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Washington Nationals’ bullpen keeps rolling in 7-3 win over Arizona Diamondbacks

Don’t look now, but the Washington Nationals’ bullpen has been on a roll in the last few weeks. Will they be able to keep it up?

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Arizona Diamondbacks v Washington Nationals Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Max Scherzer gave up two runs on three hits in seven innings on the mound against Arizona last night, then Wander Suero retired two batters and gave up two hits, a walk, and a run in the top of the eighth inning before Tanner Rainey and Sean Doolittle got the final four outs in the 7-3 win over the Diamondbacks.

It was the third outing in the last four in which Suero gave up a run and second straight in which he failed to finish the inning he started.

What, if anything, has Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez seen from the reliever in those outings that he needs to work on?

Suero walked Ketel Marte on five pitches in a one-out at bat, then gave up a single by Adam Jones on a 1-2 changeup up over the middle of the plate. Eduardo Escobar followed with an RBI double on a first-pitch cutter up and in.

“I think with him it’s just pitch location,” Martinez said. “He had two strikes on Jonesy today, and I know he was trying to get the ball down out of the zone, and kept the ball up, so he got a base hit, but you’ve just got to keep working. He’s pitching better, we’ve just got to keep working and with two strikes he’s got to put them away.”

In two strike counts on the season, opposing hitters are now 16 for 77 (.208/.253/.351) with five doubles and two home runs off Suero.

Tanner Rainey took over for Suero last night, and got the final out of the inning on a ground ball back to the mound that bounced off his leg.

Though they had a four-run lead after eight, Martinez sent Doolittle out to the mound for the ninth, and the Nats’ closer worked around a one-out double and a two-out walk to end it.

“He hasn’t pitched in five or six days,” the manager said when asked about using Doolittle.

“We were up four runs, I thought it would be a great time to get him in the game. Rainey got hit in the calf, and he was going to stiffen up a little bit, so I thought it would be perfect to get Doo in the game.”

Is Rainey okay after the comebacker?

“We’ll find out tomorrow,” Martinez said. “He got hit pretty good. Gladly he made the play, but we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

The second-year skipper said he liked what he got from his bullpen overall last night and in the last few weeks after they struggled in the first two-plus months of the season.

“They’ve been really, really good,” he said. “I think since, what, May 24th or something like that, they’ve been probably in the tops in the leagues, so that’s kind of nice.”

After giving up five runs in the bullpen on the 24th of May, the Nationals’ relief corps has a combined 3.66 ERA, the National League’s second best earned run average in that stretch, the lowest FIP (3.70), fourth-lowest BAA (.226), lowest WHIP (1.12), third-lowest BB% (6.7%), and the second-highest K% (26.7%).

What’s been different over the last few weeks?

“I think they’re attacking the strike zone,” Martinez said. “They’re making pitches. But, you know, they’re being more aggressive. I don’t see them nitpicking like I did before, I mean they’re going after guys. It’s nice. And they have the stuff to do it, I love it. They’re engaged and they’re working really hard.”

Will using Doolittle last night, in a non-save situation, leave the Nationals shorthanded today if/when they need to go to the bullpen again once Stephen Strasburg is done with his start?

“Can’t predict what’s going to happen tomorrow,” the manager said. “Hopefully we come out and score ten tomorrow.”