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Pressed into long relief duties after Jordan Zimmermann lasted only two innings, Ohlendorf churned out one of the best (and longest) bullpen appearances you'll ever see: six innings of two-run ball, the equivalent of a quality start even though he didn't start the game.
"I was really glad I was able to pitch so long," the 30-year-old said. "Obviously, it was a tough game for us, but that's my job as the long man: To be able to save the bullpen. I was glad I was able to do it again."
It wasn't just the results Ohlendorf posted over an 88-pitch relief appearance. It was the way he pitched, offering even more encouragement.
The right-hander dialed up his fastball to 97 mph, a radar gun reading that even surprised him.
"I think it's been four years since I hit 97, which was nice," he said. "I feel like I pitched better when I backed off a little bit in the last few innings, but it was nice to know I have that arm strength right now."
Full healthy after several years of shoulder trouble, Ohlendorf has been brilliant for the Nationals since joining the pitching staff last month. In eight appearances (one start) spanning 26 2/3 innings, he sports a 2.03 ERA and a .198 opponents' batting average.
Because of all that, Ohlendorf has earned a chance to take on a more significant role, at least in the short term. Davey Johnson said he'll start one game of Friday's doubleheader against the Mets, a start for which he'll be well-prepared after throwing so many pitches yesterday.
"I mean, he saved the bullpen," Johnson said. "That was an outstanding effort. That was a good tune-up. He's going to have to start Friday."
"I think it will help," Ohlendorf said of his heavy workload in advance of his upcoming start. "I hadn't pitched a lot before. It will be nice. It will be nice to have a full five days."
What happens after Friday's fill-in start? Well, if he again pitches well, a case could be made for Ohlendorf to remain in the Nationals' rotation, especially with Ross Detwiler still slow to recover from a back injury that is expected to sideline him until at least August 1.
Ohlendorf, owner of a career 4.92 ERA in 116 big-league appearances, wouldn't have seemed like a viable rotation candidate for the Nationals as recently as a week ago. But the combination of Detwiler's lingering injury, Dan Haren's season-long struggles and Ohlendorf's newfound velocity could work in his favor.
"I'll do whatever Davey wants me to," he said. "It's nice to be here and have the opportunity to pitch however he needs me."