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Matt Williams on Nationals' bullpen arms doing yeoman's work

Gio Gonzalez's early exit from Saturday afternoon's game forced the Washington Nationals' bullpen into action. Craig Stammen's four scoreless innings of work spared the rest of the relievers, who have been taxed by their starter's struggles thus far.

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When Tanner Roark was lifted after five innings on Friday night, Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams was forced to turn to his bullpen earlier than he probably would have liked.

With three left-handed New York Mets due up, however, it was a perfect opportunity to get Ross Detwiler into the game.

"It set up really nice," Williams explained.

"The bullpen has been fantastic. It was great again today." - Matt Williams on Nationals' bullpen in 2014

Detwiler needed just five pitches, four of them strikes to get through a scoreless inning of work in his 12th appearance out of the bullpen this season.

Bobby Abreu singled to center with one down, but he was doubled up when Mets' first baseman Lucas Duda grounded out to second.

Nats' second baseman Danny Espinosa fielded the weak grounder and ran Abreu back to first base, forcing him to retreat, then threw to Tyler Moore for the out at first base trapping Abreu on the basepathss.

"[Detwiler] got -- there was a base hit the second hitter," Williams said, "but [Detwiler] made a really nice pitch for the double play. Danny made a nice play on it to run the guy at first base back to first base and get the throw over there in time to force him and then we had a rundown."

After Detwiler's quick sixth, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano followed with scoreless frames, though Soriano's ninth was, of course, a little more of an adventure.

"Never really found his curveball, never really found his changeup today. Getting behind and having one pitch to go to, it's tough." - Matt Williams on Gio Gonzalez's struggles vs Mets

The Nationals' 34-year-old closer issued back-to-back two-out walks and gave up a line drive to right by Daniel Murphy that Nats' right fielder Jayson Werth caught at the top of the right field wall.

On Saturday afternoon in the nation's capital, Gio Gonzalez struggled in his second straight outing and was done after just three innings of work on the mound in which he gave up seven hits and five earned runs. In his last two starts, the 28-year-old lefty has given up 16 hits, five walks and 12 ER in 7 1/3 IP.

"I think it's the same thing," Williams said after the Nationals' 5-2 loss to the Mets. "His last start he gave up a pair of three-run homers on 3-0 counts, which means that he's behind in the count. Never really found his curveball, never really found his changeup today. Getting behind and having one pitch to go to, it's tough."

"That's yeoman's work right there, man. That's hard to do. [Stammen] has been phenomenal." - Matt Williams on Craig Stammen's four scoreless IP on Saturday

When Gonzalez was lifted after just 4 1/3 IP last Sunday, Craig Stammen, Jerry Blevins and Aaron Barrett did what they could to limit the damage in what ended up a 9-1 loss to the Oakland A's.

Stammen did the bulk of the work yesterday.

The 30-year-old right-hander's four scoreless innings on the mound left him with a 2.52 ERA on the year after 13 games and 25 IP in which he's walked four (1.44 BB/9) and struck out 20 (7.20 K/9).

"The bullpen has been fantastic," Williams said after Stammen, Barrett and Blevins combined for six scoreless innings in relief of Gonzalez.

" It was great again today," he continued.

Stammen's four scoreless?

"That's yeoman's work right there, man," Williams said. "That's hard to do. [Stammen] has been phenomenal. The rest of the guys down there pitched really well today. And they have been. We just couldn't recover from that deficit today, it's hard to do on a consistent basis, so, commend them for their work though."

The Nationals' relievers, as a group, entered play on Saturday with the NL's third-lowest ERA, 2.21, behind only the San Francisco Giants' relievers' 2.15 ERA and the San Diego Padres' 'pen's 2.01 ERA. The Nats' bullpen's 3.09 FIP was good for fourth in the National League. Their combined +1.3 fWAR was the NL's third-highest, behind the Milwaukee Brewers' +1.5 and the Atlanta Braves' +1.9.

After Roark's five innings and Gonzalez's three, Williams has to hope to get a little more out of Jordan Zimmermann in this afternoon's series finale with the Mets, but the 27-year-old right-hander is coming off back-to-back outings in which he was out after four scoreless (in a rain interrupted game) and 5 2/3 IP last time out against Arizona, in a start which saw him allow 10 hits and five runs before he was lifted.