ST. LOUIS -- After losing a heartbreaker to the Cardinals, 8-5, on Monday night at Busch Stadium, the Nationals lost a chance to keep pace with the Mets, who won their game against the Phillies and now lead the Nationals League East by 6 1/2 games.
It was Washington's bullpen that couldn't hold a 5-3 lead in the seventh inning. It started with right-hander Casey Janssen, who looked like he was going to get out of the inning when he induced Greg Garcia to hit into a double play. But it went downhill after that.
After Matt Carpenter walked to put runners on first and third, Stephen Piscotty singled to right, scoring Mark Reynolds. Jhonny Peralta then singled to tie the game at 5.
In came Felipe Rivero to replace Janssen. Rivero fared no better, as Jason Heyward doubled to left-center, scoring two more runs to give St. Louis a 7-5 lead. Two batters later, Kolten Wong added to the lead with a single to right. Janssen was charged with four of the five runs as his ERA jumped to 4.16.
"I don't think I was having a problem with any of the pitches I was throwing," Janssen said. "I got that double play and thought I was one pitch away from getting out of it. Piscotty and Peralta had some pretty good ABs. I had both those guys with two strikes. I threw the pitch I wanted to throw. I got the swing I wanted to get and they were able to barrel it enough to the outfield where we weren't."
The Nationals have had a tough time finding a consistent bridge between the starter and the closer. They never really found their eighth-inning setup man after they traded Tyler Clippard this past winter. The Nationals thought they had their setup guy when they traded for Jonathan Papelbon. Drew Storen went from established closer to setup man but was hit hard during August, going 1-2 with an 8.49 ERA.
It also didn't help that Washington had a tough time finding a replacement for Craig Stammen, who is out for the year because of a forearm injury. Stammen could do everything from short relief to long relief with consistency.
It seems the Nationals will go into the winter and try to get bullpen help.
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.