McCullough: How a six-man unit of Nationals pitchers slayed the Astros lineup

From Andy McCullough at The Athletic on October 31, 2019:

The visitors’ bullpen at Minute Maid Park sits two stories below the train tracks that ring the stadium’s left-field exterior. A chain-link fence obscures the view of the relief pitchers cordoned inside. In the seventh inning of Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday, as he loosened up in the back of the bullpen, Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle peered through the fence, trying to track the flight of a series-swinging drive off the bat of Howie Kendrick.

Doolittle lost sight of the baseball as it soared down the right-field line. So he decided to gauge the result by the reaction of his fellow relievers. When the ball clanged off the foul pole, giving Washington the lead in an eventual 6-2 victory, jubilation flowed through the enclosed structure — for all except the team’s two reliable relievers. Daniel Hudson leaped to his feet and then immediately sat down. Doolittle stowed his emotion and wondered about the Astros lineup.

“I had to contain it,” Doolittle said. “Everybody else was going nuts. And me and Huddy are like, ‘OK. Stay calm. We’ve got a one-run lead. We’ve still got a job to do.’”

Such was the assignment handed to Doolittle and Hudson for this postseason. They served as the relief components to the six-man pitching unit the Nationals used to capture their first championship in franchise history. When the postseason began, Washington banked on the strength of their four-man rotation: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez. They intended to use Doolittle and Hudson for end-game scenarios, and otherwise avoid the other relievers on their roster. Across a month of baseball, manager Dave Martinez did just that.

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Originally published: October 31, 2019. Last Updated: October 31, 2019.