With an eight-pitch, six-strike, 1-2-3 ninth on Tuesday night, Sean Doolittle earned his 12th save in 12 opportunities with the Washington Nationals. Doolittle completed his twelfth consecutive scoreless appearance in what ended up a 4-3 win over the Astros in Houston’s Minute Maid Park.
After the outing, Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker talked about what’s allowed the left-hander to enjoy the success he has since the Nationals acquired the southpaw from the A’s in a pre-deadline deal last month.
“Doo throws strikes,” Baker said. “He throws near-strikes that look like strikes and end up being balls. He has great command and good velocity. And so, boy that was a good game to win.”
In 16 appearances with the Nationals, the 30-year-old reliever had a 2.25 ERA, five walks (2.81 BB/9), 17 Ks (10.20 K/9) and a .164/.230/.273 line against in 16 innings pitched following the outing against the Astros, after he put up a 3.38 ERA, two walks (0.84 BB/9), 31 Ks (13.07 K/9), and a .158/.177/.289 line against in 21 1⁄3 IP before he was acquired from the Athletics.
In an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo was asked if the new closer has been better than even he expected since Doolittle joined the Nationals, along with Ryan Madson, in the first of two trades made as part of the rebuild of Washington’s bullpen, along with the deal that brought right-hander Brandon Kintzler over from Minnesota.
“He’s been great,” Rizzo said. “He was really good in Oakland when we saw him, I give credit to our scouts, we really monitored and evaluated all these relief pitchers that were in the market, and I thought that we really landed on the three guys that really fit us not only roles and bullpen-wise, but personalities and the way they fit in the clubhouse.”
“The guy comes right at you,” Rizzo continued, in discussing the lefty’s approach on the mound, “and he’s no-nonsense and all three of these guys fill up the strike zone and if they’re going to get beat they’re going to get beat with their best stuff and they’re going to make the hitters beat them instead of getting themselves into hitters’ counts and walking guys and losing games that way.
“I feel good about all three of them. Doolittle has been great for us, and I like the way he goes after guys and attacks the strike zone and is kind of, ‘Here it is, fellas,’ and my best against your best and see who wins.”
Working predominantly with his mid-90s fastball, Doolittle has held opposing hitters to a .158 average on the pitch this season (down from .212 in 2016), and a .210 BABIP (down from .281), while generating more ground balls (35.7%) than he has previously in his career (31.1% average).
Expressing the thoughts of the entire Nationals fanbase after Tuesday night’s save, Nats’ third baseman Anthony Rendon summed up everyone’s feelings about the Nationals’ new closer during Doolittle’s post game interview with MASN’s Dan Kolko: