On Saturday night in Miami it was Washington Nationals’ reliever Fernando Rodney, the 42-year-old, 17-year veteran, who imploded, giving up three doubles, one single, a walk, and a total of four earned runs before he was lifted from a 4-4 game after 27 pitches, 17 of them strikes, with just one out recorded.
Stephen Strasburg tossed seven scoreless against the Fish, but was up to 109 pitches after a long-ish, 27-pitch seventh which ended his outing, with Rodney taking over.
Fortunately for the Nats, they scored six runs in the tenth inning to win a second straight in Marlins Park.
“He was just up in the zone. He’s been pitching really well. He’s just up,” Davey Martinez told reporters when asked about Rodney’s outing after the 10-4 win.
“Just one of those days for him,” Martinez added.
Rodney was up to 23 pitches, with just two runs allowed, when Austin Dean stepped in and hit a two-run double on a 1-2 changeup up in the zone, tying the game.
Did the Nats’ skipper consider going to the bullpen again before Dean’s at bat?
“We had guys up, but you know what, I know Fernando,” Martinez said. “He typically can get out of a jam, he’s going to throw strikes, so he was the guy for me right there.”
It was the second straight day of work for Rodney, though he’d only thrown eight pitches in the previous outing. He told his manager he was good to go, but couldn’t get the job done.
On Sunday, another bullpen blow-up cost the Nationals a lead, and they weren’t able to rally in what ended up a 5-3 loss.
Hunter Strickland tossed a scoreless, eight-pitch sixth, after five innings of work by starter Austin Voth, and Martinez sent Strickland back out for the seventh. Dean homered to start the inning, making it a 3-2 game in the Nationals’ favor, and the Nationals’ right-hander hit the next batter before Martinez went to the pen again.
“We were down in the bullpen,” Martinez said, when asked about trying to get a second inning out of Strickland.
“We had [Sean Doolittle] and [Daniel] Hudson for the eighth and ninth, and Strickland threw the ball well, came out, threw the ball well.
“He said he was good to go for the seventh, we thought we could get him [against] the bottom of the order, get him through.”
Wander Suero, who threw a quick, nine pitch ninth on Saturday, before his teammates put together a six-run 10th, struck out the first batter he faced on Sunday, then gave up a walk and a two-run double that put the Marlins up, 4-3, before they added another off of Tanner Rainey, 5-3. That’s how it ended.
Voth only went five, on 81 pitches, so Martinez had to lean on his relief corps, but he said the starter, “gave us everything he had.”
“He gave us five strong innings,” the second-year skipper continued.
“We got through the sixth inning. Strickland looked good. The home run didn’t bother me.
“The hit batsman, Suero gets a big strikeout on [Curtis] Granderson, then he walks [Magneuris Sierra] and when you start doing that it’s tough, you start falling behind, it’s tough.
“These guys gotta come in and throw strikes and just get outs. The biggest thing is get outs. You give up a run, you give up a run, but we just got to get outs. We’ve got to get outs late in the game. Rainey wasn’t even available to pitch today, and we had to call down and tell him, ‘We need a couple big outs, can you do it?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’
“So, kudos to him, he’s pitching well ... and [Javy] Guerra comes in, and even though we’re down two, he throws strikes, and that’s what we need right now, we need somebody to go in there and just pump strikes and make pitches.”
Guerra threw 11 pitches, eight for strikes, in a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth to keep it a two-run game, though the Nationals came up empty in the ninth.
Martinez was asked if he was concerned that with a week to go, the bullpen, a weak spot for the Nationals all season, and one they tried to address at the trade deadline, was still sort of an issue.
“I’m not really concerned,” he said. “You know what, I trust these guys, like I said, you see guys come in one day, they’re really good and get big outs for us, the next day it just doesn’t happen, so let’s just get consistent. We’ve got two [series] left, let’s come back tomorrow and take another lead, and I trust all those guys in the bullpen, I really do, and they know what’s at stake and they’re giving this team everything they’ve got, and I’ve asked them to do a lot and they’ve always stepped up, so let’s keep it going.”
The loss left the Nationals tied for the Wild Card lead with the Milwaukee Brewers, who’ve won four straight and eight of ten, while Washington’s gone 5-5 in their last ten, with just eight games left on the regular season schedule, five in four days with Philadelphia and a three-game set with Cleveland to close out the season.