Skip to content

Desmond, Clippard unravel in eighth inning of Nats’ loss

Apr 22, 2014, 12:23 AM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Through the 2012 and 2013 seasons, the only winning campaigns since the Nationals moved to Washington in 2005, one could argue their most consistent position player was Ian Desmond, and their best relief pitcher was Tyler Clippard.

Somehow, three weeks into this new season, each has become their own unique liability. Desmond is committing errors like it’s 2010, and Clippard is pitching through one of his worst months as a National.

The two combined to unravel in the eighth inning of the Nats’ 4-2 loss to the Angels on Monday night after the team entered the frame with the lead. 1-0 was the score and Clippard was taking over for Drew Storen, who closed the seventh by retiring Mike Trout.

Clippard’s first batter was Albert Pujols who hit a hard groundball up the middle. Desmond got a glove on the ball, but couldn’t handle it. Pujols was safe at first on Desmond’s eighth error of the season.

“The first one’s a difficult error,” Matt Williams said. “He’s got to range way to the middle. And he stretched out to catch that ball. If he comes up clean, he’s got a chance to throw him out.”

Desmond called it a play he normally makes.

“I’m a big league shortstop. Not that tough,” Desmond said.

Clippard struck out the second batter, Ian Stewart, but saw Pujols steal second on strike three. Next up was Howie Kendrick who hit another groundball to Desmond, this one to his right. Desmond never attempted the throw to first, instead trying to throw behind Pujols who had barely rounded third. Pujols got back in time and runners were safe at the corners.

After Boesch popped up for the second out, Clippard served up a four-seam fastball that Erick Aybar took the other way to right field for a single. That scored Pujols and tied the game at one.

“The pitch to Aybar, I wasn’t real happy with that decision,” Clippard said. “Obviously, I wanted the fastball away. Probably wasn’t the right pitch selection. But I pulled it right down the middle, and he got a base hit. I had numerous opportunities to get out of that inning. It didn’t happen.”

With Aybar on first and Kendrick on second, Clippard then walked Chris Iannetta on five pitches to load the bases. That brought veteran Raul Ibanez to the plate as a pinch-hitter, a guy with a strong history against Clippard.

Coming into the game Ibanez was 3-for-9 with two homers, a walk and six RBI off the relief pitcher. But even with that on his record, Clippard remained in the game with no one warming up in the bullpen.

Clip’s been the eighth inning guy here for a long time,” Williams said. “Certainly (his) track record indicates that he’s good against lefties. He’s just as effective against left-handers as he is right-handers. So I want to stay with him there. I want him to be our guy that shuts down that eighth inning.”

It was then the inning really got out of hand. Ibanez went opposite field on a changeup low and away, usually the best offering Clippard has. The ball sailed right between Bryce Harper and Denard Span in left-center field, and cleared the bases for three more runs.

“It was a good changeup,” Clippard said. “First one, you know, was pretty much in the same spot. Swung through it. He’s a guy that traditionally hunts fastballs, and I knew that. I felt like I made a good pitch there.”

Williams reviewed video of the pitch before speaking to the media after the game and agreed it was a good decision by Clippard, despite the result.

I just looked at the pitch. It’s a pretty darn good pitch: changeup down, off the plate, away. And Raul’s a good hitter, but that’s a tough pitch for anybody to handle.”

Desmond was also credited with an error on that play, as his relay throw to home skipped to Jose Lobaton’s right. The throw, though not far off, allowed Ibanez to advance to third.

A four-run inning with two errors by Desmond, and the Nationals were essentially finished. Desmond would add a solo home run an inning later, but the Nationals were again done in by defensive mistakes and an unfortunate outing by Clippard.

Desmond now has nine total errors through 20 games, most in the majors by a good margin. He is now on pace to commit over 70 errors this season, more than double his career-high of 34. That course almost certainly can’t continue, but it is becoming a significant problem for the Nats.

Clippard was not credited with any of the four runs, but is still searching for success through 11 appearances this season. In five of those games he’s entered with the Nats either leading or tied, but departed with them trailing.

