Nationals playing with a purpose after four-game sweep

The calendar said spring, but the temperature said summer. As for the game, that felt like fall.

Even though it was an early May contest against a non-divisional opponent in the Pittsburgh Pirates, nfl authentic jerseys cheap Washington Nationals manager Davey Martinez pulled strings as if it were the middle of October. With a chance to complete a rare four-game sweep and climb back to .500, the Nationals skipper pulled out all the stops.

With two out in the top of the sixth inning of a scoreless tie Thursday, Martinez yanked starter Jeremy Hellickson despite the fact that the veteran righty had been on cruise control. Until that point, Hellickson had allowed just three hits. He hadn’t walked anyone. He’d thrown only 61 pitches and had retired the first two batters of the frame. Although the move wasn’t completely without cause — so far this season, opposing hitters have posted a 1.911 OPS against Hellickson the third time through the order — it had a decidedly fall feel to it.

The other Octoberish occurrence happened in the eighth inning, when Martinez summoned closer Sean Doolittle with one out and the bases loaded and the Nats nursing a 3-0 lead. A converted first baseman who’s endured his fair share of arm issues since moving to the bullpen in 2012, Doolittle was so unaccustomed to multi-inning outings that after wriggling out of the jam with minimal damage — he allowed a run-scoring fielder’s choice that should’ve been a double play, then got Starling Marte to fly out — he didn’t know how to behave.

“I really didn’t know what to do,” said Doolittle, who decided to throw on his jacket even though it was nearly 90 degrees in the nation’s capital.68

He contemplated going to the clubhouse, but was warned not to by fellow reliever Brandon Kintzler, who implored his teammate to keep moving and stay loose. So that’s what Doolittle did. Apparently, it worked, as he went back out for the ninth and retired the side in order for an uncommon five-out save.

“I don’t think I’ve done that for a while,” said Doolittle, whose last save of five outs or more came in September 2015. That wasn’t the only thing that hadn’t happened in a while.

With the 3-1 victory over Pittsburgh, the Nationals completed their first four-game sweep since July of last jersey wholesale  It was also the first time the defending National League East champs have won a series — any series — since the middle of last month. Perhaps most important, the W brings Washington’s record to an even 16-16, the first time in two weeks the Nats have managed to get back to .500.