It is almost amazing to think the Nats would need seven pitchers on Friday night when they led 6-0 after four innings and even 6-3 after seven full. That was the case in a stunning 7-6 loss to the Orioles that has to rank as one of the most disappointing of the season.
Four huge fielding errors, two by Cristian Guzman and two in the same inning by Ian Desmond did not make it easy for the Nats pitchers to get out of innings.
Slowly, the Orioles chipped away with three runs in the fifth.
The Nats still had the advantage 6-3 into the home half of the eighth. Time for "Clipp & Save".
Yes, Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps got to pitch, but not to the usual success they have had for most of the first 73 games.
This was not to be Clippard's night. He didn't have his usual zip on the fastball and allowed three runs to tie the game, including a dramatic two-run pinch-hit homer off the bat of Scott Moore.
"I just could not get the ball down. I did not establish the strike zone early. I was a little tentative after that. It cost me."
With so many relievers used early in the game, manager Jim Riggleman did not have much wiggle room after Doug Slaten, Miguel Batista and Sean Burnett were used in situations to get just four outs in the middle frames.
Drew Storen managed to record four outs to get through the seventh.
But the eighth inning was trouble from the start for Clippard. He walked Matt Wieters. Then, Moore blasted a home run to right field to get the Orioles within 6-5.
With so many pitchers used by the final frame, Clippard came out to start the ninth inning with the game tied at 6-6. He got Adam Jones to pop out to the catcher for the first out, but a walk and a base hit ended his night. It would go down as arguably the roughest night of the season for Tyler.
"I felt like a settled down towards the end of the first inning. I wanted the ball. I want to go back out there and get us back in the dugout and wasn't able to do that. It is frustrating. I felt like I let us down in a big way tonight. It is tough to swallow. I will have to brush this one off."
Riggleman said every reliever is going to eventually have a bad outing, you just hope you can minimize the damage. "It was just one of those nights. I haven't seen a reliever yet go through the season and be unblemished.
I was hoping it would happen to less of an extent than it did tonight and we couldn't put the game away. He just wasn't sharp. He could not get the ball down tonight."
So after getting pretty much shelled in the eighth, what went into the decision to let Clippard start the ninth inning?
"It was a combination of who they had coming up for them. They had a couple of lefthanders coming up. Even though it wasn't happening for him tonight, he has been very successful against lefties this season.
I didn't have any lefties heft in the bullpen. I wanted him to face a couple of guys. He was really upset with himself after the previous inning. He wanted to go back out. Then I was going to go from him to Capps no matter what.
If the game stayed tied I would have a couple guys that could give me multiple innings. I didn't want Capps to throw a lot."
Because the Nationals used seven pitchers on this night, Riggleman's options were lean in the final frames, especially if they had gone into extra innings. They needed Clippard and Capps to once again save them, but Friday it was not to be.