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Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats’ bullpen blows up in 8-3 loss to Cubs in the finale in Wrigley...

Notes and quotes from the Nationals’ third game with the Cubs in Chicago...

Jeimer Candelario homered to lead off the top of the eighth, getting Washington’s Nationals within one run of the Chicago Cubs in the series finale last night in Wrigley Field, and then it was Dominic Smith and Corey Dickerson who hit back-to-back, two-out singles, keeping the inning alive for Luis García, who jumped on a hanging, first-pitch slider from Cubbies’ righty Julian Merryweather and lined it to center for a game-tying RBI hit, 3-3.

It wasn’t tied for long, however.

Mason Thompson took over for lefty Joe La Sorsa on the mound in the bottom of the inning, and gave up a leadoff hit, a walk, a bunt single, and a sac fly which put the home team back on top, 4-3.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Chicago Cubs Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Thompson was able to get the second out, but a two-out walk, on his 33rd pitch (after a 27-pitch appearance in the series opener in Chicago), brought his manager out to the mound to make a change.

“His mechanics [were] a little off today, and after throwing that many pitches, I started to get worried there at the end there, 33 pitches. So we’ve got to get him back to where he was a few days ago, really, that was a lot of pitches for him,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters, after Cory Abbott took over for Thompson and gave up a grand slam, in the 8-3 loss for the Nationals.

“We battled back,” Martinez added, “... we came back. After being down we came back, and we just got to get some guys to get some outs at the back end of the bullpen. The walks, the walks are really what’s killing us right now. We’re walking tons of guys there at the end, so we got to get back to throwing strikes and making them swing the bats a little bit.”

Thompson struggled to throw strikes (just 15 of 33 pitches), and fell behind, with some of what his manager saw as mechanical issues leading to a rough outing.

“His arm, his arm slot was shorter,” Martinez said. “So we got to get him some length again, and get him back to throwing, and once he does that his head goes forward.

“So we’ll talk to him, we’ll work with him again and get him back squared away.”

Thompson, who had a 3.68 ERA, a 3.75 FIP, and a .241/.320/.346 line against in 37 games and 44 IP before the appearance, said he, “just felt a little rushed,” on the mound.

“Felt like I wasn’t quite just going after them like I have been. Overall, I’ve got to do a better job of getting ahead, staying ahead, and making better pitches out there.”

Asked if the inability to do so was a mechanical or mindset issue, the 25-year-old reliever said it was, “a little bit of both.”

“I think going out there sometimes trying to be too fine, especially in a tie game like that,” Thompson said, “... instead of just going out there and saying, ‘Here it is, hit it’ ... and just going after them with my best stuff.”

His manager said they would put in some work before the next game on Friday and see if they can get Thompson (and the rest of the injury-plagued, beleaguered bullpen) back on track.

“We got a day tomorrow, we’ll come back on Friday, we’ll work with him.” Martinez said.

“He’ll throw a light bullpen like they typically do, but we got some drills that we can work with him to get him back, make him feel like he’s getting his arm back a little bit.

“I want him to pitch, but I definitely want him to pitch when he’s doing things correctly.”

As for the Nationals’ bullpen as a whole, which has lost Thaddeus Ward, Hunter Harvey, and on Wednesday, Paolo Espino, to injury already this month (after Espino got rocked for seven hits, two walks, and eight earned runs in Tuesday’s 17-3 loss), Martinez said before the game it’s time for some of the unproven relievers getting a chance to step up.

“It’s tough when you have guys for half of a season that [have] done a really good job for you, and all of a sudden you’re starting to miss them a little bit,” he said.

“But you know what, you get a chance to see some other guys that we have, see what they can do up here. It’s just a part of the game.”

After the loss, Martinez said everyone’s got to pull together. Trevor Williams put together a solid enough start (7 H, 2 BB, 2 ER), but he was out after just five innings over which he got up to a total of 98 pitches, so it was on the bullpen to keep it close, as the visiting club put just one run up in the first seven innings.

“We got to keep battling,” Martinez said.

“We got score some more runs for sure. I think our starting pitching — we pushed them a little bit. I know today, it would’ve been nice to get Trevor back out there again [in the sixth], but he had 98 pitches after coming off a two-inning [rain-impacted] game his last outing. So I want to be definitely careful with our starting pitching. But I think those guys will step up and they’ll start pitching deeper in games, and then we’ll figure out the back end here as we go.”

Thompson addressed the pressure on the bullpen right now, and how he thinks they need to handle things going forward.

“Just got to treat it the same way as we always would,” he said. “Just go out there and just keep competing, keep going out there trying to get ahead, stay ahead, and that’s all it comes down to, it’s still the same game at the end of the day, we just got to go out there and do a better job of helping the team win.”