WASHINGTON -- Sean Doolittle blamed himself for mixing up the sign on the pitch that ultimately led to the Nationals' 5-4 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday night. He believed he and catcher Spencer Kieboom were on the same page with where they wanted to locate a fastball to Matt
WASHINGTON -- Sean Doolittle blamed himself for mixing up the sign on the pitch that ultimately led to the Nationals' 5-4 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday night. He believed he and catcher Spencer Kieboom were on the same page with where they wanted to locate a fastball to Matt Kemp, but as Doolittle turned to deliver a pitch to the plate, Kieboom was on the opposite side.
Doolittle tried to adjust and threw a pitch he felt lacked commitment, and Kemp swatted it down the left-field line for a two-run double to lead Los Angeles to a come-from-behind victory and sweep Saturday's split doubleheader at Nationals Park.
"I didn't have conviction behind that pitch because I messed it up," Doolittle said. "I feel terrible. It's frustrating when you go down on something other than your best bullet. If I hit my spot and he turns it around, I can live with that. But that's a tough one to swallow, because that would've been such a big win for us."
It was Doolittle's first blown save of the season and just his second since joining Washington last summer. It spoiled a dominant effort from Max Scherzer, who collected a run-scoring single and struck out 13 in seven innings, and spoiled any chance at solace after the Nationals learned Howie Kendrick would be done for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
The Nationals were able to play a whole game Saturday for the first time in five days, but they were handed a pair of losses.
"It's been a very long day," manager Dave Martinez said. "But the boys battled ... when you go to the top of the ninth inning with your closer, you feel pretty good."
With more than a week between starts, after rain pushed back his outing an extra three days, Scherzer knew he could push himself on the mound. He gave up a run-scoring single in the first inning and a solo home run in the fifth to Max Muncy, but Scherzer did not yield any more through seven innings. Even though he finished the sixth with more than 100 pitches, he walked off the mound and told the Nationals' dugout he was "1,000 percent good to go" for the seventh.
"It was like a college start, I'm pitching once a week," Scherzer said. "Plus, I checked the schedule and was going to be on six days' [rest the next time], so I knew I was going to have the ability to throw a lot of pitches tonight. And when I came out in the sixth -- put me back out there, I still have a lot left in the tank."
At that point in the game, the Nats had not even collected a hit. The Dodgers lost starting pitcher Rich Hill after just two pitches when a blister on his left middle finger forced him to leave the game. However, three Los Angeles relievers combined to carry a no-hitter into the sixth inning.
Then, the Nats offense finally broke out of its slumber. Trea Turner started the sixth with a double and scored on a double from Mark Reynolds. Matt Adams gave the Nats the lead with a two-run single. And then Scherzer drove in a run of his own with a run-scoring single up the middle and celebrated by slapping the hand of first-base coach Tim Bogar.
Scherzer talked his way into the seventh inning and finally retired Muncy by forcing him to bounce into an inning-ending double play to complete his outing. Scherzer threw a season-high 121 pitches to navigate through seven innings, the third most pitches thrown in baseball this season.
But his extended effort and the Nats' rally ultimately fell short on a rare blown save from Doolittle.
"I just messed it up," Doolittle said.
Scherzer recorded his 100th strikeout of the season in just his 63rd inning. That's the fewest innings to ever reach 100 strikeouts in a season (Kerry Wood needed 65 2/3 in 2001).
Scherzer is also batting .308 on the season after going 1-for-2.
The Nationals wrap up this series of three games in two days against the Dodgers with Sunday's 1:35 p.m. ET finale. Stephen Strasburg will take the mound for the Nats after winning his past three starts with a 2.61 ERA during that span. He will face off against left-hander Alex Wood, who held Washington to three runs (two earned) in six innings April 22 in Los Angeles.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.