Desmond and Clippard have been a big part of the Nationals’ rise as a franchise since the beginning of 2012. They each vowed after Monday’s loss to get back to being the players they have been in recent years.

“I wish I had an answer,” Desmond said. “You use everything in the past to make yourself better. This is going to be one of those circumstances. Just got to weather the storm.”

Things just have snowballed on me a little bit here. I’ve [been] going through a rough patch,” Clippard said. “This month hasn’t been very good to me. But it’s up to me to get out of it. I can sit here and make all the excuses in the world and say I’m doing this right or this wrong or whatever it is, but at the end of the day what matters is the results and the results haven’t been there so far this year for me. And nobody’s going to feel sorry for me so I just got to get out of it and do what I know how to do.”

  1. David Proctor - Apr 22, 2014 at 12:57 AM

    I was at the game and I was shocked that Desmond’s first error was ruled that way. I’m not sure most shortstops get to that ball. At the very least, it wasn’t routine. I admire Desmond for saying it’s a play he should make and it probably is, but it’s not routine. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that changed.

    Regardless, as I told 222 in the other thread, I’m worried about Clippard now. He’s not hurt (his velocity is actually UP) and unlike NL, I don’t think a phantom DL stint is in the works, nor do I think Aaron Barrett is suddenly going to be thrust in such a high-pressure role. I do think we’ll start seeing Storen in the 8th more, but I’m not convinced that will help. So then you hurt Clippard’s confidence and he can blow games in the 7th instead of the 8th? No easy answers. I know fans want Clippard banished after a few bad weeks, but the reality is we’re going to need Clippard this year, in some role or another. If I’m the manager, I leave Clippard in the 8th for now, but pull him at the first sign of trouble. I respect those who think differently, I’m just not sure there’s an easy answer.

    I also semi-agree with MW on the Ibanez decision. I would have taken Clippard out, because he was being ineffective before that. But the head-to-head 3-9 against Ibanez is irrelevant to me. That sample is useless and it happened years ago. But again, I’d have taken him out because he was already getting hit around.

    • David Proctor - Apr 22, 2014 at 1:27 AM

      Also, the pitch Clippard made to Ibanez was a good one. Anyone who called that a meatball needs to pause it where the bat makes contact or look at the Pitch F/X. It was down and away and fading off the plate. You can’t help when someone hits a good pitch, but you can help when you put tons of baserunners on before that.

    • Hiram Hover - Apr 22, 2014 at 7:32 AM

      I hear you about no great options on Clip moving forward. I don’t know what they should do.

      As to last night’s AB vs. Ibanez – I think the beef is pitch selection – same pitch, same location, twice in a row. (Looking at the replay, it looks like Lobaton wanted it low but a little more over the plate, and moved his glove outside as it came in).

    • nats128 - Apr 22, 2014 at 8:05 AM

      I was at the game also and only posted once last night. We were surprized when they ruled that hit a error against Desi. Tough play for any SS to make. Letting him steal was on Clip and reminded us at that point of Storen in Game 5 when that happened – I cant remember who Storen let steal on him.

      • Section 222 - Apr 22, 2014 at 9:57 AM

        Molina. Another speedster.

  2. Joe Seamhead - Apr 22, 2014 at 7:19 AM

    Two huge differences between this year and last is the quality of the bench and of the bullpen. Dukes and H-Rod took up a lot of space last year, along with Drew Storen being very ineffective for a pretty big part of the season. Tyler Clippard was mostly very effective and was used extensively for that reason, and because the alternatives were limited. Then Ryan Mattheus got in a fight with his locker and the choices became even worse until Krol was brought up.My point is, this is not 2013. There are much better situational choices available. That said, I have little doubt that Clippard will still have great outings. Raul Ibanez hit a good pitch last night. He’s done it many times before against many a good pitcher. Do I think Clippard should have been left in to face him? If Raul had popped up that change up, I would think it was a gutsy call by Williams, but he didn’t, so now Matt’s stupid too. (tongue firmly planted in cheek there). Look, Williams didn’t cost us the game last night, though he may have played a part, the team lost it by only scoring one run on three hits and a boat lode of walks, along with some subpar defense.
    Meanwhile the Braves keep finding ways to win most of their close ones. And like the Nats, they will soon have some guys coming off the DL. Division winning teams win most of the close ones. Get Ramos back and I’ll feel better.

