With a three hour and 17 minute rain delay taking starter Jordan Zimmermann out of the game, the Nationals laid out a plan for their bullpen on Monday that could have very easily come back to bite them.
Instead of going with one of his long relievers, Matt Williams opted to instead patch together the final five innings of Monday's (technically Tuesday's) 4-0 win over the Dodgers. Aaron Barrett, Jerry Blevins, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano all pitched one inning apiece, and all five did their jobs about as well as Williams could have hoped for.
Though lots could have gone wrong, it worked, and now the Nationals are set to start right-hander Blake Treinen on Tuesday night with both Craig Stammen and Ross Detwiler available for long relief.
"That's how you plan it," Williams said. "It doesn't always go to plan, but tonight that's the way we planned it."
Treinen was called up after the game with reliever Ryan Mattheus sent down to make room. Treinen will make his first career major league start in just his fourth MLB game.
Treinen holds a 1.59 ERA in four starts with Triple-A Syracuse this season, but has not pitched longer than five innings in 2014. His last outing was a one-inning appearance on May 3, basically a bullpen session to prepare him for Tuesday.
Williams has confidence the young hurler - who will be facing off with Clayton Kershaw - can pitch well.
"Blake's been starting, he's been in that regular rotation," Williams said. "We certainly wanted to stay away from Stammen and [Detwiler] the last couple of days. We had the opportunity to do that, so we have some length, but Blake's going to start it for us."
After Zimmermann's four-inning night was cut short because of the weather delay, the Nats' bullpen combined to throw five more scoreless innings. Blevins, Storen and Clippard each allowed hits, but that was it for runners reaching base.
The Nationals' bullpen now sports a 1.89 ERA through 105 total innings this season. They have been reliable for Williams, and tonight they came through when he really needed them.
"That's important for us. We know that if in fact we can't play that game, that game is washed out and potentially a day-night tomorrow. Then we're in rough shape. I'm glad we stuck it out and we're able to win it and now we don't have to worry about two tomorrow, we only have to worry about one."
Nate McLouth sore after running into wall
Outfielder Nate McLouth left the Nationals' win in the eighth inning after a violent collision with the wall in left field. He caught a Dee Gordon line drive while sliding into foul territory and was slow to get up after slamming into the padded embankment.
Williams does not believe McLouth will miss any time.
"I think his knee will be sore, but he should be good," Williams said. "He's okay. Banged his knee pretty good, pulled his thumb back a little bit, cut himself open pretty good, but no stitches. He should be fine."
As we've seen before - including several times this season - sometimes injuries are later revealed to be much more serious than initially described. For now McLouth appears to be fine, but it's certainly something to watch over the next few days, especially given his value in Bryce Harper's absence.