Results tagged ‘ Tyler Clippard ’
All of Saturday’s stories, as you might expect following last night’s performances from Washington’s most celebrated young stars, focused on Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Deservedly so, as the former became the first pitcher since Mike Mussina in 2001 to fan 13 Red Sox at Fenway Park, and the latter notched the first three-hit game by a teenager at the historic venue since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1989.
Their influence was stamped all over the game, from Strasburg opening and closing his performance with a pair of strikeouts to Harper corralling the final out of the game on Adrian Gonzalez’s harmless, shallow fly to center field, probably the easiest defensive chance he had to record all night. But the real story of these Nationals is the quality performances that are flying under the radar, all of which were key in delivering the resounding 7-4 victory Friday night in Boston.
How about Danny Espinosa, inserted at the top of the lineup for his strength against left-handed pitching to face Boston’s own crafty southpaw, Felix Dubront? Espinosa responded by powering a double high off the top of the Green Monster in his first at-bat. Following a walk and another double in his next two plate appearances, Espinosa’s slash line against lefties sits at .368/.467/.684. Yes, that’s an OPS of 1.151.
Then there’s Ian Desmond, quietly putting together an All-Star caliber first half. He came up with arguably the biggest hit of the entire game on Friday. After Boston had jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning, the Nats struck back for a run in the third and had the bases loaded for Adam LaRoche with one out. Dubront whiffed the first baseman on a nasty hook, bringing up Desmond with two outs. He responded with a clutch two-run, two-out double to put Washington ahead for good. In all, 13 of his 28 RBI have come with two outs. That number leads all NL shortstops, as do Desmond’s 16 doubles and 25 extra-base hits.
There was another rookie who put together an impressive game Friday night, as well. That would be Tyler Moore, who was summoned back to the big leagues after largely riding the bench in his first stint, prior to his option back to Syracuse. Starting in left field, with the daunting defensive task of managing the Green Monster behind him, Moore notched a pair of hits, including a double, and scored twice out of the eight spot in the lineup.
Then there was the veteran, Xavier Nady, who rounded out a game full of great pitching and clutch hitting with what may be the Nationals defensive play of the year to date. Playing right field in a tricky and unfamiliar ballpark, he ranged back on a shot by Adrian Gonzalez and crashed into the short wall in front of the Nationals bullpen, snagging the ball in his mitt just as he collided with the barrier to rob the Sox slugger of a home run.
Finally, there was Tyler Clippard, who found himself in a save situation with the lead trimmed to 7-4 in the ninth and the heart of the Boston lineup coming up. He induced harmless flyouts from Dustin Pedroia and the aforementioned Gonzalez to lock down his sixth consecutive save. He has pitched 5.1 innings of no-hit ball over those six chances, walking just one and striking out six.
So while Strasburg and Harper are understandably getting the lion’s share of attention from Friday’s triumph, the Nationals are sitting at 10 games over .500 at 33-23 because of a true team effort.
When Drew Stubbs singled home Miguel Cairo in the top of the second inning of Saturday’s Reds-Nats affair in Washington, it looked like this might finally be the day the offenses broke out and delivered a high-scoring game. Following consecutive extra-inning games, in which the two teams combined for just eight runs in 23 innings, the early sign of life seemed to indicate a shift, the 74-degree first pitch temperature and out-blowing breeze priming the afternoon for an offensive explosion.
Who knew in that moment, with the Reds still threatening to add on in the inning, that Cincinnati would not log another hit the rest of the afternoon against Nationals starter Edwin Jackson. The hard-throwing righty retired 22 of the final 23 batters he faced, polishing off a two-hit shutout by inducing a weak pop to shallow center field from Joey Votto, one of the most feared power hitters in the game.
Jackson is perhaps best known around the baseball world for his bizarre, 149-pitch no-hitter, which he threw with Arizona against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 25, 2010. He walked eight batters in that contest while striking out just six, but gutted out a marathon performance to earn his place in the baseball history books. In many ways, though, his performance on Saturday in front of 35,489 frenzied fans surpassed his no-no from 16 months prior.
