Leftover notes and observations from the Nats' 4-2 win over the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night...
Papelbon pulled: Jonathan Papelbon has been causing trouble for the Nationals in the ninth inning lately, having gone back to his shaky ways of pitching to hard contact with a fastball that tops out at 89-90 miles per hour. Many fans have not felt confident this year in Papelbon's ability to do his job as closer. Now we know the Nationals feel the same.
Manager Dusty Baker pulled Papelbon after the 35-year-old veteran faced just three batters on Thursday night. He got Brandon Crawford to fly out, then gave up a single to Brandon Belt and a walk to Mac Williamson. By the end of his first at-bat, Baker had Oliver Perez warming.
Papelbon was ultimately charged with one earned run as Perez allowed Belt to score on an infield grounder. That gave Papelbon his third straight appearance with at least one earned run allowed, with seven of them total during that stretch.
His troubles go beyond the numbers, though. First place teams who have their closer's back simply do not take him out that early in such a big spot in such an important game. If any more indication was needed the Nationals could use an upgrade at that position by Monday's non-waiver trade deadline, there it was. Now, the question is how the Nats can bring in a new closer. Will they give up the farm for an Andrew Miller, or hope for the same results with a Alex Colome or Jeremy Jeffress, who would conceivably be cheaper? Either way, they should do something, or else it could cost them a lot down the road. They know it, we know it, everyone knows it.
Zimmerman gets two hits: In his third game back from the disabled list, Ryan Zimmerman had a solid outing with a single, a double and a run. That followed Wednesday's game in Cleveland where he had a single, two runs and a steal. Zimmerman is now 6-for-20 (.300) with five runs, a double and a homer in his last five games, though those are split by his stint on the DL.
Espinosa drives in a run: Hits have been few and far between for Espinosa, who has fallen off a bit in July after his exceptional month of June. But the Nats shortstop did get a big one on Thursday night with his RBI single with two outs in the top of the second inning. Espinosa now has just three hits in his last 10 games across 38 at-bats with 17 strikeouts. He has a .318 OPS during that stretch. Maybe Thursday was a sign he is about to get going again.
Solis shines again: Sammy Solis continued to look strong in his second appearance since returning from the disabled list on Tuesday. he tossed a scoreless eighth inning after working around a leadoff walk. Solis has now pitched 1 2/3 innings with no runs and three strikeouts since coming back. Beyond going after closers, the Nats have also been linked to left-handed relievers, guys like Zach Duke and Boone Logan. With Solis back pitching well, though, it's not a major need.
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