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Clippard gets his chance to close


Clippard gets his chance to close

PHILADELPHIA -- Rarely does Tyler Clippard get the opportunity to watch the Nationals celebrate a victory in person, let alone be at the center of such a celebration on the field. Such is life for a setup man, who upon handing over the game to his closer heads down the dugout tunnel to ice his arm and watch the ninth inning on TV.

"Usually when I pitch the eighth, I just come to the clubhouse and we just do this," Clippard said, making a high-five motion to no one in particular. "It's a lot more fun out on the field."

Something the Nationals reliever finally got to experience last night. Summoned by manager Davey Johnson to pitch the ninth inning with a three-run lead, Clippard made quick work of the Phillies and then got to receive high-fives from everyone on the Nationals' roster following the 5-2 victory.

Might we see this scene play out more moving forward? Earlier in the day, Clippard made an impassioned case for himself as the Nationals' new fill-in closer, now that Henry Rodriguez flamed out and Drew Storen and Brad Lidge continue to recover from injuries.

"I want it bad," he said. "I've been fighting for the opportunity for three years now. I feel like I've been over-stepped a few times along the way for the opportunity to get those saves, for whatever reason. I don't really know. But they have a plan, and I trust their plan. We've had a good year this year and we've been winning. You can't really go against the grain as far that stuff is concerned. But, yeah, I would love an opportunity."

Clippard is hardly a selfish player. He's been the consummate team-first guy over the last three seasons, throwing more innings than any other reliever in the majors, many of them coming at critical points in a game with runners in scoring position and the opponent's best hitters at the plate.

And he'll be the first to tell you that Storen (his good friend and roommate) deserves to reassume his closer's job once he returns from elbow surgery in early July.

But after putting in his time over multiple seasons, and pitching as well as any reliever in baseball, you can't fault Clippard for wanting to ascend to the highest-profile role there is out of the bullpen.

"If you're a bullpen guy in the big leagues, in my opinion, you want to be a closer," he said. "That's the premier job as a bullpen guy. If you're not going to be a starter, you might as well want to do that. There's no secret. It's the kind of natural progression of anybody's career. You want to be the best at what you do. In my opinion, the guys who are the best at what they do in the bullpen usually get closer's jobs. That's what you want to do."

So, is Clippard the Nationals' new closer? The way Johnson describes the situation, it doesn't sound that way. The veteran manager said he plans to use a closer-by-committee for now, picking the right pitcher for the situation on each given night.

That could be Sean Burnett. That could be Craig Stammen. That could be Clippard.

For at least one night, though, Clippard got to savor the experience of pitching the ninth inning on the road with his team holding a slim lead. It felt different than what he's become accustomed to the last three years. And it felt good.

"A lot more adrenaline, a lot more nervousness," he said. "But it was a good feeling. I havent had that for a while, so it was a lot of fun tonight.

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Nationals set franchise scoring record in rout of Mets

Nationals set franchise scoring record in rout of Mets

WASHINGTON -- Anthony Rendon had 10 RBIs, three home runs and six hits as the Washington Nationals took advantage of Noah Syndergaard's injury and mauled the New York Mets 23-5 on Sunday to set a franchise scoring record.

Rendon went a career-best 6 for 6 and scored five times while setting a club mark for RBIs. He became the 13th player in major league history to drive in 10 or more runs in a game -- the first since Garret Anderson did it for the Angels in 2007.

Matt Wieters added two homers, a single and two walks as the Nationals salvaged the finale of a three-game series between NL East rivals. Adam Lind and Bryce Harper also homered, and Harper scored four runs.

Washington finished with a season-high 23 hits and scored the most runs in the history of the Expos/Nationals franchise. The Nationals' seven homers were their most since the team moved from Montreal to Washington in 2005.

After a two-run single in the first, Rendon followed with a solo homer in the third and a three-run shot in the fourth. He ripped a three-run double off the right-center wall in the fifth and nearly had another RBI when he singled in the seventh, but teammate Daniel Murphy held up at third base.

Rendon capped his incredible day with a solo home run off Mets backup catcher Kevin Plawecki in the eighth. Harper and Lind went deep against Plawecki earlier in the inning.

It was a miserable day all-around for the Mets, who won the first two games of the series after losing six straight. Syndergaard, the team's hard-throwing ace, left in the second inning with what the club called "a possible right lat strain" and was on his way back to New York for an MRI.

Syndergaard (1-2) allowed five runs on five hits in the first. In the second, he threw a strike to Harper on his 38th pitch and grimaced while reaching for his right armpit. Mets manager Terry Collins and the team trainer immediately came out, and Collins summoned reliever Sean Gilmartin.

Syndergaard was making his first start since April 20. The right-hander was a late scratch from his last scheduled outing Thursday against Atlanta due to right biceps discomfort. But he threw a bullpen Friday, said he felt fine and refused an MRI.

After the Nationals beat up on three Mets relievers, Plawecki got the final six outs.

Hours after Washington announced leadoff batter Adam Eaton has a torn knee ligament and is likely done for the season, Michael A. Taylor, Eaton's replacement in center field, had two hits.

Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Murphy also had two hits and each member of Washington's starting nine had at least one.

New York's Jay Bruce had three hits, including a solo home run, and Rene Rivera had a solo shot and a single.

Matt Albers (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings in relief.

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Report: Nationals OF Adam Eaton out for season with torn ACL

Report: Nationals OF Adam Eaton out for season with torn ACL

Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton has a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported Saturday.

Eaton sustained the injury in Friday night’s 7-5 loss to the Mets when he stepped awkwardly on the bag while beating out a throw to first in the ninth inning. He then collapsed and needed assistance off the field.

The Nationals initially announced earlier Saturday that Eaton would go on the 10-day disabled list with a left knee strain. They also have since called up outfielder Rafael Bautista from Triple-A Syracuse.

The Nationals acquired Eaton in a trade with the White Sox in December in exchange for pitching prospects Luca Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning.

The 28-year-old Eaton was hitting .297 with a .393 on-base percentage and 24 runs scored for the 16-8 Nationals.

Michael A. Taylor replaced Eaton in centerfield during the Nationals’ 5-3 loss to the Mets on Saturday.