Martinez hopes Doolittle inching closer to return (Nats win 8-2)

Nationals skipper Davey Martinez said he’s awaiting results of the bullpen session injured closer Sean Doolittle was scheduled to throw this afternoon, and is hopeful that the right-hander will soon rejoin the bullpen after an extended stay on the disabled list with a stress reaction in his left foot.

“We’ll talk to him after, but hopefully he’s getting close,” Martinez said. “He’s been frustrated with this whole deal. I told him, ‘You need to get better, you don’t want this to become an issue with the rest (of your body). You say it’s your toe and all of a sudden, your arm starts hurting.’ We want to make sure he’s right.”

Doolittle went on the 10-day DL the week before the All-Star break and the injury, first diagnosed as left toe inflammation, prevented him from participating in the All-Star Game at Nationals Park.

Doolittle-Deals-Gray.jpgSince then, he’s been on a routine of getting diagnostic MRI exams to determine the progress of his recovery and ramping up as much of a throwing program as the injury will allow.

Doolittle’s return would be a boon to a bullpen that has churned through two other closers, with right-handers Kelvin Herrera (right shoulder) and Ryan Madson (lumbar nerve irritation) following him to the DL. Right-hander Koda Glover is currently serving as the Nationals closer.

Martinez was none too happy to hear a report that Doolittle - who has 22 saves in 23 chances, a 1.45 ERA and a 0.54 WHIP - was planning on tweaking his mechanics to facilitate a quicker return to action.

“That scares me a little bit and it’s something we’ve talked about,” Martinez said. “We don’t want him really to make any adjustments. We kind of want him to feel like the Sean Doolittle he felt before, (when) he was throwing better.”

When he returns, Doolittle will likely be one of the relievers to take advantage of the Nationals new bullpen cart. Asked if he had any feeling on the debut of the motorized transportation that will bring pitchers from the bullpen to the dugout, Martinez smiled.

“If it makes the game quicker, awesome,” Martinez said.

Update: Ryan Zimmerman crushed a 1-0 pitch from Dan Straily over the wall in left-center with two down in the second. His 10th homer of the season gave the Nats a 1-0 lead.

Update II: Bryce Harper ripped an RBI single to right, scoring Max Scherzer for a 2-0 lead in the third. The Nats loaded the bases before Juan Soto whiffed for the third out.

Scherzer has fanned three through three innings of one-hit ball.

Update III: The Nats tallied twice in the fourth inning and now lead 4-0. Matt Wieters lofted a homer to right, Scherzer doubled to left and Adam Eaton doubled to left-center, the ball glancing off Magneuris Sierra’s glove just when it looked like he’d tracked down the sinking liner.

Update IV: Harper led off the Nationals fifth with a hustle double, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Anthony Rendon’s sac fly to left. It’s 5-0 Nationals heading to the sixth.

Update V: Scherzer is out after six scoreless innings, departing with a 5-0 lead after throwing 96 pitches (62 for strikes), his fewest of the season. He allowed five hits, walked one and struck out seven.

Trevor Gott is in to work the seventh. He did not use the bullpen cart, which took an introductory lap around the warning track. The red button on the cart’s blue Nats cap flashes.

Update VI: Gott was touched for two runs in two-thirds of an inning. He allowed Austin Dean’s first major league hit, a homer to left with one out, and an RBI single by pinch-hitter Miguel Rojas before being replaced by Matt Grace, who got out of the inning by striking out Rafael Ortega. It’s 5-2 Nats heading to the bottom of the seventh.

Update VII: Eaton led off the Nationals seventh by beating out an infield single, then zoomed to third when reliever Jarlin GarcĂ­a sailed a pickoff throw past first. Harper’s single to right scored Eaton, giving Harper his 500th career RBI and the Nats a 6-2 lead. Harper went to third on Rendon’s single and scored on an error when right fielder Ortega threw wildly past third and into the dugout. Juan Soto’s RBI single to left plated Rendon to make it 8-2.

Update VIII: It’s a final. Nats 8, Marlins 2.

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