The Nationals lengthened their lead in the top of the 9th inning for closer Sean Doolittle to a 3-run cushion to work with to face the 5-6-7 batters in the Mets order, and he gave up a double, single, and a 3-run home run to blow the save in a combined total of just 9 pitches. It literally happened that fast and before Doolittle could even record an out. The Mets crowd went wild, and the game was not even won at that point.
After that, Doolittle’s job turned to salvage mode where he just needed to maintain a tie game to get his offense another chance. But that became a difficult task also. With two outs and two runners on-base via singles, Doolittle then gave up a walk-off single to lose the game. This should have been an easy save after Stephen Strasburg gutted through 7.0 innings while never allowing the Mets to take a lead, and Daniel Hudson got the hold with a scoreless 8th inning while facing the top of the Mets order and their biggest slugger Pete Alonso. So many of the Nats players contributed to what could have and should have been a Nats win.
There are few ways to explain what happened here besides some very poor pitches. The 3-run home run to blow the save came off of the bat of Todd Frazier in the 9th inning on a pitch that could not have been more center-cut, and Frazier bat flipped on Doolittle as if the wound was not sliced deep enough. The crazy part was that Frazier did not win the game and just tied the game, and the Nats could rally back if Doolittle could hold the tie at 6-6, but he could not even do that.
We’re not going to start a Sean Doolittle shouldn’t have been in narrative. Mets’ past success or not, that’s who you want on the mound. https://t.co/w7N4NygC7U
— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) August 10, 2019
While many are going to blame manager Dave Martinez for leaving Sean Doolittle in the game, Doolittle was pitching on two days of rest and just did not execute. Some managers will pull a closer once a save is blown, and Martinez warmed Fernando Rodney and never used him — sticking with his closer to weave through the 9th inning with a low pitch count with the game in the line. It begs the question, why did you warm Rodney up?
We should be talking about Anthony Rendon‘s two-run home run and RBI triple, and Juan Soto‘s home run and three hits, and Trea Turner‘s four times on-base and two runs scored with his speed, and Adam Eaton‘s three hits. Unfortunately not all of the offense got the job done with Kurt Suzuki and Brian Dozier going hitless and Suzuki stranded four runners. Clearly you can never score enough runs. The Nats were a poor 2-13 in RISP situations so while Doolittle faltered, the Nats had their chances to blow the game open.
“We did everything right until the ninth inning,” Martinez said. “Like I said he’s our closer. You want him out there in those situations so that is why I stuck with him, and I will stick with him again.”
For those with memories long enough, you saw this back at the end of May when Sean Doolittle also allowed four runs in a blown save loss to the Mets. This is why few Mets fans exited after Trea Turner practically stole home (ruled a wild pitch) in the top of the 9th inning while widening the lead to three runs. Whatever Trea stole there, the Mets took right back in a multiple of four. Stephen Strasburg threw 97 pitches of three run baseball, and it only took Doolittle 26 pitches to give up four. When you come up on the short end of a game like this, it begs the question of why is baseball so cruel?
Cruelty could be felt in another way as there is an asterisk in Doolittle’s contract that Billy Beane in Oakland signed that says if Doo finishes 100 games from 2018 to 2019, his team option turns to a mutual option. When Rizzo traded for Doolittle, that contractual clause transferred in the same form. Doolittle is now just 19 games finished to contractual freedom via free agency if he so chooses. Could that help his motivation to say “Give me the #### ball?” or is he a glutton for punishment or does he really think he can help his team? Martinez of course had to call on Doo tonight but much to the angst of those who do not believe in the “Cult of the closer” he could have been pulled before the game turned to a loss. Debate that.
The crowd at CitiField numbered 39,602 fans who were loud and raucous. This game certainly had a playoff atmosphere. There were many Nats fans in attendance as you could hear their cheers when the Nats did something spectacular. Strasburg did his job and exited with a 5-3 lead, and he also grabbed the all-time franchise lead in strikeouts for his career at 1,622 to pass Steve Rogers of the Montreal Expos. In the end, all of the statistical accomplishments were glossed over with this painful loss that will sting for a while. How long the pain will linger will be determined by what the Nationals do on Saturday and Sunday. The real test is how you pick yourself back up from that Frazier bat flip and the stares into the Nats dugout.