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Nats bullpen looking to stay focused

Nats bullpen looking to stay focused

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WASHINGTON -- The Nationals bullpen came up in a big way Friday night in a 14-inning win over the Texas Rangers. Five relievers combined to shut out Texas over the last eight innings of the game, allowing just one hit over that span.

That strong performance came at the right time, according to manager Manny Acta. Washington's bullpen got roughed up in the Nationals' three-game series against Minnesota, giving up 10 runs in the last two games.

"Most of those guys, they've done it well in the past, and I don't think their confidence is shot," Acta said. "But, just coming back from that series in Minnesota, it was good for them."

Acta said a couple of the pitchers would get at least Saturday off to rest after throwing long innings Friday night. The Nationals' two most worked pitchers were Saul Rivera, who worked three innings, and Joel Hanrahan, who threw two innings and picked up the win. Acta did confirm Friday night that Rivera would get at least one day off.

Luis Ayala, who threw a perfect eighth Friday, said Saturday that the bullpen felt good about its overall performance Friday night. However, Ayala said the key for the bullpen staff moving forward is not to get caught up in one game -- good or bad. He said everyone will stay focused on their next game.

Ayala said all the pitchers in the bullpen have faith and confidence not just in their own abilities, but those of their teammates as well.

"Everybody can make outs, everybody can do the job in any situation," he said.

Ayala said none of the pitchers will dwell too much on Friday night's game, but they will all take a measure of confidence away from their overall performance.

"It's a great thing, because we have more confidence now," Ayala said. "Texas has very good hitters, and we pitched great, so we have the confidence, and we're trying to do the same thing tonight."

Zach Osterman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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