After Nationals’ starter Dan Haren had yet another solid outing – six innings, three hits, one run and three strikeouts – Fernando Abad and Tyler Clippard then combined for two one-hit innings. The stage was set for Rafael Soriano to enter in the ninth and pick up his 32nd save of the season.
All season long, Soriano has had shaky save attempts that have usually still resulted in a save. It isn’t uncommon for him to throw nearly 20 pitches in any given appearance and to also allow a base runner or two. Usually, Soriano is able to recover and pick up the save. It just takes a little bit longer and a few more nails get bitten by fans.
Thursday evening, however, Soriano was a victim of himself. He’s a pitcher that likes to challenge hitters, and occasionally hitters accept his challenge and defeat him.
After getting Giants’ Pablo Sandoval to fly out for the second out of the inning, Soriano had San Francisco right where he wanted, or so he thought. After Roger Kieschnik drew a walk off of a 3-2 count, pinch hitter Hector Sanchez then took a 2-2 pitch deep to the right field corner for the go-ahead home run.
The Nationals went on to lose the game after Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond all went down in order in the bottom of the ninth. What could have been a six-game winning streak, a second consecutive sweep and a win to put them back at the .500 mark ended up a 4-3 loss and a depressing one at that.
For Soriano, it was his fifth blown save of the season. While nobody’s perfect, Soriano’s style has many questioning if he really is the closer of the future for the Nationals. Up to now, he’s been able to get away with runners getting on base. Now that he’s been bitten, people are starting to realize how dangerous he can be to his own team.
However, I don’t think it’s time to give up on Soriano. He is certainly an upgrade from the closer-by-committee of last year and is better than Drew Storen. He had one bad outing and committed a very ugly blown save. If it becomes a habit, then we can rethink the closer spot for the Nationals. For now they’re just going to have to swallow the tough loss and keep going.