How Doolittle’s routine was altered but still resulted in a save

The pair of rainouts from mid-May against the Yankees set up an unusual day of baseball and challenged normal routines, especially for the Nats’ closer, Sean Doolittle.

The Nationals won the suspended game, 5-3. The Yankees took the second game of the night, 4-2.

In the first game, the Nats and Yankees resumed play in the bottom of the sixth. The Nats benefitted from a two-run shot from rookie Juan Soto to break the 3-3 tie. The home run hit the last row of the second deck in right field, one of the longer home runs hit to that area in Nats Park history.

“All my homers are important,” Soto said. “I think that was very good. I think that was one of the farthest I hit.”

Doolittle came on in the ninth and did what he does pretty much every time in recording his 18th save of the season. He struck out Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and then induced a flyout to center field by Gary Sánchez to end the game.

But even though it looked normal and workmanlike for Doolittle, the preparation it takes to get to that point Monday night had to be manufactured a bit because of the unusual start time (5:05 p.m.) and the game’s midpoint beginning.

Doolittle had to adjust his routine for getting himself ready to go in. If the start time had been the normal 7:05 p.m., Doolittle would have employed his normal regimen for amping up to the point where he is ready to come into the game.

Monday’s game was completely different, so he needed to improvise.

“It was weird. That was weird. Maybe not so much for guys that were playing position guys. But when the game starts, I go in the weight room. I start an active warmup that usually takes me into the fourth inning or so by the time I get down to the bullpen.

“So I was trying to time that at, like, 4 o’clock. I started my warmup in there. Nothing was going on. There was no game to watch. For a little bit, like earlier this afternoon, it was like ‘Oh we have a five o’clock game?’. Then you’re like, ‘Oh wait, it’s a five o’clock game, but not really because it’s the sixth inning already.’

“This is our time as relievers. We gotta be ready to go right away. Getting ready was a little bit different.”

Doolittle believed the Nats had a bit of an advantage because the Yankees pitcher, Chad Green, had to pitch first, beginning the bottom of the sixth. He recorded the first out, but then the Nats got an Anthony Rendon single and the Soto blast to take control of the game.

“(I) think it was awesome it was the bottom of the sixth and their guy had to go out first and our guys got to treat it like a normal session, like a normal game,” Doolittle said. (Wander) Suero was warming up just like normal to go into a game.”

Doolittle-Delivers-White-Sidebar.jpgSo the routine for a reliever, especially a closer such as Doolittle, was altered. He still delivered. And it gives us an inside view of what his game preparation is from day to day. These guys don’t just sit around for eight innings, do a couple of warmup pitches and come into the game. There is much more to it. That’s one reason Doolittle is as good as he is.

First baseman Mark Reynolds, who had a single near the end of the first game and provided the two RBI’s in the next game, summed up the strange day succinctly: “1-1. We got the win. It was weird playing, like, three innings and then 30 minutes later playing a full game. It didn’t affect anyone, I don’t think.”

Except now we know how it changed Doolittle’s preparation. But in the end, another outstanding result.

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