ST. LOUIS — The Nationals did not have their closer Daniel Hudson for Game 1 of the NLCS against the Cardinals on Friday night because he was on paternity leave.
“I talked to him — well, I tried to talk to him earlier this morning to see what was going on,’’ Nationals manager Dave Martinez said before the game. “Didn’t hear back from him. Apparently the baby didn’t want to come out until later on this morning. So everything’s fine, he had a little girl, congratulate him and his wife. But we’re going to miss him today, he’s going to try to get back here possibly tomorrow. But for me I told him, ‘Hey, family’s always first.’ I get it, I understand. The timing didn’t work out like we thought, baby wasn’t ready to come out. So we get him back when we get him back.’’
The Nationals handled the closing situation this way. Sean Doolittle came on with two outs in the eighth after Anibal Sanchez finally gave up a hit and got out of the inning on a Dexter Fowler ground ball to third and then breezed through the ninth for the Nationals’ 2-0 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in Game 1 of the NLCS.
“He’s picked us up,’’ Doolittle said of Hudson, who will be back for Game 2, according to Martinez. “He’s picked me up countless times in the second half of the season since he got traded over. He’s been an incredible addition to us, a stabilizing force at the back end of games. We’re very lucky to have him, so the mood of the guys in the bullpen was we really wanted to find a way to pick him up and allow him to enjoy a really special moment with his wife and his family.’’
It all played out to perfection for the Nats because of the way Sanchez commanded the game and then Doolittle did what he had to do at the end, raising the confidence level of the entire team.
Teams have been creative all postseason with starters in relief roles, but this is a seven-game series, there is a little more room for error. Max Scherzer said a seven-game series is much different.
“Yeah, being in the previous postseasons where that happens in the five-game series, you got to get creative and you got to take the ball at every single chance you can get. In the seven-game series, the way you’re set up, this is more like the regular season,’’ Scherzer said. “You can’t be coming out of the pen in the same form or fashion unless you’re not going to be making your start. So for me it’s probably just pitch Game 2 and then wait for my next start.’’
The Nats are off to a fast start and it was secured thanks to Doolittle.
“Doolittle getting four outs was big,’’ Martinez said.
A big start to a big series for the Nats without their closer.