Enny Romero, Justin Turner, and Blake Treinen combined for three scoreless out of the bullpen after Tanner Roark went six innings on the mound against Texas in the first of three with the Rangers in D.C. on Friday night.
Dusty Baker told reporters on Saturday afternoon he liked what he saw from Treinen, in particular, in his last few appearances, after using the sinker-balling right-hander sparingly as he tried to get him back on track following a rough start to the 2017 campaign.
“He’s throwing strikes and he’s being more aggressive in the strike zone,” Baker said, “and we certainly need Blake, big time, we need Blake to return to form, but it starts one day at a time, you can’t make up two months in a day, so he’s had two good outings and you hope to make it three, then four, and the next thing you know he’s back to form.
“We didn’t like not using him, but I’m sure he didn’t like not pitching like Blake can pitch.”
Sunday’s series finale provided another opportunity for Treinen to do his thing, induce a ground ball to start a double play in a tough situation.
Max Scherzer held the Rangers to one run through seven innings, but ran into trouble in the eighth, when Delino DeShields reached on an error, and Jurickson Profar walked, bringing Shin-Soo Choo to the plate.
Choo, at that point, was 2 for 3 with a home run against Scherzer on the day and 14 for 24 against the Nationals’ ace in their respective careers, so Baker went to Oliver Perez, who walked Choo to load the bases in what was still a 1-1 game to that point.
Treinen took over and threw a fastball when catcher Matt Wieters was waiting for a slider, leading to a passed ball that allowed the go-ahead run to score, 2-1.
Elvis Andrus followed with a high chopper over third to bring in two more and a sac fly capped off four-run inning that gave the Rangers the finale and a sweep of the three-game set.
Baker said he wasn’t sure if Wieters and Treinen crossed one another up on the passed ball.
“I don’t know. I don’t know if he was crossed up or not,” Baker said, “I mean, the ball moved on him, sometimes you just miss them.”
Wieters said there was definitely some miscommunication.
“Yeah, just a little cross-up,” he said, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr.
“It’s just unfortunate it happens with the bases loaded and nobody out. We will work on it and improve and get on the same page.
“Looking for a slider. Blake’s got such a good sinker, at 98 mph it was tough. Some guys, I can get the glove back over for, I couldn’t get the glove over for him.”
Baker was asked if another bullpen blow-up was easier to swallow with the way things went down on in the Nationals’ third straight loss.
“It’s not easy to swallow,” he said, “but you know there’s not a whole bunch that you can do about that, you know.
“I didn’t see on the replay, but that ball [on Andrus’ triple] had to just hit the chalk or be inside the chalk, and it was bounding high enough where Anthony couldn’t even jump for it. Like I said, it was a bad weekend, we’ve got to get rid of it, go get some rest tonight and come back against the Braves smoking tomorrow.”
It’s not going to get any easier, of course. Joe Blanton returned to the bullpen on Sunday... after Koda Glover landed on the 10-Day DL with a lower back issue.
“It doesn’t make it any easier,” Baker acknowledged “and it hasn’t been easy so far, so why do you expect it to get easy now. It’s been very difficult, but we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do, mix and match and hope that the guys that we bring in do the job, one thing’s for sure, we keep getting deep games like that, it makes it easier.”
In spite of their struggles, Baker said there’s no point in kicking his relievers while they’re down when he was asked what, if anything, he says to them about their struggles.
“After I take them out, what can you say then?” he asked rhetorically.
“How many times can you say, ‘Stick with it,’ or, ‘Keep your head up,’ or ‘Be confident,’ we’ve said a lot of things that are necessary to say and then after a while, you’re just blowing smoke by saying it.”
He also added that he doesn’t see any reason to kick his relievers while they’re down.
“We just got to — we’ve got to hug them and love them and sometimes when they don’t do what they’re supposed to do then you chastise them,” he told reporters.
“But you don’t kick people when they’re down, that’s what everybody wants you to do.
“They want you to kick them while they’re down, but all that does is pour dirt on people, so I tend to be harder on guys when they’re doing well so they keep doing well and don’t get complacent, versus kicking when they’re down.
“They’re getting kicked enough by you guys and everybody else.”