Davey Martinez talked before the third of four with the Philadelphia Phillies this week in the nation’s capital, about his decision to turn to Kyle Finnegan as the team’s primary closer in the aftermath of the deadline deals that sent Brad Hand to Toronto, and Daniel Hudson out to San Diego, and the decisions to option Tanner Rainey and Wander Suero to the minors.
“When you’re pitching, coming in in situations like the ninth inning, he understands what he needs to do,” Martinez explained. “And all he’s trying to do is get outs. And we talked a lot about just him going out there and just him remembering for him it’s just another seventh inning, he’s just going to go out there and just try to get three outs.”
Finnegan, 28, saved 47 games total over seven seasons in the minors, all of them between 2016-19, when he moved to the bullpen full-time, in his third year in the Oakland Athletics’ system after the A’s drafted him in the 6th Round in 2013.
“For me, I try to keep the same mentality,” Finnegan said of his approach to pitching in the ninth versus the seventh, eighth, or any other innings.
“It’s getting ahead, making your pitches, executing your pitches, and getting guys out. It’s just everything is amplified there at the end of the game.
“The outcomes matter a lot more, but you can’t really think about the outcomes, you’re just trying to execute as many pitches as you can.”
Finnegan converted two save opportunities in late July (one the night before the July 30th trade deadline and the second after all the Nationals’ trades the next day; and after he blew one back in June; and blew one in his lone opportunity in 2020’s 60-game campaign), then he earned a win when he threw a scoreless ninth inning in a tie game at home with the Chicago Cubs, before a walk-off home run by Yadiel Hernández in the bottom of the inning.
In the ninth inning on Thursday afternoon in Nationals Park, after taking the mound with a 5-3 lead, Finnegan gave up a leadoff double on a 96 MPH, 1-2 fastball up at the top and in the middle of the zone to Odubel Herrera.
Ronald Torreyes reached on an E:5, a throwing error by Carter Kieboom on a one-hopper he fielded falling into foul territory and threw high to first base, pulling Josh Bell off the bag.
Finnegan got two outs with Jean Segura striking out and Travis Jankowski moving both of the runners over with a groundout, but he fell behind 3-0 to J.T. Realmuto, got to 3-2, then gave up a two-run double on a 97 MPH sinker at the top zone, in the middle like the one to Herrera.
J.T. REALMUTO TIES THIS GAME IN THE 9TH pic.twitter.com/BRtRfH92t9— Dillard Barnhart (@BarnHasSpoken2) August 5, 2021
“I’ve actually had success on that exact type of pitch to J.T. there,” Finnegan said after the game.
“Fastball running up and in on him. He made a great swing, made a great play for his team, drove in those two runs, tied the game up, just tough one, one pitch away and wasn’t able to get it done tonight.”
Davey Martinez called for Bryce Harper to be intentionally walked, but Realmuto and Harper scored on a two-run double by Rhys Hoskins on a 1-1 sinker that ended up middle-middle, 7-5, in what ended up a 7-6 game in the Phillies’ favor.
“It’s — he got four outs, he gave up four unearned runs, we get a nice play — we make a nice play there, and get the guy out, we got three outs. So, but I thought he was throwing the ball hard, he just kept a couple balls up. Fell behind on Realmuto, a tough hitter, same thing with Hoskins,” Martinez said.
“Errors are going to happen,” Kieboom said after a game in which he went 2 for 4 with a walk and an RBI at the plate.
“It was very unfortunate that it happened there in the ninth inning, and you know it kind of wound up I think if you make that play, maybe some of those runs don’t score.”
“Other than the error,” Martinez continued. “I thought he threw the ball really well and could have gotten out of the inning, and then things got out of control there.
“He came in throwing 96-97, with a good fastball. So, he’ll be back out there tomorrow.
“I know him, he’s a bulldog, he’s been throwing the ball well, so he’ll be right back out there tomorrow.”
Finnegan appreciated the show of support from his manager.
“It’s awesome,” he said, and he does want to get right back out there.
“After a bad one I want to be out there as soon as possible,” Finnegan added, “get it behind you and move on.
“It’s not my first blown save, it certainly won’t be my last, so got to take what I can from it, learn from it, and get back at ’em tomorrow.”