The Nationals were able to put out their newly minted 1-2-3 punch for the final three innings Thursday in a series-clinching 3-2 victory over the Marlins.
The trio arrived after the Nats had comeback from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game in the sixth. Brian Goodwin’s solo homer in the eighth put the Nats up for good.
Those three relievers have all closed and all three bring a little something different to the table. Kintzler induces grounders and soft contact, Madson bulls people over and Doolittle offers a fastball with movement.
It is three different styles that never allow the opposing hitter to get his timing down.
“I like that aspect of it,” Madson said. It’s kind of like when I use to pitch behind Jamie Moyer, it was like the hitters were so late. But (Kintzler’s) throwing 95, 96 mph. It’s kind of like that. Different looks. The hitters never get comfortable.”
Kintzler said the ability of Madson and Doolittle to offer different speeds mixed up the Marlins and that afforded them the advantage to help shorten the game.
“Yeah, I think any time when a bunch of guys are throwing 98 mph they kind of seem to time them up,” Kintzler said. “(Cubs manager) Joe Maddon talked about that last year how he wanted different looks. For us to be able to have a bunch of different looks, we even got (Oliver) Pérez who can come in and do sidearm stuff. I definitely think that they can’t sit there and stick for one plan. Seventh, eighth, ninth inning, they got to have a different attack mode every time.”
From a veteran manager like Dusty Baker’s point of view, having these three reliable relievers, who all can pitch the ninth inning, has calmed down his bullpen. No one is pitching out of position.
“You don’t have to necessarily mix and match as much,” Baker noted. “That’s the difference. Everybody on our team has contributed.
“Everybody feels a lot more comfortable. And we have some interchangeable parts in the bullpen and the offense was always there.”
But with Kintzler pitching in the seventh instead of the ninth, does that rub him the wrong way? He had 28 saves with the Twins before he arrived in D.C.
“It’s definitely a little different adjustment as far as adrenalin and focus,” Kintzler said. “I’ve learned when I was younger LaTroy Hawkins told me that we’re closers of our own inning. So, I always try to take that approach as far as no matter what inning I’m pitching in. Ninth inning you just happened to have nobody behind me and the adrenalin is really high.
“But as long as I treat it like the game’s tight and we got a lead or whatever, should be fine. It’s definitely a little adjustment as far as routine but I’m learning on the fly. We have plenty of time till it really counts, if that makes sense.”
Kintzler, Madson and Doolittle all made the inning they pitched their own personal “ninth inning”. And thanks to an incredible catch from Andrew Stevenson, a save in the ninth for Doolittle and a 3-2 victory.