BALTIMORE - Of course the walk-off homer that Matt Grace surrendered Sunday in Philly stings, but so far in four games coming off the All-Star break, the bullpen is rolling.
Tuesday night it was Tanner Rainey and Javy Guerra that kept the Orioles at bay in an 8-1 win. Rainey pitched a scoreless seventh, and for the first time since June 15, Guerra pitched two scoreless innings.
It wasn’t that clean for Rainey. He walked two in his inning. But after recording a fielder’s choice forceout at second base, he managed a groundout to first base and a strikeout of Trey Mancini to end the inning.
Guerra was more impressive. He had not been used in a game for 11 days. The right-hander demonstrated he was fresh, and not rusty, by recording six outs in a row, striking out one. The Orioles did not hit one ball out of the infield in the eighth and ninth frames.
“Yeah, I love it,” said Nationals manager Davey Martinez. “Having Javy coming in, Rainey settling down and getting a big out, we need those guys. We need all eight of those guys down there.”
Martinez did get Wander Suero to warm up, but after Guerra looked so good in the eighth, and with the comfortable lead that grew from 5-1 to 6-1 to 8-1, the skipper decided to let him get the ninth as well. With Monday off, this meant Sean Doolittle and Fernando Rodney and company now have two full days off to begin the week.
“Oh, I mean it’s huge, it really is,” Martinez said. “I didn’t even want to get Suero up, but we had to get him up. Then all of a sudden Javy comes in - I want him in the game up five runs - and he does a great job for us, and that saves the rest of those guys that have been pitching every day.”
The Nats bullpen has allowed one run in the last 8 1/3 innings of work.
Saturday night in Philadelphia, the bullpen kept the score at 3-1 Phillies as the Nats rallied for the win. Tony Sipp, Rainey, Grace, Suero and Doolittle combined to record nine outs in that victory. Rainey and Grace turned into specialists, recording one out apiece. Grace got Bryce Harper to fly out to center field to begin the eighth. Suero then recorded two outs to push the game to the ninth. That’s when Soto did Soto things with his two-run shot.
Of course, Grace and Martinez would want the Maikel Franco walk-off blast back, but the skipper has done a good job of mixing the pieces he has in the bullpen together to help the Nats continue their recent hot streak. And Tuesday night in hot and humid Oriole Park, Guerra showed that he can gobble up innings too.