Yesterday, I went to the mat defending Bergmann's makeup and poise, and of course he rewarded me by getting completely rattled and crapping the bed for the first time in a really long time. At least, that's the short version.
Here's the somewhat longer version: the Mets were a terrible matchup for Bergy from the get-go. He was kind of overdue for a bad start anyway, and they sent up a lineup with six lefties, including perhaps the toughest threesome of lefties in the league--Beltran, Delgado, and Reyes. Bergmann is allowing a lefty OPS of .804, compared to .713 for righties--a big split. Then, in that endless third, he was betrayed first by some bad luck, then his fastball, then the homeplate ump, and then his shortstop. And when all that came to a head, and he needed to come out, he was left to twist in the wind for more than 20 more gruesome pitches because there were no arms in the bullpen. And somewhere in there he also lost his shit.
The inning started harmlessly enough. One of the few righties in the lineup, David Wright, reached by squibbing a good slider to third. Bergmann already had Jose Reyes reach and score on a squibber in the first (he actually was out but called safe on yet another bad call this week), so he was probably a little frustrated already.
Then, facing Delgado, his fastball command disappeared--maybe he was nibbling, or just lost his release point. He threw three fastballs in a row, and only one was really even close, to fall behind 3-1. But then he threw a very good change-up for strike two and a curveball on the black for what easily could have been called strike three. It wasn't, and I'm generally not a fan of arguing balls and strikes, and pitchers can't lose their heads when they get squeezed, but Bergy really felt like he threw a great pitch that he needed, and he was rattled.
Up comes Beltran, and Bergmann, now apparently losing confidence in the fastball, throws him a slider and two curves--good pitches all, actually--and gets what easily could have been the third out of the inning on a groundball.
Then came Danny Murphy, who apparently is a pretty good hitter and another dreaded lefty. He poked a fastball on the outside corner--a good pitch, for sure--to left for a single. Credit the hitter--good pitch, good piece of hitting, but that's an out way more often than not. Next, facing Tatis, Bergmann gets strike one on a fastball, and then throws him three straight curves. Is he afraid to throw his fastball? Major league hitters catch up eventually if you throw the same pitch over and over, and a base hit scored the second run of the inning. There's still just one out.
At this point, things came apart completely. Visibly frustrated on the mound, he walks the terrible Brian Schneider on four pitches, three of them fastballs, none close.
St. Claire comes to the mound (about two batters too late) to try to calm him down. I wonder, what does he say here? "OK Jay, calm down. I know you're thinking about Columbus. It's not going to happen. We're behind you." It's B.S. This pitcher's learned that lesson too many times--the organization isn't behind him. For two years, he's been one or maybe two bad outings away from the bullpen or AAA. I guarantee you that's what Bergy was thinking as Maine came to the plate. With the bases loaded, he walks Maine on five pitches, missing badly four times.
At this point, he's clearly lost his release point. He's rattled. He needs to come out of the game. It's not worth it to ruin the confidence of one of your few youngish decent pitchers to avoid a meaningless 77th loss. But no one was even warming. Steven Shell had pitched on consecutive days, and Saul Rivera had thrown 37 pitches the day before. You aren't going to use Hanrahan, so that leaves Ayala, Manning, and Colome--none even resembling a long man. It's the third inning. Manny has no choice. Bergy's gonna twist in the wind as long as it takes.
This is where it's absolutely criminal that for the SEVENTIETH TIME THIS YEAR Manny was short-handed last night. Alberto Gonzalez on the bench, reportedly healthy enough to play, but according to Charlie and Dave Bowden had given orders not to play him so that he could still be DL-ed retroactively to 9 days ago. Why the fuck is he not on the DL now if you are just going to DL him anyway!?!?!????
Any minimally competent GM has AG on the DL and Tyler Clippard in the bullpen last night. Things were so desperate that Manny started warming Garrett Mock, who was the starter two days earlier. At the point when we're even thinking about using a rookie pitcher like that, we have gone from a bad team to a bad organzation, where losing games is a minor sin compared to the pitcher abuse. Is it a coincidence that at that very moment Aaron Crow was signing a contract with the Ft. Worth Cats?
OK, back to the game. Bases are loaded. Bergmann has just committed the most humilating of gaffes by walking the other team's pitcher to force in a run. He gets it together well enough to induce a ground ball, custom-made double-play, which the insufferable B.S. all-star Cristian Guzman allows to go through his legs. At this point, Bergmann has pitched well enough to have gotten 5 outs and allowed maybe one run. Instead, he still has one out and five runs. Piling on, the official scorer calls the GB through legs a hit, though this was later changed.
Next, Bergmann makes A. Reyes look silly on nice fastball-change-curve sequence to record his seventh out of the inning. Next comes Wright again. He needs to get him out, because the Murderer's Row of lefties is coming again. But the fastball betrays him again, and he walks him. At this point, the kid has to be completely gassed. Usually 30 pitches is the most you want to allow a guy to throw in an inning. Injury risk comes from pitching when you are tired, and it's not just total pitches, it's pitches per inning. Next, Delgado walks. Bergmann has thrown 44 pitches.
Next, Beltran rips a fastball for a double. Bergmann is now a steaming corpse on the mound, being picked to death by a flock of vultures. Still, Manny has no choice but to let him get picked. Danny Murphy comes up and mercifully hammers a ball right at Willie Harris for the seventh out of the inning.
Total damage for the inning: 8 runs, 4 hits, 5 walks, and 51 pitches. That, my friends, is pitcher abuse. If Bergmann isn't injured, it'd be a major dodged bullet. If he comes back and pitches well in his next start, he deserves a bronze star for valor.
But regardless, this was truly a low point for the Nationals. Not because of what was on the scoreboard, but becasue of the miserable abuse of one of our more important long-term assets, all because Bowden for some reason insists on keeping a hurt, minor-league, glove-only shortstop on the active roster while the bullpen is gassed and our starting pitcher is facing probably the worst match-up he'll have all year.
Blogger shakes head and shuts down Windows.