Redding, bullpen do job for Nats
The Washington Nationals’ bullpen has bailed its teammates out of tight jams all season. This, though, might have topped anything previously seen at RFK Stadium.
Despite another strong start by Tim Redding, the Nationals were on the verge of another collapse. Reliever Saul Rivera had just surrendered an RBI single to Chris Coste, forcing manager Manny Acta to summon King from his bullpen to face Russell Branyan with the bases loaded and no outs.
Washington went into damage-control mode. Exchange runs for outs. Keep things from getting out of hand. But could Acta’s team really have thought about closing out the inning without a single run scoring?
“Of course, you think it,” catcher Brian Schneider said laughing, realizing how absurd that outcome sounded at the time.
Or perhaps not, for King came through. The veteran left-hander struck out Branyan on a 1-2 slider, then duplicated the feat against the right-handed-hitting Jimmy Rollins before departing to a standing ovation.
“Two huge outs,” Acta said. “Just a big lift for us.”
“That’s dynamite,” Redding said. “I mean, you can’t ask for anything better than that.”
Just for good measure, Ayala added a scoreless eighth that featured two more strikeouts. Throw in a perfect ninth inning from Chad Cordero, who earned his 27th save, and the Nationals had even more reason to talk up the majors’ best bullpen over the last seven weeks.
“I’ve been on teams that won. I’ve been on teams that lost,” King said. “This is probably the best group of bullpen guys I’ve played with in my seven years. We’ve got a bunch of guys in there that actually care about one another.”
No one was more grateful for the fine relief work last night than Redding, who turned in another fine start himself (six-plus innings of three-hit ball) to earn his first win since July 8.
Don’t mistake Redding’s lack of victories for lack of performance, because the right-hander has deserved better. With so much attention lavished upon the Nationals‘ cadre of young starters — Shawn Hill, John Lannan, Matt Chico, Joel Hanrahan — Redding has perhaps been overlooked.