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Nats' bullpen seals Roark's win against Bucs

Kintzler earns first save working his third straight game
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- The conversation earlier on Monday was brief. Nationals manager Dave Martinez asked right-hander Brandon Kintzler if he would be available to close the series opener against the Pirates with closer Sean Doolittle unavailable after pitching in three consecutive games.

"I won't tell you what he said," Martinez said with a laugh after the 3-2 victory at Nationals Park. "But he was good with it."

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WASHINGTON -- The conversation earlier on Monday was brief. Nationals manager Dave Martinez asked right-hander Brandon Kintzler if he would be available to close the series opener against the Pirates with closer Sean Doolittle unavailable after pitching in three consecutive games.

"I won't tell you what he said," Martinez said with a laugh after the 3-2 victory at Nationals Park. "But he was good with it."

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For Kintzler, this was also his third consecutive game, but he retired the side in order to secure starter Tanner Roark's second victory. This is already the second time this month that Kintzler has been required to pitch three games in a row.

However, this is the current state of the Nationals, where close games and one-run games are becoming routine.

Even on a night when they got stellar starting pitching from Roark, who threw seven innings of two-run ball, they have few trustworthy relievers for high-leverage situations. And their offense has rarely shown the capability to break games open in the early innings. Monday night's runs came via singles, from Roark, Trea Turner and Wilmer Difo against Pirates starter Jameson Taillon.

Video: PIT@WSH: Roark plates Wieters with a single to center

"We've got to start scoring runs when we can," Martinez said. "They're playing well. They really are. But when we have a chance to put teams away, we've got to start putting them away. We really do."

Perhaps if the Nats' offense can begin putting teams away, it will lighten the workload on its key relievers. Kintzler, Sammy Solis and Ryan Madson -- who threw a scoreless eighth inning on Monday -- all have appeared in 15 of the team's first 29 games. Doolittle has pitched in 13. While Martinez acknowledged he would prefer to monitor the workload for some of his key relievers, he also pointed out the need to win games.

Video: PIT@WSH: Kintzler seals Nats' win with his 1st save

"We've played so many one-run games already, it's scary," Martinez said. "I mean, it really is. But they're all ready. They all want to participate every day. I know I've got to take care of those guys to do what we want to do towards the end of the year."

With Monday's victory, the Nationals finished April under .500 at 13-16. No team in the Majors last season had a losing record on May 1 and went on to reach the postseason. Yet, the Nats still have high aspirations for this season. They have work to do to turn this season around, but they insist if they can get healthy and continue to play in these close games, more will go their way.

"It's just the way it's going right now," Kintzler said. "Hopefully as we get down the stretch and we've been in these tight games … if you get to the playoffs, you feel like I've been here all year."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
As Roark attempted to push through the seventh inning to help provide relief to the bullpen, Corey Dickerson hit a leadoff home run to cut the lead to one. Roark retired the next two batters, but with him over the 100-pitch mark, Martinez came out to check on him.

"I was looking at him the whole time, just didn't want him to motion to the bullpen," Roark said.

Video: PIT@WSH: Roark gets Mercer swinging in the 7th

Roark said he felt good and Martinez left him to face Jordy Mercer. And Roark struck out Mercer on four pitches to end the inning.

"Brings confidence to you," Roark said. "I think the first pitch I threw was the hardest pitch I threw that night. I don't know, it was just confidence that they have in us, gives us a boost."

SOUND SMART
Bryce Harper was issued a pair of intentional walks, increasing his total to 38 walks during the season's opening month. That's the second-most all-time behind Barry Bonds, who drew 39 walks in March-April of 2004.

"They're walking him and he's a little frustrated," Martinez said. "But I told him, 'Take your walks. Take your walks. Try to stay on the ball.' He's getting maybe one pitch to hit and he said today, 'I just keep fouling them off.' And I said, 'I know it's frustrating. I do. But just stay with it. Things will change. You're a good hitter. You're one of the best hitters in the game so just stay with it.'"

Video: PIT@WSH: Martinez discusses 3-2 win over Pirates

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
An aggressive play by Turner in the seventh inning paid off to give the Nationals a scoring chance. After Turner reached with a one-out single, Ryan Zimmerman flied out to deep right and Turner decided to tag up and test the arm of Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco. It was a close play at second and took a nifty swimming slide to avoid the tag, but Turner was ruled safe. After a review, the call was ruled to stand.

"I thought I had made good decision on that ball, and halfway to second base, I realized I didn't, but it worked out," Turner said. "I think I want to be aggressive and I don't think the score necessarily dictates that."

Video: PIT@WSH: Turner uses swim move to circumnavigate tag

UP NEXT
Right-hander Max Scherzer will take the mound looking to continue his dominant start to the season when the Nationals take on the Pirates at 7:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Nationals Park. Scherzer posted double-digit strikeouts in four of his six starts this season and leads the National League in K's. Righty Chad Kuhl will be on the mound for Pittsburgh.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Wilmer Difo, Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, Tanner Roark, Trea Turner