When Jordan Zimmermann suffered a right bicep strain in his last outing of the so-called "first half" of the 2014 campaign, it looked for twenty-four hours or so like the Washington Nationals would be without a representative in the 2014 MLB All-Star Game in Minneapolis Minnesota's Target Field since he was the only Nat named to the NL roster for this year's edition of the Midsummer Classic.
The big concern for the Nationals, of course, was making sure that Zimmermann was okay, but the idea of not having an All-Star rep didn't sit well with fans in the nation's capital.
On Sunday afternoon, the Nats and their fans received good news on both ends. An MRI revealed a bicep strain in Zimmermann's arm, but no structural or ligament damage and NL skipper Mike Matheny named Tyler Clippard to the NL roster.
Clippard, was not the first option, of course, or the second... or third... apparently, but he was definitely good enough in the first half to deserve the nod.
The Nationals' set-up man ended the first half of the 2014 campaign with a 2.03 ERA, a 2.49 FIP, 18 walks (4.05 BB/9) and 53 Ks (11.93 K/9) in 40 IP over which he held opposing hitters to a .210 AVG.
Mike Matheny explained the choice in a pre-ASG press conference with reporters on Monday afternoon.
"Clippard is one of the Nationals that is having a good season obviously," Matheny said. "And there were a couple of Nationals that were not available. But really wanted each team to be represented and Tyler was one of the pitchers who has had an outstanding season and should represent that team well."
It was the second opportunity for Clippard to represent the Nationals in the All-Star Game.
He was chosen in 2011 as well and earned the win in Phoenix, Arizona's Chase Field. That year, the right-hander went into the Break with a 1.75 ERA, a 3.40 FIP, 18 walks (3.16 BB/9) and 63 Ks (11.05 K/9) in 51 ⅓ IP over which he held opposing hitters to a .150 BAA.
As Clippard told reporters during his media availability on Monday, some things have changed since 2011, and he's grown some as a pitcher.
"I feel like I have a little more experience," Clippard explained.
"Year-to-year, you change, things become different as far as how you're feeling physically, what you're going through mentally or whatever the case may be, you just change. That's just part of the progression of baseball. I think overall, my mindset is pretty similar as to how I always have pitched. Because that's how I pitch.
"But at the same time, I have a few different things I'm doing differently this year than I did back in 2011. A different pitch I'm throwing this year I didn't have back then. But back then I was throwing a cutter and I'm not throwing a cutter anymore. So, you kind of have to mature your game to how you're feeling and what's going on in that particular time in your career and I feel like I've done a good job of doing that."
The second All-Star appearance of the 29-year-old right-hander's career took place in the fifth inning tonight after the National League gave up the lead on an RBI double by the LA Angels' Mike Trout.
Houston's diminutive All-Star lined an RBI sac fly to left on a 1-1 change up and in from Clippard that he was able to turn around. Tigers' slugger Miguel Cabrera stepped in next with a runner on second and the AL up 5-3.
Cabrera got to a 2-2 count, fouled off a few and sent a fly ball out to Andrew McCutchen for the final out of the inning.
Clippard threw 11 pitches total, eight of them for strikes.
The American League held on to their two-run lead and took the 2014 All-Star Game, 5-3, guaranteeing the ALCS winner the home field advantage in the 2014 World Series.