First, there was that lone baserunner after the second inning, a four-pitch walk to Chris Heisey to open the eighth inning. As dominant as Jackson had been, there suddenly appeared to be a crack in the armor, the crowd that had given him multiple standing ovations quieted to a nervous murmur. Tyler Clippard scrambled to get warm in the bullpen as pitching coach Steve McCatty paced out to the mound for a chat. What did the coach have to say?
“It’s your game,” said Jackson, recounting McCatty’s pep talk after the game. “Just get these people out. Throw every pitch with conviction.”
Manager Davey Johnson, the lifelong baseball man, actually found himself nervous in the moment.
“When I’m seeing a gem and we need it, lights out, it makes me nervous,” Johnson said. “I usually don’t get nervous. But when you see something like that – he had a low pitch count, just a dominating game. From a manager’s standpoint, you don’t want anything to go wrong. You kind of protect against all contingencies.”
After all, even though Jackson was the only National who pitched on Saturday, this game meant something to everyone on the staff. Following those back-to-back extra-inning games, both bullpens were spent, leaving few options for the skippers. Perhaps the biggest number of the night was 92: the total number of pitches it took Jackson to finish what he started, a full 57 pitches fewer than his no-hitter.
Meanwhile, the offense did its part, responding when Jackson needed it to by tying the game in the bottom of the second. Jayson Werth – fresh off his game-winning hit in the fifth hour of the game the night prior – legged out the back end of a double play and eventually scored the game-tying run with two outs to level the score at one apiece. An inning later, Adam LaRoche came through again, following a walk to Danny Espinosa and a single from Ryan Zimmerman, with a two-run double into the right-center field gap. The Nationals would only add one more tally the rest of the way, but it was more than enough for Jackson.
After all, Jackson has had plenty of experience finishing off a masterpiece, going back again to his no-hitter in 2010. For all the grief he has received for that non-conventional feat, Jackson nevertheless got the outs he needed – all 27 of them – while pitching with just one run of cushion the entire game. And who, do you suppose, plated the lone run in that game? Why, Adam LaRoche, of course. His solo shot in the second inning was the lone score in a 1-0 game. Both players have looked very much at home, united once more in Washington in the season’s opening stretch.
The Nationals are enjoying a number of new luxuries this Spring Training that the organization has never experienced to this point in its existence. The young, talented rotation may be the main component lending to heightened expectations, but there is a subtler, more under-the-radar quality to this team that may prove crucial over the course of the 162-game regular season grind: depth. There is veteran depth in the bullpen, thanks to the addition of Brad Lidge, and in the lineup with the versatile Mark DeRosa. But another player in the DeRosa mold, one with great versatility and a solid bat, who could make a big difference for the 2012 Nationals, is infielder Steve Lombardozzi.
Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond give the Nationals solid, everyday players at both positions up the middle. But Lombardozzi’s ability to play defensively at each spot (and even spell Ryan Zimmerman at third on the occasional day off) makes him a viable option in that third middle infielder role. The Nationals have had a handful of players fill that role over the past few years (Alex Cora, Alberto Gonzalez, Felipe Lopez), but none have brought the offensive promise that Lombardozzi has displayed lately.
After a slow start, Lombardozzi’s bat has heated up as of late, and he put together his most impressive performance of the spring on Friday, going 3-for-3 with a solo shot off CC Sabathia in Washington’s contest against the Yankees in Tampa. He is now batting .333 in the Grapefruit League, a notable improvement off the .194 he batted in his first 31 Major League at-bats last season.
“It’s not just my on-base percentage, I need to do everything well,” explained Lombardozzi. “But I take pride in getting on base and getting things going as a table-setter.”
