WASHINGTON (AP) — If there was one positive facet about the Washington Nationals’ first loss in well over a week, it was that they had a fresh bullpen for their next attempt to take control of the World Series.
While falling 4-1 to the Houston Astros on Friday night, the Nationals avoided using setup man Sean Doolittle and closer Daniel Hudson.
Both were ready to roll on Saturday night in Game 4, eager to finish what Patrick Corbin started and put the Nationals within a victory of their first World Series title.
Fernando Rodney, Joe Ross and Wander Suero did the job on Friday night so the regular late-inning guys could finish — if needed — on Saturday.
“They did a great job, they really did, from Rodney to Ross, all of them,” manager Dave Martinez said. “The fact we didn’t have to use Doo or Huddie, even though we were prepared to, they’re fresh today.”
Doolittle earned a save in the Series opener and will be well rested when given his next chance to throw.
“It allowed us to save our back-end guys and not give them another look at me or Huddie or Tanner (Rainey), so with Corbin going and Max (Scherzer) after him, we’re still in a really good spot,” Doolittle said.
PITCHER WITH A BAT
Max Scherzer is more talented at the plate than most pitchers. He hit .243 last season and owns a respectable .193 career batting average.
For the most part, however, a pitcher with a bat in his hands isn’t much of a threat.
“When you get in the box you want to contribute offensively, whether it’s getting a bunt down or moving a runner or just trying to find a way to get on base,” Scherzer said. “I love the hitting aspect of the game. I love that I get to hit
Gerrit Cole homered three times over five seasons with Pittsburgh, but he’s not exactly brimming with enthusiasm over the prospect of hitting into the batter’s box against Scherzer.
“I think I fall in line with pretty much everyone else, that it’s probably not the most enjoyable experience of all time,” Cole said.
Scherzer and Cole are lined up to start in Game 5.
Friday night’s game lasted more than four hours and almost stretched into Saturday morning before the final out was made.
That’s a long time for a nine-inning matchup.
“We’re in the World Series,” Martinez said. “I know a lot of it has to do with TV, commercials, and things of that nature.”
Even from the dugout, a game like that is tough to watch without the aid of caffeine. Unfortunately for Martinez, he’s been forced to cut back on coffee following a recent heart procedure.
“I can’t drink caffeine anymore, but a couple cups of coffee would have done wonders for me during the game,” he said with a grin.
COOL WITH GOMES
Scherzer has developed a strong comfort level pitching to Kurt Suzuki in terms of “just being in sync of what pitch to throw,” the three-time Cy Young Award winner said.
With Suzuki nursing a hip injury and unlikely to play Sunday night, Scherzer doesn’t mind at all firing the ball at catcher Yan Gomes.
“Yan is very astute to the game of being able to watch what’s going on and how I sequence guys and what we want to do,” Scherzer said. “He’s catching (Saturday night) so he’s going to be able to see whatever is going on, get his feet wet.”