  3. Joe Seamhead - Apr 22, 2014 at 7:19 AM

    Two huge differences between this year and last is the quality of the bench and of the bullpen. Dukes and H-Rod took up a lot of space last year, along with Drew Storen being very ineffective for a pretty big part of the season. Tyler Clippard was mostly very effective and was used extensively for that reason, and because the alternatives were limited. Then Ryan Mattheus got in a fight with his locker and the choices became even worse until Krol was brought up.My point is, this is not 2013. There are much better situational choices available. That said, I have little doubt that Clippard will still have great outings. Raul Ibanez hit a good pitch last night. He’s done it many times before against many a good pitcher. Do I think Clippard should have been left in to face him? If Raul had popped up that change up, I would think it was a gutsy call by Williams, but he didn’t, so now Matt’s stupid too. (tongue firmly planted in cheek there). Look, Williams didn’t cost us the game last night, though he may have played a part, the team lost it by only scoring one run on three hits and a boat lode of walks, along with some subpar defense.
    Meanwhile the Braves keep finding ways to win most of their close ones. And like the Nats, they will soon have some guys coming off the DL. Division winning teams win most of the close ones. Get Ramos back and I’ll feel better.

  4. Joe Seamhead - Apr 22, 2014 at 7:20 AM

    Sorry about the double post. Wi-fi issue with the i-Pad..

  5. NatsLady - Apr 22, 2014 at 7:37 AM

    I thought about it for a while late last night. There is no easy decision. If Clip had gotten Ibañez I think we might still be worried because Clip would have used a lot of pitches and blown another save. I’m not happy with Clip, but why was he in the situation to affect the result of so many games????

    Bottom line, however, is you are not going to win the pennant on 1-0 games. The Nats need lopsided wins, 8-2, etc. Where is the offense? Since RZ went down, the Nationals as a team, excluding pitchers are slashing .192/.287/.294 (last 7 days)! Take a look at this list and you will see why even when we win, it’s 3-1, 3-2, etc.

    Nats batter with 10 or more PAs over the last 7 days

  6. Section 222 - Apr 22, 2014 at 7:46 AM

    I’m not impressed with the fact that the pitch that Ibanez crushed was a good pitch. So what? Clip threw a bad pitch to Aybar. He let Pujols steal a base. (Note to Chase: Clip didn’t *see* Pujols steal second, that’s the whole point.) He walked Iannetta on five pitches. He was not pitching well, and he hasn’t been pitching well.

    MW says he wants Clip to be the guy who locks down the 8th. Well sure, I do too. We all do. But you shouldn’t let hope triumph over experience in this situation. Clip was ineffective. He’s been ineffective all year. He was facing a guy who had hit 2 HRs and had 6 RBI in 9 ABs. As I said before, that’s not a small sample size, that’s a red flag. MW had three lefties in the bullpen, one of whom had already been warming up the inning before. It was long past time for a change, but MW sat on his hands, hoping for a good outcome.

    As to what happens now, experience should finally beat out hope. Clip needs a change, and so do the Nats, I don’t expect a phantom DL stint a la H-Rod. Nor do I want to run him out of town. But a move to lower leverage situations makes sense, at the very least a swapping of roles with Storen, but I’d go farther. When Barrett returns it will be easier still to make that move.

    Just imagine what people would be saying here if Soriano had blown 6 saves in 11 tries. Yikes.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Apr 22, 2014 at 8:24 AM

      +1

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 22, 2014 at 8:41 AM

      Im with you all the way triple 2… you will see the many comments I made last night… Ugh, Im still livid…

  7. edshelton2013 - Apr 22, 2014 at 8:01 AM

    Everyone’s commenting on Clip’s ineffectiveness and Desmond’s defense, but I agree with NL:

    Where’s the offense? All I hear is how great the opposing pitcher is every night (Wacha, Lynn–Garrett Richards?)
    Our guys are major-league hitters–start hitting, especially with RISP!

