Nationals lose to Giants: Pick up All-Star Melancon in trade

washington nationalsThe bad news: the Washington Nationals bullpen blew another game. The good news: help is on the way.

The Nats pen gave up two runs to break a tie game in the seventh in a 5-3 San Francisco win on Saturday. The news of the day wasn’t the loss, but rather the trade that will bring Pittsburgh All-Star closer Mark Melancon to D.C.

First things first. Rookie Reynaldo Lopez (0-1, 9.35 ERA, 2.31 WHIP) only lasted four innings, giving up three runs on four hits, striking out four and walking five, leaving with the game tied at 3-3.

Yusmeiro Petit (3-2, 2.59 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) ended up taking the loss, after throwing two scoreless innings but getting touched up in his third, in the seventh, allowing two runs on four hits in two and two-thirds innings overall.

The Nationals (61-43) have a five and a half game lead in the NL East over Miami.

The trade for Melancon is a difference-maker. Melancon, 31, (1-1, 1.51 ERA, 0.96 WHIP) is a marked upgrade over incumbent closer Jonathan Papelbon, 35 (2-4, 4.41 ERA, 1.47 WHIP).

How Papelbon reacts to the trade, and his demotion to a setup role, will be key. Nats fans will remember that a similar trade-deadline deal for Papelbon this time last year blew up the back end of the bullpen when incumbent closer Drew Storen shrank like a violet in the face of his demotion to eighth-inning man.

Washington did have to give up a key piece of its setup-man rotation in the trade for Melancon, lefty Felipe Lopez (0-3, 4.53 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 53 Ks in 49.2 innings).

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