I’m not entirely sure how a guy can strike out the side on just 10 pitches in a save situation one night, looking absolutely locked-in and unhittable in the process, and then walk two, allow two hits and surrender a walk-off grand slam in a save situation the very next night.
Henry Rodriguez entered both games with a one-run lead in the ninth inning. He was facing the same team. He was pitching in the same ballpark. He just delivered two vastly different performances, and showed again that anything can happen when he takes the mound.
At this point in his career, Rodriguez is an enigma. He can be so utterly dominating at times, with his 100 mph fastball, filthy changeup and knee-buckling curveball making professional hitters look like Little Leaguers. He can pound the mitt, paint the corners and leave us all thinking he’s on his way to stardom.
Yet, other times, Rodriguez has nothing. He appears to let the moment get to him, loses complete control and has no idea where his pitches are going to end up.
It was that Henry Rodriguez that we saw again yesterday, when he blew his third save of the season and second in four attempts in a 9-6 loss to the Reds.
In my eyes, the problem yesterday wasn’t as much the grand slam that Rodriguez gave up to Joey Votto, who mashed three homers in the game. Rodriguez’s problem was that Votto should have never gotten to the plate in the ninth inning.
Rodriguez was facing the bottom third of the Reds order to start the frame, and even after allowing a leadoff single, still had a chance to shut the door when he faced center fielder Drew Stubbs, who is hitting .240 this season.
The Nationals righty promptly walked Stubbs on five pitches. He then had a shot to close things out against left fielder Chris Heisey, who is batting .200 on the year. Rodriguez got up on Heisey 0-2 only to throw four straight pitches out of the zone, loading the bases for Votto.
If you’re on the mound in that situation, you cannot let Votto - the National League MVP two seasons ago - step into the batter’s box. You just can’t. Give Heisey a belt-high fastball if you have to, just don’t bring up the guy who’s averaged 108 RBIs the last two seasons.
But Rodriguez couldn’t find the strike zone in time, and then Votto found a grassy patch over the center field fence.
Manager Davey Johnson told reporters he’s going to stick with Rodriguez as his closer for now, instead of turning to Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett or Craig Stammen. With Drew Storen and Brad Lidge sidelined because of injuries, Rodriguez will continue to get the call in save situations.
But the flame-throwing righty needs to find some way to perform at a more consistent level. The quality of Rodriquez’s stuff cannot be questioned, but this Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde thing is starting to become a bit of an issue.