- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The good news for the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night was that the forecasted rain held off and the second leg of their doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays was played as scheduled. The bad news? That game ended in a 7-3 loss after an unusually sloppy start from Max Scherzer and another rough appearance by Blake Treinen.

Including their sweep at the hands of Cincinnati over the weekend, the Nationals have now lost four of their previous five games.

THE RUNDOWN:Scherzer has been so consistently dominant this season that anything but seven-plus innings of one-run ball now seems strange. Such was the case Tuesday night. The reason? Kevin Pillar. Toronto’s light-hitting center fielder entered the game with a .223 batting average and two home runs in 193 at-bats this season. Naturally, he doubled his season home run total and went 3 for 3 against Scherzer. The first homer was a solo shot in the second inning. After a fourth-inning single, Pillar then hit a go-ahead three-run homer to left field in the sixth. When he exited the game thereafter, the Blue Jays proceeded to rough up Washington’s bullpen, namely Treinen. The right-hander allowed three runs in the seventh, and the Nationals were unable to climb the steep hill back from there.

THE HIGHLIGHT: Between the bullpen troubles and an oddly challenging night for Scherzer, there aren’t many Nationals-centric highlights to choose from. So we’ll go with something that happened before the game, when a female fan apparently threw her cell phone on the field near right fielder Bryce Harper. Harper picked up the phone, took this photo and tossed it back to her. You don’t see that every day.

STARS OF THE GAME:The Nationals fielded a patchwork lineup in the second leg of their doubleheader, with Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos among those sitting out. Their respective replacements, Tyler Moore and Jose Lobaton, accounted for the majority of Washington’s scoring. Moore drove in two runs, doubling to the left-field corner in the fourth inning to score Harper and hitting a sacrifice fly to right in the fifth. Lobaton drove in a run of his own with a single in the fourth, his eighth RBI in only 12 games this season.

THE TAKEAWAY: Entering Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Nationals‘ bullpen had allowed 15 earned runs over 15 1/3 innings, which translates to an 8.80 ERA in seven days. Partially because of injuries and partially by design, they have cycled through a host of young relievers this season, many of whom had limited or no big-league experience before Opening Day. And the results have been, well, mixed. It’s perfectly reasonable, and probably even smart, to see what you have in the bullpen early in the year. At a certain point, however, the Nationals will need to figure out if they have seven guys that can consistently perform in high-leverage situations, and will be able to help them in September and October. Maybe those seven guys are in the organization right now. Maybe not. With the July 31 trade deadline now less than two months away, this continues to be the team’s most pressing question.


SEE ALSO: The Rundown: Jordan Zimmermann shines as Nationals take Game 1 of doubleheader


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