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Washington Nationals’ bullpen stories: Sean Doolittle and his velocity; Wander Suero and Fernando Rodney

How often can Davey Martinez turn to Sean Doolittle? What is making Wander Suero look more comfortable out on the mound?

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Doolittle’s Velocity:

Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez used his closer, Sean Doolittle, in a non-save situation in the series opener in Citizens Bank Park this past Friday, even after the Nationals added a run in the ninth to give themselves a 4-0 lead over the Philadelphia Phillies.

He had no qualms about the decision either, after Doolittle warmed up with a three-run lead.

“Here’s my thoughts,” he told reporters, “... it took me about three seconds, we’re playing at [Citizens Bank Park], four runs, that ain’t much here. Those guys can hit. Doolittle is coming into the game. I mean, it’s a big moment, and he’s my guy.

“To me that game right there is huge coming off a four-day break, and he’s rested and we win that first game.”

Doolittle worked around a two-out single for a scoreless inning in that outing, a 12-pitch, nine-strike frame in his 40th appearance in 90 games to that point.

Martinez turned to his closer again on Saturday night with a one-run lead and Doolittle got save No. 20 of 2019 with a 20-pitch, 15-strike appearance in which he worked around a hit, with diminished velocity that his manager noted, though it did spike at one point (up to 95 MPH) and ticked up as the outing progressed.

Doolittle averaged 92.7 MPH in that appearance, after averaging 92.4 the previous night, off a bit from his 93.9 MPH average on the fastball overall in 2019.

Doolittle’s Velocity 7/12 - 7/13:

“Yesterday his velo started down too,” Martinez said on Saturday night, “and then at the end he pumped it up a little bit. As long as he’s throwing his fastball and he’s throwing it up, he’s effective.

“I know he’s been mixing in a little bit more splitters and sliders, but when his fastball is up, he’s good.”

”I am not sure exactly why it is down,” Doolittle said when asked about his velocity Saturday night.

“I can still navigate innings and get guys out. It doesn’t take very long to get ready.”

Doolittle has gone back-to-back multiple times this season, but not three in a row, and he told his manager before the series finale on Sunday that he was unavailable.

He missed a significant stretch last season with a stress reaction in his left foot, so he only made 43 appearances overall, down from 53 total between Oakland and Washington in ‘17, and 44 in 2016 with the A’s.

“We talked, he came to my office,” Martinez explained after Sunday’s game.

“And as we always do, we have conversations and he was down. I thought him being down, two days off, we’ll get him back up and ready for Baltimore.”

Suero and Rodney:

Wander Suero appeared in all three games with the Phillies in CBP, and after the first game of the series, Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez talked to reporters about the recent outings by the 27-year-old right-hander, who has a 2.35 ERA (2 ER in 7 23 IP) in his last nine trips to the mound, going back to June 26th.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Martinez said on Friday night that it’s no coincidence that Suero’s recent run coincides with Fernando Rodney’s time in D.C. after the Nationals called him up on June 25th.

“I’m going to be honest with you,” Martinez said, “I think having Rodney down there has helped him. Those guys have gotten along since Rodney’s been here, he’s talked to him, he’s kind of [taken] him under his wing, and I told Suero he’s a really good guy to watch.

“Things might not go smooth with Rodney, but he gathers himself together and he gets big outs.

“I said, ‘You need to do the same thing. Sometimes you’re going to give up a hit, but you’ve got to get right back on there and make that next pitch,’ and he’s done well.”

Suero threw 2 23 scoreless in his three appearances against the Phillies, striking out three of the eight batters he faced, without giving up a hit.

“He’s been really, really good,” Martinez said on Sunday. “If we can continue to keep him like that, we’ll be in good shape. He’s a big part of the bullpen.”