- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 15, 2014


Washington Nationals fans should welcome closer Rafael Soriano with open arms when the Nationals return home Friday for a three-game series with the New York Mets, despite Soriano blowing a save on their six-game road trip.

After all, it was his first blown save since last season — Aug. 17, 2013, to be specific — when he blew a 3-1 lead to the Oakland Athletics Saturday on the way to a 4-3 Nationals loss.

Let’s get more specific — it was the first run he gave up in his last 25 innings pitched. So a little love from the hometown crowd might be in order to let them know that they recognize what their beloved closer had accomplished, and that one run every 25 innings is more than acceptable.

Except they can’t open their arms when they see Rafael Soriano enter a game. They’re too busy covering their eyes.

Washington Nationals' Rafael Soriano gestures and looks to the sky after the final Arizona Diamondbacks out in a baseball game Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in Phoenix. The Nationals defeated the Diamondbacks 5-1. (AP Photo)
Washington Nationals’ Rafael Soriano gestures and looks to the sky after the ... more >

And beloved? Not hardly. More like tolerated.

“Bad day,” Soriano told reporters after the game. “That’s all I have to say. I cannot be perfect every time.”

He’s not warm and cuddly, which also may make it hard to welcome him back with open arms, and that may be through no fault of his own.

But it’s not that Nationals fans don’t feel connected to their team’s closer. Their connection is anxiety.

MASN analyst Ray Knight said after Soriano saved the Nationals’ 6-5 comeback win against the Diamondbacks in Arizona on Monday that the closer makes him nervous, even though he got his eighth save of the season. He allowed one base runner, and there’s the rub.

He makes everyone sweat, when everyone wants to feel secure, safe — saved, so to speak.

Closer is the most complicated position on the roster — for everyone, the manager and the fans.

“Going into the ninth with a two-run lead with a guy that hasn’t given up a run in 25 innings and it doesn’t happen for you, it’s disappointing, but that’s baseball,” Nationals manager Matt Williams told reporters after the blown save.

It’s not that easy for fans, either.

The closer, by definition, is there to save the game. He makes a grand entrance that everyone in the ballpark watches, coming in from the bullpen with that one responsibility.

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