Doolittle's struggles continue, Nats put closer on Injured List

Ben Krimmel
August 18, 2019 - 10:29 am

This has not been an easy year for the Washington Nationals.

And the lament from fans has remained the same for months on end: The bullpen, the bullpen, the bullpen. 

One of the few reliable arms in the pen this season was closer Sean Doolittle. But that has all changed.

With an 11-8 lead in the ninth inning manager Davey Martinez turned to the closer after getting three scoreless innings of relief from Wander Suero, Hunter Strickland, and Fernando Rodney.

After two pitches, the Brewers got one run back on a Christian Yelich homer. And after nine pitches in the inning, they had tied the game. On the tenth pitch of the inning, Doolittle served up a 90 MPH fastball and Ryan Braun gave the visitors a 12-11 lead. 

Doolittle had blown his sixth save of the season. Sunday the team announced the closer was placed on the 10-day Injured List due to right knee tendinitis and recalled pitcher Kyle McGowin from Double-A.

“I’m still searching for answers, to be honest, I don’t know,”  Doolittle said after the game, via The Washington Post. “We keep trying to go back to the drawing board, we’re watching film, we’re looking at the metrics. I’m doing extra dry work before games, we’ve changed up a lot of my routine in the weight room, my maintenance and stuff.

"I just... “I don’t know. It just wasn’t coming out tonight.”

Doolittle has made eight appearances in the month of August, he has allowed 10 runs on 14 hits including five homers. He's posted a 12.86 ERA.

The Nationals would tie the game in the ninth thanks to Victor Robles, but leave the bases loaded with Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, and Anthony Rendon striking out swinging. Unable to bail out their closer who had long bailed out the team earlier in the year. 

This week general manager Mike Rizzo told The Sports Junkies Doolittle is the Nats closer.

"I see Sean as our closer," Rizzo said Wednesday. "When he's able and ready and in a closing situation, I think we'll pitch him. We're able to be much more diligent with him and to schedule his days off much more willingly right now, because we have so many more options.

However, he admitted what Doolittle had acknowledged a day prior: The closer has been a bit overworked.

"He has been taxed. He has been worked. We have to be careful. Going into the season we knew that he's a maintenance guy that we have to maintain. He hasn't been on the disabled list this year, thank God. He's a guy that's been on the disabled list for the last couple years, which has given him a break during the season to finish off the season strong," Rizzo said.

Despite the ups and downs of the season, Doolittle managed a 2.72 ERA in late July only to see it balloon to 4.33 today.

The Nationals, meanwhile, remain 5.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East and 1.5 games ahead in the top Wild Card spot. And it could come down to this: As Doolittle goes so goes the Nationals.  

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