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Brad Ziegler bashed by Nats in frustrating 4-1 loss

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Marlins are running out of reasons to continue using the veteran in high-leverage situations.

For the fourth separate time this season, Ziegler allowed 3 + runs in a game.

Unemployed until the injury-depleted Nationals gave him a call last month, Mark Reynolds led the visitors to a 4-1 win on Saturday afternoon. His assist to cut down pinch-runner Cameron Maybin at home plate preserved a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning. Then, leading off the ninth, Reynolds’ solo shot to left field against Brad Ziegler put the Nats ahead for good.

Aside from the rally against Ziegler (whose earned run average swelled to 7.54 this season), Marlins pitching was superb. Wei-Yin Chen carried a shutout through 7 13 innings prior to Wilmer Difo’s game-tying home run. The key for Chen was getting ahead in the count—he delivered 21 first-pitch strikes to 27 total batters.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The final line—7.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K—translated to a Game Score of 72 for Chen. The only better overall performance of his Marlins career came on April 18, 2017 when he pitched seven no-hit innings (77 Game Score).

Bryce Harper, in particular, had no answers for the left-hander’s 90 mile-per-hour fastballs and well-spotted sliders. The former NL MVP struck out against Chen in all three of their matchups (Harper wore a golden sombrero by the end of the game).

Fish Stripes original GIF

In his first MLB action of 2018, shortstop JT Riddle finished 0-for-4 and made the final out of the ninth. Meanwhile, Miguel Rojas already seems comfortable transitioning to third base to accommodate him.

The Marlins offense continues to be inconsistent. In 51 games, they have been held to two runs or fewer 23 times, which is more often than any other MLB team this season.

Ziegler has allowed at least three runs in four separate appearances so far. But in all of those instances, he took the mound in a “non-save situation,” as Craig Mish of SiriusXM points out.

Those splits are amusing, though not meaningful—if anything, pitching in a tied game like the veteran did on Saturday comes under more pressure than typical closer’s work. Ziegler has no excuse for the lack of execution.

Don Mattingly was non-committal about making changes to the bullpen hierarchy (h/t Joe Frisaro, MLB.com).

“I think we have to be concerned to some degree. [Ziegler] still throws the ball on the ground a lot, but more and more balls are getting through, it seems like.”

Next up, the Fish will try to salvage the series finale Sunday afternoon (1:10pm ET). Probable starters are Elieser Hernández and Stephen Strasburg.

Win Probability chart courtesy of FanGraphs

Kingfish: Chen (.250 WPA)

Flounder: Ziegler (-.468)

Play of the game: Reynolds’ solo homer (.340)

Attendance: 11,646


Please leave any Icthy picks in the comments below. Remember, we introduced a new grand prize for the contest this season!

Today's Lineups

WASHINGTON NATIONALS MIAMI MARLINS
Trea Turner - SS Derek Dietrich - LF
Bryce Harper - RF J.T. Realmuto - C
Anthony Rendon - 3B Justin Bour - 1B
Mark Reynolds - 1B Starlin Castro - 2B
Juan Soto - LF Brian Anderson - RF
Michael Taylor - CF Miguel Rojas - 3B
Pedro Severino - C JT Riddle - SS
Tanner Roark - RHP Lewis Brinson - CF
Wilmer Difo - 2B Wei-Yin Chen - LHP

5/26/18 Probable Starters

Name Team IP ERA FIP K/9 fWAR
Name Team IP ERA FIP K/9 fWAR
Wei-Yin Chen Marlins 22.0 6.55 7.16 5.73 -0.5
Tanner Roark Nationals 58.1 3.39 3.93 8.18 0.7
FanGraphs

Matchup Summary

An eventful but ultimately disappointing series opener on Friday night. The Marlins gave Max Scherzer more trouble than most other teams. Unfortunately, the bullpen couldn’t hold up in the later innings.

The Fish have lost every game started by José Ureña this season.

Martín Prado suffered a hamstring injury hustling down the first-base line and tests confirmed some structural damage. He’s been placed on the disabled list, creating room for JT Riddle to see his first major league action of 2018. And you’ll be seeing a lot of him—Riddle and Miguel Rojas will handle shortstop and third base respectively on a regular basis moving forward.

Nats Saturday starter Tanner Roark has lost more often to the Fish (eight times) than to any other opponent in his career. However, he’s done well so far this season thanks to a career-best 22.8 percent strikeout rate.

Washington is trying to improve to six games over .500, rapidly closing in on the NL East lead after a challenging month of April.

Thread Question: Hanley Ramírez could become a free agent next week if the Red Sox don’t find a trade partner. Do you want him back in Miami? (It would only cost Marlins the MLB minimum salary with the Red Sox on the hook for the rest of his contract.)