Aug 3, 2010, 5:38 AM EDT
Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Sean Burnett is congratulated by Ivan Rodriguez after notching a rare save.
PHOENIX — Sean Burnett is the ultimate anomaly: a left-handed reliever who struggles to get left-handed hitters out but dominates right-handed hitters. And yet, with tonight's game on the line late and three tough lefties due up in a span of four batters, who did Jim Riggleman hand the ball to? Why, Burnett, of course.
The stats said it was a dicey move — right-handers hit only .179 against Burnett but lefties hit .317 — but the book said it made all the sense in the world.
"That's what Sean's got to do," Riggleman said. "He's been very effective against righties. But we've got to see some left-handed hitters making out against him."
Perhaps Burnett proved tonight he can do just that. By striking out both Kelly Johnson and Adam LaRoche, then getting Miguel Montero to ground out, the unheralded lefty reliever put himself in position to earn a rare save. And after recording the final five outs of a 3-1 Nationals victory, Burnett found himself in an unusual-but-happy position: Shaking hands with Ivan Rodriguez and teammates after closing out a ballgame.
"It's pretty neat to be the last guy on the mound to get that last out in a big-league baseball game," he said. "That's pretty cool."
Burnett had done it only once before in a save situation. His only other big-league save came May 25, 2009, when he was still pitching for the Pirates. He certainly didn't get any opportunities through this season's first four months, not with Matt Capps holding down theRead more »
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Through Friday's games
SAT: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Marlins, 1:10 p.m.
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
THU: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Marlins at Nats (DH), 1:05 p.m., 7:05 p.m.
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