Anthony Rendon interrupted MASN sideline reporter Dan Kolko’s postgame interview with Sean Doolittle after the Nationals’ 4-3 win in Houston on Tuesday to offer a quintessentially Rendon-like assessment of Washington’s closer.
“Hey, you’re really good,” the Nationals’ third baseman said while squeezing Doolittle’s shoulder.
Doolittle may never supplant Trea Turner as Rendon’s favorite player this season, but he’s been winning admirers inside and outside the Nationals’ clubhouse since being acquired from Oakland with fellow reliever Ryan Madson before the trade deadline. Doolittle, who improved to 12 for 12 in save opportunities, has allowed four earned runs and nine hits while striking out 17 and walking five in 16 innings with Washington.
“You know what, I’m just really happy to be a part of this team,” Doolittle told Kolko. “One of the great things about being a part of this team is it seems like a different guy is stepping up for this team every night. Whether it’s [Brandon] Kintzler tonight getting some big outs late in the game, or we seem to have a knack for pushing a run across later in the game and either breaking a tie or extending a lead, so as cliche as it sounds, I’m really happy to be a part of this team because it’s been such a group, such a team effort.”
Kintzler, acquired from the Twins last month, allowed a pair of singles to start the eighth inning, but induced a 5-4-3 double play started by Rendon to escape the jam and preserve the Nationals’ lead. Thanks to 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief on Tuesday, Washington improved to 7-3 in one-run games since Doolittle and Madson were acquired.
The Nationals’ bullpen, once a source of consternation and owner of the worst ERA in baseball, has been one of the best in baseball over the past month. Washington’s bullpen ERA is 3.14 since Doolittle and Madson debuted in a 4-3 win over the Angels on July 18, which ranks seventh in baseball. Opponents are hitting .198 against Nationals relievers during that span, third-best in the league.
On Sunday, Washington was named MLB’s “bullpen of the week,” based on a metric developed in part by baseball statistician Bill James. The thought of the Nationals’ relievers being recognized for their strong performance, or celebrated on a T-shirt such as the “Kintzler, Madson & Doolittle” law firm design that will be given out to fans in the “K Street” section at Nationals Park on Friday, would’ve been laughable a little more than a month ago. Now, as Rendon might say, they’re really good.
Just what K Street needed:
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 23, 2017