Kyle Finnegan returned to the dugout after getting out of the top of the eighth Friday night, having surrendered the tying run to the Phillies (albeit an unearned run due to CJ Abrams’ throwing error) and having thrown 13 pitches.
Davey Martinez tried to tell Finnegan his night was done. The right-hander insisted it was not.
“I just felt like I had some more in me, and I wanted to empty the tank,” Finnegan said. “It was a good, hard-fought game, and I felt like I could go out there and get some more outs for us.”
So Martinez let Finnegan go back to pitch the ninth, understanding he wouldn’t let him go beyond his pre-designated limit of 35 pitches for his late-inning relievers.
Finnegan wound up finishing the game, securing the Nationals’ 8-7 win over the Phillies, on 34 pitches.
“I honestly didn’t want to put him back out there for the ninth,” Martinez said. “And he was adamant about going back out. … He wanted the ball. That shows me something.”
Finnegan isn’t alone in that department. It’s become something of a daily ritual for the Nats bullpen, which has been stretched to the limit in recent weeks, with just about everyone taking on heavy workloads both in terms of a single outing and several outings over several days.
Two days earlier, it was Hunter Harvey who went above and beyond to close out a 10-6 win over the Dodgers, recording the final six outs on – wait for it – 34 pitches.
On Friday night, Martinez had to use Harvey earlier, to pitch out of a seventh-inning jam created by Carl Edwards Jr., who had to pitch out of a sixth-inning jam created by Josiah Gray. Mason Thompson, who has been struggling for weeks, was tasked with facing the bottom of the Philly lineup in the eighth but could only retire one of the three batters he faced.
So Martinez had little choice but to summon Finnegan to pitch out of that jam, facing Kyle Schwarber with two on and one out in the eighth, then return for the ninth against the heart of the Phillies lineup.
That inning began with Bryce Harper, who in six previous plate appearances against Finnegan was 1-for-1 with two RBIs and five walks. Finnegan finally got the two-time MVP, striking him out on a 98-mph fastball to begin the inning on a high note.
“I’ve faced those guys quite a bit the last few years, and some of them have unfortunately had my number,” he said. “I was just trying to attack as best I could, throw strikes, give us a chance. And I was able to get the strikeout to start the inning. That was big. Going back out, I told myself I really needed to get the first guy out to put myself in a good position.”
Finnegan would surrender a one-out double to Nick Castellanos, but he followed that by getting Trea Turner to fly out and J.T. Realmuto to pop out to end the game.
It was the latest in a string of multi-inning appearances by the three relievers Martinez trusts the most to get big outs late in games. Finnegan, Harvey and Edwards would prefer to have a better overall success rate. But given how much they’ve been asked to do, the success they have had under the circumstances isn’t lost on their teammates.
“Oh, it’s incredible,” right fielder Lane Thomas said. “You know at this point they aren’t feeling too hot every day, either. I make five throws a game, and my stuff hurts for a week. Those guys are out there chucking it for one or two innings. You feel for them.”