Nationals’ bullpen falters in eighth inning; Mattheus comes out early again

When the eighth inning of Nationals-Diamondbacks started - about 40 minutes ago - the Nationals trailed by a run and Tyler Clippard was on to keep the game close.

Now it’s 9:43 and the Nationals trail 5-1.

What happened in those 40 minutes? Clippard had his worst outing of the year, giving up three runs (inculding a homer to Paul Goldschmidt), Ryan Mattheus pitched to two batters before coming out of the game with a trainer and Collin Balester had to be called upon to clean up the mess.

Other than that, things went pretty well.

To be fair, Clippard was probably due for a bad outing at some point. He’d given up one run since July 20, and has bailed the Nationals out of tough situations all year. He also got hurt by umpire Tim McClelland’s call of a ball on a 2-2 pitch that could have ended the inning if it had gone for a strike.

The bigger concern is Mattheus, who came out of the game against the Reds on Aug. 19 with tightness in his shoulder. He said that was caused by lifting weights the night before. The official diagnosis for him again was right shoulder tightness, and when that happens twice, there’s usually something else coming.

At any rate, the Nationals now have a big hole to erase in the ninth inning, or they’re looking at a three-game losing streak before their road trip.