The Washington Nationals do not have a closer controversy. Davey Johnson made that clear this afternoon in his pregame press conference with reporters. Yes, Drew Storen looked strong as he earned his third save of the year on Thursday night. Tyler Clippard has been strong all season, saving 32 games and posting a 3.22 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 27 walks (3.63 BB/9) and 79 Ks (10.61 K/9) in 67.0 IP. So far in September though, the Nats' 27-year-old right-hander has struggled, putting up a 7.04 ERA and 4.54 FIP in 7.2 IP in which he's allowed 11 hits, 2 HRs and 6 ER total. Storen's posted a 0.91 ERA in 9.1 IP in September, over which he's allowed one earned run, and K'd 12 batters without issuing a walk. On the year, Storen, who saved 43 games last year, now has a 2.59 ERA, 2.41 FIP, eight walks (2.91 BB/9) and 22 Ks (8.14 K/9) in 31 games and 24.1 IP.
Going forward, the Nats' 69-year-old skipper explained, he plans to mix and match. "When I bring the guy in in the ninth," Johnson joked, "You'll know who I'm using to close."
"I told [Pitching Coach Steve McCatty] that I have confidence in both of them closing," Johnson explained, "And depending on the rest situation and depending on what I think is the matchups, either one of them could be going eighth the other one ninth if I like the way the matchups are." Johnson said he'll look at the lineup coming up to face the relievers and decide on a nightly basis.
"Clippard's good against both [left and right handers]," the Nationals' manager said, "His high fastball and changeup [are] really effective against left hand hitters. Last year, Storen was very effective, he backdoored his slider and his ball [had] great movement, this year he hasn't been getting the left handers out as well as the right handers." In 2011, Storen held right-handed hitters to a .209/.263/.380 line and lefties to a .198/.260/.281 line. So far this season, right-handed hitters have a .140/.246/.140 line against him while left-handers have a .357/.367/.429 line. Right-handers have a .208/.276/.367 line against Clippard this year, left-handers .161/.261/.250.
In his 13-pitch, 1-2-3 ninth last night, Storen looked like he could get any batter out a reporter noted. "There's no question," Johnson agreed, "No question. And I think he's kind of an emotional closer. The situation gets him a little amped and he likes to pitch being amped."
"Obviously [Storen] is all the way back," Johnson said, from the elbow surgery that delayed the start of his 2012 campaign. "[Clippard] has been outstanding also this year," the manager continued, "And so I'm not going to just rearrange the whole bullpen. They're still my late inning guys and both of them are great closers. So I'll mix and match."
Too many closers is officially not a bad problem to have.