After receiving a spectacular pitching performance from starter Craig Stammen and holding the Reds to one run through the first eight innings, closer Matt Capps blew his third save in his last four attempts. Capps surrendered three runs in the top of the ninth inning on three hits, including the two run blast from Reds third basemen Scott Rolen. For the month of June, Capps has now surrendered EIGHT runs on nine hits, and opponents are hitting .474 collectively.
However, the Nationals would rebound against Reds closer Francisco Cordero. Josh Willingham led off by drawing a walk, followed by a Roger Bernadina strike out. A one-out single by Ian Desmond pushed Willingham up to second. Pinch-hitter Alberto Gonzalez struck out, but Willingham and Desmond were successful on a double-steal attempt to put the tying runs in scoring position. Jim Riggleman called upon Mike Morse to pinch-hit for Capps, and Morse drove the second pitch he saw down the right field line, scoring both runners to tie the game at four. Cordero then intentionally walked Christian Guzman to get to Nyjer Morgan, who struck out swinging to end the ninth inning.
In the 10th, Riggleman brought in lefty Doug Slaten to pitch to the heart of the Reds line-up. Slaten retired Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips to start the inning, but gave up back-to-back two-out singles to Jay Bruce and Laynce Nix. Riggleman responded by bringing in right-handed Miguel Bautista to face Drew Stubbs. After falling behind in the count two balls and no strikes, Stubbs drove a single into right that scored Bruce and give the Reds the lead for good. The Nationals would get the tying run to second with two outs in the bottom half of the inning, but Ian Desmond grounded out to end the game.
For the Nationals, any positives to take away from this game was the bounce back start by Craig Stammen. A start after lasting only five innings and giving up five runs to the slumping Astros, Stammen lasted 6.2 strong innings, scattering seven hits, one run and walking none. Stammen has now lowered his ERA to a season-best 5.43. Ian Desmond and Roger Bernadina also collected two-hit ball games.
For the first six weeks of the season, anybody you talked to would’ve told you confidently that Matt Capps had to be the Nationals representative at this year’s All-Star Game. Now, one has to worry about the state of the back-end of the bullpen. Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen have been fantastic, both posting sub-2.00 ERAs. June has just been awful for Capps, even though its only been four appearances. But, three blown saves in four chances this month, and the Nationals sitting in last place seven games behind the red hot Braves, maybe you give some save chances to Storen or Clippard. Yes, it is still very early and yes, I don’t expect the NL East to be won any time soon. But, consider the Braves are 19-6 at home, the Phillies offense will recover and the Mets are a Major League-best 22-9 at home. If the Nationals hold a ninth inning lead of two runs or less right now and Capps comes on to close the door, are you feeling any bit comfortable?
Personally, I think the role of closer on the team is a misused position to begin with because I’ve always thought your best reliever should come in when the game is in need of true saving, regardless of what inning that is. But, if you are to save your best for last, if Matt Capps your best option right now? The simple answer is no, and if Drew Storen is the long-term solution at closer for the Nationals, maybe it’s his time to get saves now.
Also, today the Nationals announced that catcher Ivan Rodriguez should be back in time to be behind the plate for Strasburg’s Major League debut. A future Hall of Fame catcher catching “The Future”.
The Nationals have off Monday, then start a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates when some guy named Stephen Strasburg is expected to make his much anticipated debut.