After all seven of his Washington Nationals relievers pitched in a 12-inning loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night, manager Manny Acta knew his options would be limited in Saturday’s doubleheader.
And that was before he knew about Scott Olsen’s shoulder troubles.
The left-hander had been nicked up coming out of his previous start Sunday in Arizona, when he took a hard grounder off his left ankle. By the time he finished grinding through five innings Saturday afternoon, it was evident he had been fighting more than just that.
Olsen underwent an MRI on his left shoulder after the Nationals’ 8-5 loss to the Phillies in Game 1. His fastball dipped into the mid-80s most of the day, with the exception of the 91-mph fastball he summoned to strike Eric Bruntlett out on a foul tip for his final pitch of the day, grimacing as he walked off the mound.
It was evident early that Olsen would have a rough afternoon against the aggressive lineup he manipulated last month in Philadelphia, but the Nationals had no choice. Acta couldn’t ask for another five-plus innings out of his relievers; he had to leave Olsen on the mound.
“He did gain a lot of respect from me,” Acta said. “His shoulder was a little tight. Still, he did something that probably didn’t help him. He was thinking about his teammates. He wanted to go out there, give us as many innings as he could and pick up his bullpen.”
Olsen allowed six runs (five earned) on nine hits in five innings, the speed difference between his fastball and change-up simply too small to hold back the Phillies. Raul Ibanez hit two home runs — giving him five in seven games against the Nationals this year — and Jayson Werth smoked one in the second inning.
That shot, which followed Ibanez’s first homer to put the Phillies up 2-1, sent Acta to the mound for the first time to check on Olsen. Acta asked Olsen if he was OK; Olsen said he was and kept pitching.
“I saw a guy that was battling his stinking butt off trying to give us some innings,” catcher Josh Bard said. “He’s out there throwing 84, 85 miles an hour. He’s not feeling right, but he competed.”
The Nationals couldn’t muster the same kind of charge off the sometimes-erratic Brett Myers. Ryan Zimmerman hit a solo homer to center in the first inning, and Josh Willingham did the same in the fourth.
But the Nationals had just one other hit off Myers. They scored three runs in the eighth to give the final score a measure of respectability but never got close to rallying.
Afterward, the concern was more with Olsen. The Nationals will call up a starter (possibly Ross Detwiler) to pitch Monday and put their rotation back on regular rest after the doubleheader. It remains to be seen whether the shoulder trouble will necessitate another move to replace Olsen for his next scheduled start Thursday.
If he did aggravate an injury Saturday, it was because he knew the Nationals didn’t have any other options.
“Ultimately, he’s a young guy that has a bright future ahead of him, and a lot of money to be made,” Bard said. “He didn’t complain once. He didn’t ask out of the game. When you take your lumps, that’s part of being a professional. That will come back to him twofold.”