Davey Martinez called on Washington Nationals’ closer Sean Doolittle with two runners on and two out in the eighth inning of last night’s game, trying to protect a slim 1-0 lead over the New York Mets in Citi Field.
Doolittle, 32, hadn’t pitched since Saturday night in the nation’s capital, when he tossed a scoreless ninth against the Chicago Cubs, earning his eighth save in nine opportunities in 2019.
Max Scherzer tossed six scoreless against the Mets, and Joe Ross and Matt Grace combined for a scoreless seventh, but things went all pear-shaped in the bottom of the eighth.
Kyle Barraclough started the inning, but gave up a one-out double and two-out walk before Martinez went to Doolittle, who hit Carlos Gómez with the first pitch he threw, then gave up a base-clearing double on an 0-1 fastball to Juan Lagares that the Mets’ outfielder lined into the left-center gap to put the home team up 3-1 in what ended up a 6-1 win.
Doolittle faced two more batters after the double by Lagares, issuing an intentional walk to Wilson Ramos, and giving up a three-run home run on a 2-2 fastball to Rajai Davis.
The four runs Doolittle was charged with were the most he’s surrendered since September of 2014.
“It was shocking. Good word for it,” Martinez told reporters who asked if he was shocked by the outcome in the Nationals’ third straight loss to the Mets and fourth straight loss overall.
“[Doolittle is] the best and the best we have, and he comes through in those moments. He didn’t tonight. That’s all I can say.
“We scored early, had one run, facing a guy like [Jacob] deGrom. Scherzer was amazing, exceeded the pitch count we thought he was going to have and gave us a chance to win and we just couldn’t close the deal.”
“I’m disgusted with myself,” Doolittle told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“I let the team down. And it hurts.”
“It kind of happened so quick. I’m still kind of processing it, to be honest with you,” he added. “A couple of those guys have given me some trouble this year. I tried to make some adjustments. ... I don’t know, it’s tough. And it’s a tough spot to come in. And the context of how our season’s going, it hurts you even more.”
With the bullpen struggling like it has this season, Doolittle has been called upon often and in situations he hasn’t necessarily been used in during his time with the Nationals, so did it all just catch up to him tonight?
“We had a conversation with him,” Martinez explained, “... he said he was good to go, he hasn’t pitched in a few days. Two outs, he knew he was going to get four outs, and it just didn’t happen tonight. But you know what, I’ve got all the faith in the world in him, like I said, he’s one of the best.
“We were out on the mound, I looked at him and I said, ‘Keep your head up. You’re going to be back out here tomorrow, so keep your head up.”
Scherzer’s take on another strong outing which ended in a loss for the Nationals, and the rough night for Doolittle on the mound?
“Everybody in this league gets punched in the face,” Scherzer said.
“It’s the reality of Major League Baseball, and the reality of the profession that we do. It’s not about one individual moment and one guy succeeding or failing, it’s about how you respond to it and just come out and continue to do your job. He’s been great for us this whole year and we have the utmost confidence in him that he can go out there and compete and shut down the door whenever we ask him to, and he’s done it so much this year. The fact that things didn’t go his way tonight, it doesn’t change my confidence in him or probably the team’s confidence in what he’s able to do on the mound.”
“[deGrom] was good. We had very minimal opportunities today,” Martinez added, after the Nationals scored one run on three hits overall on the night, “but like I said, Scherzer was just as good, and he gave us a chance to win. A couple guys came in [out] of the bullpen and we matched them up and they did well. We had an opportunity to hold them today and we just didn’t do it today.”