How dominant was Henry Rodriguez on Sunday afternoon? Let’s put it this way: After Atlanta Braves catcher David Ross swung through two fastballs clocked at 100 and 101, respectively, he squared up for an 0-2 bunt. He then fouled off a 101-mph fastball for strike three.
“When you get a catcher to bunt on you 0-2, with nobody on base, that’s a pretty good sign that your stuff is working that day,” said shortstop Ian Desmond who, like the rest of the Nationals and the 37,000-plus in attendance were left with their jaws on the ground after Rodriguez’s performance.
The most impressive part of it, however, didn’t come until one batter later when Rodriguez, looking to strike out the side, fed Jack Wilson three straight fastballs clocked at 100, 101 and 101. The out pitch? An 88-mph slider with so much movement on it all Wilson could do was stare.
“It was like a nintendo pitch,” said closer Drew Storen. “Create a player and max him out.”
The Nationals’ bullpen gave Rodriguez a standing ovation for the performance. Catcher Wilson Ramos took Rodriguez aside and told him: “How you pitched today, nobody can hit it. You keep doing that, nobody can hit it.”
Tyler Clippard, the next man up for the eighth inning, shook his head as he watched Rodriguez walk off the mound.
“I did not want to come in and pitch after that,” Clippard said. “That was impressive. I don’t think you’re goign to see that out of anybody in the league.”
It’s exactly what the Nationals have been waiting for out of Rodriguez. He’s shown his stuff all year long. But stringing together consecutive outings where he’s been able to harness it have been rare. In his last six appearances, Rodriguez has held his opponents to one hit, struck out six and had just one outing where he walked any batters. Wednesday night in Philadelphia, he picked up the first save of his career.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Storen said of Rodriguez on Sunday. “I don’t even know how to describe it, really. It was a whole ‘nother level. He’s got that. It’s just a matter of consistency for him. He’s come a long way this year and I think he’s going to be a big part of our bullpen next year.”
It’s a prospect most Nationals fans would salivate at: A consistently stellar Henry Rodriguez, harnessing his immense ability, in front of Clippard and Storen at the end of a game?
“It makes us feel really good and the other teams really scared,” Clippard said. “They don’t want to face Henry throwing 100, and so on and so forth. It gives us confidence. We’re just trying to continue to stay the path and get better and improve and be more consistent and do the little things, as all those cliches go. But they’re true. I think everyone sees that. Myself and those other guys see that and know what we have here in the future. If everything stays the way it is, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
“It’s pretty unbelievable,” Storen said. “Not to mention you’ve got (Ryan Mattheus) and you’ve got (Sean Burnett) and you’ve got (Tom Gorzelanny) who’s been throwing pretty well, too. We have a lot of guys down there.
“To sit there and think of the roster we’ve got down there and stuff. It’s pretty fun. We already had a great year and if Henry even shows half as good as that, that’s going to be pretty unbelievable.”