Cubs win game 2. Gio didn't look terrible, which is what I was most paying attention to. The Nats got themselves back into the game and the Nats pen lost it in the end. Which brings up the question of the moment. Is the Nats pen in trouble?
It's clear that the Nats don't have a shutdown closer. Papelbon is effective but hittable. Rivero is untested and possibly overworked. Treinen is peaking but still wild. Kelley could be the man but even if he is it creates the cascade issue. Where Kelly pitched before someone has to step in, and where that player who stepped in pitched, another arm has to go. Weaker arms are forced to pitch in more important times.
It feels like trouble but all indications is that the Nats pen is fine. Better than fine in fact. Better than good. They are 3rd in the NL in ERA, in a group with #1 and #2, much better than #4. They have the third lowest batting average against. Third lowest opponent OPS. 5th best in stranding inherited runners. Blown the fewest saves (tied with 4 other teams) which is not a fluke of chances as they have the 2nd highest save percentage (told you Papelbon was effective). They've pitched the second fewest innings and have no one outside of maybe Rivero who's been worked particularly hard.
And has Rivero been worked hard? I think he had been, appearing 11 times in 19 days (not games but days) from April into May, and mentioned that. However that didn't appear to effect his performance. Instead it was 3 straight appearances at the end of May that might have tipped the scales. He was at one time on pace for 90 appearances when he had only been a reliever full time for one previous season, and pitched in 57 games. So was it being worked too hard. Maybe. It's hard to tell with pitchers. He has been used sparingly since as Dusty has worked Solis and Perez into games more. We'll see if he can bounce back. And as I've said before - I'd ride relief pitchers until they break. These are fungible arms that rarely give you more than a few good years. Squeeze all the blood you can from that stone.
There are two questions here - do the Nats NEED bullpen help and are the Nats going to get bullpen help. The first question, I honestly think they don't. No, Papelbon in the playoffs doesn't inspire confidence, but as I said before - he's effective. By replacing him you are gambling that the Nats will be in a close game, Papelbon will blown that game, but this new magical closer, let's call him Androldis Millman, wouldn't. That's a lot of check boxes to be marked to give up something good for. I guess if your goal is unstoppable another arm is necessary but even the best laid plans can be beaten by a stray hit, some unfortunate usage, (see Storen in 2012) or a guy just not doing it that day (see Storen in 2014)
But still even if the Nats don't need it, they may get it just because they can. Bullpen help can be had a bit more cheaply given the limited impact. So I wouldn't be surprised if the Nats didn't add an arm or two down the stretch. I just don't expect it to be a Miller or Chapman. I expect it to be a solid middle relief arm that can be had for a song. And looking at the pen so far - I think that's the most defensible move.
(Of course All-in Harper says - BE UNSTOPPABLE. This year is going well for you. No half-measures)