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Clippard continues efficiency in closer role

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Clippard continues efficiency in closer role

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.

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Max Scherzer takes the next step toward returning to the mound for the Nationals

Max Scherzer takes the next step toward returning to the mound for the Nationals

BALTIMORE -- Max Scherzer emerged from the visitor's dugout about 3:20 p.m. Wednesday and walked to left field. A bullpen catcher, director of athletic training, Paul Lessard, and a couple of other watchful eyes went with him.

Scherzer progressively backed up while throwing in the outfield. By the end, he was roughly 90 feet from the catcher and throwing with clear effort.

The nightly news will not lead with the development. However, it's progress for Scherzer. Manager Davey Martinez said Scherzer came out of the session -- a little further apart, a little more intense than Tuesday's version -- feeling well. 

So, what's next? Thursday, Scherzer could throw a "light" bullpen session in Atlanta. that will determine if he pitches Sunday. Scherzer (mid-back strain) is first eligible to come off the 10-day injured list Saturday.

The Nationals have their rotation for the series against Atlanta otherwise set: Stephen Strasburg on Thursday, Patrick Corbin on Friday, and Anibal Sanchez on Saturday. If Scherzer can't pitch Sunday, Austin Voth would be on the turn. 

Washington entered play Wednesday night six games behind first-place Atlanta, which lost Wednesday afternoon to Milwaukee. The Braves lost two of three to the Brewers, dropping a series for the first time since time June 4-6. Washington can creep as close as 5 1/2 games back before the four-game series begins.

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Mike Rizzo provides an injury update on Max Scherzer

Mike Rizzo provides an injury update on Max Scherzer

After being placed on the 10-day injured list with a mid-back strain, Max Scherzer is supposed to come off of the IL by Saturday in time for the Nationals' third game of their series against the Atlanta Braves.

When he will actually pitch, is another question.

On Tuesday, Scherzer reportedly told manager Davey Martinez he's feeling "a lot better." Nationals GM Mike Rizzo followed up those comments during his spot on The Sports Junkies Wednesday.

"If he’s capable of pitching he will," Rizzo said.

Rizzo told the Junkies that he will find out more information about Scherzer's status prior to Wednesday's final game against the Baltimore Orioles. He said he, in conjunction with the Nationals' medical personnel, made the decision to place Scherzer on the 10-day IL.

“He was incapable of pitching the way Max Scherzer pitches so we all decided to put him on the IL," Rizzo said.

Scherzer was scheduled to start against the Braves this weekend, but the decision will depend on how Scherzer feels.

‘We’re still in July," Rizzo said. "Guarantee you this: If this is September and we needed this win, you couldn’t keep Max off the mound. Sometimes I have to be the adult in the room and just say, ‘sorry, buddy, not this time.”

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