Nats’ bullpen worn down ahead of finale at Pittsburgh (May 18, 2017)
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates have scored 10 runs in the first two games of their three-game series with the Washington Nationals. Nine of those 10 came in the sixth inning or later, a symptom of the larger problem the Nationals are having finding reliable bullpen help.
Of course, the bullpen doesn’t have to be in the game in the sixth or seventh inning. Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg couldn’t get an out in the seventh on Tuesday. Washington’s spot starter on Wednesday, Jacob Turner, got just one out in the sixth.
The best way for the Nationals’ starters to help their struggling bullpen is to go deeper into games. Unfortunately, that is the exact issue that is plaguing their Thursday starter, right-hander Tanner Roark.
The Pirates will counter with right-hander Tyler Glasnow.
Roark is 3-1 and has a 3.88 ERA, so he is certainly has enjoyed a measure of success, but it has come with a high pitch count. He has gone over 100 pitches in seven of his eight starts, but just once did he throw seven full innings — which is his high for the year.
His last time out against the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday, he lasted just 4 2/3 innings and made 110 pitches. Even though his start had been pushed back a day due to a rainout, that was a far as manager Dusty Baker would led Roark go.
“We had him slated for 90 to 100 pitches because of how many pitches he went in his last start,” Baker said.
Roark is walking more batters in 2017 than he did in 2016, when he finished 16-10 with a 2.83 ERA. He also is striking out more batters, which takes more pitches. It should make for an interesting matchup against the Pirates, who have had success later in game against the Nationals.
Roark is 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA in four games (two starts) in his career against Pittsburgh.
The Washington bullpen’s recent workload has added to the unit’s problems. Turner’s spot start will make him unavailable for at least a few days. Joe Blanton (right shoulder inflammation) was placed on the disabled list Wednesday and replaced with call-up Matt Grace, who pitched a scoreless inning in the Nationals’ 6-1 loss to the Pirates.
Matt Albers, Oliver Perez and Blake Treinen each have pitched in the first two games of the series. A long outing from Roark would go a long way toward getting the bullpen back in shape.
Glasnow has had efficiency issues of his own in 2017. While Roark is trying to stay in games longer to help out his bullpen, Glasnow (1-3, 7.98 ERA) has barely been able get through the order twice.
His last time out, he went just 2 1/3 innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday. He gave up seven runs in the third inning and forced manager Clint Hurdle to come with an early hook.
“You just keep your head up and move on,” Glasnow said after the loss.
The rookie has faced the Nationals just once, and it was more of the same. He lasted three innings while giving up three runs in a start last year.