Ryan Zimmerman talked this past winter about the Washington Nationals’ ultimately fruitless pursuit of some of the top closers available via free agency and trade this offseason.
Asked how important it was to have a lockdown closer at the back of the pen, the 32-year-old veteran explained the obvious.
“When you have a guy that’s — no one is 100%, obviously, but when you have guys that are about as close as it gets to 100%, that’s huge, cause if you win the whole game, if you do things right the entire game, and get to those eighth and ninth innings — you’re going to have blown stuff every now and then, nobody is perfect, but if it starts to happen a lot, it gets frustrating because you’ve won the entire game and then you can’t close it out.”
Bryce Harper, who lined out to center to end Monday’s series opener with the Atlanta Braves, looked plenty frustrated after the Nationals lost yet another game in the bullpen, with a 9-6 lead evaporating over the last two innings in what ended up an 11-10 loss to thei Nats’ NL East rivals.
Nats bullpen breaking Bryce. pic.twitter.com/dcmOmOiGl2— Holden Kushner (@Holdenradio) June 13, 2017
Dusty Baker called on Matt Albers in the top of the eighth after Jacob Turner gave up a solo homer by Matt Adams, a one-out double by Rio Ruiz and a walk to Dansby Swanson that put two on and Enny Romero hit Danny Santana to load them up before a sacrifice fly got the Braves within one, down 9-8.
Albers stranded two and recorded the final out of the frame, but he came back out for the ninth and walked two batters before giving up a three-run home run that put the Braves up for good.
“I think just the couple of walks hurt me today,” Albers told reporters after the blown save and loss.
“Flowers, he hit a decent pitch, it was away, he just hit it out to right field.”
It was the eleventh blown save of the season for a Nationals’ bullpen that started the night with a 4.97 ERA (second-highest in the NL), a 4.62 FIP (second-highest), 30 home runs allowed (fourth-highest), 1.59 HR/9 allowed (highest), a .267 BAA (highest), .313 BABIP-against (fourth-highest), and a 1.49 WHIP (sixth-highest).
By the end of the night, the Nationals’ skipper was stating the obvious.
The division-leading Nats need help, and they need it now.
Asked about Albers’ struggles, Baker said, “You saw what I saw.”
“Usually a guy that throws strikes, walked two and they hit a homer. He’s been our most dependable guy out there. We couldn’t keep them in the ballpark.
“I think they had five home runs off of us and three or four of them were multi-run home runs. You score ten runs, you expect to win.”
Baker didn’t have any answers when he was asked what he could do to keep the bullpen issues from demoralizing the entire team.
“There’s no answers right now,” he said, after Stephen Strasburg gave up three home runs in five innings and Turner and Albers allowed one each.
“I was saying, ‘Let’s score more runs,’ but we scored more runs. Stras usually doesn’t give up homers like that. We’re in a bad streak, you just got to fight. We just got to keep on fighting.”
His team has been fighting, and he said he liked what he saw from them in spite of the issues in the bullpen, especially over the current four-game losing streak.
“I like the fight, big time. We’re kind of underwater during this streak. Every team is going to go through it, but it just seems like we’re getting beat by the homer. I don’t know how many homers we’ve given up, but we’ve given up a lot, especially in the late innings when there are a lot of crooked numbers on that board up there, every inning that they score is a crooked number.”
The answer? It’s not easy, of course, but in the end Baker stated the obvious.
“We need some help,” he said. “We need some help, big time. We’ve been knowing that all along, but I like the fight from our team.”