- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Nationals thought they had found their closer, ending, at least temporarily, a wobbling search for someone to effectively pitch the ninth inning.

Koda Glover had wanted the role in spring training. He was provided a chance by the poor pitching of others, then began to excel. He put together four saves in a five-day period, had a bad outing, then was right back at it.

That was until Saturday. Glover gave up two runs in the ninth that squared the game against the Texas Rangers. Afterward, he revealed that he had tweaked his back when showering earlier in the day. He did not tell Nationals management. Instead, he tried to pitch through it.

The extra effort made things worse. Sunday, Glover was placed on the 10-day disabled list because of lower back stiffness. Joe Blanton (right shoulder inflammation) was reinstated from his rehabilitation assignment to take Glover’s spot on the roster. He pitched a scoreless inning Sunday.

“It doesn’t make anything easier,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said of Glover’s injury. “It hadn’t been easy so far. Why expect it to be easy now? It’s been very difficult. But, got to do what we got to do. Mix and match and hope the guys we bring in do the job.”

Trying to pitch through pain also caused Glover’s prior problems. Last season, he felt pain in his hip but did not inform the team right away. It turned out that he had a labrum tear in his hip. He opted to rehabilitate the injury during the offseason with physical therapy instead of surgery. The problem crept back up earlier this season and pushed Glover onto the disabled list April 26 be cause of a “left hip impingement.”

Who the closer will be now is anyone’s guess. When Baker looked at his bullpen Sunday afternoon, he saw Shawn Kelley, who pitched Saturday and has a 7.47 ERA. Erstwhile closer Blake Treinen came into the game with a 6.15 ERA, though had cobbled together scoreless appearances in four of his last five outings. But, again Sunday, he let the game slip away. A high-bounding ground ball turned into a triple in the eighth inning against Treinen. The hit put a run on his ledger, one on Oliver Perez’s line and again turned a game in the opponent’s favor.

“How many times can you say, ‘Stick with it or keep your head up or be confident,’” Baker said. “We’ve said a lot of things that are necessary to say. Then, after a while, you’re just kind of blowing smoke by saying it. We got to hug ‘em and love ‘em. Sometimes when they don’t do what they’re supposed to do, you chastise them. But, you don’t kick people while they’re down. That’s what everybody wants you to do.”

The Nationals’ most effective reliever has been Matt Albers. Two scoreless innings Saturday pulled his ERA down 1.08. They meant he was unavailable Sunday.

The bullpen’s ineffectiveness — it has the National League’s second-worst ERA — has been nagging the first-place Nationals since the season began. In the offseason, Washington attempted to sign high-end free agent closers like Mark Melancon and Kenley Jansen. Their decisions to work elsewhere are still chasing the Nationals in the middle of June.

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