MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Nationals' bullpen struggles vs. Reds

Relievers get roughed up with Strasburg out early in series, but Williams optimistic

Nationals' bullpen struggles vs. Reds

CINCINNATI -- The Nationals' bullpen didn't have a good weekend against the Reds, allowing 14 runs in 11 2/3 innings.

It didn't help that the bullpen was pushed into service early in the series when Stephen Strasburg had to leave Friday's game after one inning because of neck muscle tightness.

One might wonder if the Nationals, who fell, 8-2, on Sunday, miss Tyler Clippard, who is now with the Athletics. On Saturday, right-hander Casey Janssen pitched the eighth inning and allowed four runs in his one inning on the mound.

Left-hander Matt Grace had the worst time this weekend. He didn't retire a batter in Sunday's loss to Cincinnati and allowed four runs on three hits.

Reds' six-run 7th inning

"Just not making pitches" Grace said. "The ball was up in the zone, not getting ahead of guys. That's what happens. … It's frustrating, not being able to contribute to a win, not doing my job. It could be better."

Always the optimist, manager Matt Williams expects the bullpen to do better by Monday, when the Nationals play the Blue Jays in a three-game series at Nationals Park.

"It's a little blip," Williams said. "We were able to win two out of three in Chicago. We came here [in Cincinnati] and things didn't go our way. We have a chance to correct that tomorrow."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.