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Jayson Werth goes after home plate umpire CB Bucknor after horrendously blown call in ninth inning almost costs Nationals

Jayson Werth goes after home plate umpire CB Bucknor after horrendously blown call in ninth inning almost costs Nationals

Jayson Werth was so fed up with homeplate umpire C.B. Bucknor at the end of last night's game against the Braves that he had to be held back from going after Bucknor as the umpires walked off the field. 

Werth was disgruntled the entire game because of how bad Bucknor's strike zone was. 

But what really sent Werth over the top was the final play of the game. With the Nationals clinging to a 3-1 lead (and trying to avoid another bullpen meltdown) with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, reliever Shawn Kelley appearded to have struck out Braves catcher Chase d'Arnaud as he swung and missed at a breaking ball. However, Bucknor said that d'Arnaud foul tipped the pitch and that the game was not over. 

The thing about it was d'Arnaud wasn't even close to tipping the pitch. Check it out for yourself. 

The play was even more bizarre because Bucknor didn't immediately or confidently make the call. He kind of signaled that it was a foul ball, and then kind of signaled that d'Arnaud was out. Then all the umpires came together and ruled that it indeed was a foul ball. A foul tip, by the way, is not reviewable under MLB's instant replay. Bucknor, a 20-year veteran umpire completely botched the call, and he got blasted by the Nationals Radio announcers Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler. Slowes called it a horrible job by the umpires, and Jageler called it embarrasing and that it would have been disgusting if the Braves had benefited from the call. 

During the umpire's conference on the field, the Nationals dugout had emptied as they were going through their normal handshake line after a win. Even the grounds crew thought the game was over as they were all out on the field. So after the Nationals players went back to the dugout, both team's relievers went back to their respective bullpens, and the groundscrew left the field, Kelley had to get d'Arnaud out AGAIN. Kelley threw him a nearly identical breaking ball, and d'Arnaud again swung and missed, so the Nationals held on for their 3-1 win. 

But what if the Braves had tied the game, or won the game after that? The thought of that is what had Werth so mad after the game that he ran in from left field to get in Bucknor's face. 

After the game, Werth of course was very critical of Bucknor. 

While Werth is 100 percent right about Bucknor, don't be surprised if he has a hefty fine or a suspension coming down the pike for the way he went after the umpire, or for his comments after the game. 

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Nationals face dilemma as Sean Doolittle's usage mounts, velocity drops

Nationals face dilemma as Sean Doolittle's usage mounts, velocity drops

Davey Martinez had no hesitation in his answer or decision on Friday in Philadelphia. First game out of the break, facing a team right next to the Nationals in the standings, a 4-0 lead. Closer Sean Doolittle was coming in to end it, though it was a non-save situation and he is being used at an extreme level.

“Here’s my thoughts: It took me about three seconds,” Martinez said Friday. “Playing at Citizens [Bank] Park. Four runs. That ain’t much here. Those guys can hit. Doolittle’s coming in the game. It’s a big moment. And, he’s my guy. To me, that game right there, it’s huge coming off a four-day break.”

So, Doolittle made his 40th appearance of the season. Saturday brought his 41st appearance. He did not pitch Sunday, a day game after a late night.

Trends are emerging through his high usage rate. Doolittle’s velocity is down for the fourth consecutive season. The dip is slight year over year, from 93.9 mph average fastball velocity to 93.6. His velocity was distinctly down in Philadelphia over the weekend despite four days off. Doolittle threw 12 fastballs Friday, 10 of which were slower than his average fastball velocity this season. He threw 19 fastballs Saturday; 13 were below his average velocity (two others matched it). 

“I’m not exactly sure why it’s down,” Doolittle said Saturday. “I know from past experience, not to panic if I see the 91, 92. I feel pretty good -- everybody gets a little tired around this point of the season, but if I stay in my mechanics and don’t try to overthrow, I can still get that life and deception on my fastball. I can still, like [Saturday], I can still navigate innings and get guys out. These last two nights I’ve been really pleased with how I’ve been able to manage my energy level without maybe my best fastball.”

He is on pace for a career-high 72 appearances and 1,214 pitches. The latter would exceed his career mark of 1,019 by almost 200 pitches. One of the most telling numbers around Doolittle is his games finished vs. saves. He leads the league with 37 games finished but has just 20 saves, which is tied for fourth with three others. National League saves leader Kirby Yates has finished 35 games, but has 30 saves. Kenley Jansen: 33 games finished, 23 saves. Will Smith: 35 games finished, 23 saves. No other closer has appeared in more non-save situations.

Doolittle’s velocity also dropped earlier in the season before a mechanical adjustment kicked it back up to the 94- and 95-mph range for a spell. He did turn loose a 95-mph fastball Saturday. He half-joked about it.

“See it’s in there,” Doolittle said. “I just got to pick and choose, I guess, when to use it.”

His manager is using a more straight-ahead approach. Doolittle is out there, so he is using him. A lot.

And all this is more for recognition of the situation as opposed to blame assessment, When the bullpen was at its worst, Doolittle was summoned at times because his teammates were in the process of blowing a game or couldn’t be trusted in the first place. The Nationals were also rapidly losing ground, so Martinez had to be sure he was sure whenever possible. But, also, there have been times when Doolittle’s appearance in a non-save situation appeared unnecessary.

Piled together, the Nationals have an ongoing conundrum: they need to manage Doolittle’s appearances while in the middle of a push up the standings and without a definitive backup. Fernando Rodney has helped. An acquisition before the trade deadline could help further. And the coming week we’ll clarify if two games in Philadelphia were a blip or more foreboding.

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Nationals broadcaster F.P Santangelo: Team never panicked in slow start

Nationals broadcaster F.P Santangelo: Team never panicked in slow start

The Washington Nationals early start may have had fans and pundits writing off the team for the season, but no one inside the Nationals organization was panicking, said one insider. 

“I know there was a while there where everybody wanted Davey gone and people were questioning Mike," Nationals broadcaster F.P. Santangelo said on The Sports Junkies Monday, "but they were the calming forces in all this."

From bullpen woes to injuries, the Nationals had a rough start to their season and then suddenly, as if it had never happened, they turned it around.

“We were all scratching our heads like what in the world is going on? This team is way too good to be doing this and it was happening nightly,” Santangelo said.

As pressure mounted on the team to keep winning, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo reiterated time and time again during his Wednesday morning spot on The Sports Junkies that their goal was to play good baseball and to not worry about wins or losses, which Santangelo echoed.

"They were calm the whole time," Santangelo said. "They had veteran presence in the clubhouse and nobody panicked."

Suddenly, with a 12-10 win over the Miami Marlins on May 24, the Nats turned it around. Rizzo and the Lerners made the decision to cut their losses on Trevor Rosenthal's contract, the bullpen started to pitch well and adjustments were made accordingly, says Santangelo.

The Nationals open their two-game series against the Baltimore Orioles Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.

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