Mattheus makes rare early appearance, fights for five outs

It certainly was not the situation Nationals reliever Ryan Mattheus expected so early in Friday’s game against the Colorado Rockies.

His teammate, Nationals starter John Lannan, had gone down after getting hit in the face on a single up the middle by the Rockies’ Ty Wigginton. Lannan left the game immediately with assistance from trainer Lee Kuntz.

But as a reliever, you are expected to go in the game at any point when your team needs you. Lannan was out after 3 and 1/3 innings, diagnosed with a nasal contusion and is listed as day-to-day.

Mattheus watched as the pitch hit Lannan from his vantage point in the right field bullpen.

Ryan Mattheus talks about his outing after he unexpectedly replaced John Lannan

“The reaction was we were all hoping that he was okay,” Mattheus said. “That is scary any time anything like that happens. It is something none of us want to see. We just hope(d) he (was) alright.”

Mattheus arrived on the mound, was able to take as many warm up pitches as necessary, and set up to face the Rockies’ Mark Ellis.

Ellis grounded back to Mattheus, who threw to Ian Desmond for an out at second.

It appeared Mattheus had a chance to get out of the frame without further damage, but then a minor mistake cost the Nationals another run.

With Ellis at first and Todd Helton at third, Mattheus was called for a balk and the Rockies took the lead, 2-1. Mattheus said he knew why home plate umpire Bob Davidson called the balk.

“I flinched a little bit,” Mattheus said. “I started to take my glove a way and he saw it. It was minor, it was something real quick. But, I definitely knew what he called when he called it.”

He knew it was a rare occurrence to have to get ready on the mound instead of the bullpen, but it didn’t take long for him to get going. But he would not use that as an excuse for allowing a base hit to Cole Garner that made it 3-1, Colorado.

“It is tough coming out of the bullpen and warming up on the field like that,” Mattheus said. “But once you are loose and once you are ready you got to focus. You have to execute.”

After surviving the third, Mattheus gave the Nationals a chance to stay in the game with a 1-2-3 fifth inning. The bullpen was able to shut down Colorado from there, keeping the game at 3-2 for five straight scoreless innings from Mattheus, Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard.

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