Romero emerging in Nationals' bullpen

June 6th, 2017

LOS ANGELES -- The Nationals' bullpen delivered three scoreless innings in relief of in Monday's 4-2 win over the Dodgers, a positive sign for a club that has struggled at times to close games as it moves toward another appearance in the postseason, where relievers take on added importance.

followed Gonzalez with two impressive innings, striking out four and allowing one walk and one double to bridge the gap to the ninth. It was the kind of performance that gives Romero and the Nationals confidence the left-hander can be an important piece of the bullpen puzzle moving forward.

"He's a guy that's going to come up big before the year is up," said Nationals manager Dusty Baker.

Romero came on to open the bottom of the seventh after Gonzalez held the Dodgers to two runs on four hits. Romero was charged with holding a 4-2 lead and Baker wanted to stretch him as long as he could to prevent the Dodgers from going to their potent left-handed hitters in , , and , four regulars who were out of the lineup against the Nationals' lefty starter.

"Enny came on and did a great job," Baker said. "They had all those dangerous lefties on the bench, and we were trying to keep them on the bench."

Romero started his outing by walking , but then he got three straight outs, two via strikeout, to end the seventh. In the eighth, Romero allowed a leadoff double to star shortstop before once again getting three straight outs, two via strikeout, to end the threat.

"I'm proud," Romero said. "I came in a good situation and threw a good outing. I feel like I can help the team when they need me."

The Nationals will need Romero as they try to find the right combinations to get from their starter to the ninth inning. It appears the team has set on as the closer, though Glover was unavailable Monday because of soreness following his 22-pitch outing Sunday in Oakland.

There are no questions about Romero's powerful fastball, but his secondary pitches will be key to his success.

"We're trying to keep him in the strike zone, get him some more secondary pitches," Baker said. "You see, his fastball is 98-100, so it's just a matter of him making quality pitches with that 100-mph fastball and try to get some secondary pitches working off it."

Romero mixed in his offspeed pitches Monday and said he's feeling more comfortable doing so.

"I have my confidence now with my slider and my cutter," said Romero, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Rays.

After Romero did his job, Baker went with right-hander Matt Albers to open the ninth. Albers got two quick outs before allowing a pinch-hit double to Bellinger. Veteran southpaw was summoned to face the switch-hitting Grandal, and Perez struck him out with a 2-2 breaking ball to end the game.

For one night, at least, every button Baker pushed with his bullpen worked.

"We haven't been throwing the way we wanted, but I think the more important thing is just to get it done," said Perez, who earned his first save in nearly four years. "We just have to keep having games like this, go game by game and try to get it done."