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 22, 2014 at 8:53 AM

      It was a 1-0 game Nats up prior to the Tyler Clippard coming into the game…

      • NatsLady - Apr 22, 2014 at 9:51 AM

        Exactly. Why are relievers coming into SO many low-scoring, one-run or tied games. That’s stressful even if you are NOT struggling. OFFENSE.

  8. natsfan24 - Apr 22, 2014 at 8:05 AM

    When will the Nats give Zach Walters a shot at shortstop? Desmond’s fielding errors isn’t something new. He has been prone to errors since 2009. He swings at the first pitch and is undisciplined at the plate. What am I missing here?

    • nats1924 - Apr 22, 2014 at 8:22 AM

      word on the street is Walter’s range at SS is below avg

      I wouldnt mind seeing Espi at SS. ….and possibly deal Desi and LaRoche when Ryan Zimmerman returns

      • natsfan24 - Apr 22, 2014 at 8:44 AM

        Nats1924, I wouldn’t mind seeing Desi and LaRoche dealt. Both had career years in 2012 but look at their career stats. 2012 was an aberration mainly for Desmond and LaRoche. As far as range, what would you rather have? A less strong arm with minimal errors or a strong arm that is on pace to have 54 errors this year?

      • bowdenball - Apr 22, 2014 at 9:02 AM

        This is ridiculous. Desmond has been arguably the best SS in the National League for two seasons and you all want to trade him on April 22nd? And you want to trade him so he can be replaced by a guy who had a .286 OBP and struck out over 25% of the time against AAA pitching last year? Talk about a knee-jerk reaction.

        As for trading LaRoche, he would return nothing, and he’s showing his value to this team right now- if anyone goes down, including the oft-injured Zimmerman, they need his bat and his 1B glove in the lineup. You don’t trade away quality players for zero return during a season in which you plan to be competitive.

      • Joe Seamhead - Apr 22, 2014 at 9:29 AM

        bowdenball with the voice of reason and common sense.

      • nats1924 - Apr 22, 2014 at 9:34 AM

        attn bowdenball: I never said trade Desi at this very moment

        I said ‘possibly deal desi and laroche when RZim returns’ — considering Desi turned down a reasonably team friendly and lucrative extension. And given the Nats are hamstrung with the Os taking in 85% of their TV dollars.

        Nats must trade to replenish their farm to continue being competitive for the long term.

  9. scnatsfan - Apr 22, 2014 at 8:08 AM

    Sec222 I agree. Inexcusable Clip, as an 8th inning guy, doesn’t even glance on a runner on first when down by a run. Harper gets benched for lack of hustle yet MW defends a guy who was more lazy.

    I know Clip was a lights out 8th inning guy and was awesome and he might be again but he is not right now. He should have to earn his role like everyone else.

    • NatsLady - Apr 22, 2014 at 9:53 AM

      Problem is, no one figured Pujols could run at all. Yes, it’s on Clip, but it’s also POOR SCOUTING!!! I knew from reading casually that Pujols was much better this season, so why wasn’t Clip given the word?

  10. natsfan24 - Apr 22, 2014 at 8:15 AM

    The Nats are a better team this year. The biggest difference is that Matt Williams is willing to make changes and Davey gave guys too many second chances. Desmond is overrated and he needs to get benched. He was Davey’s pet and Matt Williams needs to set an example by benching him.

  11. jd - Apr 22, 2014 at 8:24 AM

    NL,

    Bingo. You keep playing one run games you will win some and you will lose some. Probably close to 50/50. What separates the top teams from the lesser ones is the ability to outscore the opposition by a bunch.

    As far as Clip goes. Sorry, I am not letting a 3 week slump erase what he has done for 3 years. It happens and the solution unfortunately is to ride him until he straightens out because when he does he will be lights outs for a long time the way he has always been.

    The Pujols ball was correctly called an error. Desi tried to do a pick and throw in one motion and he didn’t need to. He had plenty of time to play it conservatively. Desi is another player who is off to a poor start but he has enough history in my book to get a pass as well.

    • NatsLady - Apr 22, 2014 at 9:56 AM

      Every one who is so sure Clip is worn out needs to remember he came up as a starter and 80 innings per season is NOTHING for a starter. He is not worn out, velocity is not down.

