One-time Nationals’ closer Sean Doolittle is back in D.C. this week for a three-game series in the nation’s capital between his new and former teams. Doolittle signed with Cincinnati this winter, after three-plus seasons in Washington, and the Reds’ left-hander talked, in advance of his return, about an important date in his own and his old franchise’s history.
This past weekend was the second anniversary of the day the Nationals fell to 19-31 in May of 2019, before turning the campaign around, eventually going on to win the World Series, the first by a D.C.-based team since 1924.
What they accomplished that season isn’t lost on Doolittle.
“I think it gets more crazy, to be honest,” he told reporters on a Zoom call.
“The farther removed I get from it, the more perspective that you have, you really realize — I know May 24th it’s not really Memorial Day weekend, it’s still the first quarter of the season or whatever. It’s 12 games under .500 and we pulled that off.
“It’s funny, talking to the guys here during Spring Training, they were saying — when I say ‘we’ right now, I’m talking about the 2019 Nats — we, right after we hit that rock bottom, we, the Nats, came here to the Reds, we played it was like two or three series later, we came here and we had just started rolling. That’s when Max [Scherzer] pitched the day game and he was angry because we were wearing navy blue jerseys during the day, so he had a little bit of extra fire out there because it was really hot and we were wearing dark jerseys. So, Max was a little angry, so sorry to the Reds players that had the feel that wrath.”
The Reds weren’t the only ones on the receiving end of Scherzer’s wrath that day.
Max Scherzer, Refusing to Leave (after 117 pitches/14th K). pic.twitter.com/ToXqxymgrl— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 2, 2019
Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez made the mistake of going out to talk to his starter after he’d recorded his 14th of 15 strikeouts that day, on, as noted above, his 117th pitch.
As you might guess, Scherzer did not want to leave the mound. He didn’t. Three pitches later he had K No. 15 on a total of 120 pitches.
“I got to hear it from him,” Martinez said of the mound visit after that game.
“He’s got a lot of pitches and I just want to hear it from him. We kind of exchanged some non-professional words, but it was good to hear he wanted to battle.”
What was said?
“I’d rather not say, but I love it,” Martinez said.
“I knew I was strong,” Scherzer said that day, in a much calmer tone than the one he’d used with his manager.
“I knew with the schedule — I had an off day the previous time ... I’m coming up on another off day, my arm felt great, even in the eighth, and so I knew I had plenty in the tank to keep pitching, and I just wanted the ball in that situation, I know myself and I wanted the ball.”
You try to take it from him.
You’d think after that outing, they would just force the Nationals to wear dark color jerseys in any hot day game Scherzer starts. This past Sunday, on an 87° day in D.C., the Nationals wore their home whites, which surely pleased Scherzer, who didn’t pitch in the game, but did bring the fact that the Orioles wore their black jerseys in the game up with his skipper.
“It’s funny because it does come up,” Martinez said before the opener with the Reds.
“Especially — so the other day, obviously we were playing on Sunday,” he continued, “... and [the Orioles] wore their black jerseys, and [Scherzer] comes in the dugout and, typical Max, he’s wondering why they’ve got black jerseys on when it’s 90° out.
“And he says — he brought it up, he said I don’t like doing that. He said I want to wear the lightest color jerseys we got that our available, whether it’s at home or on the road, because he does — he said, ‘I get out there and I get heated, and I sweat a lot and I want the lightest thing that I can possibly wear.’ So that was kind of part of his ornery mood that day [against the Reds], and yeah, we did have a pretty good conversation on the mound.
“I can laugh about it now. But it was kind of funny. One day maybe I’ll share it with you guys, but I’ll have to talk to him about it first.”
Scherzer was more ornery than usual that day?
“He was ornery, yeah. He was definitely ornery because it was hot, and like I said, he didn’t want to wear that jersey.”