Bolstered by Glover and Kelley, bullpen puts up zeros in victory

Lost among the excitement of Bryce Harper's walk-off homer last night was the fact it would not have been possible if not for some stellar work by the Nationals bullpen, which turned in its best collective effort in weeks.

After Tanner Roark was pulled with two outs in the fifth and his pitch count at 110, a quintet of Nationals relievers combined to toss 4 1/3 scoreless innings, keeping the game tied 4-4 to set the stage for Harper's game-winning blast in the bottom of the ninth.

It's perhaps not coincidence that this collective performance came on the night both Koda Glover and Shawn Kelley made their return from the disabled list.

"It was great," manager Dusty Baker said. "Koda didn't start out sharp, but he ended up sharp. Kelley made the pitches when he had to. The whole team was excited to have them back, and they were excited to be back."

Shawn-Kelley-throwing-white-sidebar.jpgNeither right-hander was perfect, but both were effective.

Glover actually gave everyone a scare when he slipped while throwing his very first pitch off the DL and landed awkwardly. Did he aggravate the left hip that sidelined him the previous 2 1/2 weeks?

"I was a little scared, too, but as soon as I put a little pressure on the hip, I knew I was fine," he said. "Little scared at first, but after that good to go."

What actually happened?

"Actually, it was the cleat," Glover said. "And little taller spikes, because they were newer and I guess I caught some dirt. That's what happened."

The cleat incident may have thrown Glover off for a few moments, because he walked the first batter he faced on four pitches. But he bounced back to get the next batter to pop up and end the top of the seventh. Between innings, he changed into a different pair of spikes and then returned to retire the side in the eighth.

"I was pretty happy that they did that with me, getting two (innings)," he said. "You get to test things out with the hip and stuff like that. I felt good. It's the best I've felt in a long time, so pretty happy with it."

Kelley's scoreless ninth inning was not without some moments of trepidation. He issued two walks, uncorked a wild pitch and threw another ball to the backstop after time was awarded to the batter after the reliever began his delivery.

But Kelley, who missed 10 days with a lower back strain, struck out two batters and threw 16 of his 25 pitches for strikes in a scoreless frame. Not a bad return to action.

"It's not like you normally feel this time of year, because typically, you've been pitching every day," he said. "You do have that little mental break; you have to get back up. So there's a little extra adrenaline rolling. I was pumped up a little bit. Kind of like the first one of the season. Just excited to get another one under my belt. I'm glad we came out on top."

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