- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 30, 2009

ST. LOUIS | Matt Holliday sympathizes with the Washington Nationals. He knows how frustrating loss after loss by the bullpen can be.

The Nationals have 36 bullpen losses, most in the majors by a wide margin. Toronto was second with 26.

The major league record for bullpen losses in a season is 40, set by Colorado in 2004. Holliday, now a slugging outfielder for St. Louis, was with that team and has tried to forget the experience.

“It’s something you don’t like to think about,” said Holliday, who entered Saturday night’s game hitting .380 in 32 games with the Cardinals. “In this game, you always feel bad for somebody when things aren’t going right. I didn’t know the numbers about their bullpen, but I know how tough that is.”

The Nationals’ bullpen needed only three pitches to suffer another loss Friday night. Albert Pujols drove a 1-1 fastball from Jason Bergmann for a winning homer in the ninth inning.

Bergmann was disconsolate, blaming himself for throwing three consecutive fastballs and putting the last one in a hitter-friendly spot. General manager Mike Rizzo sought out Bergmann in the clubhouse to encourage him.

“That’s a lot of losses,” interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “It’s an area Mike Rizzo is looking to address over the winter. But the effort we’re getting, the intensity, the agony they feel when they give it up, those are good things. There’s concentration there. We’re just not getting results.”

The Nationals also have 25 saves in 48 chances for the majors’ lowest success rate (52 percent). The 2002 Chicago Cubs are the last club to convert less than half of its save chances, going 23-for-48.

Nats expand… eventually

Rosters expand from 25 to 40 players Tuesday, but the Nationals will wait to take advantage of that.

The plan, Riggleman said, is to leave Class AAA Syracuse untouched as it pushes for the International League playoffs. Syracuse’s regular season ends Sept. 7.

Rizzo said the club probably will play the final month with only two catchers. Most teams go to three catchers in September, but the Nationals have no obvious candidate in the system and do not plan on activating Jesus Flores, the Opening Day starter.

Flores, on the disabled list since May 15 with a stress fracture in his right shoulder, is working out at the club’s facility in Viera, Fla. Rizzo said the club will take the prudent course with Flores and not rush his rehabilitation program.

Extra bases

Pete Orr, called up from Syracuse on Friday, made his second consecutive start at second base for the Nationals on Saturday. Riggleman said he based the move on the desire to get another left-handed bat in the lineup against an opponent that is heavy on right-handed pitching. Orr went 4-for-4 on Saturday. …

St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said Riggleman, a former minor league teammate, should have “interim” removed from his title. La Russa has lobbied on Riggleman’s behalf before with no success.

“I can count at least a half-dozen times there’s been an opening or someone had interest in him and I called,” La Russa said. “Maybe that’s the kiss of death, but he’s an excellent baseball man.”