Sean Doolittle gave up a solo home run in his inning of work in Friday night’s game, but left the mound with the Washington Nationals still up by one at the end of a 16-pitch, 13-strike effort which saw him get five swinging strikes and two called strikes with the 14 fastballs he threw.
Doolittle’s velocity was up a tick too, back where we’re used to seeing it, with an average of 95.3, a high of 96.1, and a low of 94.6, after he averaged 93.8 MPH in the regular season.
He told reporters after the Nationals’ 4-2 win that a combination of factors resulted in his stuff playing up, including the time off between outings, some mechanical changes he is working on, and the atmosphere in Dodger Stadium.
“I think those mechanical adjustments I’ve been working on, they synched up really well,” Doolittle explained, “... but the playoffs are a different beast. There’s 53,000 people in the stadium, you’re going to have a little bit extra, so I was trying really hard to stay fluid, and just attack the zone.”
The official attendance number for that game was 53,086, significantly more than the sold out crowd of 42,993 that packed the smaller Nationals Park for last week’s NL Wild Card game, but there wasn’t any less enthusiasm from the D.C. faithful who watched the home team battle back once again, as they have all season, with an eighth-inning rally setting off a celebration the likes of which GM Mike Rizzo compared to one of the biggest moments in franchise history.
“It was an unbelievable turnout,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies the day after the Wild Card win this past week.
The Nationals fought hard for the home field advantage in the Wild Card Game, and the opportunity to play the Milwaukee Brewers in Nationals Park, where they are now 51-31 in 2019, and Rizzo said it definitely is a matter of the fan base inspiring and lifting the team when they need it.
“This narrative that Nats fans don’t care, it’s not a baseball town, is garbage,” Rizzo said, dismissing any talk about the passion for baseball in the nation’s capital.
“The people who are there night in and night out, they’re as passionate and rabid of baseball fans as anybody around.
“We love the fans and they’ve supported us since we’ve gotten here. And I think that that’s been overblown.
”I loved the energy in the ballpark yesterday. It was amazing, it was as loud as I’ve heard it, even Game 5 against the Cardinals and the Dodgers, and the Cubs. They were on fire last night, and it started early. It seemed like that 8:00 game was never going to start...”
Nationals fans (and their GM) only have to wait until 7:45 PM tonight for the start of Game 3 of the NLDS, which begins with the Nationals and Dodgers tied at 1-1 after they split the two games in Dodger Stadium this week.
“I like that we split, yeah, after losing the first game,” Davey Martinez said after handing the Dodgers what was only their 23rd loss in 82 home games this season.
“Yeah, it’s nice. It will be a good flight home. We’ll have a day off tomorrow and then come back and do it again at home.”
The D.C. faithful are waiting, for the first NLDS Game in Nationals Park since October 12th of 2017.