Of course, for those who have followed Lombardozzi’s Minor League career, his recent success should come as no surprise. The son of the former big league infielder of the same name, he has batted .298 with a .369 on-base percentage over his four-year Minor League career. He’s coming off a 2011 year that saw him set career highs in batting average (.309) and home runs (eight), and set a new high with 30 stolen bases while being caught just eight times (78.9% success rate). With the Nationals looking for high on-base percentage players in front of the powerful bats in the middle of the lineup, Lombardozzi’s ability to do just that could earn him one of the final spots on the 25-man roster.
“I’m very excited to be in big league camp and try to win a job out of spring,” he said. “I think the future of this team is real bright.”
As for the game today, Gio Gonzalez looked solid again, allowing his first run of the spring, but fanning six in just 3.1 innings of work, leaving with a 3-1 lead. The Yankees would eventually win in 10 innings, but not before Sean Burnett, Ryan Perry and Tyler Clippard each contributed a scoreless inning of relief. Washington returns home to Space Coast Stadium for a pair of games this weekend, beginning with the Marlins on Saturday.
Here are the Nationals results to date:
vs. Georgetown (exhibition) – W, 3-0
@ Houston – L, 3-1
vs. Houston – L, 10-2
@ New York (NL) – W, 3-1
@ Atlanta – W, 5-2
vs. St. Louis – T, 3-3
vs. Houston – W, 8-0
@ Miami – L, 3-0
vs. New York (NL) – W, 8-2
@ Detroit – T, 5-5
@ St. Louis – Canceled (rain)
vs. St. Louis – W, 8-4
vs. Detroit – L, 6-3
@ Atlanta – L, 6-5
vs. New York (AL) – L, 8-5
@ New York (AL) – L, 4-3 (10)
Overall Record: 5-7-2
There is something refreshingly cathartic about the cycle of years and seasons. The end of the old always brings with it the beginning of a new era, another chance to be better than before. While this is true of every baseball season, it is no stretch to say that the buzz — the excitement, the energy, the hope — that is floating around the 2012 Nationals is unlike anything that Washington has seen since the team moved to The District in 2005.
This hope does not come without good reason. There is the prospect of a healthy Stephen Strasburg electrifying the top of the rotation every five days. He will be followed by two more dynamic, budding stars in Jordan Zimmermann and the recently acquired Gio Gonzalez, all three 26 years-old or younger. Solid, sturdy veterans Chien-Ming Wang and John Lannan will be in the mix with the promising Ross Detwiler, bringing stability to the back end of the starting staff.
From there, another set of power arms takes over in the bullpen, led by 2011 All-Star Tyler Clippard and anchored by closer Drew Storen, who in his rookie campaign became just the second National ever to notch 40 saves in a season. Add in flamethrower Henry Rodriguez, who regularly touches triple digits on the radar gun, and you’ve got three more exciting arms, again all under the age of 27.
In the lineup, the Nationals will look for a healthy year from Ryan Zimmerman. DC’s under-the-radar superstar began last season hot before suffering an abdominal strain that hampered his production throughout the year. Still just 27 years of age, the third baseman will look to return to his form of the previous five seasons, during which he averaged 37 doubles, 23 home runs and 89 RBI while playing in an average of 145 games.
Jayson Werth, meanwhile, will look to reestablish himself as the player who received MVP votes in each of his two seasons prior to joining the Nationals. While he reached the 20-home run plateau for the fourth consecutive season in 2011, a return to form across the board in his numbers would make the middle of the Nationals lineup that much more formidable to opposing pitching staffs.
Joining that pair will be 2011’s breakout star, Michael Morse. The numbers don’t lie — Morse hit .303 with 36 doubles, 31 home runs, 95 RBI and a .550 slugging percentage. But to understand just how good Morse’s season was, consider the following: he had more doubles and home runs than Troy Tulowitzki, and a higher slugging percentage than Albert Pujols (see for yourself). In fact, besides the NL MVP, Morse was the only player in the National League to bat over .300 with 35 or more doubles, 30 or more home runs and a slugging percentage of .550 or better. The return of “The Beast” to the middle of the lineup should be a welcome sight for Nats fans everywhere.
