WASHINGTON -- The Nationals' bullpen began the season as one of the biggest uncertainties -- and one of the key factors for a team with high aspirations. Even if some of Washington's staff lacks experience pitching in high-leverage, late-inning roles, the club believes it has a collection of arms deep
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals' bullpen began the season as one of the biggest uncertainties -- and one of the key factors for a team with high aspirations. Even if some of Washington's staff lacks experience pitching in high-leverage, late-inning roles, the club believes it has a collection of arms deep enough to carry it through the season.
The bullpen could not hold the lead in Thursday's 4-3 loss to the Marlins in extras, however, blowing save opportunities in the eighth and ninth innings before surrendering the game-winning run in the 10th.
"I mean, I love my bullpen," manager Dusty Baker said. "These guys are going to be one of the best, if they're not already. It's a tough one to lose, but that showed a lot of perseverance on their side over there."
The Nationals led, 2-0, in the eighth inning when Shawn Kelley entered for the first time this season. Prior to the game, Baker mentioned Kelley as a pitcher who needed to throw after he had not pitched since he faced one batter this past Saturday during an exhibition game. Kelley left a slider over the middle of the plate to J.T. Realmuto, the Marlins' hottest hitter, who hammered it for a game-tying two-run homer.
The Nationals took the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning on Ryan Zimmerman's solo homer. Baker elected to use left-hander Sammy Solis to begin the ninth, even though right-hander Adeiny Hechavarria was due up first, because of the two lefties behind him in the order -- Derek Dietrich and Dee Gordon. Blake Treinen, the Nats' closer, had thrown in the first two games, but he was available because he had not thrown many pitches in those outings.
Solis walked Hechavarria and surrendered a single to Dietrich before getting Gordon to bounce into a double play. That brought Treinen in to face pinch-hitter Tyler Moore, who singled on a sinker that ran over the middle of the plate to bring in the game-tying run.
"I got myself in a position where I should've had success. I just didn't execute the pitch that I wanted to throw," Treinen said. "It came back to bite us in the butt. I should've been able to get one out when I was in there. It didn't work my way."
Joe Blanton eventually yielded the game-winning run in the tenth on an RBI double from Justin Bour.
"Sometimes the hitters hit you," Baker said. "These guys are getting paid to hit you, just like our guys are getting paid to get them out. So I know it doesn't always go your way."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.