PHILADELPHIA - In Tyler Clippard’s career as a reliever, he’s worked some intense seventh innings and a bunch of crucial eighth innings, where he’s had runners on base and needed to battle out of key jams.
But according to Clippard, tonight’s 1-2-3 ninth inning was more nerve-rattling than any situation he’s been in recently.
“A lot more adrenaline, a lot more nervousness,” a smiling Clippard said after the game. “But it was a good feeling. I haven’t had that for a while, so it was a lot of fun tonight.”
Clippard earned just his second career save tonight - his first since June 10, 2010 - in the Nats’ 5-2 win over the Phillies.
This save was a rarity for the Nationals in that there were no grab-onto-your-sofa moments or spots where fans might be tempted to bite their nails (or their fingers) off completely. Clippard retired the side in order, getting Pete Orr to strike out - after a loud foul ball to open the at-bat - and Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco to ground out to end it.
Clippard talked before the game about how badly he wants to be given save opportunities and how he feels he’s been “over-stepped” for the closer’s role by other guys in the past. He got just his third legitimate save chance of his career tonight, and he delivered.
“It’s kind of one of those things where I’ve been fighting for that opportunity, so it was like, this is it,” Clippard said. “A lot of that plays into it, as well. Not saying those spots (in the seventh or eighth) aren’t nerve-wracking and there isn’t adrenaline pumping, because there are and that happens, but there was definitely that tonight, as well.”
Tonight was Day 1 A.H. (After Henry), with manager Davey Johnson announcing before the game he would move Henry Rodriguez out of the closer’s role and go with a closer-by-committee.
While Johnson had said he preferred to keep Clippard in his usual spot in the eighth inning, the Nats skipper called on the goggle-wearing righty in the ninth tonight.
“I know before the ballgame, he said something to (pitching coach Steve McCatty) about: ‘Give me a shot.’ And Cat says: ‘You’re fine right where you’re at. Just relax. You’re fine right where you’re at,’ ” Johnson said. “But it set up just perfect for him.”
Clippard hoped to be given a shot at some saves as part of the closing committee, but he was asked if he thought his first chance might come tonight.
“No,” Clippard said, “but I’m glad it did.”