If you were surprised to see the Nationals blow a three-run lead in the late innings last night with Jordan Zimmermann on the mound and Tyler Clippard coming in behind him, well, you weren’t the only one.
“It’s surprising in the sense that those games, traditionally, we’re going to win,” Clippard said. “We got a lead early and felt good about things. Jordan was throwing the ball well. But again, (the Orioles) have a good lineup. This is an offensive park and they took advantage of some mistakes that we made, and it kind of snowballed fast on us.”
The Nats, of course, were hitting in the same offensive park that the Orioles were. They could have ripped off a few more extra-base hits in the late innings, piled up a handful of insurance runs and given themselves a better shot at victory.
That’s not how things played out, though.
The Nationals’ streak of having won 20 straight games to open the season when scoring at least five runs came to a close last night.
Good things don’t last forever, especially not when a pitching staff surrenders multiple two-run homers and an offense completely shuts down after the fifth inning.
That’s how the old adage goes, right?
The Nats’ sixth through ninth hitters went 1-for-16 with six strikeouts last night. No bueno.
After last night’s game and postgame interviews had ended, I was talking with another reporter in the press box about manager Davey Johnson’s decision to go with Clippard in the seventh inning with the go-ahead runner in scoring position and two left-handed hitters coming up in a three-batter span.
Johnson could’ve turned to the left-handed Fernando Abad to face Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Chris Davis, but he went to Clippard instead. You can’t really blame him for playing things the way he did, given how effective Clippard has been this season, and how dominant he’s been against left-handed hitters. Even after his performance last night, lefties are hitting just .100 with a .375 OPS against Clippard this season, and he’s fared well against right-handers, as well.
But both Markakis and Davis are much more effective against right-handers than they are lefties. Markakis bats 50 points higher against righties, while Davis is hitting an insane .402 with a 1.380 OPS against righties, and a more reasonable .274 with a .877 OPS against southpaws.
Again, you can’t really fault Johnson for going with a guy he trusts in that situation. Bringing in Abad to face the heart of the Orioles lineup would’ve been quite a test, considering Abad was pitching at Triple-A Syracuse two weeks ago. We’d be second-guessing up a storm if Abad comes in and gets lit up.
Sometimes, however, you don’t just want to play to your strengths, but the opponents’ weaknesses.
Looking to salvage a Battle of the Beltways split tonight, the Nationals turn to Dan Haren, who has allowed 12 home runs this season, tied for fifth-most in the majors.
He’ll be going up against a team that leads the league in homers, runs, hits, doubles, stolen bases, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, an he’ll be facing them in a park that invites crooked numbers.
In his career, Haren is 5-3 with a 4.02 ERA in 11 starts against the Orioles, and he’s actually fared pretty well at Camden Yards, going 3-1 with a 3.52 ERA in Charm City.
He’s allowed just six home runs against the O’s in 38 1/3 innings at Camden Yards, but it’s important to point out that this is the most potent lineup the Orioles have had in some time. By far.