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Bullpen goes wild in Nats' loss to Rockies


Bullpen goes wild in Nats' loss to Rockies

Win number 50 will have to wait for the Washington Nationals as uncharacteristic mistakes made late by their bullpen doomed another solid start by Jordan Zimmermann. The Colorado Rockies send the Nats into the All-Star break with 4-3 loss determined by two wild pitches to bring the tying and winning runs home.

Zimmermann took the no-decision after allowing just one earned run, three hits and two walks in seven innings pitched. His only run allowed came on a Wil Nieves sacrifice fly in the second inning.

I really hate for it to come on Zimmermann, Zimm pitched a gem. It was hot out there and he gave a jewel out there, a heck of a game. It was one of the few times the bullpen hadnt done a good job, manager Davey Johnson said.

Theyve been doing a great job all year. Theyve been having our backs in some tight situations all year, Zimmermann said. This one got away. We gotta move past it and focus on the second half.

Johnson took Zimmermann out after the seventh inning even though he had thrown only 95 pitches. The Nats skipper said he didnt even consider bringing his starter back for the eighth because of the heat and humidity.

Johnson decided to go with Sean Burnett to start the eighth inning, one of his best relievers who entered the day with a 1.52 ERA. Burnett was not his usual self, however, and failed to record an out before being replaced.

The Rockies sent Eric Young in to pinch-hit for pitcher Eric Belisle against Burnett and the result was not good. Young took a 2-1 sinker over the fence in left field for a solo home run.

Burnett then allowed consecutive singles to Dexter Fowler and Marco Scutaro, the second moving Fowler into scoring position at third. Johnson pulled Burnett for Michael Gonzalez who has also maintained a sub-2.00 ERA this season. Gonzalez struck out the first batter, but let a pitch get away from him with Tyler Colvin up. The wild pitch brought Fowler home and tied the game at three.

Just wasnt my day. I threw I think it was a sinker to the guy Young and it just cut. I think I pulled it middle-in and he didnt miss it, Burnett said. Then I got a couple ground balls and they just happened to find a hole. Just one of those things it didnt go my way today.

Tyler Clippard came into to pitch the ninth in a tie game having not allowed a run in 20 straight appearances. He last gave up one up on May 16, a stretch of 19.1 innings pitched. Today was not Clippards day either as his first pitch was a double by Jordan Pacheco to left field. Jonathan Herrera then sacrificed Pacheco to third with a bunt as Jason Giambi came to the plate to pinch-hit. Clippard pulled a changeup against Giambi that got away from catcher Jhonatan Solano and Pacheco came home to score the go-ahead run.

I cant remember the last time I threw a wild pitch, so it was kind of frustrating to do it in that situation, Clippard said. What are you gonna go?

The Nationals put up a fight in the bottom of the ninth by getting two runners on base. Ian Desmond, who had hit a two-run home run earlier in the fourth inning, led off with a single to left field. Roger Bernadina then draw a walk two batters later and both players got into scoring position by way of a double steal. Johnson pinch-hit catcher Jesus Flores who could was quickly retired with a three-pitch strikeout.

It was an unfortunate ending for the Nationals who have grown accustomed to stingy relief pitching and timely hitting at the end of games. The mood around the locker room, however, was that losing their final game before the break could be a blessing in disguise.

Everything happens for a reason in this game. The ball never lies. This is a lesson. Hopefully we can come back and bounce back against the Marlins in a big division series, Desmond said.

I look at it as good timing. You know, I think you dont ever want to get too comfortable or too confident out there so this is a little, maybe, check, for ourselves. We can kind of regroup and move forward with a new beginning in the second half, Clippard said.

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Report: Under Armour taking over MLB jerseys in 2020

Report: Under Armour taking over MLB jerseys in 2020

Majestic’s reign as the maker of MLB jerseys are about to come to an end. 

In 2020, Fanatics and Under Armour will be teaming to make on-field jerseys and apparel for all MLB teams, according to a Sports Business Journal report. 

The news outlet also reports that the deal means the MLB’s licensing relations with Nike will be over as well. 

Under Armour will produce the jerseys starting in Spring Training of the 2020 season, and “broad apparel rights” will go to Fanatics. 

New Era will continue to be the maker of MLB hats. 

Given that Maryland native Kevin Plank founded Under Armour, and that the business' headquarters are in Baltimore, it’s sure to be a splash with baseball fans in the DMV.

You can read the full Sports Business journal report here. 

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Early look at the Nationals' biggest questions this offseason

Early look at the Nationals' biggest questions this offseason

Here is an early look at the biggest questions facing the Washington Nationals as they embark on another offseason in their quest to build a championship team...

What to do with Wilson Ramos and the catcher position?

The Nationals' biggest question entering this offseason is without a doubt at catcher with All-Star Wilson Ramos on the mend after having the ACL in his right knee repaired on Friday. Not only is the recovery a long one - he could be out until well into the 2017 season - it is the second time he's had the ligament fixed. At 29, his viability as a primary catcher moving forward is a real question. Even Ramos admitted he may have to transition to the American League with his next contract.

