Those O’s had “that one hurt” defeats that almost derailed their streak. Twice Scott McGregor was knocked out without recording a single out.
How will the Nats react to this latest blow? Perhaps they need the perspective of their setup man Tyler Clippard (2.03 ERA) who pitched ascoreless eighth inning. “This year has been so hard,” he said. “But it is all part of a process that you can’t escape.”
Clippard looked around the clubhouse at the players he has known in his six seasons in D.C. Next to him was his best friend, Drew Storen, just called back on Thursday from Class AAA Syracuse, where he’d spent three shocking weeks fixing his pitching mechanics to restore a career that saw him save 43 games in ’11.
Everywhere Clippard looked he saw illustrations of “baseball experience” and just how painful that education actually is. “This is what you have to go through to grow up in this game,” he said. But he shook his head as he said it. Sometimes it’s hard to digest the game’s casual malice.
Danny Espinosa, Tyler Moore and Ryan Mattheus, valuable last year, are all at Syracuse getting their careers out of the ditch. Across the room, Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg are pillars of the staff, but both missed a year with elbow surgery. Ross Detwiler is out for the year with a bad back.
Catcher Wilson Ramos has missed 216 games the last two years. Ryan Zimmerman has battled wild throws on routine plays for three years. Chad Tracy, Roger Bernadina and Steve Lombardozzi, part of the praised Goon Squad of ’12, have hit so poorly that all their futures are in various stages of doubt. Rookie Anthony Rendon, forced to play a new position, has 12 errors in only 67 games. Denard Span, who made a game-saving catch Wednesday, has had the worst offensive year of his life. The list just keeps going on.
So much scar tissue must be grown into the tough hide of a champion or even a serious contender for such a distinction. Reputation is endangered daily and in public. Before he talked to the press, Soriano, in a gray suit with white shirt and black tie, asked to be allowed a minute to find a mirror. “Let me get my tie up, please,” he said, just asking for a bit of dignity to remain.
“When you’re a young team, you take your lumps before you build that team that everybody wants to see,” Clippard said. “That’s what makes it so great when you get there. It’s got to be the most fulfilling thing in the world — to go through what we’ve gone through and finally get there.”
On some days, like this one, the hard trip seems even longer than usual.
For more by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/boswell.