The Washington Nationals could be swept on Sunday by the Baltimore Orioles. The Nationals lost an 11-0 blowout on Friday, and responded by blowing a late lead on Saturday. Washington was up 3-0 heading into the top of the eighth. That's when manager Davey Martinez went to left-hander Sean Doolittle, who gave up back-to-back home runs on consecutive pitches.
Doolittle allowed one solo home run to Pat Valaika three pitches into his outing. On the next pitch, he served up another home run to Pedro Severino. Just like that, the Nationals' lead was down to one. Doolittle would retire the final batter he faced, Chris Davis, before departing in favor of Daniel Hudson. (Hudson would go on to give up a costly three-run homer.)
Saturday marked Doolittle's fourth appearance of the season. He still hasn't recorded more than two outs in any of those outings, and this was the third of the four in which he's allowed runs. To make matters worse, Doolittle isn't throwing as hard and isn't missing as many bats as normal.
Doolittle entered Saturday averaging 90.7 mph on his four-seam fastball, down nearly three ticks from last year's 93.5 mph average, per Statcast. He coerced a pair of swinging strikes on Saturday, which was notable because he'd generated two combined his first three times out.
Doolittle has been battling his mechanics and attempting to find his lost velocity since summer camp started. Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington noted on July 21 that Doolittle had tweaked his delivery: shortening his leg kick to become quicker to the plate. His velocity at that point was in the upper-80s. A week later, he had seemingly made progress.
"I wasn't really allowing -- prior to this outing -- my lower half had been relatively quiet and nonexistent. I felt that I was throwing kind of all arm," Doolittle said to reporters, including Patrick Reddington of Federal Baseball.
Based on Doolittle's results since that comment, it appears that he's going to have to continue to tweak and make adjustments. The Nationals, already without veteran free-agent signing Will Harris because of a strained groin, sure hope he can get right sooner than later.