The home run that Kyle Barraclough gave up in Wednesday’s series finale with the Chicago White Sox was the sixth he’s allowed in 23 innings this season. That’s two shy of the total a year ago when he surrendered eight in 55 2⁄3 IP in 2018, and more than he gave up in 66 IP in 2017 (5).
Barraclough allowed one home run in 72 2⁄3 IP in 2016, in his first full season in the majors, after he gave up one in 24 1⁄3 IP in 2015, when he debuted with the Miami Marlins.
Two of the six this season, including Wednesday afternoon’s, a two-run blast in the eighth by José Abreu, have come on sliders, after Barraclough gave up just three total on sliders over the previous four seasons.
Are the 2.35 HR/9 he’s allowed over his first 29 appearances this season something that the Nationals are concerned about, after he gave up 1.29 HR/9 last season, (with a career mark of 0.78 HR/9)? Obviously, yes, but they are more concerned with why he’s giving them up.
“I think it’s just a lack of execution,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters after both Barraclough and Wander Suero gave up home runs that turned a 4-1 lead into a 4-4 tie in what ended up a 5-4 win when Trea Turner hit a walk-off home run to beat the Reds.
The home run came in Barraclough’s second inning of work, after he’d tossed a 12-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh.
Back-to-back to make this a brand new ballgame! pic.twitter.com/P42phz9zT4— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) June 5, 2019
It was just the second time he’s been asked to go more than one inning this season, and it was something he didn’t do at all in 2018.
Martinez liked what he saw from Barraclough before the homer, however, and he was trying to avoid using Suero, so he tried to get a second inning out of Barraclough.
“Today he threw a couple balls at 95, which was nice,” the manager continued, noting that Barraclough hadn’t pitched in some seven days before Wednesday’s appearance, though he had warmed up a few times over that stretch without entering a game.
“We wanted to kind of give him a break,” the second-year skipper explained, “and I know we got him up, but we didn’t want to really use him, and all of a sudden today he comes out, and he threw the ball, like I said, the first inning he was out there he threw the ball really, really well, really well, and we need him. The bottom line is he’s going to have to pitch.”
Barraclough struggling, and forcing the Nationals to use Suero, and closer Sean Doolittle in the ninth, in what was a tie game, put them in a tough spot at the start of the four-game set with the Padres in San Diego’s Petco Park and a six-game road trip overall.
“I felt confident that [Barraclough] was going to get those outs,’ Martinez said.
“I wanted to stay away from Suero today, I really did, because now all of a sudden, he’s going to be down for 1-2 days, so now tomorrow we’ve got to figure out who’s going to pitch the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings.”
They also have to figure out how to get Barraclough going, since, as the manager said, the Nationals aren’t, “... going to win with three guys in the bullpen. I can tell you that.”
Barraclough gave up a one-out single in the eighth, and before he faced Abreu, and gave up the home run, Martinez sent pitching coach Paul Menhart out to talk to the reliever.
“We liked the matchup with him,” against Abreu, Martinez said.
“He was throwing the ball good, he just didn’t get the slider where he wanted to get it, but we liked that matchup. He’s faced him before, so I wanted Paul to go out there and just kind of hey, settle him down, tell him how to attack him, and he admitted it, he didn’t get the ball down where he wanted to get it, and away.”
Barraclough had a 5.87 ERA, 5.81 FIP, 11 walks (4.30 BB/9), and 28 Ks (10.96 K/9) in 29 games and his 23 IP this season after the appearance, over which hitters have a .299/.378/.536 line against him.
“He’s got to figure it out,” Martinez added, “and like I said, we talked about this earlier today, about, execution and making your pitches, and it’s just one of those things where he was doing well and didn’t make a pitch.”
In the series opener with the Padres, Patrick Corbin went five innings, and then Tony Sipp (2⁄3 IP), Javy Guerra (1 2⁄3), and Matt Grace (2⁄3) combined for three scoreless out of the ‘pen.