WASHINGTON -- When he came out of the bullpen and took the mound in the sixth inning, Jacob Turner did not envision that he would also be on the mound when the game ended. But Turner tossed the final four scoreless innings in relief of starter Gio Gonzalez on Wednesday night at Nationals Park to seal the Nationals' 2-1 victory over the D-backs and preserve a shorthanded and struggling bullpen.
Nats closer Shawn Kelley has been unavailable the past two nights with an illness, so they asked for an extended outing from Turner, who gave up just two hits in four innings without a walk and four strikeouts. It was not until he hit for himself in the seventh inning that he set his sights on finishing the game.
"I felt like as the game went on it kind of got me in more of a starter's mode especially after the second [inning], kind of making adjustments in the game," Turner said. "Really felt like a starter at that point, just trying to get the team innings."
Turner, 25, had been in consideration to fill in as the team's fifth starter after it sent right-hander Joe Ross to Triple-A Syracuse. But after Turner needed 54 pitches to get through this outing, manager Dusty Baker acknowledged they will "probably" turn to right-hander A.J. Cole to start this weekend in Philadelphia.
The Nationals signed Turner, a former first-round Draft pick in 2009, this offseason as a non-roster invite to Spring Training where he impressed the club enough to stay on as pitching depth. So far he has pitched well in the Majors, including a strong spot start in Colorado -- three runs in six innings with six strikeouts -- and his effort Wednesday night allowed a scuffling Nats bullpen that has few reliable relievers at the moment to rest.
Turner allowed just two hits during his outing, a single to the first batter he faced, Nick Ahmed, and a two-out double to A.J. Pollock in the ninth.
"It was very impressive," Baker said. "He kept throwing strikes and when he fell behind he threw another strike. They didn't hit the ball very hard off him except for that last double. They got a good lineup over there, and he was dealing."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.