Continued from page 1

“When I let the ball go, I thought it was going to hit Fukudome in the back,” Bard said. “I couldn’t even see Burnett. I just threw it towards home plate.”

That adept play preserved the slim lead and paved the way for MacDougal to lock up the victory, just as he had done 13 previous times since assuming the closer’s job.

Might his performance secure his place in that role beyond this season? The Nationals have talked about scouring the free-agent market this winter for a closer after watching Chad Cordero blow out his shoulder last year and Joel Hanrahan blow too many leads this year. But perhaps the answer is right before their eyes.

“He’s been able to get that third out in the ninth,” Riggleman said. “And sometimes that’s not just a matter of if you have good stuff. It’s the nature of who you are and the makeup of the person. He’s handled it well.”

MacDougal insisted he hasn’t thought that far ahead yet.

“Oh, this is kind of generic,” he said with a laugh. “But I’m just going out there trying to get outs. I’m not really thinking about that yet. That’s for them to figure out. Right now, I’m just happy to get outs.”