It’s tempting to take what Tyler Clippard did yesterday for granted, but only because he’s done it so often this year, and because he routinely makes it appear so easy. He came into the game in a near-impossible situation – men on first and second, tie game, no outs in the eighth inning. Henry Rodriguez had walked the first two batters in the eighth and Manager Davey Johnson summoned Clippard to clean up the mess.
And then Clippard made it seem like the Astros, not him, were the ones who had it hard. The Nationals lost another one-run game yesterday, but they had chances to win it in extra innings only because of another dominant outing by Clippard. Sunday, he allowed a game-tying home run in Atlanta. He bounced back yesterday with two scoreless innings and by stranding two more inherited runners – a year after allowing 39 percent of the runners he inherited to score, Clippard has cut that figure in half, having stranded 28 of 34.
“I mean, he’s Houdini,” Johnson said.
Clippard’s latest escape began when Chris Wallace bunted the runners over for the first out. Clippard intentionally walked Chris Johnson, loading the bases with one out for Clint Barmes.
The most crucial pitch came after Clippard started Barmes with a ball. Clippard typically throws only fastballs and changeups, but in need of a double play, he threw a cutter, “usually a pitch I can get a groundball with,” Clippard said. He threw it down and away, and Barmes popped it up to first baseman Michael Morse.
With two outs, Clippard went back to his usual arsenal and struck out catcher Humberto Quintero on five pitches, blowing three fastballs past him. Take out the intentional walk, and Clippard has escaped the jam with eight pitches, six of which were strikes.
Clippard struck out the first two he faced in the ninth and then created a small crisis of his own, giving up a single and a walk before Carlos Lee lined to center to send the game into extra innings. Clippard, minus the intentional walk, had thrown 33 pitches and made the Astros swing and miss seven of them.
Before yesterday, Clippard hadn’t pitched since his rare misstep Sunday. In his second chance after the All-Star Game, he showed why he had made the team.
FROM THE POST
Even in the Nationals’ 11-inning, 3-2 loss to the Astros, Jayson Werth showed signs of snapping his vicious slump by going 3 for 5 with a homer and two doubles.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 7, Buffalo 6: Brian Bixler went 1 for 3 with a walk and a double. Yunesky Maya allowed six runs in five innings on eight hits and three walks.
Syracuse 9, Buffalo 5: Stephen Lombardozzi went 3 for 3 with a walk and a double. Brian Bixler went 2 for 4 with a double.
Bowie 6, Harrisburg 2: Bryce Harper entered the game as a replacement and walked in his only plate appearance. Tyler Moore went 2 for 4 with a double and a walk.
Lynchburg 3, Potomac 1: Danny Rosenbaum allowed three runs in nine innings on three hits and a walk, striking out seven. Sandy Leon went 3 for 4 with a homer.
Augusta 5, Hagerstown 2: A.J. Cole allowed one run in five innings on four hits and no walks, striking out two.Adrian Sanchez went 3 for 4.
Auburn 5, Willamsport 3 (11 innings): Matt Skole went 3 for 6 with a double. Brian Dupra allowed no runs in six innings on six hits and no walks, striking out four.