No rust for Madson in first two games back from injury

MIAMI - Ryan Madson was pretty sure all would be fine when he returned from a sprained right index finger over the weekend, but even the veteran reliever wasn't totally positive that would be the case.

How confident was he that he'd be back to normal?

"Uh, probably 80 percent," he said. "Once I got out there and threw in a game in Milwaukee, I felt a lot better. Things got better throughout that inning. And then today warming up, I felt a lot better than the first time. I feel like I'm real close to being normal."

Madson sure looked normal Monday night at Marlins Park. Handed the bottom of the eighth with the Nationals holding a 7-2 lead, he proceeded to retire the side, inducing a pair of ground balls and striking out Marcell Ozuna.

Madson-Throws-Red-Sidebar.jpgMadson's fastball averaged 96 mph, exactly where it has been all summer and up a notch from his return outing Saturday. He threw both his curveball and changeup with no issues, as well.

And so the Nationals were able to breathe another sigh of relief, whatever worries there were about the state of their reconfigured bullpen having been alleviated.

Madson had missed three weeks with the finger sprain, an odd injury his personal trainer traced back to a cramp he had in his lower forearm. After spending two weeks working with the trainer, Jay Schroeder, in Arizona receiving specialized electric recovery treatment, the 37-year-old rejoined the club in Milwaukee on Friday and since then has been off and running.

Based on the results, you'd never know he was dealing with anything. Madson has now made 11 appearances for the Nationals since he and Sean Doolittle were acquired from the Athletics on July 16. He has yet to allow a run to score, putting only seven batters on base (five hits, one walk, one hit-by-pitch) and striking out 15.

His return to full health (and success) is awfully significant for the Nationals, who have now established a set late-inning pattern, with Brandon Kintzler pitching the seventh, Madson pitching the eighth and Doolittle pitching the ninth.

"Ooh boy, that's real important," manager Dusty Baker said. "Especially when you can put Kintzler, a closer, in the seventh; and Madson, also a closer, in the eighth; then close with Doolittle. That sets us back into sync. We feel comfortable, and everybody else feels comfortable on the team when those three guys are. It shortens the game on you."

The new three-headed monster continues to thrive. Since their respective acquisitions, Doolittle, Madson and Kintzler have a combined 2.05 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 4.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

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