PHOENIX — Washington’s bullpen was on a roll in an 11-inning victory over National League West leader Arizona on Thursday.
So was closer Sean Doolittle.
Doolittle was the second pitcher this season to take advantage of the bullpen cart provided both teams at Chase Field, and he was more than happy to ride in to pitch the final inning of a 2-1, 11-inning victory over the Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
Doolittle, the last of four Nationals‘ relievers who combined for four scoreless innings, had been playing catch off and on since the eighth inning in case he was needed.
So why not?
“For me, controlling my breath and controlling my energy is so important,” Doolittle said.
“When you run in from a bullpen … I spend my eight or nine warmups pitches trying to slow my breath down. I’m not really getting a lot out of the pitches. I had less time (to warm up because of the cart ride), but I wasn’t out of breath. My heart rate was up from throwing out in the pen, but I was in a better spot energy-wise. I loved it.
“People are making a big deal out of it. Why would I not conserve my energy before going into a game in the biggest moment? I come into the game and Trea (Turner) is fist-pumping at shortstop and I had my glove over my face. It made me start laughing. I don’t see the thing.
“I’ve been advocating for bullpen carts for a few years. I think they are a good idea. I think there is a practical application for them. So I had an opportunity to try it out, and I think it was great.”
Washington may not need as much relief in the second contest of the four-game series Friday, when major league win leader Max Scherzer (6-1, 1.74 ERA) opposes Arizona right-hander Matt Koch (2-0, 2.13)
Koch has faced Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander in his last two starts, and the Diamondbacks won both.
Doolittle was the first reliever to actually ride in the cart. Houston’s Collin McHugh, who used it last weekend, sat on the back. The driver made a little bit of a skidding stop as he dropped Doolittle off in front of the Washington dugout.
The Nationals won for the 10th time in 12 games Thursday but had some disheartening injury news both before and during the game. Adam Eaton underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove a torn cartilage in his left ankle, a procedure performed by Dr. Robert Anderson in Green Bay, Wis. He is the Packers’ foot specialist. Eaton had not progressed after suffering the injury in a slider into home plate early in the season, but the Nationals believe this procedure will cure the problem.
Catcher Matt Wieters suffered what he called a hamstring injury when he approached first base after singling in the second inning. He was removed from the game and will have an MRI on Friday, the Nationals said.
“The step before the bag, I kind of felt behind the knee go a little bit,” he said. “We’re thinking it’s probably hamstring, but it is in the back of the connection point where there are some others running there. Hopefully it is the hamstring, and hopefully it is not too bad.”
The Diamondbacks did not have as much success from their heavily used bullpen Thursday. Archie Bradley balked in the tying run in the eighth inning, when he attempted to throw to third base but there was no one covering.
“Kind of a bonehead move and I got to learn from it,” Bradley said.
Matt Adams singled in the winning run off Andrew Chafin in the 11th after Fernando Salas gave up a single and a walk to the two batters he faced.
Scherzer has never lost to Arizona, the team that drafted him, going 5-0 with a 3.13 ERA in seven career starts. He has led the NL in strikeouts the last two seasons and is leading this year, too.
Koch made his only appearance against Washington on Sept. 27, 2016, when he gave up one hit and two runs in a no-decision. It was his second career start.
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