After blowing his fifth save of the season and putting up another disappointing outing during a rough three-week stretch, Tyler Clippard stood at his locker for over five minutes and calmly answered question after question about his performance.
You won’t find many guys more stand-up than the 27-year-old Clippard.
The Nationals’ right-handed reliever is clearly frustrated with himself right now, partly because he blew a save in tonight’s 4-2 loss to the Brewers, but also because he can’t seem to get back on track after dominating hitters for much of the season.
“It’s been really bad lately for me,” Clippard said. “I’ve been trying to pinpoint exactly what it is as far as making as many mistakes as I’ve been making. I’ve been feeling really good physically, which makes it more frustrating from my perspective, because when I feel physically 100 percent, I should be getting outs pretty consistently. And I have my whole career. So right now, it’s been pretty bad.”
After notching a save over the Cardinals on Sept. 2, Clippard had 29 saves in 33 chances and a 2.69 ERA. Just 7 1/3 innings later, his ERA has jumped nearly a run and now sits at 3.59.
Clippard might not know what the solution is to his woes just yet, but at least he feels like he has a firm grasp on what the consistent issue has been.
“It’s just leaving the ball up, making mistakes in bad counts,” Clippard said. “That’s how it goes. I’ve been through struggles in my career before, and that’s pretty much the common theme. I’m a guy who needs to locate my fastball well, and I haven’t been doing that. So therefore I’ve been getting hit a little bit.”
Tonight, things spiraled on Clippard pretty quickly. He took the mound with a 2-1 lead, and by the time he’d retired his second hitter of the inning, the Nats already trailed 3-2.
“That’s kind of how those situations go,” Clippard said. “They happen fast. That’s the nature of being a closer and only getting to throw one inning and one-run leads and all that kind of stuff. One mistake can hurt, and I’ve made a couple tonight. It was compounded because of that.”
After the game, Edwin Jackson (who went eight stellar innings and was in line for the win) had a brief chat with Clippard, telling him to shake off the poor outing. Jackson had been through a rough patch of his own lately, struggling his last three starts prior to tonight, and he wanted to tell Clippard there was no need for him to get too down on himself.
“I just told him to keep his head up,” Jackson said. “It’s going to be vital for him to stay strong. I told him he’s going to be a big part of our success. Just try to encourage him a little bit. But he’s a gamer. He’s all right. Might be a little mad after tonight. ... The thing about him, he has a chance to come out tomorrow and do it all again and I don’t. He’s definitely going to be all right. He’s a competitor.”
Clippard hasn’t been effective lately, but let’s not forget, he’s been one of the most reliable relievers the Nationals have had over the last few seasons. He was nearly unhittable earlier this season, allowing a remarkable one earned run and five hits over 26 1/3 innings. With the postseason approaching, he just needs to get right again.
“I’m trying to figure it out,” he said. “I’m searching right now. We’ll get it figured out. I’m not too worried about it. I’m still confident as heck. It hurt tonight, I’m not going to lie to you. It’s not easy. But we’re in a good spot.”