Tanner Rainey took the mound with the Washington Nationals ahead 5-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning on Saturday afternoon and walked back-to-back batters in front of the Detroit Tigers’ DH, Miguel Cabrera, who hit a 98+ MPH 1-1 fastball straight down, off home plate and over Anthony Rendon at third base on a hop for an RBI single that drove the first batter to walk in and made it a 5-4 game.
That was it for Rainey, but the second batter he walked scored with Javy Guerra on the hill, and the Tigers scored three runs total in the inning, then added another run in what ended up a 7-5 win in Comerica Park.
When the outing was over for Rainey, he’d walked four of the last eight batters he’d faced, and eight of the last 27 after walking five of 51 in his first 13 appearances in 2019.
“For me, it has to do with his mechanics,” Davey Martinez told reporters after the loss in assessing Rainey’s recent struggles.
“He has no length in his legs, so [Pitching Coach] Paul [Menhart] is going to go talk to him tomorrow, but when you come out of the bullpen and you start walking guys, you can get into trouble.
“Even though he gave up a bouncing all over Rendon’s head, it was the walks. If you walk two guys coming out of the bullpen, we’ve got to do something else.”
“I mean it’s a battle, anytime you give them two free bases,” Rainey said in his own post-game scrum.
“You’re putting yourself in a terrible situation,” the 26-year-old reliever continued.
“So obviously there, faced Miggy next tried to get ahead and I did and then he ended up hitting a ground ball off the plate and it gets over third and scores the one run, and I just put myself and the rest of the bullpen in a tough situation.”
Rainey was asked if he agreed with his manager’s assessment that it was a mechanical issue affecting his command.
“If it was a one-time thing maybe just forget about it and move on,” he said, “... but it’s been the last couple outings I’ve struggled a little bit, so definitely something that maybe go back and look at a little film and see if there is something that’s changed in the last few.”
He did, however, say that he doesn’t feel any different on the mound now.
“I do not, no,” Rainey said, but something’s clearly not working in the recent rough stretch.
“When everything feels right usually it is, and then having results change the way they have tells you there could be something that’s a little wrong that’s throwing things a little off, so definitely something worth looking into.”
Martinez said he thought he and Menhart would be able to find a way to get Rainey back on track.
“I really believe it’s something that we can fix right away, and we’ve got to figure out why all of a sudden he started doing that. And that’s the question we need to ask him tomorrow, but you know, hey, he’s pitched well, he’s one of our guys, going to run him out there, but his velo was good, everything is good, just like I said, he was just a little erratic the last couple days.”