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Washington Nationals’ reliever Sean Doolittle is not tapping! Got it, Joe?!?!

Sean Doolittle has regained some of his confidence and his velocity... and he’s brought the totally not a toe tap back...

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New York Mets v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Sean Doolittle told reporters on Tuesday night that the slight hesitation in his delivery might look like the old toe-tap he did, which prompted Joe Maddon to file a protest back in May of 2019, but it is totally not a toe tap.

“I’m not tapping,” Doolittle stated emphatically. “But it’s hovering right above the dirt, I don’t want anybody to — I just want to clear that up, and say it up front, nobody needs to stop the game multiple times in the same inning. But, we had talked I think maybe after my outing in Boston, and I talked about how I was trying to simplify things a lot more, and that movement with my front leg, that mimics the tap, really allows me to gather myself over the rubber before I go towards home plate. And that is something that I really was not doing before, early in the season, in Summer Camp. It was very rushed, and I was not able to ever feel like I was in a strong position with my legs fully underneath me, and so, that’s kind of what that movement came from, and I think over the five outings that I’ve had, it’s probably gotten more and more pronounced as I’ve gotten more comfortable with the rhythm again, and I think tonight was I think the best that it’s felt, so I’m happy with it.”

Doolittle, whose fastball has been a tick down velocity-wise this season (90.3 MPH, after he averaged 93.5 in 2019) had a more life on his four-seamer in his 10-pitch, 1-2-3 inning in the seventh on Tuesday night, and he got five swinging and one called strike with the pitch. He got up to 92.3 and averaged 91.6 MPH.

In five outings since he returned from a stint on the 10-Day IL for right knee fatigue, the left-hander has had just one unearned run score while he’s been on the mound, and out of the 17 batters he’s faced, he’s given up just two hits and two walks, while striking out four.

That’s a vast improvement from the seven hits, two walks, and five earned runs he gave up in three innings pitched before the IL stint.

“He’s been really good,” manager Davey Martinez said after the Nationals’ 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.

“He gives us that guy that right now gets those lefties out and even the righties in-between.

“He’s throwing the ball well.

“He feels good. He went down and tweaked some of his mechanics, and the ball is coming out really good, the spin rate has been good. So, I’m proud of him. He went down and did what he needed to do, and he’s helping us win ballgames and it’s good to see. I mean, he takes a lot of pressure off that bullpen when he’s right. Especially the back end, so we’re going to use him, I always told you that, I’ve got confidence in him and all those other guys out there, and we’re going to use him, and we’ll use him in big moments like tonight.”

Getting back on the mound in a big moment meant a lot to Doolittle.

“I got to be a part of a win again. I got to pitch in a little bit higher-leverage situation and come through for the team,” he said.

“We had guys in the lineup offensively stepping up tonight and passing the baton, and it was just a really fun win.

“That’s the kind of win that really builds team chemistry and can get things really pointed in the right direction.”

After a rough start to the 2020 campaign, and some time off to straighten things out, the lefty feels like he’s headed in the right direction as well.

“I feel like in each of the five outings that I’ve had since coming back from Fredericksburg, that each one has been an improvement,” Doolittle said, “and tonight was another step in the right direction.”