Sean Doolittle

Giants pitchers dig too deep a hole for hitters in loss to Nationals

Giants pitchers dig too deep a hole for hitters in loss to Nationals

WASHINGTON D.C. -- The Giants trailed by seven runs at the beginning of the ninth inning Wednesday night. About 15 minutes later, Sean Doolittle was on the mound and Reyes Moronta was hurrying to get hot in the visiting bullpen.

A spirited comeback fell short when Evan Longoria popped up with two on, capping a 9-6 loss. Those kinds of rallies leave you feeling better about your night. They also leave you with plenty of regrets. The main ones on Wednesday: Jeff Samardzija gave up two homers in the first and Travis Bergen allowed two more in the seventh.

"We just dug ourselves too big a hole," manager Bruce Bochy said. 

Samardzija had not allowed a homer in his six previous starts, including three strong ones to start this season. That was a big deal for a pitcher who once led the league in homers allowed and gave up 30 bombs in another season. But on this night, the Nationals jumped on two bad two-seamers in the first. 

Juan Soto got one that leaked up and in and crushed a no-doubter to right, giving the Nationals an early 2-0 lead. Two batters later, Howie Kendrick did similar damage to a two-seamer that again was in the happy zone. Samardzija said he'll go back to the drawing board, noting he felt too quick with his delivery. 

"It was a battle out there," he said. "Especially early."

The Giants lost for the 11th time in their first 19 games, and while this one was unfamiliar in terms of power on both sides -- they hit two homers in the ninth -- the comeback was something they've become used to. The lineup makes a habit of coming through late, and on most nights the regret is that there wasn't enough production early. This time the hole was too deep because of the pitching, but Samardzija hoped that ninth inning would help out in the series finale. The Nationals ended up using three relievers in the inning, including their closer. 

[RELATED: Braves lose their closer; Could Giants be trade partner?]

"It's not surprising," Samardzija said. "It was great to see. You get into the bullpen and even in a loss you make them get a few guys up, a few more than they wanted to. Those things carry over."

Re-examining A's Doolittle-Madson trade with Nationals

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Re-examining A's Doolittle-Madson trade with Nationals

Last July, the A's traded veteran relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to the Nationals. Oakland fans were understandably disappointed to see them go, but the A's received some excellent young talent in return, acquiring RHP Blake Treinen, LHP Jesus Luzardo, and infielder Sheldon Neuse.

While it is far too early to determine which team “won” the trade, we can at least begin to evaluate the players Oakland added.

Blake Treinen

At the age of 29, Treinen has shown he has what it takes to be an effective Major League closer. Since joining the A's, Treinen has appeared in 43 games, allowing just 11 earned runs in 50 innings for an ERA of 1.98. He has converted 16 of his 21 save opportunities.

Treinen immediately helped fill the bullpen void left by the departures of Doolittle and Madson. His four-seam fastball and sinker consistently register in the high 90s, and his slider has baffled hitters this season.

Treinen has all-star closer stuff, and he is a bargain financially, making $2.15 million this season. He won't be an unrestricted free agent until 2021, so the A's appear to have their closer for the next few years.

Jesus Luzardo

Luzardo could be the biggest prize in the entire trade. A third-round draft pick out of high school in 2016, the 6-1 left-hander is still just 20 years old and already in Double-A, a rare feat.

Luzardo dominated at High-A Stockton this season, striking out 25 batters in 14 2/3 innings, while allowing just two runs on six hits. He was promoted to Double-A Midland earlier this week, giving up two runs in five innings in his debut, and striking out five.

MLB Pipeline ranks Luzardo as the A's second best prospect, and the eighth best LHP prospect in all of baseball

Luzardo's fastball clocks in the high 90s, and he has an above average breaking ball and changeup. He got his first taste of the big leagues in Spring Training, pitching six scoreless innings and striking out six, including two-time MVP Mike Trout. Luzardo is definitely on the fast track to the big leagues.

Sheldon Neuse

Neuse (pronounced 'noisy') has primarily played third base, but can also play shortstop, second base, and even first base if needed. The 23-year-old starred at the University of Oklahoma and was selected in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft.

A right-handed hitter, Neuse is off to a slow start this season at Triple-A Nashville, batting just .153 through 18 games. But he has shown tremendous ability in previous seasons. In 22 games with High-A Stockton last year, Neuse hit .386 with seven home runs and 22 RBI. He was promoted to Double-A Midland, where he batted .373 in 18 games.

Like Luzardo, Neuse joined the A's for Spring Training, batting an impressive .310 with five home runs and 15 RBI in 58 at-bats. MLB Pipeline ranks him as Oakland's 11th best prospect.

Analysis

Again, it is way too early to declare either team the winner of this trade. Doolittle, 31, and Madson, 37, have both pitched well for the Nationals, helping to shore up their struggling bullpen.

But A's fans have to be excited about the players they added, especially Luzardo. If the talented southpaw reaches his full potential, this could wind up being a steal for Oakland. For now, we'll call it a win-win, as both teams got what they needed out of the deal.

UVA product Sean Doolittle reacts to 'disgusting' Charlottesville rally

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UVA product Sean Doolittle reacts to 'disgusting' Charlottesville rally

Former A's reliever Sean Doolittle, who is now with the Washington Nationals, is proud of his time at the University of Virginia. Doolittle starred for three years at UVA on the mound and as a first baseman from 2005 to 2007.

But as torch-bearing white supremacists marched in Charlottesville and on the UVA campus Friday night and throughout the day on Satuday, all Doolittle felt was disgust. 

Over five-and-a-half years with the A's, Doolittle built a reputation as an athlete who isn't afraid to speak out on social injustices and he continued to do so on Saturday.

“I hope people not from this area of the country understand that the people that were marching in and around U-Va. and Charlottesville, they’re not from there,” Doolittle said to the Washington Post before the Giants vs Nationals game on Saturday. “These aren’t people that represent the school or the community. This was a rally where people came from other parts of the state, other parts of the region. Because that area, that town, is an incredibly accepting and diverse and embracing community.

“So it’s really frustrating that they chose to go there from the outside just to march and spread their hatred. I just found out that somebody died from the car thing today. It’s past the point of hearing what they have to say, spreading his kind of hatred. Saying, ‘You will not replace us.’…You aren’t the ones at the risk of being quote-unquote replaced by some of this administration’s policies. And it’s just white fear. It’s the worst kind of hatred. It’s disgusting.”

Former Giants manager Dusty Baker, now in his second year leading the Nationals, was also asked about the marches in Charlottesville prior to Saturday's game. 

“It’s part of our society,” Baker said. “Everybody doesn’t feel the same way. It can happen anywhere in the country. That mind-set is not in Charlottesville only. It’s in different parts of our country and I’m just hoping that it doesn’t separate people to the degree that there already is some separation.”

Doolittle's time at UVA will always hold a special place in his heart. He is still close with the baseball program and visits Charlottesville every other offseason. The 30-year-old trusts the community will respond to this hatred in the right way. 

“How the state and the country is going to respond and I think it’s up to the people there, the people in that community, the people of the U-Va. community," Doolittle said. "I know they’re going to step up and they’re not going to let that kind of hatred win. So it’s just really sad.”