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Nationals bullpen, used early and often, comes up big


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. 


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.” 


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Anthony Rendon homers in third straight game, but Nationals fall to Mariners in series finale

Anthony Rendon homers in third straight game, but Nationals fall to Mariners in series finale

WASHINGTON -- Nelson Cruz greeted reliever Jacob Turner with a go-ahead, three-run homer in the sixth inning, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Washington Nationals 4-2 Thursday to stop a five-game losing streak.

Gio Gonzalez took a 2-0 lead into the sixth, when Jean Segura singled leading off and Guillermo Heredia took a called third strike. That prompted Seattle manager Scott Servais to complain from the dugout, which led to his ejection by plate umpire Adam Hamari.

Robinson Cano singled, and Washington manager Dusty Baker brought in Turner (2-3), despite Cruz having just one hit in 15 at-bats against Gonzalez. Cruz drove a belt-high slider over the fence in left-center for his 12th homer this season and a 3-2 lead. Cruz leads the AL with 40 RBIs.

Cano added an RBI single off Turner in the seventh. Seattle scored multiple runs for the first time since May 18.

Ariel Miranda (4-2) allowed two runs, three hits and three walks in five innings. Edwin Diaz, Seattle's sixth pitcher, threw a one-hit ninth that completed a six-hitter. Diaz got his first save since May 9 and has eight in 10 chances overall.

Gonzalez gave up two runs, three hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings, striking out eight.

Washington's Anthony Rendon homered in the fifth, his ninth this season and fourth in the three-game series. Jayson Werth added an RBI single later in the inning.


Baker will be leaving the Nationals for their weekend series against San Diego Padres to attend his son Darren's high school graduation in Northern California and will rejoin the team Monday in San Francisco.


Mariners: LHP James Paxton (forearm strain) could return to the rotation in the first or second game of a homestand that starts Wednesday, Servais said. ... 1B Danny Valencia was in the lineup for a second straight day after sitting out three games with a wrist injury.

Nationals: Baker may continue to use an eight-man bullpen. Baker said the decision depends the progress of INF Stephen Drew's rehabilitation from a hamstring strain. Drew is at extended spring training.


Mariners: RHP Yovani Gallardo is 2-2 with a 5.28 ERA against Boston, where Seattle begins a three-game set on Friday.

Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (4-3, 3.02) has allowed two runs or fewer in his last three starts against San Diego, which opens a three-game series in Washington on Friday.

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Nats beat Mariners behind Joe Ross' career day in return from minors

Nats beat Mariners behind Joe Ross' career day in return from minors

WASHINGTON -- Anthony Rendon homered twice and drove in five runs, Joe Ross returned from the minors to allow one run over a career high-tying eight innings, and the Washington Nationals routed the Seattle Mariners 10-1 on Tuesday night.

Bryce Harper added his 14th homer and Jayson Werth hit his seventh off Chris Bergman (1-2), who allowed all of the Nationals' runs and 14 of their 15 hits.

Rendon doubled before his second homer -- and seventh of the season -- completed an eight-run fourth inning. Ryan Zimmerman also had three hits.

Mike Zunino homered off Ross (2-0) in his return from his own minor league stint. Robinson Cano was hitless in his first game back from the disabled list following a thigh injury as Seattle dropped its fourth straight.

Ross showed no signs of the late April struggles that ended with a demotion to Triple-A Syracuse. He yielded five hits and a walk while striking out six, and retired 12 straight batters after a leadoff single to begin the game.

By the time Seattle finally put multiple runners aboard, Washington had already opened a 10-0 lead.

Rendon's second-inning shot around the left field foul pole made it 2-0.

Then Werth, Harper and Rendon all connected in the fourth, helping the Nationals score seven of their eight runs in the inning with two outs.

MORE NATIONALS: WATCH: Werth, Harper go back-to-back, Rendon hits 2 HRs in Nationals win