Brandon Kintzler was already warming in the top of the seventh inning when Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon both hit two-run doubles that turned a 3-2 advantage into a 7-2 lead.
Dusty Baker sent the Washington Nationals’ right-hander out to the mound anyway, and Kintzler threw a scoreless, seven-pitch, seven-strike frame.
In spite of the fact they had a five-run lead, Baker sent both Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle out in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, as well.
So why did the Nationals’ skipper use his “A-pen” including his closer in a non-save situation?
“They’ve walked us off I think two or three times here, and this is a big offensive team like ours,” Baker explained, “... and they can score a lot of runs in a hurry, and you don’t want to wait to get in trouble and then bring those guys in.”
“These guys have come back on us a lot,” Baker said of NL East’s second-place Marlins, “and you’re never really comfortable until the game is over.”
Baker said he was definitely more comfortable with Ryan Madson back in the bullpen after the right-hander missed three weeks with a right finger sprain.
Madson tossed a scoreless inning in Milwaukee and threw a 20-pitch, 14-strike eighth last night in Miami, continuing a streak of 11-straight scoreless innings since he came to the Nationals back on July 18th.
Over that stretch, the veteran right-hander has walked one batter, struck out 15 and held opposing hitters to a combined .135/.179/.243 line.
Doolittle gave up a leadoff walk, struck out the next two batters he faced and gave up a long fly to left off Tyler Moore’s bat that Alejandro De Aza had to pull down off of the top of the fence for the final out of the game.
Though he didn’t call it a “three-headed monster”, Baker said last night he was happy to have his big three relievers back to handle the late innings with Madson back.
“That’s real important,” he said. “And especially when you can put Kintzler, a closer, in the seventh, and Madson, also a closer in the eighth, and then you close with Doolittle.
“It sets us back into sync,” Baker explained, “and we feel comfortable and everybody else feels comfortable on the team and those three guys — it shortens the game.”
A.J. Cole gave the Nationals 5 2⁄3 innings. Matt Albers finished off the sixth, then it was Kintzler Madson, and Doolittle.
Will Baker regret using the big three with a big lead if he needs his A-pen later in the series and one or more of them is unavailable?