Nationals Find Closer in Lefty Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle has been exceptional for the Nationals since being acquired in July.

In 13 appearances (13 IP), all exclusively out of the ninth inning, he’s allowed only four earned runs with a 2.77 ERA and has nine saves in nine opportunities.

Brandon Kintzler has handled, mostly, seventh inning duties while pitching the occasional eighth since being acquired from the Twins at the end of July. He, too, has been extremely effective, allowing only one run in eight appearances (8 IP) for the Nats.

Additionally, Ryan Madson has held opponents scoreless in eight appearances as the eighth-inning setup man. Between Kintzler in the seventh, Madson in the eighth, and Doolittle closing games, Washington suddenly has a formidable crew to slam the door shut in tight ballgames.

Nats GM Mike Rizzo was asked about the uniqueness of Doolittle as a left-handed closer during his weekly appearance with The Sports Junkies this Wednesday.

Burke & Herbert Fan Question of the Week

Do you have any hesitation to see Sean Doolittle face so many right-handed hitters? — Ray in Woodbridge

“I like his splits against both,” Rizzo said. “He’s got good stuff. He pounds the strike zone, he commands it. There’s been good left-handed closers; there’s good right-handed closers. When you’re effective, you’re effective.”

Doolittle has allowed a .189 batting average against right-handed hitters this season and a .125 batting average against lefties, both of which correlate with his career .211/.191 right-left splits.

“I’m all about the matchups and the splits, and the lefts-vs-rights and that type of thing,” Rizzo said. “But when you’ve got the it factor, that helps you, and I think Sean has that.”

Doolittle is one of only seven left-handed closers in the majors with double-digit saves this season. Coincidentally, another is Felipe Rivero, whom Washington traded to Pittsburgh last summer for Mark Melancon.

“I don’t think that he considers any less effective against left-handed hitters or right-handed hitters,” he said.

“It’s a piece of our puzzle that we have to figure out and Dusty’s done a great job matching up, with a bridge to Kintzler, Madson and Doolittle. It’s a formula that works.”

“There’s nothing set in stone and if we’re fortunate enough to get into playoff baseball, then all bets are off,” Rizzo added. “All traditional by-the-book manual managing goes out the window and you go with your horses, and Sean certainly is one of our horses.”

Follow @ChrisLingebach and @1067TheFan on Twitter

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