- - Thursday, May 3, 2018

Sean Doolittle ran from the Nationals dugout and jumped over the first-base foul line, a superstition that is common among many players.

“I never step on the line,” he said.

But there was little else common about Doolittle’s afternoon at Nationals Park. The lefty closer recorded just the second five-out save of his career Thursday as the Nationals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-1 to sweep the four-game series.

Doolittle got the last two outs of the eighth and then retreated to Washington’s first-base dugout, where he stayed near indoor batting cages as the Nationals took their swings against the Pirates.

“I was kind of standing in the tunnel. I really didn’t know what to do. Actually (reliever Brandon) Kintzler was in here yelling at me not to sit down,” Doolittle said.

After returning to the mound in the top of the ninth, he retired all three Pittsburgh batters for his sixth save of the season.

Doolittle is usually summoned in the ninth by manager Dave Martinez to get the last three outs — this time he was needed for more.

“I will go home and take a nap then I check back with Davey,” joked the personable, bearded Doolittle. “Wanted to make sure … to close out the series and stay on this winning streak.”

The 16-16 Nationals, winners of five straight for the first time this season, are back at .500 and begin a three-game home series Friday against the Philadelphia Phillies with lefty Gio Gonzalez on the mound.

Doolittle came in with the Nationals up 3-0 and the bases loaded in the eighth after Washington second baseman Howie Kendrick made an error. The Pirates then scored as Gregory Polanco drove in a run with a fielder’s choice and then Starling Marte flied out to the sun field in right off Doolittle.

“You have to approach it like it is the ninth inning. For all intents and purposes that is the game right there. You have to go all in,” said Doolittle, who took over for Ryan Madson in the eighth.

Starter Jeremy Hellickson and four relievers combined to allow no walks and five hits, four of which were singles. The Pirates were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

Hellickson didn’t get the win even though he allowed just three hits and no runs in 5 and two-thirds innings. “We won the game. That is all that matters,” he said.

Nationals shortstop Trea Turner broke a scoreless tie with a two-run homer to left off Pirates starter Trevor Williams (4-2) in the last of the sixth. It was the second homer of the season for Turner and his first since March 31.

“I feel lately I have gotten a lot better pitches to hit. I have not fully clicked yet. I feel I have a lot of room for improvement,” said Turner, now hitting .281.

Two batters later Ryan Zimmerman, a former Virginia teammate with Doolittle, went deep for a solo homer to make it 3-0 in the sixth. Zimmerman hit the ball well his first two at-bats Thursday but had nothing to show for it. He now has five homers and is hitting .190.

Bryce Harper hit leadoff for the third game in a row but was 0-for-4 with two lineouts.

NOTES: Martinez said center fielder Michael A. Taylor is dealing with a groin issue and has been told to take it easy when running out grounders … Lefty Sammy Solis (1-1) was credited with the win — just the second this year by the Washington bullpen … Attendance was 30,434 and the game time temperature was 87 degrees

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