05/07/09 3:04 AM ET
Pitching roughed up in Nationals' loss
Problems in bullpen could mean more moves are coming
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
The score was tied at 1 going into the bottom of the fifth inning, and it looked like Nationals right-hander Daniel Cabrera was on his way to having a solid outing, but things unraveled. With the bases loaded, Cabrera walked Andre Ethier to force home Rafael Furcal to give Los Angeles a 2-1 lead.
Cabrera's control problems continued in the next inning. He walked two batters and left the game with the bases loaded. Then it was the bullpen's turn to stop the bleeding. It never happened. The Dodgers blew the game open with seven runs.
"Cabrera was pretty good for five innings, then the walks happened. That's the story of the game -- walks," pitching coach Randy St. Claire said.
Left-hander Mike Hinckley gave up an RBI single to Furcal. Orlando Hudson came to the plate, and Hinckley was confident that he would get Hudson out. But on a 3-2 pitch, Hinckley threw a wild pitch to force home a run.
"I thought I had a really good shot at him," Hinckley said. "I felt good with him. I went to throw a fastball, 3-2. As I went to go back, I felt the ball coming out of my hand. I had no grip on it. ... I just lost it. It wasn't a curveball. It was a 3-2 fastball. I just lost it. ... To walk a guy the way I did, it stinks."
Things got worse with right-hander Logan Kensing on the mound.
Manny Ramirez had a two-run double. Ethier was walked intentionally and James Loney brought home two more runs with a single to left. Russell Martin drove in the Dodgers' last run of the inning with an RBI groundout.
The bullpen has been underperforming all year and it's the No. 1 reason the Nationals have the worst record in baseball.
On April 19, the Nationals revamped their bullpen by designating Steven Shell and Wil Ledezma for assignment and optioning Saul Rivera to Triple-A Syracuse. Washington then recalled Garrett Mock and Jason Bergmann.
That day, manager Manny Acta warned the media that if the bullpen didn't perform, more changes would be coming. Look for the Nationals to possibly make some moves as early as Thursday.
Acta said that acting general manager Mike Rizzo is working on making some moves. Tyler Clippard and Ron Villone are two guys who could be called up soon. Clippard has given up two runs in 13 2/3 innings for Triple-A Syracuse, while Villone has a 2.35 ERA in eight games.
Washington could also make trades, but that seems to be a long shot. The Nationals don't have the players on the Major League roster to get an impact reliever.
"We continue to work on it. We are talking about it. We are taking a look at the guys at Triple-A," Acta said. "Mike is exploring possibilities. We are going to continue to work until it's better. We deserve better. Right now, it's not giving us a chance. It's just struggling right now."
St. Claire is usually stoic after wins and losses, but by looking at his face, one could tell that he is not happy. This is the first time in his six-plus years with the National/Expos that he had to deal with a below-average bullpen.
"In those situations, you can't fall behind guys. You have to work ahead in this game. It's plain and simple," St. Claire said. "It's hard to be happy when the guys are not getting the job done at all. It's not like it's once a month and once every two months. This is night after night. [The bullpen] is not giving us a chance to win ballgames. They have to do a better job."
The Nationals added two more run in the eighth inning off right-hander Guillermo Mota. Jesus Flores homered and Cristian Guzman scored on an RBI groundout by Nick Johnson.
With the loss, the Nationals dropped their record to 7-18. The Dodgers also set a modern record by winning 13 straight home games to start the season.
"It's very remarkable in the fact that you can win 13 games in a row. It's just good. They are playing good baseball right now," Acta said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.