The Washington Nationals nearly blew a late five run lead against the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday after handing the game to their bullpen. After Felipe Rivero gave up three runs in the 7th to make it 10-8 Nationals, closer Jonathan Papelbon came into the 9th to try and preserve the slim two run lead.
Papelbon got into a big time jam after putting the first two batters on base on a single and a walk, and then getting ripped for an RBI double by Brandon Phillips to bring the Reds within one. After intentionally walking Jay Bruce, the Reds had the bases loaded with nobody out.
But somehow, Papelbon was able to squirm out of trouble with two pop outs and a big strikeout of pinch-hitter Zack Cozart. Coupled with the Mets 1-0 loss to the Marlins, the Nats took a two game lead atop the NL East.
The Nationals currently have a solid bullpen and their 2.85 ERA ranks No. 1 in major league baseball. (The Mets are right behind them in second place with a 3.10 ERA.) However, that’s not stopping them from bolstering their pen according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com,
As of now, the Yankees are not in sell mode, but it’s not hard to imagine they could part with one of the two pitchers if they are struggling in late July, writes Ladson. Chapman in particular could be a candidate to move because he is eligible for free agency after this season.
While Papelbon is currently entrenched as the Nationals closer, a team source tells Ladson that ‘they feel they can do better.”
Papelbon has a 3.18 ERA this season and his WHIP is high at 1.375. There are legitimate concerns about his velocity and strikeout rate which are both down.