Shawn Kelley took the mound for the first time in 2017 with a 2-0 lead in the seventh inning last night as the Washington Nationals tried to complete a three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins.
A leadoff walk to Christian Yelich was not a good way to start, but Kelley retired the next two batters he faced.
Marlins’ catcher J.T. Realmuto, who was 5 for 9 with a home run and two walks in the series to that point (and who ended the series 7 for 12 with a double, two home runs and two walks), stepped in against Kelley and hit a hanging 1-1 slider to left-center field, tying the game with his second home run of the series.
“Just hung a slider,” Kelley told reporters after the game.
“Got a little too much plate and like you say, he’s swinging a good bat and he put the barrel on it and did what he’s supposed to do with that pitch.”
“It just comes down to execution, really. 1-1 is a good aggressive count for him to take a swing and that’s when I usually make my best pitches and I didn’t tonight.”
Ryan Zimmerman’s eighth-inning home run put the Nationals back on top, 3-2, but another leadoff walk to Adeiny Hechavarris, this time from Sammy Solis in the top of the ninth, started a second rally by the Marlins.
Solis gave up a single by Derek Dietrich, but got a double play out of Dee Gordon, which left a runner (the leadoff walk) on third with two down.
Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker brought Blake Treinen on to face pinch hitter Tyler Moore, who hit a 97 mph 2-2 sinker back up the middle for a game-tying, two-out RBI single.
It went to extras before Realmuto connected for a two-out single off Joe Blanton in the tenth, and scored on an RBI double to left by Justin Bour that made it 4-3 Fish.
“Well, I mean, you’ve got to give them some credit over there,” Baker said after the Nats’ first loss of the season.
“I mean, they hit our best out of the bullpen. I thought we were out of [the ninth] inning with two strikes on T-Mo, and Realmuto, he was a thorn in our side the whole series.”
Baker was asked if he thought the irregular work over the first week had an effect on his relievers.
“I don’t know it was effects of anything other than them hitting some pretty good pitches,” Baker said.
To be clear, one rough night for a couple relievers hasn’t soured Baker on his bullpen.
“Any time the opposition — they beat us in the eighth, ninth and tenth,” he told reporters.
“They outscored us, but no, my bullpen, I love my bullpen. These guys are going to be one of the best if they’re not already. So, that was a tough one to lose, but that showed a lot of perseverance on their side over there.”
He was asked why he went with Solis to start the ninth. Did Zimmerman’s late home run leave too little time to warm Treinen up? Did he like the matchups with Solis?
“We wanted the matchups anyway because they had some tough hitters coming up there,” Baker explained.
“We knew Hechavarria is better against lefties but he’s not going to really hit the ball out of the ballpark, but Dietrich is dynamite against righties and not very good against lefties and he flared that ball in there, Sammy jammed the heck out of him, then we had Gordon up next, he hadn’t swung the bat very good this series, especially against left-handers.
“Historically he’s better against left-handers, but our left-handers are different than most left-handers and then we had Treinen to come in with T-Mo because we knew that they were probably going to use T-Mo instead of their last catcher in [A.J.] Ellis and we liked that matchup and he had just jammed him real bad the pitch before that, and so he fought that ball up the middle on him, and again that was good hitting on his part.”
And Shawn Kelley? Was he a little rusty?
“Like I said,” Baker reiterated, “I wanted to get these guys in because they hadn’t thrown in a while.
“But again, Realmuto, he was hitting everybody and so, like I said, it was a very good game. Sometimes the hitters hit you. These guys are getting paid to hit you just like our guys are getting paid to get them out.
“So, I know it doesn’t always go your way, if it did we would win every game. It was a very good series, we won the series, but we would have loved to have one today.”
We talked about the loss, the bullpen and those silly no-pitch intentional walks on Nats Nightly after the game:
AUDIO: #Nats Nightly w/ FBB's Doghouse on the #Nationals' 4-3 loss to the #LetsGoFish, stupid intentional BB rule: https://t.co/9BUp9CkAig— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) April 7, 2017