. But there are no sure things.

  12. Sec 3 My Sofa - May 20, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    *clear

  13. langleyclub - May 20, 2014 at 3:02 PM

    Funny to hear the claim that MW is mismanaging the bullpen, when they just ended a scoreless streak of 27+ innings, and the Nats have the best bullpen ERA in baseball. When your offense scores two runs off Mike Leake, and several Reds relievers not named Aroldis Chapman, that is how you waste a quality start, and 7 innings of superior relief. Not sure how anyone could watch that game, and pin the loss on the bullpen.

    Also, bunting a player over to third is far from an automatic. A bad bunt, and not only does the runner fail to move up to third, but you now have an out with Tanner Roark at first. Have no problem with trying to win the game by taking three shots with a runner on 2nd.

  14. Sec 3 My Sofa - May 20, 2014 at 5:09 PM

    I think you pin this loss on the Reds’ D and go get some sleep.

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ATLANTA 72 65 6.0
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