Another returnee for 2012 who impressed last year was rookie infielder Danny Espinosa, who will look to build on the power potential he flashed during his 21-home run performance last season. Coupled with the slick glove work he often showed at second base, the former Long Beach State shortstop may just prove he owns that rare combination of being a versatile middle infielder with pop from both sides of the plate. Oh, and he won’t turn 25 until after Opening Day.
Even after trading four prospects to the Oakland Athletics in the Gonzalez deal, there is still plenty of talent waiting in the wings, ready to contribute in the future. Top prospects like lefthander Matt Purke and infielder Anthony Rendon are poised to join Bryce Harper in the years to come, but that discussion is for another time.
While the future remains very bright for this team, make no mistake, the window has officially opened. With the Gonzalez trade, EVP of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo not only added one of the premiere left-handed power arms in the game, he announced that he is not waiting for some distant tomorrow to contend.
“Gio’s ample talents are well known and chronicled,” said Rizzo after inking the lefty to a five-year extension on Sunday. “Now both Gio and our fans can shift their focus and excitement to his debut in DC knowing that their relationship won’t be ending in the short term.”
Of course, the road will not be easy. With the flurry of acquisitions made by the new Miami Marlins, the NL East has improved to the point of challenging its American League counterpart as the toughest division in baseball. And speaking of that AL East, the Nats will draw the perennial powerhouse in Interleague Play this year, making the schedule that much tougher. The good news is, should Washington survive this gauntlet and (gasp!) force its way into the picture for the potentially expanding postseason field, this young Nationals squad will have already faced the toughest teams in the league.
If you’ve been following the Nats from the beginning, your best days certainly appear to be ahead of you. If 2012 marks the beginning of your fandom, then welcome. Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.
Last Saturday, the Nationals launched the 2011 Chevy Youth Baseball Clinics, a series of monthly clinics held at Nationals Park as part of the team’s efforts to increase participation in youth baseball and softball programs in the National Capital region.
Approximately 150 youth baseball and softball athletes from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia as well as local military children will be invited to take part in the free clinics, which feature hands-on instruction from Nationals coaches. In addition to taking part in drills on the field, in the batting cages and in the bullpen, participants will also enjoy Q&A sessions with the coaches in the Nationals dugout.
Saturday’s clinic was made available to children ranging from ages 5 to 12 from Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission of Prince George’s County. Participants could also sign up for the clinic through Chevy Motors.
Despite the soaring temperatures, the children in attendance were ready and willing to learn from the pros. The kids began their morning under the direction of assistant trainer Mike McGowan, who taught them how to properly stretch their muscles and offered tips on injury prevention.
The children were then divided into groups and rotated between stations led by coaches Pat Corrales, Rick Eckstein, Steve McCatty and Bo Porter.
In the batting cages, Eckstein offered tips on how to properly get into a hitting position and taught the same drills he uses with the Nationals. He stressed that baseball is a hard game.
“Hitting is arguably one of the toughest skills to do in all of sports and failure comes with that,” he said. “It’s learning to handle that failure so you can be successful. You can’t put your head down, you can’t pout, you can’t throw your helmet around.”
Byron Thompson, the sports coordinator for Maryland National Capitol Parks and Planning Commission of Prince George’s County, was excited to bring kids from his jurisdiction out to Nationals Park.
“These clinics give our kids realistic goals that they can see, hear, touch and smell. They get to see what a Major League Baseball player, coach, stadium and experience is all about,” Thompson said. “It’s a great opportunity for the kids, who get time to interact with some players and maybe learn something their coaches didn’t get a chance to talk about at their level.”
