Aug 19, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
As much as Matt Williams is thrilled to have seen his team win seven straight games, the last three of them in dramatic walk-off fashion, the last two of them in extra innings, the Nationals manager does realize there’s one caveat to all this recent excitement.
“It doesn’t help your bullpen, for sure,” he said following last night’s 5-4, 11-inning win over the Diamondbacks.
Indeed, the state of the Nationals’ bullpen right now is less than ideal. Consider how much the following pitchers have worked…
— Rafael Soriano (4 appearances in 6 days, 77 total pitches)
— Tyler Clippard (5 appearances in 6 days, 51 total pitches)
— Craig Stammen (2 appearances in 3 days, 55 total pitches)
— Matt Thornton (3 appearances in 3 days, 33 total pitches)
— Drew Storen (3 appearances in 6 days, 33 total pitches)
— Ross Detwiler (1 appearance in 2 days, 27 total pitches)
— Jerry Blevins (1 appearance in 4 days, 2 total pitches)
Obviously, the top four relievers on that list are in desperate need of some rest. Soriano was unavailable last night and might be unavailable again tonight as he recovers both physically and mentally from his recent struggles. Clippard can’t possibly be available tonight given his workload. Williams probably doesn’t want to have to use Thornton, as good as he’s been, four straight days. And Stammen would figure to be only a last resort given the three innings he pitched Saturday night and then his wild (and stressful) escape act in the top of the 11th last night.
This becomes one of Williams’ toughest balancing acts as manager.
“We want to make sure we’re mindful of everybody’s health and their load,” he said. “But we get in a situation where we can win a game, we’ve got to try and do that, too. It’s not easy, but it is baseball. That’s why it’s such a wonderful game. We’ve got to play it until the end, until the last out’s made.”
To their credit, Nationals relievers aren’t complaining about the intense workload, or using that as an excuse when they give up a run.
“I don’t think it’s taking a toll,” Stammen said. “We like pitching in close games. All of us, all seven of us, would like to pitch in the ninth inning with the game on the line. That’s what we’re built for, that’s what got us here. So I think we’re excited to take the ball whenever we can.”
Maybe so, but you better believe Williams would love to see Stephen Strasburg go seven or more innings tonight. And he’d also love to see his Nationals hold a sizable lead late, avoiding both high-leverage situations and especially extra innings for a change.
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