- Rep. Duncan Hunter: While Obama prays for Iranian change, U.S. should ready its nukes
- Best company ever? Veteran Beer Co. exists to employ vets, provide quality beer
- Iran official: Sanctions ‘utterly failed’ to stop nuclear program
- ‘Black Santa’ display at IU sparks student outrage
- Joint Chiefs chair Dempsey: Pentagon, VA too slow in merging medical systems
- Sen. Ben Cardin hits Ukraine for crackdown on Kiev protests
- Drone technology turns South, targets feral pigs to kill
- Puerto Rico caravan honoring Paul Walker ends in 6 drunken-driving arrests, 72 speeding tickets
- Better pack a lightsaber: House told space explorers could find alien life in 10 years
- Selfies gone too far? N.Y. woman snaps photo in front of suicidal man on bridge
In Nationals win over Phillies, questions arise at closer
Question of the Day
PHILADELPHIA — The Washington Nationals won Monday night. They beat their division rival Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 on a misty, occasionally rainy, night at Citizens Bank Park. They got six nearly unhittable innings from left-hander Gio Gonzalez and all the runs they’d need off the bat of Ian Desmond.
But sitting stonefaced in their dugout with one out in the ninth inning was Henry Rodriguez. He was no longer on the mound, that spot taken by Sean Burnett, the left-hander who’d been summoned to bail out the Nationals‘ flamethrowing closer for the second time in his last four appearances.
In a debacle of a ninth inning, Rodriguez faced three batters. He threw two actual wild pitches and several others that went to the backstop with no runners on base as he walked leadoff man John Mayberry Jr. He got one out. When he uncorked his second wild pitch of the ninth — and major league-leading eighth in 18 innings — to pinch hitter Ty Wigginton with runners on the corners, Nationals manager Davey Johnson had seen enough.
Rodriguez, a hard-thrower with a penchant for wildness, is inexperienced in the role and lately, he’s struggled. Burnett, who said his plan was to “just try to get two more outs before they get two runs,” saved the game. The entire sequence left the Nationals‘ closer position in a state of flux.
“I’m going to sleep on it,” Johnson said. “But I’m looking at alternatives.”
With Brad Lidge joining the Storen on the disabled list until at least mid-June, Johnson’s options that include experience closing are minimal. Of the Nationals‘ current group of relievers, only Sean Burnett has recorded more than two saves in his career. Even All-Star set-up man Tyler Clippard, whom the team is reluctant to remove from his eighth inning role because of his extreme value there, has just one career save.
“I have confidence in everybody out there so there’s a lot of alternatives,” Johnson said. “It may be just by committee and who’s rested at the time goes ahead and pitches the ninth instead of the eighth.”
There was Gonzalez, now the major league leader in strikeouts with 69, throwing far more pitches than he or his manager would have liked but doing so in dominant fashion against the Phillies‘ unfamiliar lineup and allowing just three hits and two walks to go along with nine strikeouts.
There was Desmond, explaining the power that has given him seven home runs this season and a .473 slugging percentage as “daddy strength,” and thanking his one-year-old son, Grayson, after he knocked in both Nationals runs with a solo home run in the second and an RBI-single in the fourth.
There was Craig Stammen, arguably the best reliever the Nationals have had this season, pitching two more scoreless innings to drop his ERA to 1.44 and throwing so well he had Johnson lamenting not allowing him to try for a third and pitch the ninth.
And there was superb defense from the Nationals all night long. From Adam LaRoche’s tough backhand stop and throw home to save a run in the sixth, to Rick Ankiel’s diving catch to save another run that same inning, and an impressive inning-ending double play by Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa and LaRoche in the fourth.
A big game that distanced them one further ahead of the reigning National League East division champions. The Nationals improved to 25-17 and returned to a half-game behind Atlanta in the standings while Philadelphia fell to 21-22. Washington didn’t win its 25th game in 2011 until June 2.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.
- What will Nationals do this offseason to contend again in 2014?
- As Nationals' manager search begins, Randy Knorr the players' choice
- Davey Johnson's big-league journey ends with Nationals loss
- Team spirit and Holy Spirit — for Nationals religion looms large on and off the field
- Jordan Zimmermann falls short of 20th win as Cardinals prevail again
Latest Blog Entries
- A fond farewell, and a bit of thanks
- Nationals coaches wait in limbo as team searches for next manager
- Davey Johnson won't be in uniform for Nationals in spring training
- Tanner Roark starts season finale with youthful lineup behind him (UPDATED)
- Dan Haren, Nationals top Diamondbacks in season's penultimate game
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
Bad science puts rich nations on the hook for trillions in climate liabilities
- Hola: Boehner prepares to push amnesty bill through House
- Kill team: Obama war chiefs widen drone death zones
- U.S. drops 2,000 mice on Guam by parachute to kill snakes
- Doctors say profound new HIV treatment may prove the cure
- Inside China: Nuclear submarines capable of widespread attack on U.S.
- EDITORIAL: Motor City meltdown
- CARSON: Getting to the top by starting at the bottom
- Last call: State Dept. bought $180,000 in liquor before shutdown
- MILLER: Obamas EPA closing smelter will not affect ammunition supply
- Obama: Growing income inequality 'defining challenge' of this generation
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Headlines from Associated Press and around the Internet