Once the clinic wrapped up, the kids were treated to lunch in the Family Picnic Area, followed by a visit from Nationals All-Star pitcher Tyler Clippard, who signed autographs and posed for photos with clinic participants.
“It’s important to get these kids out here, to teach them various skills and get them involved in the game of baseball,” Clippard said. “I started playing at a young age and that’s what happened to me. It’s a great social environment that encourages team building, and hopefully many of these kids will grow to love the game as a result of these clinics.”
Nationals fans have had their share of memorable at-bat/walk-out music over the past few seasons, and this year is no different.
All-Star Tyler Clippard previously came out to the song “Peaches” by The Presidents of the United States of America. The song became popular enough that eventually the LCD screens around the ballpark would display falling peaches as Clippard warmed up. He now uses “Ready or Not” by The Fugees, a song that, coincidentally enough, came out in 1996—the same year that “Peaches” was released.
Then you have Michael Morse. It’s no secret that Morse loves the ‘80s, especially when he alternates between classic Beastie Boys and A-Ha for the soundtrack to his introductions. Fans now associate “Take On Me” with the power-hitting first baseman.
“I love all kinds of music. But I really like ‘80s music, especially the one-hit wonders. I started with ‘Take on Me’ and I thought the fans liked it a lot, so I can’t stop now,” Morse said.
At the Nationals Dream Gala this year, many players had put together baskets of their favorite things to sell at auction. In Morse’s basket was a “Totally ‘80s” CD, which contained nothing but one-hit wonders from his favorite decade.
More recently, you have relief pitcher Ryan Mattheus joining the “odd music” club. Most other players on the team, and especially in the bullpen, come out to hard, heavy rock music or hip-hop. Not Mattheus.
He went with a somewhat more effeminate choice—Katy Perry’s “Firework.” Because he’s a rookie, some may be inclined to think that the pop hit was chosen as a method of hazing from his teammates. That’s not actually the case.
“It’s kind of a funny story. I was out before the season with a teammate from Double-A, and we were just talking about our walk-out music,” Mattheus said. “We were playing some pool and putting some money in the jukebox, and that song actually came on, and we both started singing.”
After his karaoke moment was over, Mattheus decided he liked the feel of the song enough to have it associated with him during a game.
“I was like ‘this is kind of a feel-good song, I think I’ll make this my walk-out song,’” he said. “And he told me to go for it.”
Mattheus went on to use the song once the season started for him in the Minors, and kept it once he got his call-up to the Nationals. He has no plans to stop using it anytime soon.
“I’ve been successful, so there’s that superstition there for me to hold on to it. It took some guts to do it up here on a bigger stage, but I like it,” he said. “Hopefully it keeps working.”
With the American League leading 1-0 in the top of the fourth inning, Clippard was brought into a jam to get the final out and prevent any more damage from being done. With runners on first and second, National League Skipper Bruce Bochy called to the bullpen for Clippard to face Adrian Beltre. Clippard quickly worked the count to 0-2, and then tried to throw an up-and-in fastball that didn’t quite get up-and-in enough. Beltre smoked it to left field for a single.
The Astros’ Hunter Pence got the ball on the hop and made the decision to throw it to home to catch a charging Jose Bautista, who was attempting to tack on an extra run. Bautista was out by about five feet at home plate. Inning over.
Fast forward to the bottom of the fourth. Two runners are on, and the Brewers’ slugging first baseman Prince Fielder is in the box for the NL. He tears the leather off the ball on a home run to center field, giving the National League a 3-1 lead. The NL would go on to win 5-1, and since Clippard was the pitcher of record when his team got the winning run, he got the win.
Clippard’s pitching line for that game would be: 0.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1 H, 3.00 WHIP. He got the win despite not even retiring a batter.
This is, oddly enough, the second year in a row that a Nationals pitcher pitched just a third of an inning and ended up with the win. Matt Capps, then the Nats’ closer, struck out the one batter he faced to end an inning in the 2010 All-Star Game. He was the pitcher of record when the NL took the lead, so he was credited with the win.
