Washington Nationals fans should be used to this by now.
A pitcher comes into the ballgame, holds the opposing team scoreless, and then makes an exit after one inning to applause.
It isn’t the closer that has a nice, long streak without a run. Meet Tyler Clippard, who seems to have found new life as a set-up guy for the Nationals.
Clippard served as the closer as recently as 2012, when he saved 32 games for a Nationals club that reached the National League Division Series and had the St. Louis Cardinals on the ropes before losing. So why isn’t he the closer now?
The simple answer is because Clippard is more effective in his current role, which is coming into the game and grabbing the quick outs before exiting.
Need proof? Clippard has 20 scoreless appearances in a row to his credit. He also has a 4-2 record and a 1.32 earned run average. Did you know Clippard also has 30 career victories, including two in the past week, without even starting the game on the hill?
The Nationals haven’t had the best of success this season, but don’t look now. They’re slowly creeping up on the Atlanta Braves for first place in the NL East despite having just the seventh-best batting average in the league. What has been the secret to the Nationals’ success?
Here’s a hint: Clippard plays the position.
It’s pitching. Clippard’s 20 scoreless appearances in a row are part of a reason why the Nationals have a 2.98 team ERA, which ties with the Braves for the best ERA in the league. This summer should be interesting, and there’s a remote chance Braves-Nationals games could be done in less than two hours and 30 minutes at this pace.
The Nationals have a chance to gain some ground on a Braves team that many didn’t expect to start the season with a bang. The conventional wisdom said the Braves’ pitching staff would be decimated due to injuries and untested talent on the roster. All the Braves did was sprint out of the starting gate.
Now that the Braves are cooling down, Clippard and the Nationals are headed to the top of the division.
Eventually Clippard’s scoreless-appearance streak will have to come to an end. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Clippard may just be one of the most unheralded non-closing relievers in all of MLB.