Gio Gonzalez threw 116 pitches in 5 2⁄3 innings pitched Friday night in SunTrust Park, forcing Washington Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker to go to the bullpen earlier than he’d hoped in what ended up a 7-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
“He threw a lot of pitches,” Baker told reporters when asked about Gonzalez’s outing after the game.
“I was hoping he would go deeper in the game, but that’s what happens when you throw a lot of pitches.
“My bullpen is getting roughed up, and they just beat us tonight.”
Gonzalez left the game with the score tied at 4-4, with Matt Grace finishing off the Braves’ sixth.
Shawn Kelley loaded the bases in the seventh, but completed a scoreless, 31-pitch frame, but Enny Romero wasn’t so lucky.
Romero walked Brandon Phillips with one down in the bottom of the eighth inning, and Phillips stole second base before scoring on an RBI single by Nick Markakis, who battled Romero for eight pitches then lined a fastball to right field to bring in the what ended up being the winning run.
“The key was walking Brandon Phillips late,” Baker said.
“Then Markakis, who usually doesn’t hit lefties as well — but when [Romero] couldn’t get [his] secondary pitches over then they were sitting on fastballs and that was kind of the ballgame.”
Markakis started the night off 7 for 24 (.292/.346/.375) in 26 plate appearances against left-handers this season (vs .320/.400/.410 against RHPs in 140 PAs), though his 2016 splits were more dramatic (.243/.303/.309 in 201 PAs vs LHPs vs .280/.364/.435 vs RHPs) and off of his career averages (.283/.337/.384 vs LHPs vs .292/.368/.444 vs RHPs).
He was 0 for 4 against Gonzalez tonight before he stepped in against Romero and got the big hit.
Baker was asked about his bullpen management late and how he made the decisions on which relievers to throw out there.
“I mean, you pick’em, you know what I mean,” he said. “Right now we’re kind of limping.
“We didn’t really want to go to [Matt] Albers, he’s thrown like five out of six or whatever the number is.
“Didn’t want to go to [Koda] Glover that early, because Glover was the closer tonight. Didn’t like the matchup with [Oliver] Perez.”
Roughed up and limping like they are, does the Nationals’ skipper think they need to bring in help for tomorrow’s game?
“No, not tomorrow, but we need some help period, but who’s going to give you some help? You know what I mean?”
It’s not the best time to be trading for bullpen help. Baker said as much last weekend, after another late-game loss.
“Probably not, no,” he reiterated tonight.
Is there help in the minors?
“I don’t know,” Baker said. “I’m not in the minor leagues, so, all I can do is see reports and people upstairs keep track on the minors, I see reports, but I can’t really tell you.”