Davey Martinez has two relievers capable of pitching in high-leverage situations at his disposal, but he’s not going to name either of them as the team’s bona fide closer moving forward.
The steady Daniel Hudson is back on the active roster after missing Game 1 of the NLCS to attend the birth of his daughter, while Sean Doolittle has regained his All-Star form after working his way back to pitching in high-leverage situations. While Doolittle was the team’s unquestioned closer for most of the season before he landed on the Injured List in August, Martinez is going to make pitching changes based on matchups and how rested his two prized relievers are.
“I said this all year, that in a perfect world [Doolittle is] our closer, he's done it, he understands it, he knows the role, he's good at it,” Martinez said Saturday before Game 2. “But we wanted to build him up. And now he's throwing the ball about as best as I've seen him throw the ball pretty much all year. His fastball is good, spin rate's good, he's a huge spin rate guy, and he's using other pitches very well. So with him and Huddie in the 8th and 9th and maybe in the 7th, I feel like we got a nice stopgap there.”
Hudson proved to be extremely valuable down the stretch, filling in for Doolittle while the left-hander was on the Injured List.
“We knew he was having a pretty good year with Toronto, but we haven't -- I only saw videos of him at that point,” Martinez said. “By having conversations with him, I asked him how much has he pitched in the 9th inning and without hesitation he says, ‘Hey, if you need me in the 7th, 8th, 9th, I'll be ready to go.’ And he's been that guy. Whenever he's called upon, he's ready to go and he's a guy that throws strikes, attacks the strike zone, and he's been very good for us.”
With Doolittle throwing just 15 pitches to get four outs Friday, both arms should be available for Game 2. The duo has accrued a 1.08 ERA across 8.1 innings so far in the postseason, combining for three saves, a hold and a win. Given that Doolittle is a lefty and Hudson throws from the right side, Martinez will have the flexibility to pick his matchups in the later innings.
Paul Goldschmidt, Marcell Ozuna and Yadier Molina are all right-handed hitters who bat third through fifth in the Cardinals’ lineup, so Hudson appears likely to be Martinez’s choice to face them if they come up in a tight situation late in games.
“Today we get Huddie back. I haven't talked to Doo yet, but I'm assuming, I think he only threw like 18 pitches yesterday, four outs, which was huge too,” Martinez said. “So I'm assuming he's going to be good to go, especially with the day off tomorrow. But bullpen's fresh and ready to go.”
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