If Ramos does leave, behind him will be a significant hole on the Nationals. They have several in-house options, but none that are anywhere close to Ramos, who emerged this season as the best offensive catcher in baseball. Pedro Severino is a nice young player, but has a career .632 OPS in the minors. The drop-off on offense from Ramos to him would be significant. The same can be said about Jose Lobaton.

It won't be easy replacing Ramos with an external option, if that's the way the Nats opt to go. Catchers who can hit and play defense like him are a rarity. Matt Wieters of the Orioles would be the best option in free agency, but he's a year older and is also a step down offensively. Unless they like Wieters - who does happen to be represented by Scott Boras - they may have to trade for a new backstop, and that won't be easy either. 

This is all not to rule out the Nationals re-signing Ramos, but right now it's difficult to project what type of contract he will garner and whether that could fit in their plans. Surely it would be tough for them to offer a long-term deal, but maybe they make sense if he decides to take a short-term contract to reset for free agency either next offseason or the one after that.

Any major upgrades needed?

The Nationals are in an interesting spot, having won 95 games and the NL East, but with yet another disappointing end to their year. General manager Mike Rizzo loves to make big splashes in the offseason. Every single winter he does something aggressive and unexpected. What will he do this year? There aren't many areas where he could potentially upgrade, but that hasn't stopped him in the past.

If Ramos leaves, catcher is obviously the biggest need. But beyond that, the two major problem areas in their lineup this season were at shortstop and first base. Danny Espinosa played solid defense and hit 24 homers, but held an unsightly .209 batting average. His .552 OPS in the second half was worst in baseball among those with at least 165 at-bats. 

Espinosa is always looking over his shoulder this time of the year and just this past winter appeared to be the odd-man out when the Nats traded for Ben Revere and signed Daniel Murphy. Espinosa managed to overcome the odds and play 157 games. He has one year left on his contract, so one way or another the Nats will need to start thinking long-term about his position.

Shortstop is an easier situation to evaluate than first base, where Ryan Zimmerman is due to make $14 million each of the next two seasons and $18 million the year after that. He had the worst season of his career with a .642 OPS through 115 games. Bringing in a first baseman to flat-out replace Zimmerman seems unrealistic, given his contract. But perhaps they can find someone who plays both first base and left field, with Jayson Werth having just one year left on his deal.

Who will be the closer?

The Nationals found success in the ninth inning with Mark Melancon after they acquired him at the trade deadline in a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates. But it was just a rental. Now Melancon is due for free agency and the Nats once again have questions at the position. They could opt to re-sign Melancon, or go with another free agent option. Aroldis Chapman, whom they have coveted in the past, will be available. So will Kenley Jansen, who just helped end their season with the Dodgers. It's an unusually deep crop of star closers and it would be a surprise if the Nationals didn't snag one of them. Another option would be to promote Shawn Kelley or Blake Treinen, but that would be out of the Nationals' character.

Are they content with the rotation?

If one were to pick the biggest reason the Nationals lost their NL Division Series against the Dodgers it would have to be the starting rotation. It was their most glaring weakness and it wasn't even close. This is despite the Nats being built on starting pitching and boasting one of the best regular season rotations in baseball. Losing Stephen Strasburg to injury didn't help, but they still had four capable starters left over. Max Scherzer struggled in Game 1, while Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez and Joe Ross combined to pitch just 11 1/3 innings in their respective outings. 

If you look at the year as a whole, starting pitching was not a major concern. But the Nats are always aggressive in addressing their needs, whether big or small. They have top prospects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, but neither distinguished themselves this season. Do they sit tight and hope things improve, or do they try to make another game-changing move? With a weak free agent class, any outside upgrade would have to come through a trade. Also, Gonzalez' $12 million team option is definitely something to watch this winter.

Will extension talks with Harper heat up?

Both the Nationals and Bryce Harper, one could argue, may have incentive to back away from the negotiating table this winter, given the Nats have to be less confident in giving Harper a record-setting contract after his disappointing year, and that Harper may not be wise to sign his new deal when his stock has lowered. But if the Nats and Harper do not come to terms this winter, that sets up a lot more pressure for the following offseason. Harper has two years left on his contract. Heading into next offseason without a deal, with just one year remaining, would create a lot of uncertainty for all sides involved, including the fans who certainly want to see the 2015 MVP remain in Washington for a long time. The storyline would dominate their offseason.

This upcoming winter always seemed like the best time to broker a deal to avoid that scenario, but the timing has not worked out with Harper's production on the field. Also, would anyone be surprised if it turns out Harper was dealing with an injury this season that held him back at the plate? If it were a serious one, he wouldn't have kept playing. But any injury has to be factored in those discussions.

[RELATED: Bullpen, baserunning leads to Nats heartbreak]