Nats pitcher Sean Burnett was thrilled to get a shot at his former team and help the Nats sweep the Bucs 4-2. Burnett allowed a couple of hits, but struck out Jason Jamarillo and bridged the gap from the sixth to the ninth inning, allowing Tyler Clippard to come on in the ninth for his first save of his major league career.
"Yeah, its always good to beat your buddies. I guess you have bragging rights until the next time that you face them. I still have a a lot of good friends over there. And it is fun to compete against them."
The reason Burnett was rolling Thursday was primarily his sinker, which was staying just out of reach of most of the hitters he faced. "I was fresh. My sinker was working real well. My arm felt good. I had good action on it."
Despite a couple of tough games against the Astros and the Reds in the late innings, the bullpen has responded against Pittsburgh. Sean says it started against Houston, even with the tough losses. "Even in Houston we played really well, it was just a couple of miscues late in the game.
We really played good games, it was just one play here or there, unfortunately they were late in the game. The last few games we have been playing well and the last few series.
Hopefully we can keep it going on the road and it is good to get a few wins in a row."
One concern is making sure the starter goes at least six innings so the bullpen doesn't get taxed early in the season. Livan Hernandez took care of that with six solid innings, allowing only two runs on five hits in 98 pitches.
Burnett feels the bullpen is not overworked right now and Jim Riggleman and Steve McCatty are doing a good job of mixing it up to keep arms rested. He didn't mind switching assignments around by taking up two innings and seeing Tyler absorb the ninth.
"Absolutely, I am sure it is hard for him to change hands with Tyler Clippard coming in the eighth, Drew Storen in the seventh and Matt Capps in the ninth.
It is so hot you want to keep it going, but you also have to keep them fresh. It is nice when Tyler Walker and I can come into games and let those other guys get a night off.
Thursday, Jim Riggleman wanted desperately to give Drew Storen and Matt Capps a night of rest so they will be ready for Friday's opener here in Cleveland.
Burnett and Clippard took care of that, and the Bucs, for a 4-2 home stand.
I am in Cleveland with the team, filling in for Debbi Taylor for the Indians series. I have planned to talk to Manny Acta and Austin Kearns Friday, so let me know your questions for the former Nats.