If you were wondering whether last night’s performance by Henry Rodriguez - in which the righty walked the bases loaded while leading by three runs in the ninth - changed Davey Johnson’s view on how Rodriguez will be used, the answer is a simple one.
Within a five-minute press conference after last night’s game, Johnson referred to either himself or the Nationals as a team having “confidence” in Rodriguez four separate times.
“I went up to him after the game, I said, ‘Henry, you’re my man. I’ve still got a lot of confidence in you,’ ” Johnson said. “I mean, that’s the first time he’s actually been wild.”
Johnson believed Rodriguez might have still had memories of Sunday’s blown save in his mind yesterday, but felt the main reason for his closer’s lack of control last night was due to the fact he was pitching for the third straight day. Rodriguez will be given today off, Johnson said.
The early portion of the ninth inning yesterday was less than ideal (yeah, that might be an understatement), but outside of Rodriguez’s rocky performance, Washington’s bullpen was stellar, with Craig Stammen, Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett all coming up big in relief.
Stammen is now 3-0 on the season, and sports a 1.29 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 21 innings following his two-inning stint yesterday. He’s off to a fantastic start, and his teammates are taking notice.
“It’s unbelievable,” Ross Detwiler said. “He’s been throwing after me a lot this year. I’ve been in here doing my shoulder work, and I get to see it on TV and see some of the movement he has, the nasty slider he has and the sinker. It’s unbelievable. It’s great to see. It’s a guy I came up with through the minor leagues and I could see him every year and he’s definitely at the top of his game right now.
“Guys just don’t look comfortable up there against him. He’s throwing the ball well.”
Opposing teams are batting just .187 off Stammen this year, and his WHIP is down to 0.86, the lowest it’s been since his second outing of the season.
“It’s just a different mindset this year,” Burnett said of Stammen. “He’s always been going back and forth - starter, reliever. Now he’s strictly a reliever (and) it’s just a little easier mindset to go out there and be a little more aggressive. He’s got the stuff to do it and he pitches very aggressively and it’s paying off.”
As for Burnett, the lefty has been called on to warm up a ton lately, but has only gotten into four games this month. While he’d obviously prefer to see more game action, Burnett actually appreciated warming up in the ‘pen, as it allowed him to fine-tune some things.
“We don’t get to throw bullpens as relievers and I was a little off,” Burnett said. “My breaking ball was getting loopy, so in those little dry (spells) you got to work on some things. I was able to work my breaking ball, fix my sinker a little bit. It kind of helped me out going into this week. I feel good. I’m back to where I felt a few weeks ago.”
In Burnett’s 10 innings this season, he’s allowed just one run on eight hits and two walks. The 29-year-old has struck out 12, and, after last night, now has a save, as well.