WASHINGTON — Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he was seeking fairness when he questioned the legality of Washington Nationals closer Sean Doolittle's delivery in the ninth inning Saturday night and ultimately protested the game.
That wasn't Doolittle's interpretation.
"He's not trying to do anything other than rattle me," Doolittle said. "And it was kind of tired."
After eight solid innings by Stephen Strasburg in Washington's 5-2 win over the Cubs, Doolittle pitched the ninth for his eighth save in nine chances, but Maddon complained twice to the umpires that he was using an illegal delivery. The Chicago manager believed the left-handed Doolittle was tapping his right toe on the ground before coming to the plate.
Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. was informed at the end of spring training that his delivery, which featured a similar toe-tap, was illegal — a ruling that miffed Maddon and the Cubs.
"Listen, I have no qualms against Doolittle," Maddon said. "He's great, but they took it away from our guy, so for me to sit in the dugout and permit that to happen while they stripped us of that ability earlier this year with Carl ... how could I do that? You can't do that. I've got to say something."
Mariners reliever Cory Gearrin was warned by umpires during a game Monday night regarding the same violation, even though he said he has used the same delivery for years.
Doolittle, who retired the side in order, thought Maddon had a different motive.
"I don't know, sometimes he has to remind people how smart he is and how much he pays attention to the game and stuff like that," Doolittle said. "He put his stamp on it for sure."
The umpires saw nothing wrong with Doolittle's delivery.
"(Maddon) thought (Doolittle) was tapping his foot, which in itself is not illegal, and this all kind of stems from his pitcher being called on something that was a little bit different than what Doolittle was doing," crew chief Sam Holbrook told a pool reporter. "So, in our judgment, Doolittle did nothing illegal at all."
Nationals manager Davey Martinez, a former Maddon coaching staff member, didn't comment on Maddon's move.
"They protested the game, obviously," he said. "We'll let the umpires handle all that stuff. In my eyes, Doo' was Doo' and Strasburg was unbelievable."
A day after the Cubs scored 11 runs against five Washington relievers in the final three innings of a 14-6 win, Strasburg gave most of the bullpen a needed night off. He allowed two runs — one earned — and struck out seven without a walk while throwing 93 pitches.
Juan Soto had two hits and drove in three for Washington.
David Bote homered in the sixth to pull the Cubs, who have lost three of four, within 5-2.
Chicago's Jon Lester, who hadn't given up an earned run in his last three outings, a span totalling 19 2/3 innings, allowed five runs and 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings.
He had only allowed a total of five earned runs over his first seven starts of the season.
Chicago's Kris Bryant was 0 for 4 and reached on a fielder's choice, ending his streak of reaching base safely at 26 games, and Javier Baez ended his hitting streak at 15 games.
Brian Dozier's homer gave the Nationals a 1-0 lead. Soto's two-run double capped a three-run third inning and he added an RBI single in the fifth.
Strasburg didn't allow a hit until Kyle Schwarber's single to start the fourth. The Cubs' first run came with two outs in the fifth on consecutive passed balls by Kurt Suzuki.
"I felt good physically," Lester said. "Almost too good. Just couldn't repeat my mechanics, couldn't repeat pitches. I'd make a good one, then three bad ones."
Nationals: Placed RHP Justin Miller (right rotator cuff strain) on the 10-day injured list and recalled RHP Tanner Rainey from Triple-A Fresno. ... OF Victor Robles is day-to-day after being hit on the left wrist with a pitch on Friday night. ... RHP Erick Fedde will start Tuesday against the Mets in place of RHP Anibal Sanchez (left hamstring strain.)
Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (3-4, 2.86) is 2-0 with a 0.36 ERA in his past three starts, going at least eight innings each time. He's 2-2 with 2.61 ERA in seven career starts against the Nationals.
Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (2-2, 6.00) is 1-1 with a 6.06 ERA in three career starts against the Cubs.
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