WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Dusty Baker has made one thing clear during the National League Division Series against the Dodgers: He is not giving his starters the same amount of rope he gave them during the regular season.The moment there's trouble, Baker has gone to the bullpen. It was the
WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Dusty Baker has made one thing clear during the National League Division Series against the Dodgers: He is not giving his starters the same amount of rope he gave them during the regular season.
The moment there's trouble, Baker has gone to the bullpen. It was the same strategy that Baker's friend and rival, former manager Tony La Russa, had with the Cardinals, and it helped them win a World Series title in 2011.
:: NLDS: Dodgers vs. Nationals coverage ::
During Monday's 8-3 victory in Game 3 of the National League Division Series, Baker didn't care if left-hander Gio Gonzalez had a one-run lead in the fifth inning. Once Gonzalez allowed a two-run homer to Carlos Ruiz in the fifth inning, Baker decided to bring in reliever Sammy Solís to stop the bleeding.
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"The postseason, you have to be ready," Solis said. "We play matchups pretty early."
Baker likewise relied on the bullpen early during Sunday's 5-2 victory in Game 2 at Nationals Park. Once right-hander Tanner Roark got into trouble in the fifth inning, Baker went to his bullpen. Six relievers were used in that game, and they allowed one hit in 4 2/3 innings.
Baker's strategy worked again on Monday. Solis kept the Dodgers at bay for 1 2/3 innings before Oliver Pérez, Shawn Kelley and Mark Melancon pitched the final three innings.
"[Gonzalez] took himself out early, you know," Baker said. "Gio, he was getting behind hitters. He got behind [Ruiz] on that 3-1 fastball, made a mistake, threw it right down the middle and he lost it into the left-field seats.
"His pitch count wasn't that high for him, but the way they were swinging, you know, that was plenty."
During the three games of the NLDS, Washington's bullpen has pitched 12 1/3 innings without allowing a run.
"You have to try to win these games, and the bullpen is not complaining. We check on the health of the bullpen every day," Baker said. "And you know, [the Dodgers] can hit the ball out of the ballpark. They live by the home run almost.
"Yeah, you've got to go to the bullpen and hope that the matchups work. They don't always work, but you've just got to take your chances and figure the odds of whoever you're bringing in."
And they may yet have plenty left in the tank for Tuesday's Game 4 (5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT on FS1). Kelley made his first appearance of the series on Monday.
"We have been a resilient bunch all year," said Kelley, who struck out three batters in his 1 2/3 innings. "We maybe don't have the fancy names that other teams have. If you go back and look at our seasons ... some guys have been big this year. Dusty and 'Mad Dog' [pitching coach Mike Maddux] know they can lean on us and we are going to go out there and do our thing."
Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.