Examining the ERA reveals that Dakota Bacus may have struggled during his first full season in the Washington Nationals' system. Bacus concedes there was some turmoil on the mound.|
"There was a rough patch," the 2009 Moline graduate and high-A Potomac Nationals right-handed pitcher said on Tuesday, "almost to the point where I didn't know how to pitch. It was very confusing."
The finish was encouraging.
Bacus won his final three starts, pushing his record above .500 after that rough stretch on the mound. The final push meant he capped the regular season with a 7-6 record, a better-than-it-looks 4.41 ERA in 27 appearances and 20 starts.
"In this league, you learn how to pitch rather than throw considering there are eight teams," said Bacus, who helped the Nationals reach the Carolina League playoffs after winning the first-half division title. "We know everyone by their first names."
The Carolina League structure means there is familiarity among opponents. Part of the development process is learning how to adjust as a pitcher since the hitters are exposed to the arms on a consistent basis.
Bacus says that is a challenge.
"It's almost like I have to ask them what they want me to throw," Bacus said.
The midseason slump, though, was more than that.
Stressing this season was about learning how to be a pitcher and not a thrower, Bacus struggled as the dog days started. The confidence and command were not there as the ERA went up. From early July to mid-August, he went 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA.
Not once in that span did Bacus allow less than two earned runs. Three featured four earned runs and one had 10.
"Unreal. I didn't really know what to throw," Bacus said. "I never felt helpless like that. Then, I just decided to outthink the other person."
Regaining control on the mound with a cerebral approach, Bacus flourished in the final stretch. Bacus won his last three starts, compiling a 2.95 ERA in 18 1/3 innings.
"I've gotten an idea on what I need to do and prepare myself," Bacus said. "Those last three, it was nice because I can roll into the playoffs with confidence."
Potomac is rewarding the finish.
The Nationals play Lynchburg in a best-of-3, first-round series that starts tonight, with the winner going into the finals. If they reach championship series, Bacus is guaranteed a start. This is the second time in as many seasons he is appearing the postseason.
"I'm pumped," Bacus said. "I'm pumped because it's with the team I was with all year and I love all the guys. Getting an opportunity to win a ring with this group it's exciting."
Because he threw a team-high 128 2/3 innings during the regular season, Bacus will not participate in fall or instructional leagues. Once the season is over, he will come back home and focus on his third pro year.
A championship ring certainly will be a nice memento to have. At the very least, he will come home with some momentum from his finish.
"My better days are coming," Bacus said. "I just have to grind."
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