      (1) He is a warm weather pitcher who does not have a “feel” for his change up right now (he was fine in Florida, in spring training).
      (2) He can’t throw the curve for strikes. If he can get that slow curve working, that is another tool in his repertoire, but right now he is just “showing” it to guys on the 1st or 2nd pitch, it’s a ball, and he’s already behind in the count.

      • Section 222 - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:00 AM

        All of this may be true. And it supports the position that Clip shouldn’t be drawn and quartered. But it doesn’t support continuing to put him out there for the 8th inning when we’re ahead or tied, and it definitely doesn’t mean leaving him in when it’s clear he doesn’t have it. It doesn’t magically get warm late at night, and he won’t magically discover his curve.

  12. laddieblahblah - Apr 22, 2014 at 8:29 AM

    The championship teams win close games like last night’s game. The Braves’ Kimbrel blew a save last night, but they found a way to win, regardless.

    MW has emphasized, from day 1 of ST, that he expects this team to do the little things right, if they expect to improve on last year’s record: like picking Pujols’ grounder and throwing him out, like holding the tying run at 1b – nothing spectacular required. They should have won last night, in spite of the poor offense.

    If you only win 1 – 0, it’s still a win.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 22, 2014 at 8:39 AM

      Totally agree Laddie. Looking back at that play by Desmond, it hit the mound funny.. tough play…

      But lets ignore that Pujouls stole a base… yes Puhols stole a base…

      And lets keep trotting Tyler CLippard out there in the 8th… How many times it is now that we have a lead but when he comes in and leaves, its either a tie game or the other team is winning?

      • Section 222 - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:02 AM

        5. And almost six except that MW pulled him and Storen bailed him out. And that’s in 11 appearances. Indefensible for a setup guy. Indefensible.

    • knoxvillenat - Apr 22, 2014 at 8:43 AM

      Agreed. What happened to Clippard when it came to holding runners on base? Did he sleep through that part of spring training? Inexcusable.

    • NatsLady - Apr 22, 2014 at 9:57 AM

      Well, we found a way to win on Sunday. That’s the problem with one-run games, you have to FIND ways to win. Can’t always do that. Need to have offense early and often–and ADD ON RUNS.

  13. Theophilus T.S. - Apr 22, 2014 at 8:46 AM

    Clippard’s record player needs a new needle. Or something. I’ve said on multiple occasions he’s been over-exposed, with 70+ appearances over the past four seasons. That funky delivery, and unusual pitching pattern (high FBs), that gave him an advantage is not so funky or unusual anymore. Ibanez was, plain and simple, ready for a change up, even a good change up. Adding to the problem is the time he has spent in ST, and probably on his off days, working on a slider and and a curve — which so far as I can see he isn’t using in games, or at least to great effect. So his command is off, his walks are up, he’s pitching into a lot of long counts. I agree you can’t DL him — but Williams could de-leverage him, use him in lower-pressure situations and not force him to deal with LH hitters. (Why do you have a surplus of LHs in the BP if you’re not going to use them?) Give Clippard time and space to work on his command problems and become at least effective (if not dominant) again. The team can’t afford to keep bringing an arsonist in from the BP.

  14. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 22, 2014 at 8:48 AM

    Just a waste of great pitching by Tanner Roark… He did really well yesterday…

  15. micksback1 - Apr 22, 2014 at 8:56 AM

    I posted last week that I felt Clip was over. Send him to AA and let him work it out like Drew did last season. If he can not get rid of him. Clip has lost 4 of the nine games by himself this season. As far as Desi goes, its the same ol same ol and I am sick of it, his crappy 230 BA makes it even more intolerable. I really do not like his arrogance either. I bet MW gets in his grill and reads him the facts of life. I hope so. Before anyone posts that the offense was terrible, let me submit that winning teams have games like this where it is a pitchers night. But, winning teams find a win to win and they do have on their team a layer like Clip who blows game after game.

    on another note, and I #4 would agree, God Bless you Coach Buddy Burkhead, you will be missed!

Archives

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.

Follow us on Twitter