Sandwiched between the Nationals’ lead vanishing last night in the late innings, Tyler Clippard provided another performance that boded well for the Nationals’ postseason chances. In the eighth, Clippard tossed up his second straight scoreless innings in which he faced three batters. After a rocky stretch, Clippard, a 2011 all-star, is settling back into form as the playoffs approach.
“I just wanted to get right at the right time,” Clippard said. “I feel like I’m on that track. I made a couple small adjustments that I feel very confident in. I’ve done it these last two outings and it’s worked out. I’m in a good place.”
From the start of September until Thursday night, Clippard posted a 9.58 ERA. He worked on locating his fastball better down in the strike zone with pitching coach Steve McCatty, and against the Phillies he retired the side in order. Last night, he walked Yadier Molina on a 3-2 changeup that was a coin-flip ball/strike call, then induced a double play.
“At any point in the season, you’re going to have your ups and downs as a reliever,” said closer Drew Storen, Clippard’s roommate. “There’s no middle ground when you’re throwing late in the games. Tyler didn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself. He made the adjustments, and obviously it’s paying off.”
Clippard has relinquished the closer role to Storen, who has been dominant despite allowing the game-tying run in the ninth last night. He hasn’t let the change in role throw him off, which makes sense given his winding career path.
“I’ve done it all in the bullpen,” Clippard said. “I remember when [Jim] Riggleman was here, he was telling me I was the lefty specialist. I’m not even a lefty. I’ve done everything you can experience as a bullpen guy, so I’m ready for any situation.”