Tyler Clippard was not the first choice from the Nationals to make the All-Star Game. He represented Washington only after Jordan Zimmermann suffered a minor injury and Rafael Soriano declined. But ever since Clippard retired Jose Altuve and Miguel Cabrera in the Midsummer Classic, he has validated his selection.
Clippard retired all three Mets he faced Thursday night, two on strikeouts, just another typically dominant inning in a typically excellent season for a reliever with atypical staying power. During the five seasons Clippard has stabilized the back of the Nationals’ bullpen, he often has formed tremendous streaks. He’s on one now.
Clippard has thrown 12 scoreless innings since the all-star break. Opposing teams have not even sniffed a run during that stretch. Hitters are 3 for 39 with one walk and 14 strikeouts against Clippard. He’s lowered his ERA for the season to 1.56.
Clippard has been receiving regular work and spotting his fastball. But the major difference has been the recapturing of Clippard’s change-up, his bread-and-butter pitch.
Clippard is unusually attuned to his delivery and how his mechanics work best with his body. One day, he was playing catch before a game and noticed he was rushing his delivery. He stayed back “just a tick longer” when throwing his change-up. The small tweak made a huge impact.
“My change-up since the all-star break has felt probably the best it’s felt in a long time,” Clippard said. “It just feels good out of my hand. It’s got more of the pulling-the-string action. Earlier in the year, I was getting as many swing-and-misses with that particular pitch. And now I am.”
Having been so good for so long at setup relief puts Clippard in something close to a class by himself. Over the past month, with his best change-up back, he’s only reinforced that status. He has performed at a high level for a long time in a role in which pitchers tend not to perform at a high level for a long time. There’s not much else to say.
“Over the last few years, he’s been the best in the business at it,” Manager Matt Williams said. “He just continues to be really good.”
FROM THE POST
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Rob Manfred is baseball’s new commissioner, James Wagner writes.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 2, Charlotte 1: Tyler Moore went 1 for 4 and hit a walk-off home run. Jeff Kobernus went 2 for 4 with two doubles and a walk. Blake Treinen allowed one run in seven innings on six hits and no walks, striking out six. Aaron Barrett struck out one in 2/3 of an inning. He has thrown six scoreless innings since getting sent to Syracuse.
Reading 5, Harrisburg 2: Making his first start since coming off the disabled list, Felipe Rivero allowed five runs in three innings on four hits and three walks, striking out two. Matt Skole went 1 for 4 with three strikeouts.
Salem 3, Potomac 1: Tony Renda went 1 for 4 with a double. Pedro Encarnacion allowed three runs in 3 2/3 innings on seven hits and a walk, striking out one.
Lakewood 8, Hagerstown 0: Rafael Bautista went 0 for 1 with two walks and stole his 63rd base. Nick Pivetta allowed four runs in five innings on nine hits and and no walks, striking out four.
Jamestown 4, Auburn 3: Willie Medina went 3 for 3. Austin Williams allowed three runs in three innings on four hits and one walk, striking out two.