Nats show resiliency in face of bullpen woes

July 4th, 2017

WASHINGTON -- stood with his hand against the right-field wall and hung his head. He paused there for a moment, stunned along with a sellout of 41,681 fans at Nationals Park. Meanwhile, , who was nursing a bad hip that kept him out of the starting lineup, ran the bases after his game-tying, two-run homer with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning off Matt Albers.

It speaks to the resiliency of these Nationals that not even 20 minutes later, they would empty from the home dugout to celebrate a walk-off single from and a 3-2 victory Monday night against the Mets.

"We were just fighting all the way," center fielder said. "I don't think it took the air out of us. We came back the next inning. Guys put together good at-bats and still fight to win the game."

And yet, it was another close call for the Nationals beleaguered bullpen, owners of the worst ERA in the Majors entering Monday's game. Washington is quite aware of its need for relief help and will try to address it in advance of the non-waiver Trade deadline on July 31. This was its 14th blown save of the year.

"The biggest downer in baseball is a blown save late," manager Dusty Baker said.

It's a testament to the strength of the Nationals that they still own a commanding lead in the National League East. Their victory Monday pushed them to 15 games over .500 and their lead in the division to eight games over the Braves.

Washington will send five players to Miami this month for the 2017 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, and could potentially have six if wins the Final Vote. Their offense has been perhaps the best in the National League and two-fifths of their rotation are All-Stars.

However, the bullpen remains unsettled.

"You don't want to belabor the fact, but the opposition knows as well," Baker said. "That just goes to show you that our guys keep fighting and keep playing. We know that we're going to get our bullpen fixed."

Baker pointed to a few positives. Right-hander Joe Blanton retired for a key out to end the eighth inning in a then-scoreless game. Left-hander Sammy Solis looked sharp in his second appearance since returning from the disabled list.

But despite the way things looked at that moment, when Harper ran out of room in right field to catch Granderson's homer, the Nationals still rallied to win, their resolve on display once again.

"We believe in our guys," left fielder said. "We know we got a good team, a strong team and we're very resilient. When that ball goes up, we know we still got a chance to come up and hit. We got plenty of people in the lineup that can deliver."