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Nationals bullpen, used early and often, comes up big

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Nationals bullpen, used early and often, comes up big

WASHINGTON—Dusty Baker did something he probably never would have done in a regular season game. He pulled starter Tanner Roark with a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning of Sunday’s Division Series Game against Los Angeles with two on and one out, and it paid off.

Baker’s bullpen—five relievers in all—combined to allow just one hit, and that didn’t come until the ninth inning when the Nationals already had a three-run lead and one out. 

Roark had already given up seven hits, and the Nationals manager noted they had already loaded the bases twice. 

“Just kind of looked like they were on him, and you know, we had the lead, and we didn’t want to trade places with them,” Baker said. 

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Baker, managing in his 47th postseason game, called on his most experienced postseason reliever, Marc Rzepczynski, appearing in his 19th postseason game. 

Rzepczynski faced seven batters, the second most since he was acquired from Oakland on Aug. 25, and got four outs. 

He walked three, but left the game for Sammy Solis, who retired Adrian Gonzalez on a fly out to left, ending the seventh. 

“That was a big part of the game and a big part of the lineup. We stretched him out further than we usually do,” Baker said. 

“We stretched him out because of the time of the game that we were in, and I think he tired a bit. That’s why I went and got him because he’s usually throwing ground balls. He usually doesn’t walk people.” 

Rzepczynski, known as “Scrabble” for the exceedingly difficult pronunciation of his name (it’s zep-CHIN-skee), admitted he was tired when he walked his final batter Justin Turner just after he struck out Corey Seager. He also walked Yasiel Puig and Chase Utley

The 31-year-old left-hander wasn’t surprised that Baker went to him so early. 

“I’m thinking it’s playoffs,” Rzepczynski said. “No, I was not surprised. With his kind of lineup, I knew it was going to be one of the lefties early if Tanner got in trouble. I was definitely ready, fifth inning, sixth inning, it doesn’t matter.”

Blake Treinen came in to start the seventh, got four outs and was awarded the win because he was judged the most effective reliever. 

“A lot of adrenaline. You sit in the bullpen and watch the game transpire, and then actually getting out there, you have to bring yourself down,” Treinen said. 

Oliver Perez got the final two outs of the eighth, and Mark Melancon worked the ninth for the save. 

Treinen wasn’t surprised to see Baker make the call so early in the game. 

“A lot of times you probably ride your starter out. It’s playoffs. It’s still new to me, so I’m not going to sit here and try and analyze that,” Treinen said. 

Los Angeles starter Rich Hill was also pulled after 4 1/3 innings, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts also used five relievers. 

“Both sides were aggressively going to their bullpen, and this kind of shows you the importance of the bullpen in these playoffs,” Baker said. 

Baker, who managed his first postseason game in 1997, knows it’s a different game now. Cleveland manager Terry Francona used his best reliever, Andrew Miller, in the fifth inning of Game 1 of the Indians series with Boston

“I don’t know if it’s the new normal, but with the pitchers not throwing complete games very often, that is how the game has evolved,” Baker said. 

It was the first postseason game for Solis and Treinen. 

“A lot of these kids, they’re ready. Blake’s first appearance was today. You saw how good he was,” Rzepczynski said. 

The postseason veteran didn’t try and chat up the playoff newbies. 

“We talk a little bit about it, but I don’t try and worry about the past too much,” Rzepczynski said. “Having the playoff experience helps, but it’s definitely nerve wracking at the same time.” 

RELATED: JOSE LOBATON'S SERIES-CHANGING HOMER DEFIED ODDS, ELEMENTS

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Nationals baffled by Dickey's knuckleball in Braves' 3-2 win

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Nationals baffled by Dickey's knuckleball in Braves' 3-2 win

ATLANTA  -- R.A. Dickey frustrated Washington with his knuckleball for eight innings, Ozzie Albies had three hits and the Atlanta Braves beat the Nationals 3-2 on Thursday night.

After Ryan Zimmerman's leadoff homer in the second inning, the 42-year-old Dickey gave up only one hit -- a two-out single by Trea Turner in the third -- over the next five innings. Turner was picked off first base.

Dickey (10-10) gave up two runs, four hits and no walks. He made a strong case that the Braves should pick up his $8 million club option for 2018.

Zimmerman lined his homer into the left-field seats, tying the game at 1. He set a career high with his 34th homer, his fourth off Dickey this season.

Arodys Vizcaino struck out the side in a perfect ninth for his 12th save in 15 chances. It was a strong return to form after Vizcaino walked all three batters he faced in a blown save Wednesday night.

The Braves scored two runs in the fourth off Tanner Roark (13-10). Albies singled, moved to third on catcher Matt Wieters' wild pickoff attempt and scored the go-ahead run on Freddie Freeman's fly ball to deep left field. Nick Markakis doubled past Zimmerman at first base and scored on Johan Camargo's single up the middle.

The Nationals trimmed the Braves' lead to one in the eighth. Anthony Rendon doubled to left field and scored on Wieters' two-out single.

Ender Inciarte continued his push for 200 hits when he led off the first with a triple to right field. It was his 191st hit, the third-highest total in the majors. Inciarte scored on Albies' single.

The game was delayed several minutes in the middle of the eighth. There was confusion as Nationals manager Dusty Baker attempted to make several defensive changes and had to go over the changes with home plate umpire Nic Lentz, who also took questions from Braves manager Brian Snitker.

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Ryan Zimmerman sets career high in homers vs. Braves

Ryan Zimmerman sets career high in homers vs. Braves

Ryan Zimmerman's resurgent season continues to get more and more impressive. 

Zimmerman hit his 34th home run of the season on Thursday night, setting a new career high. 

His previous career high was set in 2009, when he hit 33 while slashing .292/.364/.525 with a .888 OPS. 

He didn't get cheated on it, either: 

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