Bullpen hiccups cost Phillies series sweep against Nationals

It almost seems fitting that when MLB Network re-aired an episode of ‘The Pen’ documenting the ’09 Phillies bullpen the year after they won the World Series would be the day that this year’s almost perfect pen would blow it and put a skid to the Phils five game win streak.

For a second straight start (well his only two thus far) lefty J.A. (call me ‘Jay’) Happ didn’t allow an earned run.  However, again in his second straight start he didn’t last six innings.

Against the Nationals in the final game of the series in Philadelphia he did last 1/3 of an inning longer and only allowed 3 hits, as apposed to six in his first start.   However, he didn’t have any strikeouts and walked six batters.  Walking six and not allowing an earned run is impressive, don’t get me wrong, but why put that much pressure on yourself.

Not taking anything away from Scott Olsen who pitched adequately but this game really started when both starters left the game.  It seems the Nats bullpen took a page from the Phillies for this game.  The night before after the two inning slugfest to start the game, the Phillies bullpen came in and held Washington to only four hits and one earned run in 7 1/3 innings.  The Nats bullpen didn’t fair so well giving up seven hits, seven runs and four walks in only 4 innings.

After Jose Contreras struck out the final two batters in the 6th coming in for Happ, the rest of the night was a bit shaky.  Antonio Bastardo, Danys Baez, and Ryan Madson pitched an inning each in which combined they allowed six hits and six earned runs.  The biggest blow was the pinch-hit two-run homerun by Ryan Zimmerman, which put the Nats up by one.

Obviously the bullpen is going to have its troubles, just like the starting rotation, but they should be expected to hold it down against a team like Washington?  Ok maybe that is not fair.  Yes they are a Major League team but again they are the Washington Nationals.

Let’s look at it this way.  Relievers are supposedly brought it depending on match ups.  Now when a pitcher doesn’t last 6 innings, the bullpen may be required to pitch longer than usual and face hitters they normally would not be left in to face.  And with logging over seven innings the night before, the bullpen was a little skinny.  Last night against the Nats the bullpen trio for Philly (Bastardo, Baez, Madson) faced a total of 18 batters.  Of those 18, nine reached base via a hit or a walk.  When two of those hits turn out to be homeruns, then the walks really hurt.

Hopefully with Roy Halladay pitching today, that will give the bullpen a rest.

Worth noting:  Placido Polanco once again has two hits in a game and is batting a league high .475.  Jimmy Rollins replacement at shortstop while he is on the DL Juan Castro went 3 for 4 with two RBIs.  Chase Utley, for the series with Washington, had 4 HR, 7 RBIs, 6 R.

Follow me on Twitter @kierancarobine

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