CHICAGO -- The Nationals received a glimpse of what their new-look bullpen is capable of Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle combined to throw 2 2/3 scoreless innings to seal a 4-2 victory against the Cubs. They worked themselves out of jams, got key strikeouts with the potential tying runs at the plate and showed exactly what Washington envisioned when it acquired all three before Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline to strengthen its bullpen.
"They're veteran guys," right-hander Tanner Roark said. "They've been around a while, and they don't give in. I believe Madson, they said on our radio, he has 42 postseason appearances. That's quite a few. He doesn't buckle under pressure.
"Those guys are coming out and giving it their all, and we're loving it."
This weekend's series at Wrigley Field is a potential National League Division Series preview. The Nationals own a commanding lead in the NL East, and they seem almost certain to face the winner of the NL Central, where the surging Cubs hold a narrow lead over the Brewers.
The Nats' postseason success hinges on how improved their bullpen has become. Their 'pen still owns the worst ERA in the NL, but things have settled since they first acquired Madson and Doolittle from the A's about three weeks ago.
"It's totally different than what we saw in Washington," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "You want to be ahead of the starter because you don't want to get to that heavy part of the bullpen -- they're all good. They've really made it a lot thicker."
Kintzler retired Kris Bryant as the potential go-ahead run in the seventh inning. Madson struck out Kyle Schwarber on three pitches as the potential tying run to end the eighth. And after a leadoff single in the ninth, Doolittle struck out Javier Baez and got Ian Happ to ground into a double play.
Although manger Dusty Baker would not commit to always keeping those three pitchers in the same order, he had to like the way the end of the game played out.
"You feel very comfortable putting those guys in the game, because you know they've been in that situation many times," Baker said. "They feel very comfortable in those situations."
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.