Even stranger is the fact that both Clippard and Capps were brought in to relieve a Phillies’ pitcher—Clippard came in for Cliff Lee, and Capps came in for Roy Halladay.
On a historic level of coincidence, Clippard is now the second Washington pitcher to get the All-Star Game win without having retired a batter. In 1954, Dean Stone was a representative for the Senators. He, like Clippard, was brought in to get out of a jam. But when Red Schoendienst was caught stealing home, the inning ended. Stone was the pitcher of record when the American League took the lead, so he got the win—but unlike Clippard, since the out was recorded on a caught stealing, he never actually faced a batter.
On the all-time list of winning pitchers in the All-Star Game, only four of them pitched a third of an inning. Three of them played for Washington—Stone, Capps and now Clippard. It’s an odd little tradition that’s happened for DC pitchers, but that’s one of the things that makes this game worth following, isn’t it?
Broadcaster Dave Jageler sat down with the back end of the Nationals bullpen prior to Saturday’s game to discuss their roles, the 2011 season and their baseball backgrounds. Clippard and Storen also took questions from the Stars & Stripes Club audience. These two roommates flashed their comedic wits and their verbose vocabulary—no “just happy to be here” quotes here. Have a listen for yourself: InsidePitchLive_ClippardStoren
In case you missed it, Tyler Clippard was named as a representative of the Nationals for this year’s All-Star Game. Clippard has been stellar as the Nats’ set-up man, and currently leads the League in holds with 21. He led the team last year in wins with 11 and was second in strikeouts with 112. He is, obviously, a deserving candidate and will make Nationals fans proud when he takes the mound during next week’s Midsummer Classic.
But, if those same fans play it right, there could be a second Nationals player on the All-Star Team. Michael Morse is currently in the mix for the Final Vote, where fans have a few days to decide who gets that coveted last spot on the roster. Morse has been having the best year of his career so far, hitting .299 with 15 home runs and 46 RBI, and since May 22 he’s been leading the NL in home runs and RBI.
Since coming to the Capital in a trade with Seattle in 2009, Morse has provided power off of the bench. In Spring Training this year, he hit a Grapefruit League-leading nine home runs and landed himself a starting gig in left field. He was moved to first base when Adam LaRoche underwent season-ending arm surgery and has been outstanding since moving back to the infield.
Morse is looking to take his talents to Arizona to help the National League win the All-Star Game for a second straight year. You can vote for him here and campaign for more votes via Facebook and Twitter. Voting ends July 7, so be sure to get in as many votes as you can until then. Vote early, vote often, and make sure to vote Nats!
The Nats can secure their second straight series victory with a win tonight and increase their winning streak to three games. It is a rematch of last year’s Opening Day but the Nats are hoping for a different outcome. Roy Halladay hasn’t allowed a Nationals run since he gave up a RBI double to Ryan Zimmerman in the first inning of the opener. He has a scoreless streak of 22.0 innings against the Nats. Halladay’s numbers against the Nats are usually reserved for video games like MLB 2K11 (quality commercial): 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA (23 IP/ 1 ER) with 20 strikeouts and a .198 BAA. On the other hand, Lannan is seeking his first win in 12 starts against the Phillies. Don’t they say… the 13th time is a charm? Adam LaRoche is back in the lineup after having Tuesday off.
Shane Victorino – CF
Placido Polanco – 3B
Jimmy Rollins – SS
Ryan Howard – 1B
Ben Francisco – RF
Raul Ibanez – LF
Carlos Ruiz – C
Wilson Valdez – 2B
Roy Halladay – P
Ian Desmond – SS
Rick Ankiel – CF
Jayson Werth – RF
Adam LaRoche – 1B
Laynce Nix – LF
Danny Espinosa – 2B
Jerry Hairston Jr. – 3B
Ivan Rodriguez – C
John Lannan – P