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Nationals closer Sean Doolittle: ‘We’re not far off’

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NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON

Nationals closer Sean Doolittle: ‘We’re not far off’

WASHINGTON -- Here’s the thing about Sean Doolittle: No topic, fortunately, is off-limits.

So, why not discuss Game of Thrones? Why not get into emotional visits to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center? And, of course, why not get into baseball?

We did all of that on the latest episode of The Racing Presidents podcast.

The Nationals’ closer joined us for an exclusive, 20-minute sit down to have some fun but also reflect on the current status of his ball club.

First, to the GOT: Yes, it was dark at times. Doolittle was savvy enough to alter the brightness on his television in order to resolve that problem. From there, he enjoyed the episode -- like most except the crustiest on social media -- and was surprised by the ending.

SPOILER ALERT: There are Game of Thrones spoilers in this podcast

 

His trip to Walter Reed was stirring. Patients who are going through various stages of recovery. Some are just learning how to live with a new prosthetic. Others are closing in on a departure following a long recovery.

“As much as we get out of it, we’re trying to brighten up their day a little bit,” Doolittle said.

As far as his day job goes, Doolittle said he feels good at the end of April despite a high workload. His velocity is up in recent outings, a change he attributes to a mechanical tweak mastered in the bullpen when the team was in Colorado. Doolittle has made 13 appearances already this season. Twelve came in April when the team was just trying to hover around .500.

“Overall, April has always been a little bit of a mixed bag for me coming out of spring training,” Doolittle said. “Just because spring training is just so much different than anything you do during the season as a back of the bullpen guy. It’s an adjustment going from spring training games that you might play where you’re pitching in the fifth or sixth inning against guys you’ve never seen before to trying to nail down a game in the later innings where there’s all this adrenaline and emotion you don’t get in spring training.”

Doolittle’s status is clear thanks to his 1.35 ERA. The rest of the team is going through fluctuations. Washington has lost eight of 11, is four games under .500 and staring at a rough part of the schedule both in process and opponent. The good news? The other National League East contenders are having trouble, too.

“One thing we have to be aware of, that we have to learn from last year... we dealt with injuries last year, too,” Doolittle said. “I think there was just too much of a sense of just wait until we get healthy. We’ll try to tread water and stay relatively close and once those guys get healthy, we’ll take off. Once those guys got healthy last year, it was almost like it was too late.”

In all?

“We’re not far off,” Doolittle said.

Much more in the full podcast. Take a listen, subscribe and download.

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Here's how to watch classic Nationals, Orioles games through MLB's social platforms

Here's how to watch classic Nationals, Orioles games through MLB's social platforms

It's a tough time being a sports fan these days. The lack of live events has brought many fans to turn to past, classic games for entertainment while stuck inside.

Sports leagues have done the same, and Major League Baseball is the latest to look to the past. MLB will be streaming classic games on its social media pages as a part of its #MLBAtHome offerings for fans. Teams who are playing in the featured games will also have a live stream on their websites.

Per MLB, the weekly schedule of games will have themed days, including dominant pitching performances, postseason classics, unlikely comebacks and more.

The games can be streamed on MLB's Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages.

Local fans will want to tune in this week, as both the Nationals and Orioles are featured prominently.

Here's how to watch those games, and why each was chosen by Major League Baseball.

Orioles vs. Yankees

Date: Wednesday, April 1
Time: 7 p.m.
Original game: September 25, 2014

It's easy to understand why Major League Baseball chose Derek Jeter's final home game. The most popular player of his generation, Jeter managed to walk it off against the Orioles with a slap hit the opposite way - a fitting finish for a Hall of Fame career.

Orioles fans may not enjoy watching the loss, but it will still be fun to remember the magical 2014 season, in which the Orioles ran away with the AL East to win their first division title of the century.

