Before he was the Washington Nationals’ closer, back on July 1, 2017, when he was still in the Oakland A’s bullpen, Sean Doolittle faced the Atlanta Braves in Oakland’s Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Braves’ outfielder Danny Santana singled with one down in a 1-1 game in the seventh, stole second base, then third, and scored on an RBI double by Dansby Swanson to put Atlanta up, 2-1.
The previous night, Ender Inciarte had bunted his way on, and stolen second before scoring on an RBI single.
Those were the only three stolen bases attempts against Doolittle on the season in 2017, all three were successful. No one stole any bases against him in 2016.
Thus far this season, the only three stolen bases against him in six innings on the mound for the Nationals’ closer came in the top of the tenth inning of what ended up a twelve-inning loss to the Braves yesterday.
Inciarte walked to start the top of the tenth inning, stole second base, and one out later, following an intentional walk to Freddie Freeman and a swinging K by Nick Markakis, Inciarte stole third as part of a double steal with Freeman.
Inciarte tried to steal home. It was close enough that it had to be reviewed, and the initial call that the runner was out at the plate was upheld, but it was close. Really close.
“[Inciarte] made that decision,” Braves’ skipper Brian Snitker told reporters, as quoted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien after the series-salvaging win for Atlanta.
“I just looked at it [on replay after the game], and I thought he was safe. Good [attempt] by Ender right there, he was just trying to make a play. It kind of reminds me of the game in New York a couple of years ago where he kind of willed himself to score in a game that we won there. That’s exciting.”
Doolittle told reporters, including MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, that he was surprised, but not caught completely unaware by Inciarte’s bold move of going for home.
“I was thinking that he might try it,” Doolittle said, “... because we’ve seen other guys already try this year around the league. I know I’m kind of exposed the way I’m super deliberate. I’m slow, with the way I come set and everything. But [Anthony Rendon] and [Pedro Severino] were all over it, and they gave me enough to give me a chance to get him out.”
“I don’t know why he do that,” Severino said, as quoted by Zuckerman, after the game.
“He gave a favor to us. I just say thank you to him, because we almost had bases loaded and we’re facing the guy on-deck. And Doolittle’s the best closer we got in baseball. That happens when you don’t got an idea what’s going on in the game.”
Wait, what did Severino say? That’s kind of hilarious. Anyway...
Apparently the Braves are seeing something in Doolittle’s delivery, right? Those stolen bases by Inciarte were way too easy.
“We have to go back and — I’ve got to really take a look at what’s going on there,” Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez told reporters after the loss, “cause you know I know he’s slow to the plate, but he tends to hold the ball a little bit, and makes adjustments, but this is twice now, so I’m going to hone in and see what I can see off him.”
Sounds like Martinez, Doolittle, pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, and the rest of the Nationals’ staff have some work to do before the left-hander’s next appearance.