On Martinez's bullpen usage and Finnegan's availability

BOSTON – Davey Martinez managed his bullpen to perfection in last night’s 5-1 win over the Red Sox.

In a 3-1 game at the seventh-inning stretch and facing the Nos. 2-4 hitters in Boston’s lineup, the Nationals manager made the decision to go with Hunter Harvey in that moment instead of saving him for his usual spot in the eighth.

Harvey issued a leadoff walk to Rob Refsnyder, but quickly erased the baserunner with a double play ball from Tyler O’Neill. Then he got Rafael Devers, perhaps the Red Sox’s most feared hitter, to strike out on a curveball in the dirt.

That left Dylan Floro for the eighth to potentially pass the ball to closer Kyle Finnegan in the ninth. Floro retired the side in short order with three groundouts on 10 pitches.

“It's nice to have some veteran guys that understand how to pitch in high-leverage situations, especially in the back end of the bullpen,” Martinez said before Saturday’s game at Fenway Park. “Dylan fits that mold. Jacob (Barnes) fits that mold as well. But it was nice to know that, hey, the top of their lineup is tough. We could use Harvey in that moment. And then I like Floro in the middle to the bottom of that lineup. So we did it that way yesterday. Floro has been throwing the ball really well. We talked a lot about how he missed some spring training. But now he's got his feet underneath him, he's throwing the ball well.”

Harvey earned his major league-leading 13th hold with his seventh inning. His 25 strikeouts are fourth among National League relievers, and he's currently posting a 2.53 ERA.

With his shutdown inning, Floro is tied for second among major league relievers with a 0.47 ERA and is second in the NL with a .179 opponents’ slugging percentage. The right-hander hasn’t given up a run since April 6 against the Phillies, a 15 ⅓-inning scoreless streak that is tied for the longest active one in the majors and the longest for the Nats this season.

Then the Nationals offense provided some extra cushion, scoring two runs in the top of the ninth for a four-run lead and allowing Finnegan to take the night off. Barnes put two runners on base, but closed out the victory without giving up a run.

Not needing to use Finnegan in the ninth, which would have been his fourth appearance in the last four games (with two off-days in the mix), could prove to be huge the rest of the weekend, keeping the closer fresh for the next two days. He’ll look to get his big league-leading 13th save another day.

“Really big,” Martinez said. “I still haven't got the status of our bullpen yet. They're going out there to throw. I'll know more before the game, but they all should be pretty good, though. But it's nice that we didn't have to use Kyle out there in the ninth inning. Like I said, Jacob came in and did the job. Shut them down. So it was a good day yesterday.”

All in all, the Nats bullpen has a 3.54 ERA, good for fourth-best in the NL. And Martinez is proud of the effort put forth by the group thus far.

“They take the ball when asked upon,” Martinez said. “I mean, none of them want a day off. You almost got to force them and say, 'Hey, we gotta give you a break today.' But they all want to pitch and they're all ready to pitch. It's a good group. They're really close. They're really close together. So for me, we talked about it all spring training, it's the ability to throw strikes and the walks. We try to stay away from walks. Walks create big innings. And so far they've done really well with that.”

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