- - Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Washington Nationals released hapless veteran pitcher Trevor Rosenthal on Sunday before the third and deciding game of their weekend series with the Atlanta Braves. But the bullpen problems the ineffective reliever had come to symbolize remained.

The Nationals’ bullpen collapsed again Sunday, as Braves pinch-hitter Johan Camargo went deep in the top of the 10th off Washington reliever Tanner Rainey, giving first-place Atlanta a 4-3 win and two of the three games in the weekend series at Nationals Park.

Rainey had been an effective setup man for closer Sean Doolittle since he was promoted from Triple-A Fresno, but the Braves caught up to him over the weekend.

Nationals manager Dave Martinez said the pitch from Rainey to Camargo, a left-handed hitter, was too far inside.

“He just yanked it,” Martinez said. “It was supposed to be away; it came in.”



Rainey entered the game with a 2.93 ERA in his first 16 appearances with Washington, which went 6-4 on the homestand against Arizona, slumping Philadelphia and the consistent Braves.

The Nationals had the go-ahead run on second in the eighth when Anthony Rendon hit into a double play. Gerardo Parra fanned to end the last of the ninth with Howie Kendrick on second. Trea Turner drove in a run in the last of the 10th to make it 4-3 but Rendon and Juan Soto were retired by closer Luke Jackson to end the game.

“We had some opportunities to score some runs late in the game. We just didn’t get the back hit,” Martinez said. “We had our chances and didn’t capitalize.”
The key Nationals hitters had a chance to win it.

“I hate seeing Rendon, and Howie Kendrick is as dangerous a hitter as there is in the game,” said Brian Snitker, the Atlanta manager. “I mean, that guy (Kendrick), he’s just, he’s a ballplayer and just scares you every time he comes up there because he’s such a solid player.”

The loss wouldn’t have been so morale-busting — the Nationals clubhouse was eerily quiet — had not the bullpen allowed nine runs in a brutal 13-9 setback to the Braves on Saturday night.

The Nationals fell to 37-40, 8½ games behind the Braves (46-32).

Washington, which won the series opener Friday 4-3, entered Sunday with a bullpen ERA of 6.32.

It looked as though the Nationals would get a break when Mike Soroka (8-1), the Braves’ top starter, was forced to leave the game after just two innings when he was hit by a pitch from Nationals starter Austin Voth in the top of the third.

“I knew I got it right in the flexors and as soon as it was tight enough, I mean, there was pretty much no chance of going out there and throwing a baseball today,” Soroka said.

Voth, after 12 starts at Triple-A Fresno, made his first appearance for the Nationals in 2019.

“I had nine days off since my last start (with Triple-A Fresno) so my arm was strong,” Voth said. “I was keeping them off-balance with my fastball, changing the eye level. I felt great.”

He gave up two solo homers to Josh Donaldson in the fourth and Ronald Acuna Jr. in the sixth. “They got a little bit too much of the plate,” he said.

The problem for Rosenthal was just getting the ball over any part of the plate.

The veteran reliever walked all three batters he faced Saturday. Rosenthal was signed prior to this season on a one-year deal for a reported $7 million. He had 45 saves in 2015 with St. Louis.

“It was time for us to move on. I wish him and his family the best,” Martinez said.

The Nationals are off Monday, and Max Scherzer (6-5, 2.62) will take the mound Tuesday to begin a series in Miami. It will be his first start since the “Broken Nose Game” on Wednesday.

“When everything is said and done we came out 6-4,” Martinez said of the homestand.

The Braves still have two more trips to D.C. this season.

“I mean this line-up and this pitching staff has just been clicking on all go,” Soroka said. “We got all three parts of the game and we’re going in hot.”

 

 

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