Sean Doolittle's ninth-inning Saturday night included four earned runs on three home runs, one out recorded, and one save blown. The outing was just the most recent clunker in the poor stretch the Nationals best arm in the early months has put out.
Following the game, both Doolittle and manager Davey Martinez understood that going forward, something was going to have to change.
On Saturday, how the question as to how that would specifically happen was answered. Doolittle will head to the 10-day IL with knee tendinitis.
Nationals put Doolittle on 10-day IL with knee tendinitis.— Todd Dybas (@Todd_Dybas) August 18, 2019
While losing an arm like Doolittle amidst an important stretch in September is not ideal, his body of work over the past few appearances suggests that a short break may be needed. With 10 earned runs in his last five outings, things haven't been easy even when the outcome ends up being a save.
The indication of problems in the knee could be the answer to some of his recent struggles, including a drop in velocity. Though, his league-leading 49 appearances could also be creating some fatigue.
Either way, both Doolittle and the Nationals are hoping that the stint will help bring the closer back to his dominant, reliable self.
“I’m giving everything I got, but, I don’t really...I don’t know. It’s really, really tough. It’s frustrating," Doolittle said. "This time of year, with whole well we’ve been playing lately, with everything’s that at stake, everything this team can still accomplish, you want to be out there. You want to help the team. But, I haven’t been pulling my weight here these last couple weeks.”
Even with discussions of his workload for the future having to be addressed, Doolittle made sure to make one thing clear to his manager. Once he's back, those last three outs are still his to get.
Martinez says he told Doolittle that when he comes back, he’s the closer.— Todd Dybas (@Todd_Dybas) August 18, 2019
In the meantime, Daniel Hudson is a top candidate to pick up the high-leverage role though a closer-by-committee workload isn't out of the question. Pitcher Kyle McGowin was called up from Double-Harrisburg in a corresponding move. On the season, he holds at 9.69 ERA in five MLB opportunities.
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