The Washington Nationals’ lead was such on Monday afternoon that manager Davey Johnson could’ve opted to hand the eighth inning over to plenty of his relievers.
He could’ve chosen to go to a long reliever, quite honestly, with the Nationals up eight runs in the eighth and then 10 runs in the ninth. But he didn’t.
Instead he used the opportunity to get Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen work — in that order.
Clippard pitched the eighth and Storen pitched the ninth, the order they’d become so accustomed to in 2011, for the first time this season. It was the first time since May 20 that Clippard entered a game before the ninth inning.
And as Clippard works to get out of the funk that’s given him a 9.72 ERA in the month of September and Storen continues to look ever sharper with what isn’t even a half-seasons’ worth of work in his injury-shortened year, it’s an order that might be happening a lot more.
“I just wanted them both getting some work,” Johnson said after the Nationals’ 12-2 victory over the Brewers on Monday. “Clip’s struggling a little bit, but I have confidence in both of them. Right now I’m going to go to Storen, but in Philadelphia, which is a lot of left-handed hitters, Clip’s always been very good there.”
The Nationals have done this dance before — Clippard and Storen, Storen and Clippard — as the lanky, right-handed Clippard seized the closers role in Storen’s absence and excelled when the Nationals needed it most.
He got through the eighth on Monday, too, surrendering a harmless RBI-double but getting dealt a little bit of tough luck after Ryan Braun’s single, that would’ve been the third out, dropped between Jayson Werth and Danny Espinosa.
But as Storen continued to work his way back from April surgery to remove a bone chip in his right elbow, the Nationals knew there’d come a time when they needed them both locking down important games.
It appears that time is here, with Johnson admitting as much on Friday afternoon after Storen looked utterly dominant in the Nationals’ playoff-clinching victory Thursday night.
“You don’t have to put a name on it all the time,” Johnson said. “The guy that goes out there is the closer that day. How’s that?”