WASHINGTON -- You can never have enough bullpen help, whether you have an All-Star closer or a battered back end, and both the Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals continue to try to find the right formula for late in the game.
Both teams enter the series finale Thursday hoping to utilize their revamped bullpens to finish off a victory.
The Brewers took another step to clean up the 'pen in front of closer Corey Knebel, sending regarded prospect Ryan Cordell to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for right-handed reliever Anthony Swarzak, in a trade that was made official by GM David Stearns on Wednesday.
Now, Milwaukee has another power arm in a 'pen that has struggled recently -- they gave up six runs in the eighth inning Wednesday.
"I think he's certainly pitching very well this year, and he's a guy that can add to our options, our depth down there," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He's going to pitch some big innings for us, I anticipate."
The Nationals' bullpen issues have been well-documented, as the lack of a proven closer, injuries and ineffectiveness have made the relief corps the Achilles' heel of the first-place team. Washington sports the worst bullpen ERA in the majors, and its relief pitchers have thrown the fewest innings in the league, in part due to their struggles.
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But the team hopes its bullpen fortunes changed when it acquired relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from Oakland on July 16. Madson has pitched four scoreless innings and Doolittle has two saves since joining Washington, giving the beleaguered bullpen a boost.
"I'm basically here to provide some reinforcements," said Doolittle, who gave up three runs in the ninth on Wednesday. "I'm viewing (my role) as whatever they ask me to do. One of the things I can provide to the bullpen is a little bit of versatility. I think so far this year I've done a little bit of everything. I can match up with the lefties and I've pitched every inning from the sixth on. So, whenever that phone rings and my name's called, I'll be ready."
Washington hopes it will be able to call on someone to finish off another dominant Max Scherzer effort. The Nationals' ace is coming off a shaky performance in which he allowed three consecutive first-inning home runs -- although, he still escaped with a no-decision.
Scherzer (11-5, 2.26 ERA) is 1-2 with a 2.65 ERA in six career games (five starts) against the Brewers.
With scheduled starter Matt Garza on the 10-day disabled list with a calf injury, Milwaukee turns to Michael Blazek (0-0, 0.00 in four games) for the spot start. Blazek has no record and a 3.18 ERA in five career appearances against the Nationals.
Counsell figures his bullpen will get a workout Thursday, and he's hoping the new configuration produces results.
"(Michael) has started a bunch of games this year and he's not that far removed from starting games down in (Triple-A) Colorado Springs," Counsell said. "So, we'll see how far he goes, and obviously it will be a day where we're going to rely on some bullpen guys as well."