When the Nationals acquired Rafael Soriano, the back end of the bullpen was pushed up an inning, Tyler Clippard to the seventh inning and Drew Storen to the eighth. But before the eighth inning, Manager Davey Johnson called for Clippard instead of Storen. The reason? Clippard’s success against Marlins pinch hitter Greg Dobbs.
Although Dobbs was the fourth batter of the inning, Johnson went with Clippard. Clippard has held Dobbs to a .125 average (1 for 8) in his career, while Storen has allowed Dobbs to hit .600 (3 for 5). It was an example of how Johnson, who relies on matchup numbers to help determine his moves, will mix and match the back end of the bullpen ahead of Soriano.
“I expected to fill in the void right before we get to the ninth, whether it’s sixth, seventh or eighth,” said Clippard, who threw a scoreless inning. “I’ll be ready. That’s pretty much what I’m expecting.”
Clippard, who had perhaps the best spring of any pitcher on staff, is also most successful against left-handed batters than Storen. And although Johnson couldn’t foresee Clippard walking leadoff hitter Donovan Solano and eventually facing lefty Dobbs, Casey Kotchman is also a left-hander. Johnson didn’t tell Clippard to prepare to pitch to face Dobbs, but Clippard had a feeling it would happen.
“It’s just one of those where you as a player have to understand what he’s thinking and think along with him, watch the lineup and who’s coming up,” Clippard said. “He’s got a lot of weapons down there to use. We just got to be ready to go when our names are called. It was either going to be me or Drew in that spot. We both were ready.