Nats get by with 'all hands' bullpen approach

Nats get by with 'all hands' bullpen approach

SAN FRANCISCO -- To secure the final six outs in the Nationals' 4-1 victory Friday night, manager Dusty Baker needed to use five relievers and get the benefit of the first triple play in franchise history.

Such is the fragile state of Washington's bullpen, at one point during the season considered one of their strengths but now a glaring weakness for this first-place club. After seven strong innings from right-hander Max Scherzer, the Nationals used Oliver Perez, Blake Treinen, Sammy Solis, Felipe Rivero and Shawn Kelley to close out the victory.

"I think it's all hands on deck," Solis said. "And I think that's the great thing about our bullpen: We're not relying on the one guy that comes in to do it every time. We have five guys. Sometimes we need a little help. Sometimes a guy goes three innings and shuts guys out. It's just kind of all of us doing our part, being ready every single night."

Absent from that bunch was Jonathan Papelbon, who Baker said had the night off as a result of his recent workload and diminished velocity in his last appearance Thursday, when he was removed after allowing two baserunners in the ninth inning. The Nationals will look into whether Papelbon was injured as a possible explanation for his increased struggles, although Papelbon insists he is healthy and Baker said he believes it.

But Baker would also not commit to naming a closer Friday, saying, "We'll just see when we get there." The answer turned out to be a mixture of everyone, although it is telling Kelley recorded his second consecutive save. He has been the Nationals' most consistent and effective reliever all season.

As the hours draw closer to Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, Washington continues to search for bullpen help. But until that help arrives, they must get by with what they have.

"I don't know how long we can keep doing that," Baker said. "But hey, we're going to do it long as we can and as long as we win the ballgame."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.