The loss snapped the Nationals’ five-game winning streak, prevented them from completing the first four-game home sweep since baseball returned to the District and blocked them from matching the 1930 Senators’ 8-2 start, the best 10-game beginning for a Washington team in the last 82 years (a total of 50 seasons). The Nationals, still in first place, would have to settle for the best start for a Washington squad since 1951.
“We’re 7-3,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “I don’t think there’s anything to be mad about.”
Still, several corners of the Nationals’ clubhouse seethed afterward. Wilson Ramos broke the silence and interrupted his own stoic state into his locker by kicking a bat. Ross Detwiler, who had given up a first-inning grand slam, after thinking he had escaped the inning three times, sealed his lips when reporters asked about the umpires. Clippard sat in his chair, ice around his shoulder, and gazed into nowhere. They were angry at the opportunities missed, at the umpires, at the bitter end.
Clippard did not pitch Saturday, but he did warm up in the eighth inning. He had trouble getting loose, Johnson said, with soreness in his right shoulder. Clippard, who pitched more innings than any reliever in baseball over the past two years, feels the discomfort at the end of every spring training, but “this is kind of lingering a little longer,” Johnson said.
“It’s just normal stuff I’ve been going through my whole career,” Clippard said. “It’s nothing out of the ordinary. I felt really good today. I’ve been feeling good every outing. They’ve been doing a good job of looking out for me. I can’t ask for anything more.”
Clippard began his appearance oddly, catching a spike on the rubber mid-delivery on his first pitch. He crumpled to the dirt, arms and legs flailing in every direction. “It’s happened to me a few times, for whatever reason,” Clippard said. “It’s kind of embarrassing, but it didn’t really affect me that much.”
Four pitches later, Drew Stubbs flared a single to center. Ryan Zimmerman made a diving catch of Wilson Valdez’s sacrifice bunt attempt, but Zack Cozart followed with a groundball single to right field. Clippard faced the exact situation he wanted to avoid: one out and Votto, the 2010 National League MVP, walking to the plate with two on.