No panic in Nats right before the untuck

It takes some work to get to the untuck.

Nationals closer Rafael Soriano made it interesting in the ninth inning, especially in a one-run game on Sunday against the Braves.

He struck out Dan Uggla to begin the frame. And then a pop-up to first by Gerard Laird had him looking good with two outs and no one on.

But back-to-back singles by Andrelton Simmons and Ryan Doumit changed things. Suddenly the tying run was in scoring position and the go-ahead run was on first base with the dangerous Jason Heyward stepping to the plate.

Was manager Matt Williams nervous there?

"Never, never," Williams said. "(Soriano) has been around the block a couple of times. So he knows what he is doing out there. You get the feeling that if he didn't get Heyward then he was OK with going after B.J. (Upton), too. So he doesn't panic. His heart rate never gets up. He would want it clean, for sure. But he knows what he is doing."

Soriano ran the count full to Heyward before striking him out swinging on a slider. It marked Soriano's first save of the season. The Nats defeated the Braves 2-1.

Williams was asked if it was a gutsy move by Soriano to throw the slider to Heyward on a 3-2 pitch to get the strikeout:

"It is one of his pitches," Williams said matter-of-factly. "I couldn't tell you the number of times, but I am sure he has been in that situation before. He has confidence in all his pitches."

Of course, every Nats fan would love to see a 1-2-3 ninth inning in a close ballgame. But Soriano has done this before. He has 176 career saves, with 85 coming from 2012-20113 seasons with the Yankees and Nats, respectively.

If Williams is confident in Soriano throwing a slider there, how do the players on the field feel at the moment? Shortstop Ian Desmond said they have the ultimate confidence in their veteran closer in any situation.

"He believes in (the slider)," Desmond said. "He believes what he does, that is how he became successful. He knows what he is doing out there. We believe in him. I know it is not always easy for the fans. But he is good out there. He has got a plan out there the whole time. It is always exciting."

Desmond said this confidence in Soriano wasn't born this season. The Nationals have had that belief in their closer since he came over from the Yankees as a free agent. They don't panic with Soriano on the hill.

"You look at the body of work," Desmond said. "His skill set and his mind are perfect for each other. He knows exactly what he is doing."

So untuck. Untuck with confidence. I see Old Spice or Irish Spring calling Soriano for endorsements.

blog comments powered by Disqus