With a two-run lead in the ninth inning, and five straight left-handed batters due up in the Mets lineup, Nationals manager Davey Johnson called on his latest temporary closer. The right-handed Tyler Clippard took the mound for another save situation, not the lefty Sean Burnett who had pitched the eighth in a setup role.
What has been an all-season shuffle of the deck, Johnson said after the Nats Wednesday night win over the Mets hes tired of moving things around.
Ive basically been going to Clip. Ive changed enough roles in the bullpen with the long guys setting up, the setup guys closing, I dont like to keep reverting back and have them guessing out there what their roles going to be, he said.
Clippard shut the door on a scrappy New York lineup and earned his fifth save on the year, the fifth in his last six appearances. The 2011 All-Star who made his name as a setup man now holds the title of closer. It is a role he has told coaches and teammates alike he wants and a position he enjoys.
Clippard takes the mound with swagger and a hop in his step, he brings confidence into a game that he can mow down any part of any teams batting order.
"I would rather face lefties anyway. Hopefully Johnson feels comfortable with me facing lefties regardless, he said.
I feel like I am a guy who can get both lefties and righties out and have proven that over the course of the last three years.
Based on his 2012 splits, Clippard is right. With roughly the same amount of at-bats facing lefties and righties, he has held left-handed batters to a .125 average compared to the .205 mark right-handers have held on him.
Johnson seems to agree Clippard is good against just about everybody and after the game gave some insight into what makes him so dominant.
Against left or right his stuff is so electric. The changeup and his fastball, even when he comes right down the middle with it, it jumps on you and they have a hard time centering on it, he said.
Clippard is starting to collect the saves and now sits with a 2.55 ERA on the year after a slow start to the season. He fits the profile of a major league closer, is pitching effectively in the role, and enjoys the pressure, but what happens when Drew Storen gets back in about a month or so?
Johnson says hell have to relinquish the job at some point.
Actually, his pitching efficiency on closing has been better when he set up. He seems to be more focused and I have no problem going with him. He is going to have to cry uncle, but he likes the fact that hes closing.