Stephen Strasburg’s abbreviated 5 1⁄3-inning start on Saturday night in Citi Field forced Dusty Baker to lean on bullpen more than he would have liked to, but the Nationals’ relievers managed to hold on.
Blake Treinen (1 1⁄3 IP, 0 ER), Matt Grace (1⁄3 IP, 0 ER), Joe Blanton (1/3 IP, 2 H, 2 R), and Enny Romero (1 2⁄3, 3 H, 0 ER) combined to preserve Strasburg’s lead in a 7-4 win in Citi Field.
“Our bullpen did a great job,” Baker told reporters after the game, “... cause they got 11 outs, and that’s a lot of outs for your bullpen. I wanted Stras to get the victory, but he kind of ran out of steam there in that one inning, but good thing we added on and got a couple of runs in the ninth, which was big and ended up being insurance runs.”
Blanton gave up a two-run blast in the bottom of the eighth inning after the Nationals scored two in the top of the inning, and after a one-out single, Baker turned to his left-hander, Romero, who gave up back-to-back, two-out singles and a run before he struck catcher Rene Rivera out to end the frame.
Romero came back out for the ninth after the Nationals added a run, 7-4, and gave up a one-out single by Michael Conforto, bringing Yoenis Cespedes, who’d homered off of Blanton for his fourth hit of the day, to the plate.
Baker made the decision to leave his left-hander in against Cespedes, and Romero got a game-ending double play from the Mets’ slugger.
How’d he make the decision to leave Romero in? Baker pointed to the left-hander’s splits.
“His numbers are about even now,” Baker explained. “He used to be a lot better against righties than against lefties.
“We were hoping that Enny kept the ball down, and you never — when you’ve got great hitters like Cespedes, I mean, boy you hope that he hits it at somebody, because you know he rises to the occasion. The deciding factors were we had [lefty Jay] Bruce up next, if I bring in a righty and the fact that I didn’t have [Oliver] Perez today, wanted to stay away from him, so I couldn’t go to another lefty, I was out of lefties, and then after that they’ve got [Wilmer] Flores and the [Lucas] Duda and all four of those guys can hit the ball out of the ballpark, so it worked.”
“Enny, he threw lights out,” Baker said when asked about the southpaw’s recent run of success. “He’s finding the plate, he’s getting his breaking ball over and he already has an electric fastball.
“Cespedes had already had four hits and had to make a decision do we let [Romero] face Cespedes, that was a real dangerous hitter and then if we go to a righty then they got Bruce up next and then they got Flores who can leave the park then they had Duda up next who can leave the park also, so there is always a time of decision and fortunately for us Enny did his job today.”
It was the second straight day the Nationals’ skipper went at Cespedes and got the Mets’ slugger out.
On Friday, he’d let Max Scherzer stay on to face Cespedes in an 11-pitch battle that ended when the Nationals’ ace got a swinging strike three.
Asked if there was some extra satisfaction in beating a team and retiring their big threat, Baker said he didn’t think of it that way.
“Not really, because you flirt with rattlesnakes, you’re going to get bit, so I’d rather not flirt with him.”
Romero threw 33 pitches, 20 for strikes, on Saturday.
It was his second straight multi-inning, 30+ pitch appearance after he’d thrown 31 in two innings against Atlanta back on June 13th.
It was also the fourth 30+ pitch appearance this month.
Baker turned to Romero again on Monday night with the score tied at 7-7 after seven and a half, and the left-hander worked around a leadoff single in a scoreless, 14-pitch eighth. He went back out for the ninth, and retired the first two batters he faced, but a two-out walk to Dee Gordon, single by Giancarlo Stanton, who hit an 0-2 pitch right at Daniel Murphy that ate the second baseman up.
Christian Yelich walked to load the bases in the next at bat, and Marcell Ozuna stepped in and lined an 0-2 fastball to left-center for a walk-off winner on Romero’s 37th pitch.
“Enny threw the ball great,” Baker said after the loss. “He had Stanton 0-2, and then he had Ozuna 0-2, and he just found too much of the plate.”
Tanner Roark’s rough three-inning outing forced Baker’s hand again, and for the second time in three days, he had to lean on his bullpen.
Getting six innings out of his bullpen, he said, “that’s a huge challenge, but our guys rose to the challenge. We need some innings tomorrow, for sure, it’s just that we couldn’t find the plate sometimes, and then we did find it it was down the middle, and these guys don’t miss them. Like I said, they had them all 0-2, so that’s what makes it tough because they were throwing good.”
Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago we were worrying about how the starters were having to go deep because we were worried about the bullpen...
We’re still sort of worried about the bullpen right? Are we worried about Romero’s high pitch counts?
Last night’s appearance ended a streak of 10 straight appearances and 12 innings pitched in which the left-hander hadn’t allow a run, walking six and striking out 17, while holding hitters to a combined .171/.286/.220 line against.