Nationals vs. Cubs

Date: Friday, April 3
Time: 7 p.m.
Original game: August 12, 2018

This was a tough one for the Nationals, as David Bote walked it off for the Cubs to take down Washington. What made it interesting, and worth airing for MLB, was how it happened.

When you're a kid playing in your backyard, the situation is always the same - bottom of the 9th, two outs, bases loaded. It rarely happens in the big leagues, however.

But on August 12, 2018, rookie David Bote came to the plate as a pinch hitter in just that scenario. The game ended the way every backyard scenario does too - with a walk-off grand slam to win it all.

Orioles vs. Blue Jays

Date: Saturday, April 4
Time: 7 p.m.
Original game: October 4, 2016

This was a crushing game to watch as an O's fan. The 2016 American League Wild Card game ended with an 11th inning walk-off three-run homer by Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion, with all-world closer Zach Britton staring in from the Orioles bullpen.

Hey, at least it's a chance to watch the Orioles' most recent postseason game. Hopefully next time MLB will pick an Orioles win to air.

Nationals vs. Brewers

Date: Sunday, April 5
Time: 7 p.m.
Original game: October 1, 2019

Finally a win for local fans to enjoy! This is one of the iconic games from the Nationals' historic postseason run. Kicking it off with extra drama, they trailed much of the game.

Then, Juan Soto happened.

The Nats' young superstar drove a ball to right field, the Nationals won the 2019 NL Wild Card game, and the rest was history.

See where the postseason all began by tuning in Sunday night.

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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Davey Martinez to ESPN: ‘I believe there will be baseball’

Davey Martinez to ESPN: ‘I believe there will be baseball’

Baseball may not yet be close to returning to action, but Nationals manager Davey Martinez hasn’t given up hope that the 2020 season will be salvaged after the start pf the campaign was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“I do believe that we'll have a season, but at this particular moment, for me and for our players, our main concern is the well-being of families, friends, fans,” Martinez told ESPN’s Marly Rivera. “We need to get out of this healthy and ready to go.”

This is the seventh time MLB has had to cut into a season. The last time it happened was 1994-95, when a strike by the players forced the league to cancel ’94 World Series. Martinez was a member of the San Francisco Giants that season, denied a chance to make the playoffs after the season came to a halt with the Giants only three games back of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.

But when asked if he had any past experiences helping him get through the pandemic that’s forced governors across the U.S. to issue stay-at-home orders, Martinez pointed to another traumatic event that shook both baseball and the country.

“For me, 9/11,” Martinez said. “I am from New York and I have family in New York. I understood what everybody was going through. But New York rebounded, and baseball came back and took everybody in. I was playing with Atlanta and we played the Mets in that first game [in New York after 9/11].

“We were winning that game, and all of a sudden [Mike] Piazza hits the home run -- and it was almost a sigh of relief for everybody. It really was. That moment, watching the ball go over the fence. ... I know we're all so competitive and we all want to win, but in that particular moment for me, it was like, ‘You know what, this is what the game's all about. Win or lose, this is what the game is all about.’ Watching and listening to the fans stand up and cheer like they did, it was phenomenal.”

While stuck at his home in Tennessee, Martinez has helped pass the time by driving around his property on a four-wheeler and reaching out to his players—two or three a day. He asks them about their families, trying to gauge what their mindsets are because “all of a sudden what you love to do this time of year is gone.”

“I believe there will be baseball,” Martinez said “I can't put a finger on when, but we're going to step back on that field and we're going to have a lot of fun. I tell the boys, think of it this way, we hold the trophy for a lot longer than anybody else.”

As the defending World Series champions, the Nationals have been able to at least take solace in the fact that a banner-raising ceremony and ring presentation await them when they return to D.C. Until then, all Martinez can do is bunker down and wait things out along with the rest of the world.

“I think about that moment when we come back and get those beautiful rings and put up that banner in the stadium,” Martinez said. “It's still going to be there no matter what when we get back. But under these circumstances, I can't think about anything else but the safety of the people and our love for this country.”

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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