WASHINGTON, D.C.: In an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies this week, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo was asked if there was any one move he could point to that made the difference for the Nats, and got them to where they are now, headed for a postseason appearance for the fourth time in the last six seasons.
Rizzo’s answer? You can probably guess. It was the trade that brought Nationals’ closer Sean Doolittle and eighth-inning man, Ryan Madson to Washington.
“I think it’s pretty — in my mind it’s pretty clear,” Rizzo said, “what the one move that we made — I think the best move that we made — the best move the we made, the best decision that we made, the best strategy we employed to get the best deal we could, was when we went to Oakland and got two relievers when people thought we were were going after one.
“I thought that set us up for the other two trade moves that we did, and I think the trade to get Madson and Doolittle in the same trade about three weeks before the deadline was I think crucial to putting in play the rest of the trade deadline strategy and scenarios.”
Rizzo had said previously that acquiring the two relievers from the A’s, took away the whiff of desperation surrounding their beleaguered and undermanned relief corps, so that he could make another deal for a reliever when the non-waiver deadline came.
“I thought it really put us in a good position and gave us a little bit of added leverage when we did the Doolittle/Madson deal early,” Rizzo explained in an August interview with The Sports Junkies, “because now we weren’t ‘desperate’ to make a deal at the deadline, and that’s never a good position to be in.”
“I think that was the deal that we needed to make,” he reiterated this week, “to get both relievers in the same deal I thought was crucial, the strategy we employed was really, really good.”
“I felt bad,” Rizzo said. “I felt bad that we didn’t help the team and help the bullpen enough throughout the season and I was hellbent on doing our part by fixing the bullpen and getting them better.
“I thought we owed it to the team to make a couple of big moves and to improve the part of the roster that wasn’t performing well.”
One of the relievers that was performing well, however, and has continued to was one that signed this Spring, Matt Albers.
With a scoreless inning on Saturday, the veteran right-hander extended a streak of scoreless appearances to 17-straight, going back to August 8th.
Over that stretch, the 34-year-old, 12-year veteran has walked four, struck out 17, and held opposing hitters to a .082/.167/.082 line against in 16 innings, leaving him with a 1.60 ERA, 17 walks, 60 Ks and a .168/.244/.276 line against overall in 56 1⁄3 IP on the season.
Albers has held opposing hitters to a .182 AVG on his four-seamer, a .174 AVG on his sinker, and a .182 AVG on his slider.
Dusty Baker told reporters after Albers’ latest appearance that he wasn’t aware how long the reliever’s scoreless inning has stretched on.
“I didn’t even know that,” Baker said. “I was just enjoying the ride that he’s on. Every good team that I’ve been on, you got to have somebody to come in and get — you play the games to get to the middle relief of another team, because the starters are usually tough, the back end of your bullpen is usually tough, the set-up man and the closer, so I always say, if you can get to the team’s middle relief before they get to the back end, then we’ve got a heck of a chance.”
“Our middle relief happens to be pretty — very good,” Baker added.
“And I think [Albers] can handle almost anything, especially the fact that he was set-up man and closer prior to the trades, so almost every situation we’ve brought him into he’s — man, he’s done an outstanding job. Like I said, he was the find of the year for baseball.”