Sweet relief: Bullpen saves the day vs. Nats

Four relievers combine to throw 4 1/3 scoreless innings in win

Sweet relief: Bullpen saves the day vs. Nats

WASHINGTON -- Conventional wisdom states that in order to shut down the best offense in baseball, a team likely has to get a solid, lengthy outing from the starting pitcher.

That didn't exactly happen for the D-backs on Tuesday night, but they still got the result they wanted, limiting the Nationals red-hot lineup in a 6-3 win in the series opener in D.C.

"You hold this team to three runs," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said, "you're doing things right on the mound."

Despite starter Taijuan Walker lasting just 4 2/3 innings and allowing three earned runs, Arizona's relief quartet of T.J. McFarland, J.J. Hoover, Jorge De La Rosa and Fernando Rodney picked up the slack, as they pitched a shutout the rest of the way. Altogether, the D-backs' staff limited Washington to just 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

"I [have to] give it up to the bullpen, they really came in and picked me up big time and got the job done," Walker said afterward.

Walker strikes out Werth

Not that it was easy. The Nationals, who came into the game having scored the most runs in the National League, nearly staged several game-tying rallies after Walker left the game with a 4-3 lead in the fifth.

Perhaps the most crucial moment came in the bottom of the seventh, when Daniel Murphy came to the plate in a 5-3 game to face Hoover with two on and two out. With two strikes, the 29-year-old right-hander fed Murphy three straight sliders, the last of which led to a swinging strikeout to end the threat.

Hoover strikes out Murphy

"I knew from the scouting [report] what my game plan was and I just wanted to go out there and execute," Hoover said. "I knew what he was looking to do in that situation, so I was able to hang my pitch."

"There [were] a couple of touch-and-go moments in there," Lovullo admitted.

Lovullo praises pitching staff

But aside from the ability to escape jams, perhaps the most uplifting moment for the D-backs bullpen was the sight of Rodney pitching a clean inning to seal the victory.

"The highlight of the night for me was Fernando closing it out the way he did ... he's very professional," Lovullo said. "He's been working hard and that was a good moment for him."

It was a much-needed moment, too. The veteran reliever struggled mightily in his previous two outings -- he allowed eight earned runs while blowing a pair saves -- so getting back on track against the heart of Washington's order was just what the doctor ordered.

"Relieving is, you forget about yesterday and just focus on today," Hoover said. "We knew Fernando's gonna do the job and he's a stud. I've got all the faith in the world in him."

Tuesday's performance by Arizona pitchers underlined how they are driving the team's 17-11 solid start to the season. With 11 strikeouts, the D-backs tied a Major League record with eight straight games with 11 punchouts or more.

"I think it speaks volumes about our staff," Lovullo said. "I've been saying it and preaching it since day one: Our starting rotation and beyond sets the tone for us to play the type of baseball that we want."

Daniel Shiferaw is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Diamondbacks on Tuesday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.