While everyone was catching their breath, creating GIFs of Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland’s brawl and breathlessly detailing the on-field fight which followed the 98 mph fastball to Harper’s hip, the Washington Nationals stayed focused and beat the San Francisco Giants, 3-0, in AT&T Park.
“That’s what you do,” Dusty Baker said after the shutout. “You win the game first, and that’s what we’re here for.
“We’re not really here to brawl, we’re here to win the game, but we’re not here to really take any stuff either, so, like I said, most of my teams I’ve had, we don’t start anything, but we don’t take nothing.”
Tanner Roark tossed seven scoreless innings against the Giants, and after the Nationals added to their lead with Harper’s pinch runner scoring after Strickland’s purpose pitch, Baker turned to Oliver Perez, who walked a batter but recorded two outs, then handed the ball to Shawn Kelley, who gave up back-to-back singles, loading the bases before a fly to left from Justin Ruggiano ended the threat.
The Nationals failed to add to their lead in the top of the ninth, so Baker turned to Koda Glover, who made his fourth appearance in six days and earned his sixth save of the season with a scoreless inning of work.
Glover struck out two batters in a quick, 12-pitch, nine-strike, 1-2-3 ninth, throwing a total of eight sliders, seven for strikes, and got six swings and three misses with the breaking ball, which he threw at 93.6-95.6 mph.
He mixed in three 97-98 mph fastballs and a curve on the way to earning his third save in four games.
Baker talked after the win about having the closer settle things down over the last few days after some shaky weeks of searching for a durable late-inning solution.
“It gives some stability in the bullpen,” Baker said. “He’s throwing strikes. You know he’s not afraid and it means a lot, and so it’s great to see Koda.”
Blake Treinen started the season as the Nationals’ closer, but struggled in the ninth-inning role. Shawn Kelley, who was a deflected grounder away from some trouble in the eighth, has gotten off to a slow start, and his time as the second choice to close out games was interrupted by illness and a lower back issue which led to a DL stint.
Glover, after a DL stint of his own for an impingement in the hip in which he suffered a season-ending torn labrum last September, has taken the ball when asked since he got back, and so far dominated in the ninth.
Fangrag’s Jon Heyman wrote last week that while Baker noted that Glover lobbied for the job and, “It’s his now,” the manager, “... wanted him to have that job too.”
Baker confirmed as much on Monday, explaining that the hope was the Glover would eventually claim the role though they went with Treinen out of Spring Training.
“This is — we had really, really toyed with that decision to make Koda [closer] at the time, but like I said he was coming off a hip injury from last year.
“We wanted to break him in slowly, but we were hoping that things would slowly but surely get to this point.”
Will Glover remain healthy and durable given the demands of the role?
Heyman’s colleague at FanRag, Bernie Pleskoff, offered the following assessment in a scouting report on the Nationals’ new closer.
“[I]f there is any concern about Glover it isn’t likely to be in his pitching mechanics or his overall results. It is far more likely that his health and ability to stay off the disabled list matters most at this point.”
Will Glover’s hip hold up? Will he be durable enough to keep going in the ninth? He’s brought some stability to the back end of the bullpen, now all he has to do is keep it up, day after day, after day...