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Clippard stays as closer, Lidge setting up

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Clippard stays as closer, Lidge setting up

BOSTON -- Brad Lidge made seven relief appearances for the Nationals in April, before he required surgery to repair a sports hernia, and all seven came in the ninth inning or later.

After about six weeks on the shelf, Lidge is back in the Nationals bullpen. But you probably won't be seeing him pitch the ninth inning unless something out of the ordinary happens.

Manager Davey Johnson said today he plans to keep Tyler Clippard in the closer's role for the foreseeable future, likely until Drew Storen comes back from elbow surgery in mid-July. That leaves Lidge in the setup role he was originally signed to hold.

"I know Bradley can close ballgames," Johnson said prior to the Nationals' series opener against the Red Sox. "And I'll probably keep him in that group with Sean Burnett and my closer, Clippard. Keep him in that threesome there. Hopefully I'll get a lot of work for Clippard, and he'll need some relief."

That was the first time Johnson specifically used the word "closer" when describing Clippard, but it had become fairly obvious the right-hander had inherited the role over the last 2 12 weeks.

Johnson has turned to Clippard in each of the Nationals' last five save opportunities, dating to May 22 in Philadelphia. And the All-Star setup man has successfully converted all five opportunities, dominating opposing hitters in the process.

Clippard has yet to surrender a hit since taking over closer duties, and over his last 16 appearances he's allowed only one earned run and three hits (all singles).

Lidge, meanwhile, blew two of four save chances (and posted a 5.14 ERA) in April before suffering his injury. Signed over the winter for 1 million after saving 223 games for the Astros and Phillies, the veteran was expected to serve as a setup man and mentor for Storen.

Lidge made two rehab appearances for Class A Potomac and was due to make at least one more before coming off the disabled list. But with Henry Rodriguez struggling and dealing with a strained finger, the Nationals activated Lidge sooner than planned Thursday.

Lidge is available to pitch tonight against the Red Sox.

"I know we cut short his rehab because of Henry Rodriguez, and he was a little concerned I might use him yesterday after his second rehab game," Johnson said. "But I think he's fine. And I feel comfortable, no matter how I use him."

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Harper Among 4 Nats' Starters Out Vs. Padres Sunday

Harper Among 4 Nats' Starters Out Vs. Padres Sunday

National League home run leader Bryce Harper is among four starters out of the lineup for the Washington Nationals in their series finale against the San Diego Padres on Sunday.

Daniel Murphy, Jayson Werth and Matt Wieters also did not start for the Nationals, who open a nine-game, 10-day road trip Monday afternoon in San Francisco.

Murphy missed the previous two games due to illness, Chris Speier said Saturday. Speier, serving as acting manager with Dusty Baker away this weekend to attend his son Darren's high school graduation in California, did not meet with the media before Sunday's game.

RELATED: Nationals' Joe Ross to Start Against Team That Drafted Him

Harper is batting .337 with 15 home runs and 41 RBIs.

Washington won the first two matchups in the three-game series.

Joe Ross (2-0, 5.32) faces fellow right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (4-4, 5.74) on Sunday.

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Nationals' Joe Ross to start against team that drafted him

Nationals' Joe Ross to start against team that drafted him

WASHINGTON -- On Dec. 19, 2014, the San Diego Padres traded pitcher Joe Ross and a player to be named later -- it would be Trea Turner -- to the Washington Nationals in a three-team deal that included the Tampa Bay Rays.

Since that trade, the Padres have posted a record of 160-215 while the Nationals are 208-166 after they won 3-0 Saturday as Stephen Strasburg struck out a career-high 15 batters in seven innings and the Washington staff fanned 17.

As a reminder of what could have been, Ross (2-0, 5.32) makes the start Sunday against San Diego right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (4-4, 5.74) in the finale of the three-game series at Nationals Park.

First-place Washington is 30-18 while last-place San Diego is 18-33.

Ross was drafted by the Padres in the first round out of his California high school in 2011. Ross is 2-0 in his career against San Diego with a 2.25 ERA in two starts. Last year, he went six innings and allowed six hits and three earned runs in a win against the Padres.

"I was not around Joe at all," said Andy Green, in his second year as the San Diego manager. "We saw him last year; he is a sinkerballer."

The Padres did acquire All-Star first baseman Wil Myers in the trade.

The Nationals have scored a record 62 runs in the four starts made this year by Ross, more than any other pitcher has received in his first four starts of a season. That included a 23-5 victory at home April 30 against the New York Mets and a 10-1 win Tuesday against the Seattle Mariners.

Ross, who broke into the majors with the Nationals in 2015, was in the rotation last season and made 19 starts before going on the disabled list. He was in line to be the No. 5 starter, but began the season at Triple-A Syracuse.

Chacin is 3-2 in six starts against Washington and has a 3.09 ERA. He has made three career starts at Nationals Park and is 1-1 with a 0.45 ERA while allowing only one run in 20 innings.

The Nationals played their second game in a row Saturday without second baseman Daniel Murphy, who was ill.

Nationals bench coach Chris Speier, filling in for manager Dusty Baker, said before the game that Murphy was ill. Murphy entered the day hitting .316 with nine homers and 33 RBIs.

"He's available. This is Dusty's theory: Usually when somebody comes in and says, 'I'm ready,' then he usually gives him one more day. But he's available," Speier told reporters before the game.

Murphy entered Saturday seventh in the National League in hits with 56, just ahead of teammate Bryce Harper (55). Murphy was also among the league leaders in multi-hit games and road batting average.

Washington shortstop Turner, drafted by the Padres in the first round out of North Carolina State, had two hits, including a homer, Friday and was 1-for-4 Saturday.

Another hot hitter for Washington is center fielder Michael A. Taylor, who hit a homer for the second day in a row Saturday and has four homers in his last 14 games.

"I'm looking for my pitch and staying in my zone," Taylor said. "I'm not trying to do too much."

MORE NATIONALS: Stephen Strasburg has career-high 15 strikeouts in Nationals win over Padres