WASHINGTON -- Seeking to quiet the naysayers questioning the Nationals' bullpen, Joe Blanton took the mound in the top of the ninth inning Thursday with Washington leading Arizona by three runs.Blanton would throw just two pitches before handing the ball to manager Dusty Baker, his 1-0 fastball sent into the
WASHINGTON -- Seeking to quiet the naysayers questioning the Nationals' bullpen, Joe Blanton took the mound in the top of the ninth inning Thursday with Washington leading Arizona by three runs.
Blanton would throw just two pitches before handing the ball to manager Dusty Baker, his 1-0 fastball sent into the seats by Paul Goldschmidt. Enny Romero did not suffer the same fate, instead retiring three of the four batters he faced to seal the Nationals' series-clinching, 4-2 victory over the D-backs at Nationals Park.
Romero teamed with right-hander Matt Albers, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning after starter Max Scherzer fired seven innings of one-run ball. Arizona's lone run against Scherzer came from a homer off the bat of Jake Lamb to start the seventh inning.
"Max was outstanding," Baker said. "Probably the best slider he's had all season, and he located his fastball well. But he had his slider working from the very first inning. And when Max has his slider working, that sets up everything else."
By then, star right fielder Bryce Harper had been subbed out of the game for Chris Heisey. Harper, who went 0-for-3 with a strikeout in his final at-bat in the sixth inning, did not appear to injure himself, but Baker said after the game Harper's groin tightened up after a diving catch the star made in the third inning. Harper was hopeful he'd be ready for the Phillies' series that starts Friday.
Braden Shipley struggled with command issues in his first start of 2017 for the D-backs, walking six, but he was able to avoid the big inning en route to allowing just three earned runs in four-plus frames.
"He came off the mound and battled for his entire outing," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said of Shipley. "He gave us what he could and kept us within striking distance. … I felt like he didn't give in all day long, and that's a credit to him."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Scherzer takes care of business: Scherzer didn't allow his first hit until the fourth inning, when Chris Owings led off the frame with a single up the middle. Scherzer did not wilt. He got out of the inning unscathed, dominating the D-backs en route to a season-high 11 strikeouts while adding two hits and an RBI. It's the most strikeouts a Washington pitcher has recorded in a single game this season. Scherzer surrendered just two walks and two hits in the victory. More >
Tony Two-Bags strikes again:Anthony Rendon's key two-run double to left field in the third inning gave the Nats a 3-0 lead, ultimately providing the cushion Washington needed for the win. The knock helped to shorten Shipley's outing, as he left the game after four-plus innings of work and 92 pitches thrown.
"I'm going to focus on the positives. We came in here and played some tough baseball. … We have to go out and earn things. Even though we lost two out of three [games], I think we earned a little bit of respect."
-- Lovullo, on his team's start to the season
D-backs: Arizona will head back west to Coors Field to take on the Rockies on Friday night at 5:40 p.m. MST. The D-backs will tap ace Zack Greinke (2-2, 3.19 ERA) to go against German Marquez (0-1, 7.20 ERA) in the opener.
Nationals: Stephen Strasburg takes the mound for the Nationals' series opener in Philadelphia on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET. The right-hander will toe the rubber opposite Nick Pivetta (0-1, 3.60 ERA), who will be making his second Major League start.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.
Josh Needelman is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington and covered the Nationals on Thursday.
Daniel Shiferaw is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington and covered the D-backs on Thursday.