Before Tuesday night's game against the Cleveland Indians, Washington Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker was asked for his thoughts on the Nats missing out on his former closer with the Cincinnati Reds, Aroldis Chapman, who was dealt to the Chicago Cubs after the Nationals and others made a play for the hard-throwing lefty.
"Disappointing," Baker said, as quoted by MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince. "Would've liked to have him. It makes [the Cubs] tougher. But it doesn't make them the victor yet."
ESPN.com's Jayson Stark wrote on Tuesday night that Washington was continuing to search for a closer after missing out on Chapman:
"The Nationals were in on Aroldis Chapman right to the end. Now, according to clubs talking with them, they are turning their attention to other big-name closers. Andrew Miller, Wade Davis and David Robertson are on the Nats' radar, but the price might be too hefty, especially for Miller or Davis, neither of whom is a lock to be moved before the deadline."
New York and Kansas City's asking price for Miller and Davis, respectively, and Washington's reluctance to trade top prospects like Lucas Giolito, Trea Turner and Reynaldo Lopez, "would take the Nationals out of the running for either," Stark wrote.
What would it take to get Robertson from the Chicago White Sox? Stark writes that if the Nationals are willing to take on most of the $25M he's due over the next two seasons (2017-18), the asking price would be significantly lower.
"Nevertheless," he concluded, "the Nationals clearly remain focused on adding a reliever who can close for them this year and beyond."
A few hours after Baker's comments on Chapman confirmed (if there was any lingering doubt) that the Nationals were, in fact, in the market for a closer-type reliever, Jonathan Papelbon blew his third save of the season in a 7-6 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
Papelbon took the mound in Progressive Field with a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the ninth, after the Nationals added a run, but left the bases loaded in the top of the inning.
He threw 15 pitches before he was lifted, having given up a leadoff walk, RBI double, sac bunt, on which an error by Ryan Zimmerman allowed the tying run to score, an intentional walk and finally a base-loading hit that bounced off a diving Anthony Rendon's glove.
Oliver Perez got one out without the winning run scoring, but a walk-off single to right by Francisco Lindor completed the Indians' comeback.
Papelbon on back-to-back losses: "My confidence in this game has never fluctuated. It never will."— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) July 27, 2016
It was Cleveland's 15th win in their last 19 home games, their 27th win in 43 home games in 2016 and their 18th come-from-behind victory of the season.
"That's an ugly way to lose one," Baker told reporters. "You know these guys are tough here, you know they don't quit here.
"My immediate reaction is we could have blown the game open in the [ninth] and then you're asking for trouble when you walk the leadoff man and then they got the pinch hit, the bunt play was bunted perfectly -- I'm sure he wasn't trying to do that -- and, boy, then after that it was game time. I'm lost for words, cause like I said that's an ugly way to lose one."
Asked how Papelbon looked to him, Baker said simply, "He doesn't have his command, which is evident when he walked the leadoff hitter, but it's like, what do you say?
"How does he look? Well, right now he doesn't look like Pap. He doesn't look very good. And usually he doesn't walk people like that.
"Some strange things have happened in this park, cause you know these guys are tough here and they don't give up.
"They chipped away. We hit a couple line drive double plays. Then the ball caroms off of [Rendon's] glove. I guess that's just the way the ball is bouncing. Just wasn't bouncing our way."
Baker was asked if it was time to make changes at the back end of the bullpen, or if it was too soon after the loss to make that kind of decision?
"It's too soon after," he said. "That's his job and that's what he's getting paid for. I don't know, we just have to go back to the drawing board. It's too early to say after the game."
If they have a lead in the ninth tomorrow afternoon... who will Baker turn to?
Papelbon on recent bad stretch: "I wouldn’t call it a stretch, by any means. I’d call it a couple bad outings."— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) July 27, 2016