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Doolittle gets first blown save out of the way

Closer tries to learn from outing, which Nats will gladly take now and not next week
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- Sean Doolittle had been 21-for-21 on save opportunities as a National when he entered the ninth inning of a two-run game Thursday night against the Pirates. Two pitches later, the lead was gone on Josh Bell's game-tying two-run homer.

That the Nationals walked away with a 5-4 walk-off victory in the bottom of the ninth made Doolittle's first blown save in Washington easier to take. Perhaps in some ways, it had not been all bad that it came now instead of a little more than week from now in the postseason.

Full Game Coverage

WASHINGTON -- Sean Doolittle had been 21-for-21 on save opportunities as a National when he entered the ninth inning of a two-run game Thursday night against the Pirates. Two pitches later, the lead was gone on Josh Bell's game-tying two-run homer.

That the Nationals walked away with a 5-4 walk-off victory in the bottom of the ninth made Doolittle's first blown save in Washington easier to take. Perhaps in some ways, it had not been all bad that it came now instead of a little more than week from now in the postseason.

Full Game Coverage

"Well, it's easy to say because we won and they bailed me out there in the bottom half," Doolittle said. "But maybe in a way, yeah, to remind myself that from the first pitch coming in, you have to be ready to go. You have to have that killer instinct. You have to have that aggressive mindset.

Video: PIT@WSH: Bell ties Bucs rookie record with clutch HR

"So it's a harsh reminder and it's a tough pill to swallow. But there are some things I can take out of this and learn from moving forward."

The Pirates pounced on two pitches from Doolittle, both fastballs, the first of which went for a leadoff single to Andrew McCutchen. Doolittle was angry with himself after the game for trying to throw sort of get-me-over pitches for strike one instead of throwing pitches with conviction.

Video: PIT@WSH: Baker on Doolittle responding to tough night

"Fastball in. Just trying to beat the ball to the spot," Bell said of his homer. "That's what [hitting coach] Jeff Branson told me right before that at-bat: fastball middle-in, beat the ball to his spot. He was right."

So a blown save Thursday might be a small thing, however it offers a reminder for Doolittle -- who has had success through the past few weeks -- to remain on his game at all times.

"Now you can start all over again," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "And better now than later. ... If he goes 21 more, that means we'd be world champions."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Washington Nationals, Sean Doolittle