Jefry Rodriguez struggled to throw strikes early in Sunday afternoon’s outing against the Milwaukee Brewers, giving up two walks, two singles, and two runs in a long-ish, 25-pitch top of the first.
Then he gave up back-to-back-to-back, two-out walks in the top of the third inning, loading the bases before getting a groundout for out No. 3 with his 31st pitch of the frame and 67th pitch of the game.
After the Nationals jumped out to a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the third, Rodriguez worked around his sixth walk of the game in a 15-pitch fourth that left him at 82 pitches, but Eric Thames doubled with one down in the fifth inning, and Manny Pina singled one out later, on a weak shot back to the mound the pitcher couldn’t handle. Keon Broxton hit a 2-0 fastball for three-run home run to center in the next at bat to make it 5-4 game in the Brewers’ favor.
A single by Orlando Arcia, and free pass to the opposing pitcher, Brandon Woodruff, which was Rodriguez’s seventh walk of the game, ended his outing two batters after Broxton’s HR.
Jefry Rodriguez’s Line: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 7 BB, 2 Ks, 1 HR, 100 P, 50 S, 6/3 GO/FO.
Should Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez have pulled the plug sooner? Like after the two-out hit by Thames in the fifth, or after the single that followed, before the three-run homer? Or at least after the homer, before he put two more runners on that eventually scored?
“It’s the bottom of the order,” Martinez explained. “To that point nobody really hit the ball very hard, and then all of a sudden he just — that one — [Pina’s] little bloop line drive he couldn’t make the play on, and then the Broxton, 2-0, he tried to go in and he made a bad pitch, then he walks the pitcher, so I mean, [Tim] Collins comes in the game then the wheels really fell off.”
Collins walked Hernan Perez to load the bases and gave up a grand slam by Christian Yelich, 9-4.
“[Rodriguez] battled,” Martinez said. “Which I actually liked. I want to see him go through those struggles, because if he’s going to pitch here he’s got to do that, and like I said, it’s the bottom of the order.”
So he wanted to see how the rookie starter would respond to adversity?
“Like I said I wanted to see him get through the bottom of the order, knowing the status of our bullpen,” Martinez said. “And he had the bottom of the order. [Pina] didn’t hit the ball hard, then obviously he gave up the home run, then the pitcher’s up, and when he walked the pitcher, that was enough. He had  pitches, so...”
In referring to the “status of our bullpen,” Martinez explained, he didn’t have Matt Grace, Wander Suero, or Jimmy Cordero available, and he wanted to avoid Koda Glover, so he stuck with Rodriguez longer than he might have on another day.
With all the runners he put on with seven hits and seven walks, however, Rodriguez threw a lot of high-stress pitches over the course of his outing, but the Nationals’ first-year skipper said they were watching him closely to see how he looked before they made any decisions.
‘We watched him,” Martinez told reporters. “We took him, and just watched him. Like I said, he pitched out of jams, but nobody was really making solid contact, but we talked about this earlier today, it’s the walks, pitching ahead.
“When you fall behind here, it’s tough. They’re pretty good hitters. So it’s pitching ahead and that’s something that we’ve got to keep harping on him because he’s got really good stuff, he had good stuff, just couldn’t throw strikes consistently.”
“All I was really trying to do was get ahead on the hitters and throw the ball pretty much down the middle,” Rodriguez said, through a translator, after the loss.
Did he hit a wall/run out of gas in the fifth, when things started to get out of hand?
“I felt good. The only mindset I had was, ‘Keep battling, keep battling, keep battling,’ throughout the inning,” he said.
“The biggest thing that I learned is you’ve got to keep battling,” Rodriguez continued when asked about all the jams he found himself on Sunday.
“I didn’t have the best command out there today, but I never gave up and kept battling and trying to get through those situations.”