Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez didn’t have Sean Doolittle available in the top of the ninth inning of the series finale with the Colorado Rockies on Thursday, after the Nats’ closer pitched in both games of Wednesday’s doubleheader in D.C. He did, however, have a 7-6 lead. So...
Erick Fedde went just four innings in the first of two games on Wednesday, so the Nationals needed to use Matt Grace, Wander Suero, Fernando Rodney, and Sean Doolittle in their 3-2 win.
Asked afterwards how his bullpen felt at that point, Martinez told reporters, “That’s a very good question. I told them to take a nap. Hopefully [Patrick] Corbin goes out and gives us 21 outs and then we’ll go from there.”
Corbin gave the Nationals 18 outs, then Tanner Rainey (2 outs), Tony Sipp (1), Rodney (3), and Doolittle (3) locked down a 2-0 win.
Max Scherzer, in his first start since July 6th, came off the Injured List and gave the Nats five innings in the fourth of four with the Rockies, and left the game with the Nats trailing, 3-0, but the offense picked the starter up and got him off the hook with a three-run bottom of the fifth that tied things up.
Grace gave up two hits and two runs in the sixth, 5-3 Rockies, but the Nationals took a one-run lead in the bottom of the sixth, scoring three, 6-5.
Rainey got two outs in the seventh, and Sipp finished off the inning, then Matt Adams hit a solo home run in the bottom of the inning, 7-5 Nationals.
Sipp came back to the mound in the eighth and gave up a run, recording two outs before Suero took over and got out No. 3 to keep the Nationals ahead, 7-6. So, it got to the ninth.
“We had no Doolittle,” Martinez said. “We talked to Rodney before the game and he said ... he could close the game out, so that’s what we had. And all those guys who came in and pitched today, valiantly, I mean these guys have been doing an incredible job in the bullpen. I’m proud of all those guys...”
Rodney gave up a leadoff home run by Ian Desmond on a hanging slider, then issued a walk to Charlie Blackmon, who took second on a wild pitch in the next at bat, moved to third on a single by David Dahl, and scored on a grounder to short by Daniel Murphy, who beat out a throw to first to avoid a double play, 8-7 Rockies. That’s how it ended.
“Just couldn’t finish it today,” Martinez said after the loss. “I mean we’re down 3-0, we come back, but I told you yesterday, those guys, [the Rockies] can hit, they’re a good team.
“They’re a little down right now, but they can hit,” he added. “So, for the boys to battle back, keep battling back, I’m really proud of them. We had a great series, so let’s just go home tonight, get some rest and come back tomorrow and do it again.”
Did he consider sending Suero, who’d pitched on Tuesday and Wednesday, then got an out on Thursday, back out for the ninth after he’d finished off the eighth?
“No, he was more or less an emergency guy today,” the manager said, “and for him to come out there and face two hitters, that was asking a lot for him.”
Rodney had thrown 36 pitches total between the two games on Wednesday, tossing two scoreless frames in both ends of the doubleheader.
So how did he decide to throw him out there again in the finale? Could he have thrown Javy Guerra or Michael Blazek out there?
And was he worried at all about Rodney when he started to crack on the mound?
“I’ve known Fernando for a long time, he’s throwing 94-95 MPH, if he starts throwing 89-90, I get worried,” Martinez said.
“Today, he gave up a slider home run, but he got what could have been a double play, but the ball wasn’t hit hard enough by Murph, so like I said, I’m very proud of Fernando, I am.”
And where does the bullpen stand now?
“When these guys come in tomorrow, they’ll go through their routine, they’ll throw and then we’ll see who’s available for tomorrow,” Martinez said, “but once again, with the weather, the doubleheader, the way we came out and played these last four days, I’m proud of them. I really am. This team — like I said, you can’t overlook the Colorado Rockies, I know they’ve been struggling, but they’ve got good players.”
In hindsight, was there any other way he could have handled the last few innings?
“We’re down 3-0 and we thought if it stays like this we can do something different, but all of a sudden now here we go we’re 3-3, you know, and we have a chance to win the game, and we come back, we go ahead, we try to win the game at hand, and I’m not worried about tomorrow until tomorrow, and like I said, this was a conversation with all these guys before the game and which guys could pitch and which guys couldn’t pitch.”
It didn’t work out on Thursday. Things had been working pretty well over the previous 51 games, in which Martinez’s squad was 36-15. So, 36-16 in 52 isn’t bad, but they had their sweep there for the taking and didn’t get it done.
They could have cut into Atlanta’s lead in and bolstered their own lead in the Wild Card race, which is now a three-way tie for the two spots.
The trade deadline is coming up quickly. Will Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo be able to pull off a move or two or three so the options available in the pen are different on August 1st... if not before then?