ATLANTA - The Nationals’ bullpen has put itself in a number of tough spots this season.
Called upon to work the seventh and protect a two-run advantage after Craig Stammen had thrown 49 pitches and retired all 12 batters he’d faced, Clippard got into quite a pickle.
He allowed an infield single to Ramiro Pena leading off the bottom of the seventh, and after striking out Justin Upton, gave up an RBI single to Freddie Freeman.
Freeman’s liner through the hole on the right side scored Pena from second after he’d moved up on a Clippard wild pitch. Clippard’s wildness then continued, as he hit both Evan Gattis and Brian McCann with pitches to load the bases with just one out.
The Turner Field crowd was rocking, the Tomahawk Chop was out in full force, and Clippard seemed to have completely lost the strike zone.
Somehow, the veteran righty found a way to compose himself despite the jam he’d worked himself into. He struck out Dan Uggla on a 93 mph fastball at the belt, and then got Chris Johnson swinging at a changeup in the dirt to end the inning and keep the Nats on top.
Clippard gave a subdued fist pump as he walked off the mound, but he had to be amped up internally.
He’d created that jam for himself, but showed incredible guts (and something else) by stopping the bleeding and finding a way to get the job done.
It’s 3-2 as we go to the bottom of the eighth. Drew Storen comes on for the Nats.
Update: Storen worked a scoreless eighth and Rafael Soriano notched his 15th save of the season, putting the finishing touches on a wild 3-2 Nats win.
Strasburg worked just two innings. Stammen didn’t allow a single baserunner over his four frames in emergency relief. Clippard allowed four baserunners in his one inning, including two hit batters, but somehow managed to allow just one run.
A major injury to Strasburg and a loss would’ve been disastrous for this Nationals team. Instead, Strasburg’s injury is just a muscular one, and the Nats gutted out a big one-run win.
They’re now 4 1/2 back of the Braves in the National League East.