Sean Doolittle warmed up late in the series finale in Miami, with Washington up 7-4 after eight, so Davey Martinez used the Washington Nationals’ closer in the ninth even though they were up by four at that point after adding a run in the top of the inning. It was Doo’s second straight outing against the Marlins, so he was unavailable on Friday in the series opener with the Tigers in Detroit.
Wander Suero was unavailable as well after pitching in each of the previous two games, so with the Nationals ahead 3-1 after eight and a half, Martinez turned to 42-year-old, one-time Tigers’ closer Fernando Rodney in the bottom of the ninth in Comerica Park.
Rodney earned his first save of 2019 in his second outing for the Nats, striking out Harold Castro and JaCoby Jones, both with filthy changeups, before getting out No. 3 on a weak groundout off Victor Reyes’s bat to bring a 15-pitch, 10-strike frame to an end.
All three changeups Rodney threw were swing and miss pitches, and he got three called strikes, two with his two-seamer, and one with his four-seam. which averaged 94 and 95 MPH, respectively.
“What I really like is his fastball was good and his changeup is really good,” Martinez said after the Nationals’ fourth straight win, which got them a game above .500, at 41-40 this season.
“With Fernando, he’s done it, and he’s pitched in big moments. He gets it. So for me today, when Doo was not available, he was the guy in the ninth.”
“Suero was another guy today that needed a day,” the Nats’ skipper explained, “so to have Fernando come out and do what he did, and [Tanner] Rainey came out and got some big outs for us in the eighth, [Javy] Guerra came out and did his job in the seventh, it was huge.”
Getting through the final three innings with pitchers who weren’t on the Nationals’ roster on Opening Day?
“It makes it nice,” Martinez said. “We’ve got Guerra, he came in and he’s been pitching really well. Rainey started off in the minor leagues, we get him and he’s pitching really well, and then we get Rodney, and like I said, he’s a veteran guy, knows what to do, doesn’t freak out in big moments, and he got the job done.”
“They’ve made me feel very proud,” Rodney told MASN’s Alex Chappell in an interview on the field in Comerica Park after the game. “Very happy to come back to Detroit, where I started my career, and the chance they gave me tonight, I’m going to take advantage of every opportunity they give me and try to help the team keep rolling.”
He’s only made two appearances, but a reporter asked prematurely if Rodney can be the veteran arm at the back end the Nationals were hoping Trevor Rosenthal would be?
“Right now he is helping us win games,” Martinez said.
“I know it’s the second outing, but so far he looks good. So I told him, I said, ‘Hey, there’s no pressure, you’re going to pitch late in the games, just be ready.’”