Bergmann struggles in loss to Braves
Righty puts Nats in hole by allowing seven runs in 2 1/3 frames
ATLANTA -- A few hours before Friday's game against the Braves, Nationals manager Manny Acta was asked if it was time for the organization to rethink its decision about having right-hander Jason Bergmann as a long-term fixture in the rotation.
Acta declined to answer the question, but he said, "Hey, listen, we are open to change our minds on an everyday basis if we want to. We have done it in the last couple of years. So we'll continue to throw Bergy out there. If we have to change our minds, we'll change it."
Friday night may cause Washington (54-88) to seriously think about Bergmann's future with the club. He was hit hard again as the Braves (62-80) pounded the Nationals, 10-5, at Turner Field.
According to pitching coach Randy St. Claire, Bergmann had a great bullpen session before the game, but it didn't translate against Atlanta. Bergmann (2-11) lasted 2 1/3 innings, gave up seven runs on five hits and saw his ERA jump from 4.83 to 5.23. He threw 60 pitches, never had one clean inning and was pulled from the game when he gave up a bases-loaded walk to Casey Kotchman.
"He just didn't have a good outing today," Acta said. "He didn't give us a chance."
After his last pitch was high in the strike zone, one could see the anger in Bergmann's face. In his past seven starts, dating back to Aug. 2, he has a 7.01 ERA and 21 walks.
After the game, Bergmann seemed dazed about what happened on Friday and in his most recent starts.
"I was extremely [angry]," Bergmann said. "I don't want to have the whole year ruined because of a couple of bad starts at the end. I'm trying to finish strong. I guess the Braves have given me a tough time this year. I'm trying to work on stuff. ... I need to stop being so nitpicky and go right after guys a little more and be a lot more aggressive. I need to turn it around. I'm disappointed in the way I'm throwing. I let the team down."
According to St. Claire, Bergmann is not doing well on the mound because of mechanical issues and the fact that he's trying too hard. From the mechanical standpoint, Bergmann's front side is flying open and his head is pulling off the ball.
"He's making too may mistakes, falling behind hitters, walking guys -- too many mistakes," St. Claire said. "He is trying to go in on a lefty and the ball runs out over the plate on him away. He tries to go down and away on the righties, the ball shoots over the plate.
"He goes harder and harder. He is getting mad. You can see the frustration on his face, and that takes you out of your mechanics. When you start getting mad, you want to get better, you want to stop it right here. It has the total opposite effect. In this game, you can't go harder and harder.
"When you throw the ball nice and easy, it just jumps out of your hands; it doesn't feel like you threw it. I think he is putting a lot of pressure on himself and trying to do more than he is capable of. You are only capable of doing so much."
With Bergmann struggling of late, the question must be asked: What should the Nationals do with him the rest of the season? Acta again declined to answer the question after the game.
"We think here, we don't react to situations," Acta said. "We are going to go to sleep, and whenever we make a decision -- if we do -- believe me, you guys will find out. We are going to sit down, think it through and then we'll make a decision, whether it's to give a kid a chance to start or whether it's to keep Jason. We are not going to make a decision based on a poor outing that he had today."
Right-hander Marco Estrada replaced Bergmann and didn't fare any better. He lasted 2 2/3 innings and gave up three runs -- two earned -- and walked two batters.
Washington's offense also struggled. Acta decided to sit outfielders Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes to give Roger Bernadina, Kory Casto and Ryan Langerhans a chance against right-handed pitching.
This particular lineup couldn't do anything to right-hander Jair Jurrjens (12-9), who lasted five innings and gave up one run on six hits. However, the bats started to come alive in the middle innings, as the Nats scored a combined four runs off Buddy Carlyle and Elmer Dessens. Langerhans had the biggest blow, with a two-run triple in the seventh inning.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.