Between games of the doubleheader Saturday, Ryan Mattheus — who’d thrown 13 pitches to get the game’s final two outs in the opener — did not ice. He talked to pitching coach Steve McCatty and assured him that he’d be ready to go in the nightcap if needed. With Todd Coffey and Sean Burnett both also used in the opener and Henry Rodriguez gone for the third game with strep throat, Mattheus knew how thin his team’s bullpen was.
Turns out he was the last guy used in Game 1 and the first guy used in Game 2 but the second was perhaps a little sweeter when he held the game where it was with a scoreless inning and his teammates scored two in the bottom of the eighth to give the rookie right-hander his first career win.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever done that,” Mattheus said of pitching in both ends of the doubleheader. “To get a win out of it, it’s definitely a good thing. Way sweeter than losing.”
What Mattheus did in coming in twice both engendered the respect of teammates and proved again that manager Davey Johnson has a lot of confidence in him — and with good reason. In 9 1/3 innings of work this season, Mattheus has a 1.93 ERA. He’s been called on in tight situations and allowed to work out of jams of his own making (as he was Saturday night). He’s been everything the Nationals could have hoped for (in a small sample size) when they traded for a minor league pitcher who was weeks removed from Tommy John surgery.
“I really like him,” Johnson said. “He’s got a great arm. I’m real happy for him. He’s got a great future. He knows how to pitch and one time he told me he threw 98 miles an hour before he had Tommy John but he’s a smart pitcher, he’s got a good breaking ball, good split, live fastball, good sinker off it.”
“I’m definitely excited to come up here and get off to a good start and start doing well,” Mattheus said. “But that’s always my plan, to attack the strike zone. I always hope to well and plan to do well. Hopefully I can keep it going. Anytime they put you in the game, it makes you feel good when you’re in close games, too. So it’s nice that I’m getting the opportunity to get in big situations.”
He didn’t get the ball from his first big league win, he said, but he looked at that fact without much remorse. “Maybe (Drew) Storen has it,” he said with a shrug, as if to say the milestone was a nice one but it wasn’t the only one he ever expected to reach.