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Nationals’ closer Sean Doolittle talks first blown save of 2018 after 5-4 loss to Dodgers

Sean Doolittle was 9 for 9 in save opportunities this season before he finally blew one in last night’s loss to the Dodgers.

MLB: Game Two-Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Doolittle converted 21 of 22 save opportunities for Washington last season, and the Nationals’ closer was 9 for 9 in 2018 before giving up two runs and the lead last night in what ended up a 5-4 loss in the second game of the doubleheader with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Doolittle had thrown 10 23 scoreless before last night, and allowed just three runs total on seven hits over 18 23 IP this season before giving up three hits and two earned runs in the ninth inning.

A four-run sixth put the Nationals up 4-2, but after Sammy Solis gave up a solo homer in the top of the eighth, Doolittle took the mound with a one-run lead, 4-3, and surrendered three consecutive hits, back-to-back singles by Austin Barnes and Logan Forsythe, and a two-run double to left by Dodgers’ pinch hitter Matt Kemp, who improved to 15 for 32 (.469 AVG) on the year with runners in scoring position when he lined a 93 mph 0-1 fastball to left field.

“When you get to the top of the ninth inning with your closer, you feel pretty good,” Davey Martinez told reporters after the second loss to the Dodgers.

Asked if he saw anything different from Doolittle this time out, the Nationals’ skipper said he thought his closer looked fine.

“[He] threw a couple balls at 96, 95, I mean, he looked good,” Martinez said. “They battled, got couple hits, a couple two-strike hits, and scored some runs.”

“I felt sharp,” Doolittle said, before explaining that a miscommunication with Nats’ catcher Spencer Kieboom led to Kemp’s big hit.

“I liked the way the ball was coming out of my hand,” Doolittle continued. “I’ve got to be honest, I messed up on the pitch to Kemp, I messed up the signs, and so when I lifted my leg and picked up home, [Kieboom] was in a different spot than what I had kind of envisioned — he puts the sign down and I kind of envision it in my head as I’m coming set, and then I pick up home plate and he’s on the other side of the plate, so I threw a pitch that I wasn’t committed to. It was almost like I was trying to hit a moving target, and throwing the ball with conviction — when you throw 90% fastballs — is so important, and I didn’t have conviction behind that pitch, because I messed it up, and I feel terrible.”

Doolittle’s outing left him 9 for 10 in save opportunities, with a 2.29 ERA, a 2.03 FIP, three walks (1.37 BB/9), and 30 Ks (13.73 K/9) in 19 23 IP.

“It’s frustrating when you go down on something other than your best bullet,” he said.

“If I hit my spot and he turns it around, I can live with that, but that’s a tough one to swallow, because that would have been such a big win for us on a day — losing the first one, losing Howie [Kendrick], Max [Scherzer] digging deep for us, I mean, that’s frustrating.”