Sean Doolittle was still searching for answers when he spoke to reporters after giving up six hits and four earned runs in his fifth blown save of the season, and second against New York in seven appearances in 2019.
In six innings of work against the Mets this year, the Washington Nationals’ 32-year-old left-hander has now given up 16 hits and 10 earned runs.
Doolittle came on with a 6-3 lead, and proceeded to give up a leadoff double by J.D. Davis, a single by Wilson Ramos, and a three-run home run by Todd Frazier, who hit a 94 MPH 1-2 fastball out to left for a game-tying blast, 6-6.
Two outs later, Amed Rosario singled with a runner on first, and Michael Conforto hit a line drive to right that got over Adam Eaton for a walk-off winner, 7-6.
What went wrong for Doolittle?
“What didn’t go wrong?” he asked rhetorically. “I don’t have a lot of answers right now. I’m kind of searching and kind of going over the inning in my head right now, and the only thing I can think, or one thing that jumps to mind is I wasn’t really happy with the way the ball was coming out of my hand. I looked up at the scoreboard a few times, and saw some 91 and 92s, and I might have been over-throwing, over-compensating, trying to throw a little bit too hard and do too much, cause they were obviously — they were seeing it really well. I think I only maybe got one or two swings and misses. I didn’t even have really a chance to get ahead in counts they were so aggressive with it early, putting the ball in play. I think I made all that mess and I only threw 20-something pitches, but I don’t... “
Doolittle trailed off, with nothing to add, and no real answers as to what went wrong. He threw 26 pitches total, got two swinging strikes, and two called strikes with his fastball, which sat at 93.3 (right around his average fastball velocity this season), maxed out at 94.4, and was as low as 91.7 MPH, according to Baseball Savant.
“I think he just couldn’t get the ball up,” Davey Martinez said when he was asked what went wrong for the Nationals’ closer.
“He’s effective when he’s up. He threw some balls a little [more] over than normal, but when he’s up, he’s effective.”
Did he consider pulling Doolittle after the game-tying home run? Or after the fourth or fifth hits?
“No,” Martinez said. “He’s our closer. That’s what he does. It was unfortunate, but come tomorrow, see how he feels, and he’ll be right back out there. We’ve given him the ball with a three-run lead many, many times before and he’s done the job, so I’ve got all the faith in the world in him.”
“I’ve been feeling really good,” Doolittle said, when asked if he’d had any problems recently that led up to this blown save, “and I thought my outings on this road trip I was really happy with how I’ve been throwing the ball, and really for the last several outings, I know I gave up the home run at home against the Braves, but other than that, I feel like I’m happy with how I’ve been throwing the ball.
“Tonight for some reason I didn’t have it, and tomorrow, go to work and start making some adjustments.”
Mets’ skipper Mickey Callaway talked about his team’s approach against the Nats’ closer, if Doolittle wants some hint of what NY’s manager was willing to share about how they’re attacking him.
“I think we’re doing a good job of getting him up,” Callaway said, “but not up too much. When he elevates up above the path, he’s going to be tough. You have to also lay off anything he might throw underneath the zone. So we’re doing a good job of hunting pitches kind of middle, middle-up that we can handle and doing damage to them. That last one to Conforto is the perfect example. Left on left, that’s a tough assignment. He leaves it kind of middle, middle-up, thigh high, and we get on top of it and put a good swing on it, so they’re really trying to stay on top of the ball with him and making sure that they’re not swinging underneath.”