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Nationals bullpen -- yes, them -- comes through for a night

Nationals bullpen -- yes, them -- comes through for a night

The Washington Nationals beat the Colorado Rockies, 6-3, Tuesday night to move up to 11-11. Here are five observations from the game…

1. Tuesday’s win was a painful process, but not for the normal reasons.

Juan Soto fouled a 3-2 pitch off his right ankle in the top of the ninth. Eventually, he rose after writing in pain to walk with the bases loaded. Howie Kendrick was hit by a pitch. That drove in another run. Washington led, 6-3. Sean Doolittle was forced to the plate after entering the game in the eighth inning. He struck out in his third career at-bat.

The padding was enough for Doolittle, who made his 11th appearance of the season 22 games into it. The evening provided his third outing of an inning-plus already. At the start of his career, Doolittle was often used for more than an inning per outing. After shoulder trouble, that tendency declined greatly until this season.

He finished a quality day for the bullpen: three scoreless innings and limited trouble. Patrick Corbin was solid over six innings, if not the spectacular level of his previous two outings.

The Nationals, you guessed it, are back to even with one road game remaining on this stretch.

2. Victor Robles the wrecking ball is here for your viewing pleasure.

Atop the left-center field wall and falling back to Earth with no support. Crashing into the wall in another instance. Tuesday, roaring into the third base bag so hard the front leg is jammed, sending Robles flipping over the bag and desperate to dive back in when stealing it. He stole second base with a more traditional approach two innings later.

What Robles is: explosive, and a bit reckless. What he’s not: boring.

His three-run, third-inning double vaulted Washington back in front. The steal of third came after Juan Soto failed to move Robles over, so he just made it there himself with one out.

Robles’ gangbusters approach reminds of a young Bryce Harper. Often making contact with immovable objects to his possible detriment is fun to watch. Though it might not be the best thing for him or the Nationals.

3. Coors Field has never been Corbin’s friend. Coming into Tuesday, the Rockies had a .938 OPS against Corbin at their home park in a strong sample size of 247 plate appearances. It’s a bad place for any pitcher. Corbin sees his stuff flatten in the thin air.

Tuesday, Corbin survived more than he controlled the game. A potent start gave way to a two-run homer in the second inning, another run in the fifth, and an exit after the sixth. The run in the fifth was unearned, though it also came when Corbin was trying to wriggle out of trouble he created.

Corbin threw 103 pitches. None more important than the ones in the sixth, which he turned into a 1-2-3 inning, allowing Davey Martinez to set up his bullpen distribution how he would prefer.

4. Martinez told reporters earlier in the day he expected to use Joe Ross in a more high-leverage relief situation going forward. He did that Tuesday, though Ross threw just three pitches.

Ross started the seventh inning. He recorded an out, then was removed for left-handed specialist Tony Sipp after a left-handed pinch-hitter -- David Dahl -- was announced. Left-handed Charlie Blackmon was next. Sipp took care of both, doing his matchup job.

Wander Suero was next. He worked around a leadoff double by getting Nolan Arenado to ground out and Mark Reynolds to strike out.

Martinez turned to Doolittle after that.

The quibble here is Ross for one out. Suero -- or even Kyle Barraclough -- could have appeared for one batter a night after they both threw an inning. That puts Ross, appearing to be an effective reliever thus far, in a spot to throw more than three pitches.

Everything Martinez did Tuesday worked. He matched up multiple times. The choices held a one-run lead going into the ninth, which is what they have been desperate to do all season. But Ross’ usage since he went to the bullpen has been odd, whether it’s not appearing for a long time or being used for a three-pitch outing.

5. Raimel Tapia is a part-time outfielder with speed. Until he plays the Nationals.

Tapia hit a pinch-hit homer Monday night. He hit a two-run homer Tuesday night in his first at-bat against Corbin.

How big of outliers were those? Tapia had four career homers in 271 at-bats coming into the game. He rarely faces left-handed pitchers because, as a left-handed hitter, he has a .641 career OPS against them. Strange doings from Tapia the last two nights.

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Stephen Strasburg makes history at the plate against Atlanta

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USA Today

Stephen Strasburg makes history at the plate against Atlanta

Stephen Strasburg had the best hitting performance of his career against the Braves Thursday night, going 3-3 at the plate with two singles and a 420-foot three-run bomb. 

He didn't just set personal records but reached rare air in baseball history. He's the second pitcher ever with at least three hits, a HR, and five RBI since the DH debuted in 1973 and the fifth pitcher in the last 50 seasons to get two hits in an inning including a home run. 

Strasburg set franchise firsts with his performance, dating all the way back to the Expos. 

An extraordinary milestone for the Nationals' ace, hopefully Strasburg's performance will inspire the team during a crucial four-game series with Atlanta. 

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Nationals Roundup: Strasburg shines in Nationals' blowout of Braves

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NBC Sports Washington

Nationals Roundup: Strasburg shines in Nationals' blowout of Braves

In the first contest of a momentous four-game series, the Nationals trounced the Braves by a score of 13-4 behind Stephen Strasburg's historic performance. The Nationals improved to 51-44 and have the best record in baseball since May 24th

Here's the pertinent news to consider as the Nationals attempt to close the gap with division-leading Atlanta.  

Players News: 

Stephen Strasburg was effective as usual on the mound, but his performance at the plate was all anyone could talk about. He went 3-3 with two singles and a 420-foot bomb, becoming the second pitcher since 1973 to record three hits, a HR, and five RBIs in a game. In addition, he tossed 5 2/3 innings of three-run ball and registered his NL-leading 12th win of the season. 

Adam Eaton opened the scoring with an RBI triple to plate Stephen Strasburg, the first of eight runs in the third inning. In 91 games, he's batting .283/.365/.391 with six home runs and 24 RBI as one of many unsung heroes of the Nationals' hot streak. 

Anthony Rendon went 3-5 on the day, knocking in Adam Eaton with a double to deep center to give the Nats a 2-1 lead in the third inning. In the five games since the All-Star game, Rendon is batting .421/.522/.579 with three doubles. 

Injuries:

SP Max Scherzer: Back, Expected to be out until at least Jul 20

RP Jonny Venters: Back, Expected to be out until at least Jul 18

SP Jeremy Hellickson: Shoulder, Expected to be out until at least Aug 25

RP Justin Miller: Shoulder, Expected to be out until at least Jul 16

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, Expected to be out until at least Aug 7

RP Austen Williams: Shoulder, Expected to be out until at least Jul 17

Coming Up: 

Friday 7/19: Nationals at Braves, 7:20 p.m., SunTrust Park 

Saturday 7/20: Nationals at Braves, 7:20 p.m., SunTrust Park 

Sunday 7/21: Nationals at Braves, 7:05 p.m. SunTrust Park

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