The Washington Nationals beat the Colorado Rockies, 6-3, Tuesday night to move up to 11-11. Here are five observations from the game…
1. Tuesday’s win was a painful process, but not for the normal reasons.
Juan Soto fouled a 3-2 pitch off his right ankle in the top of the ninth. Eventually, he rose after writing in pain to walk with the bases loaded. Howie Kendrick was hit by a pitch. That drove in another run. Washington led, 6-3. Sean Doolittle was forced to the plate after entering the game in the eighth inning. He struck out in his third career at-bat.
The padding was enough for Doolittle, who made his 11th appearance of the season 22 games into it. The evening provided his third outing of an inning-plus already. At the start of his career, Doolittle was often used for more than an inning per outing. After shoulder trouble, that tendency declined greatly until this season.
He finished a quality day for the bullpen: three scoreless innings and limited trouble. Patrick Corbin was solid over six innings, if not the spectacular level of his previous two outings.
The Nationals, you guessed it, are back to even with one road game remaining on this stretch.
2. Victor Robles the wrecking ball is here for your viewing pleasure.
Atop the left-center field wall and falling back to Earth with no support. Crashing into the wall in another instance. Tuesday, roaring into the third base bag so hard the front leg is jammed, sending Robles flipping over the bag and desperate to dive back in when stealing it. He stole second base with a more traditional approach two innings later.
What Robles is: explosive, and a bit reckless. What he’s not: boring.
His three-run, third-inning double vaulted Washington back in front. The steal of third came after Juan Soto failed to move Robles over, so he just made it there himself with one out.
Robles’ gangbusters approach reminds of a young Bryce Harper. Often making contact with immovable objects to his possible detriment is fun to watch. Though it might not be the best thing for him or the Nationals.
3. Coors Field has never been Corbin’s friend. Coming into Tuesday, the Rockies had a .938 OPS against Corbin at their home park in a strong sample size of 247 plate appearances. It’s a bad place for any pitcher. Corbin sees his stuff flatten in the thin air.
Tuesday, Corbin survived more than he controlled the game. A potent start gave way to a two-run homer in the second inning, another run in the fifth, and an exit after the sixth. The run in the fifth was unearned, though it also came when Corbin was trying to wriggle out of trouble he created.
Corbin threw 103 pitches. None more important than the ones in the sixth, which he turned into a 1-2-3 inning, allowing Davey Martinez to set up his bullpen distribution how he would prefer.
4. Martinez told reporters earlier in the day he expected to use Joe Ross in a more high-leverage relief situation going forward. He did that Tuesday, though Ross threw just three pitches.
Ross started the seventh inning. He recorded an out, then was removed for left-handed specialist Tony Sipp after a left-handed pinch-hitter -- David Dahl -- was announced. Left-handed Charlie Blackmon was next. Sipp took care of both, doing his matchup job.
Wander Suero was next. He worked around a leadoff double by getting Nolan Arenado to ground out and Mark Reynolds to strike out.
Martinez turned to Doolittle after that.
The quibble here is Ross for one out. Suero -- or even Kyle Barraclough -- could have appeared for one batter a night after they both threw an inning. That puts Ross, appearing to be an effective reliever thus far, in a spot to throw more than three pitches.
Everything Martinez did Tuesday worked. He matched up multiple times. The choices held a one-run lead going into the ninth, which is what they have been desperate to do all season. But Ross’ usage since he went to the bullpen has been odd, whether it’s not appearing for a long time or being used for a three-pitch outing.
5. Raimel Tapia is a part-time outfielder with speed. Until he plays the Nationals.
Tapia hit a pinch-hit homer Monday night. He hit a two-run homer Tuesday night in his first at-bat against Corbin.
How big of outliers were those? Tapia had four career homers in 271 at-bats coming into the game. He rarely faces left-handed pitchers because, as a left-handed hitter, he has a .641 career OPS against them. Strange doings from Tapia the last two nights.
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