Nats' bullpen has been lights-out through two months

Nats' bullpen has been lights-out through two months

WASHINGTON -- Heading into Tuesday night's postponed contest against the Marlins, the Nationals' bullpen boasted a 2.09 ERA, which ranked first in the Major Leagues. Reliever Tyler Clippard said the group's exceptional performance so far this season has been a function of each pitcher understanding his respective role.

Right-hander Drew Storen has typically pitched the seventh inning, Clippard the eighth and closer Rafael Soriano the ninth. Meanwhile, left-hander Ross Detwiler and right-hander Craig Stammen -- who manager Matt Williams said are "vital" to the bullpen's success because of their ability to pitch multiple innings -- have taken on the middle innings.

"The bullpen is a pretty chaotic environment, in general," said Clippard, who had compiled a 1.54 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings heading into Tuesday. "So when you can kind of get a feel of knowing when you're going to get in the game and prepare properly, you have a better chance of success."

Clippard said the bullpen also has been forced to perform at a high level because of the number of close games the Nationals have played. Of the 23 games the team has played in May, 11 have been decided by two or fewer runs.

"When we're coming into the game, we can't afford to give up runs," Clippard said. "We're battling our butts off to keep our team in the game."

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