With 13 games in 10 days to end the regular season, including three doubleheaders, the Nationals have to be cautious of their arms. That means getting creative late in games, especially when the win is out of reach.
In the Nationals’ 14-3 loss to the Marlins in Game 2 of a doubleheader Friday night in Miami, utility man Brock Holt made his debut on the mound. The team had called on four relievers after Wil Crowe exited after just 2 1/3 innings, in addition to the two pitchers who had thrown in a 5-0 victory in Game 1.
“I wasn’t going to use those other guys down there knowing that we’ve got so many games coming up,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He did great. He pumped strikes. When you come in the game as a position player like that -- he threw 16 strikes, five balls. That’s pretty impressive.”
When Holt signed with the Nationals on Aug. 30, he had made a big league appearance at every position except pitcher and catcher over his nine-year career. The plan heading into the doubleheader was not for Holt to face hitters for the first time, but Martinez gave him a heads-up as the Marlins tallied runs: “If this game gets out of hand, just be ready to pitch.”
Holt was warming up in a tunnel by throwing off a net when Aaron Barrett took the mound in the sixth inning. Miami had a commanding lead, and the Nats were likely to need to pitch through only that frame. But Martinez noticed something wasn’t quite right with Barrett, who has battled years of injuries throughout his career, and he called for Holt.
“He’s got a little tightness in his tricep,” Martinez said of Barrett. “He wanted to stay in the game, and I couldn’t be able to live with myself if I left him in the game. We wanted to be smart and took him out. He’ll get re-evaluated tomorrow.”
Holt entered the game with runners on first and second. In his first matchup, Holt faced the hot-hitting Brian Anderson, who smacked his third homer of the game off a 76.1 mph curveball. Holt pitched against a total of seven batters and allowed two runs and four hits off 21 pitches.
Statcast tracked Holt’s pitch count as 19 curveballs and two changeups. His velocity maxed at 80.9 mph.
“You just try to throw strikes in that situation,” Holt said. “Obviously, it’d be nice to say that you struck someone out or you didn’t give up any runs or anything like that. But I was just trying to throw strikes and get us out of the inning and save the bullpen.”
Holt had been wanting to try pitching in a Major League game and described it as a “fun experience.” But position players usually are called upon when the game is out of reach, and he would have preferred if the moment happened because the Nats were on the verge of a dominant win.
“Unfortunately not a situation you want to be in, but it’s kind of cool as a position player to get on the mound and pitch,” Holt said. “I can check that off the list, but, unfortunately, it was a tough loss for us.”