Bullpen Hiccups Cost Phillies Series Sweep Against Nationals

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Bullpen Hiccups Cost Phillies Series Sweep Against Nationals
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

It almost seems fitting that the day MLB Network re-aired an episode of ‘The Pen’ documenting the ’09 Phillies bullpen 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, 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 three 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? 

I'm 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 fare so well, giving up seven hits, seven runs and four walks in only four innings.

After Jose Contreras struck out the final two batters in the sixth 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 home run 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.  Okay, 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 in depending on matchups.  When a starting pitcher doesn’t last six innings, the bullpen may be required to pitch longer than usual and face hitters they normally would not be left in to face.  And after 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 home runs, 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 RBI.  Chase Utley, for the series with Washington, had 4 HR, 7 RBI, and 6 R.

Follow me on Twitter @kierancarobine

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